A lot of people assume because we travel a lot and we do so mostly by plane that we must qualify as elite frequent fliers or they assume that because I “play the credit card points game” with great gusto that we use those points for class upgrades. Either way their conclusion is that we likely spend a lot of time in posh premium airline seats. While many years ago I did get lucky and qualify on United, and did really enjoy the benefits of free upgrades, it was short-lived and sadly we haven’t qualified for a long time.
We’re nomads not business travelers
First, unlike most business travelers, nomads rarely fly the same route twice. Certainly not in the same calendar year as required for status. With airline hubs and routes being what they are we would either have to spend a lot of money, sometimes 4x the best available fare, or we would needlessly endure horrible routing with multiple stops to get between point A and B on the globe all in order to fly and airline of choice in hopes of qualifying for status.
We fly cheap to fly more
Second, we keep our travel costs as low as possible most of the time because it lets us travel a lot more. So when we do have miles to use on a ticket it goes towards a super saver economy fare, not a class upgrade. That said we do occasionally splurge, like upgrading our seats to first class on our honeymoon last year, or economy plus when it’s a long international red-eye flight. Most of the time though we fly on the cheapest flight between two points.
Using airline miles to fly means not earning miles while flying
Finally, whenever one uses airline miles to book a flight, like all those airline miles earned via a credit card sign-up bonuses one doesn’t earn miles! Nor obviously does that count towards the “qualifying spend” requirements most frequent flier programs have started to require in addition to actual flights flown. In short airlines have made qualifying a lot harder, especially for people using miles earned via airline branded credit cards.
Mitigating the loss of airline status earning miles
For those that play the credit cards points game there is a way to mitigate the issue of not earning miles or meeting qualifying spend requirements. Stop using miles!
Instead focus on earning points with a travel focused credit card like like the Chase Sapphire or now the even better Chase Sapphire reserve card.
When you redeem credit cards points (unlike miles) they act just like buying the ticket for real money (what mile/point folks call a revenue ticket). That means that the cost of the ticket counts for the equivalent of dollars spent on it, even though you used points. and you get collect miles for flying even though no cash comes out of your pocket.
So ironically it may make the most sense not use a specific airline’s credit card for anything if your goal is elite frequent flyer flyer status on that airline. beyond a sign-up bonus if your goal is fly, especially if you if you’re to buy flights on that airline. to earn miles if your goal is elite status!