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How to Get Elite Status on Business Flights

There are a few simple ways to greatly improve your next business trip, and one is gaining elite status.

If you want to get the most out of your business trips, elite status perks significantly improve your traveling experience and, consequently, your productivity. While perks vary from airline to airline, they often include a faster line to your security checkpoint, complimentary access to airport lounges, priority boarding and more comfortable seating. You can also save money with free checked bags, in-flight Wi-Fi and meals.

How can you score those coveted elite status perks? You have a few options available.

1. Earn It the Old Fashioned Way

Flying enough with one airline to reach an elite status tier is the simple way. If you’re traveling weekly or going on cross-country trips often, this method actually isn’t that difficult. For example, you could reach American Airline’s Platinum tier by traveling 50,000 miles or 60 segments annually.

Taking a status challenge accelerates the process. You pay a small fee to the airline, and then you can earn your way into elite status tiers by traveling a certain mile minimum within the challenge period. American Airlines charges a $200 fee to challenge for its Platinum tier, and you then have 90 days to travel at least 12,500 miles.

The problem with this method is that booking all those flights gets expensive, especially considering you only earn elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) when you pay with cash, not reward points or frequent flyer miles. Shooting for those elite status tiers may be worth it if you travel often or have a few trips coming up and can take a status challenge. Otherwise, it’s not the best option from a value perspective.

2. Use an Airline’s Business Credit Card

An easier way to get travel perks with an airline is applying for one of the airline’s business credit cards. Common perks that accompany these credit cards include one or more free checked bags, free access to that airline’s airport lounges, and discounts on in-flight services. You’ll also be earning frequent flyer miles with that airline on every purchase, so if your business spends enough, it’s easy to get free flights by placing all your business expenses onto your credit card.

Many airline credit cards also earn you a set number of EQMs when you spend enough. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card earns you 5,000 EQMs for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, and another 10,000 EQMs for spending $25,000 within the calendar year. Delta’s Silver status tier requires 25,000 miles, so by earning those 15,000 EQMs, you’d only need to travel an additional 10,000 miles to reach elite status.

If you occasionally travel for business and you have monthly business expenses of $2,500 or more, an airline credit card can bridge that miles gap and get you into an elite status tier. Even if you don’t get in, the benefits of an airline credit card still entitle you to some of the same benefits you’d have in an elite status tier.

3. Book First-Class Tickets with Travel Rewards

One of the biggest benefits of reaching elite status with an airline is the opportunity for complimentary upgrades, but you can always just book a first-class ticket yourself. The key to purchasing is a first-class ticket is doing so with travel rewards, not cash.

It’s always better to pay using rewards, but that’s especially true for first-class tickets, as you’ll get much better redemption value out of your rewards. Flying first class can cost three or four times as much as flying economy when you pay cash. Using rewards, the difference is much lower. The standard cost for domestic round-trip economy tickets is 25,000 miles, compared to 50,000 for first class. Point costs vary depending on the airline and the route, but you can find out exactly how many points you need for economy and business class with a reward travel service.

You can use an airline credit card for this, or another business credit card with a flexible rewards program. Two of the premier business credit cards on the market for travel rewards are the American Express Business Platinum Card and the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. The former comes with airport lounge access, while the latter earns triple reward points on several common expense categories. The American Express Rewards program and the Chase Ultimate Rewards program each have multiple airline transfer partners, which is helpful if you don’t always travel with the same airline.

Finding the Right Strategy

For the vast majority of business travelers, the most effective way to get elite status perks is by focusing on travel rewards instead of chasing status tiers. With the right business credit card and a first-class ticket booked using your miles, you’ll get all the same perks a traveler in an elite status tier would have. You’re also using rewards earned through business purchases, instead of spending money on flights to get those EQMs. The key is to analyze your spending patterns and travel habits to find the method that’s right for you.

 Photo credit: Shutterstock/Rawpixel

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