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Use credit cards to earn 2022 elite status before it’s too late

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 10/19/2021 Joseph Hostetler
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The end of 2021 is fast approaching…as is your chance to lock in airline or hotel elite status for another year — especially if you haven’t been traveling much lately. But there’s still a little time, and your credit cards can help.

When you combine the relaxed elite-status requirements that many airlines and hotels have put in place this year, along with a strategic rewards credit card move or two, you might be shocked at how effortless it can be to earn or maintain status in your favorite loyalty program.

Here are some ideas for quick tactics you can take within the next two months to secure elite status for yourself in 2022.

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I earned top-tier Marriott Titanium status by staying in a $43-per-night hotel between apartment leases. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy I earned top-tier Marriott Titanium status by staying in a $43-per-night hotel between apartment leases. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

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Be aware of elite status qualification changes

a house with a lawn in front of a building: (Photo courtesy of Hyatt) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Some hotels have chopped their elite status requirements in half for 2021. Certain airlines have deposited qualifying points into your account or rolled over elite-qualifying activity from 2020 to help you get a head start on status for next year. If you haven’t checked your membership account and status progress lately, now is the time to do so.

The generosity of airline and hotel loyalty programs is on full display in 2021. But it may very well end in 2021, as well, which is why it’s important to leverage it while it lasts.

World of Hyatt

For example, World of Hyatt has reduced its qualifications by 50%. Through 2021, you can earn Hyatt elite status by hitting the following thresholds:

  • Discoverist: 5 nights or 12,500 base points (was 10 nights or 25,000 base points)
  • Explorist: 15 nights or 25,000 base points (was 30 nights or 50,000 base points)
  • Globalist: Stay 30 nights or 50,000 base points (was 60 nights or 100,000 base points)

That is significant. TPG considers globalist status to be one of the most valuable elite statuses to attain thanks to benefits that include:

  • 30% bonus points on paid stays
  • Upgrades to standard suites, when available (many of us have had a good success rate with this)
  • Early check-in and late checkout, when available
  • Waived resort fees
  • Free parking on award nights

This status is so good that I Googled the cheapest Hyatt I could find — a Hyatt Place hotel in Mexico — and booked a 23-night stay there, just to help me earn Globalist status (I didn’t stay the whole time, but I still got all my elite nights). This year I’ve received several thousand dollars in benefits from Globalist status.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Delta Medallion

Although Delta has not lowered the requirements for its Medallion status program, for 2021, it introduced a so-called Status Accelerator through 2021 that awards flyers with bonuses of 50% or 75% on Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) earned depending on the class of service of the tickets they purchase, including on award travel (and award travel will continue to qualify for elite status through 2022).

Not only that, but the airline has let flyers roll over their MQMs for two years in a row, which can help boost your status even further, though you still have to meet the airline’s spending requirements or achieve an MQD waiver by spending on one of its cobranded credit cards (more on that below).

I achieved Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status and American Airlines Platinum Pro status this year because the requirements were so much easier than usual. These are statuses I never thought I’d have, as I don’t travel nearly enough to earn them otherwise. But they have been absolute game-changers in my travels.

Check your travel log from the past year against the current status requirements and see if you might be closer to that next level of status than you think, and then decide whether it’s worth going for by booking your flights or stays strategically for the next two months.

Travel credit cards can help you earn elite status

a living room filled with furniture and a large window: The W Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Marriott) © The Points Guy The W Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

If you know how to pair your travel credit cards with your elite status goals, they can make your path exponentially shorter. For example, Marriott deposited elite night credits into your account based on your 2020 status. If you had status, here’s what you got at the beginning of 2021:

  • Silver elite – 5 nights
  • Gold elite – 13 nights
  • Platinum elite – 25 nights
  • Titanium elite – 38 nights
  • Ambassador elite – 50 nights

This is roughly half the elite night credits necessary to requalify for each status level. For example, if you were a Platinum member in 2020 chasing the same status in 2021, you received a 25-credit head start on your way to the 50 nights necessary to qualify again. Since Platinum status requires 50 elite nights, you’ve only got 25 more to go this year.

And while a 25-night deficit is still daunting to many casual travelers, if you can harness the power of Marriott credit cards, it might be easier to achieve that goal than you might think.

That’s because Marriott credit cards automatically confer 15 elite night credits per calendar year. So if you were a Platinum member, you’d have received that 25-night boost already this year. Then, if you open (or already have) a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, you would receive 15 more elite night credits this year, leaving you just 10 more to earn for the 25 nights you need to reach Platinum.

Then, if you also open (or already own) a Marriott small business card — namely, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card — you’ll receive an additional 15 elite night credits per calendar year that you can stack with the ones from your personal card. You’ll have re-earned Platinum status without even stepping foot in a Marriott hotel in 2021.

As another example of elite status that is almost unbelievably easy to earn just from a travel credit card, JetBlue is offering flyers Mosaic elite status after they spend just $15,000 on the JetBlue Plus Card between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. That may sound like a lot, but there are many strategies you can employ to meet minimum spending requirements.

a large air plane on a runway at an airport: (Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com) © The Points Guy (Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com)

There are other ways to earn JetBlue status this year, though none are quite as easy if you’re struggling to earn status via flying:

  • 7,500 Mosaic Qualifying points (MQPs)
  • 6,000 MQPs + 15 segments
  • $50,000 spent on purchases with the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card during the calendar year
  • $30,000 spent on purchases with the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card + 4,000 Mosaic Qualifying points during the calendar year

The information for the JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Likewise, Delta has upped the number of MQMs you can earn via spending on the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card as well as the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.

With the Platinum versions, you can normally earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 on purchases in a calendar year, up to twice per year, for a total potential of 20,000 MQMs. For 2021, however, when you meet those same spending requirements, you can earn 12,500 MQMs instead, for up to 25,000 MQMs total — enough for Silver Medallion status.

Meanwhile, the Reserve versions normally earn 15,000 MQMs after you make $30,000 in purchases on them in a calendar year, up to four times per calendar year. That’s boosted to 18,750 MQMs for that spending threshold, so you could earn a whopping 75,000 MQMs, which is enough for Platinum Medallion, all without even setting foot on a plane.

That kind of spending might not be in your wheelhouse, but if you are near any of those thresholds, it might be worth concentrating your financial activity on these cards through the end of the year in order to earn those MQM boosts if Delta status is within reach.

Bottom line

Don’t take these low-hanging airline and hotel elite statuses for granted. This year has been an anomaly for achieving elite status with both airlines and hotels thanks to lower requirement thresholds, mileage and points head starts, and interesting opportunities to rack up elite-qualifying activities via cobranded credit cards. There’s no telling whether any of these opportunities will stick around in 2022, though. So be sure to check the latest hotel and airline elite requirement changes and plan the final few months of the year accordingly.

So if you can make a run at status in these final months of the year, your future self might thank you for all the upgrades and other perks during 2022 (and possibly 2023).

Featured photo courtesy of Hyatt.

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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