For the longest time, the common belief was that travelers would benefit by being loyal to one airline and earn a higher status. Then that status would bestow perks and rewards to improve the travel experience. However, in today's environment, that advice has gone by the wayside. With so many top-tier members and most planes flying completely full, the ability to receive coveted upgrades is more myth than reality.Airline status used to be the best perk. But now using the airline's co-branded cards, such as Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and Chase United Explorer cards is an easier way to receive top-notch travel perks.
I'm going to show you how to get those travel perks and receive premium benefits without flying thousands of miles. And before you even ever step foot on an airplane.
Resource: Learn more about Travel Rewards with the free ChooseFI Travel Rewards Course.
AAdvantage Status Vs. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
American Airlines offers four levels of elite status–Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum. Those levels sound pretty impressive, right? Well, to get to the first status level you must spend more than $3,000 or fly more than 25,000 miles or 30 flights in a calendar year. The vast majority of us are not doing that.
But that doesn't mean that you can't receive some pretty great benefits that will save you money whenever you travel.
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard offers similar perks as American Airlines AAdvantage Gold status, free checked bags and priority boarding.
And there are some perks that the credit card offers that loyalty status does not. For example, when you purchase food or drinks in-flight with your American Airlines' credit card, you'll receive a 25% rebate back to the card.
Medallion Status Vs. American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
Delta Airlines also offers four tiers of loyalty status–Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. To earn the first tier of elite status, members must fly either 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments. Additionally, they must also spend $3,000 qualifying dollars. If you meet one criterion, but not the other, sorry no status for you.
The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express offers free checked bags and priority boarding for only $99 per year. Plus, the first year's annual fee is waived. Cardholders get one free checked bag for themselves and up to eight companions on the same itinerary. Plus, they get to board the plane at the same time as Delta Silver Medallion members.
MileagePlus Status Vs. Chase United Explorer Card
The United Airlines loyalty program has four tiers–Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier 1K. Frequent fliers will need to fly either 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments, plus they have to spend at least $3,000 qualifying dollars to earn Premier Silver status.
With the Chase United Explorer Card, cardholders receive a free checked bag and priority boarding. This credit card also provides reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and saves cardholders 25% on in-flight food, beverages, and wifi.
The Chase United Explorer Card also offers benefits that the other airline co-branded credit cards do not. Cardholders receive two United Club airport lounge passes each year. Normal admission to the lounge is $59 per visit. And when you pay for rental cars, the Chase United Explorer Card also offers primary rental car insurance. This means that if there is damage to the vehicle or it is stolen, your insurance will not need to be involved.
United Premier Silver and cardholders of the Chase United Explorer Card both get to board during Group 2 boarding.
Airlines are always looking to squeeze more dollars out of our wallets. They have introduced a new tier of seating that is no-frills and competes with the likes of Spirit and Norwegian Air. But, in reality, they hope that you buy this cheap ticket, then spend on upgrades that are included at no charge in regular Economy tickets. For example, assigned seats and carry-on luggage.
On the bright side, if you have one of the airline's co-branded credit cards, you can avoid the worst of Basic Economy. Most airlines allow you the benefits of priority boarding and free checked bags that are included with your credit card at no additional charge, even if you purchase a Basic Economy ticket.
Just be careful though. If you're traveling with your family or friends, Basic Economy tickets are the last to receive seat assignments. So there's a very strong chance that you will not be sitting next to each other for the duration of your flight.
A Better Strategy
Yes, striving to earn status might be worth it for the frequent flyer, as there are still some great benefits when you achieve status with these airlines. However, for the occasional traveler, reaching the first tier of status often doesn't lead to the perks that you would expect. Although eligible to receive upgrades, I have many friends who are top-tier status and they have difficulty getting upgraded. If a top-tier traveler can't get an upgrade, what chance does a low-tier traveler have?
The days of getting treated like someone special just because you have status are over.
A better strategy is to book the flights that are most convenient and affordable to you. Then, if you need to check bags or want to have priority boarding, apply for the airline's co-branded credit card ahead of your vacation. These credit cards generally offer nice sign-up bonuses that you can use towards a future trip. And many of them waive the annual fee during the first year so you can try out the benefits.
Are you loyal to one airline or are you a free agent? Has your approach changed in recent years? Let us know in the comment section below.
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If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out ChooseFI's free travel rewards course.