Update: This offer for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
My dad is in an interesting position where applying for one credit card could earn him lifetime (million miler) status with an airline.
Lifetime status policies of US airlines
The major US airlines all offer some sort of a lifetime status program, to reward those who have been loyal to the airline for a long time. However, there’s a significant difference in terms of how generous these programs are. Of the “big three” US carriers, United has by far the most generous lifetime status program, followed by Delta, followed by American.
American AAdvantage lifetime status
American AAdvantage offers the following lifetime status benefits:
- Lifetime AAdvantage Gold status plus 35,000 miles after earning one million lifetime miles
- Lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status plus four systemwide upgrades after earning two million lifetime miles
- Four additional systemwide upgrades after every additional million lifetime miles
What counts towards this? Only base miles flown on American and partner airlines. In other words, it takes a lot of flying to earn million miler status, and the benefits are limited.
The major problem is that until 2011, American had one of the most generous million miler programs. All miles earned counted towards it, including all redeemable miles. As a result, American has tons of 10 million milers, largely people who rarely fly American but just earned those through credit card spend. It’s a shame that they’ve adjusted the requirements but haven’t added anything for those who are actually loyal to the program.
Delta SkyMiles lifetime status
Delta SkyMiles offers the following lifetime status benefits:
- Lifetime SkyMiles Silver status plus a gift after earning one million lifetime miles
- Lifetime SkyMiles Gold status plus a gift after earning two million lifetime miles
- Lifetime SkyMiles Gold status plus a gift after earning three million lifetime miles
- Lifetime SkyMiles Platinum status plus a gift after earning four million lifetime miles
What counts towards this? All Medallion Qualifying Miles. Delta’s co-branded credit cards offer MQMs, so in theory you could earn lifetime status exclusively through credit card spend.
United MileagePlus lifetime status
United MileagePlus offers the following lifetime status benefits:
- Lifetime MileagePlus Premier Gold status after earning one million lifetime miles
- Lifetime MileagePlus Premier Platinum status after earning two million lifetime miles
- Lifetime MileagePlus Premier 1K status after earning three million lifetime miles
- Lifetime MileagePlus Global Services status after earning four million lifetime miles
On top of that, if you’re a million miler you can nominate a companion to receive the same status that you maintain. So if you’re a million miler and also a Premier 1K, a companion could receive Premier 1K status as well.
This is incredibly generous — one million miler gets you mid-tier status rather than entry-level status, a companion get status, and you can even earn invitation only status through lifetime loyalty.
What counts towards this? All base miles earned for travel on United. So it’s one of the tougher lifetime statuses to earn, but it’s also so much more valuable than the rest.
My dad’s funny million miler situation
My dad has been planning on signing up for one (or more) of the Delta Amex sign-up bonuses that are currently available, given the increased offers they have. I was looking at his SkyMiles account to see how many miles he currently has, and my jaw dropped when I saw one of his account statistics.
My dad has 991,682 lifetime miles with Delta, meaning he’s less than 10,000 miles from earning lifetime status with them.
I don’t know how this is possible, since my dad hasn’t been a loyal Delta flyer as long as I’ve been alive. So I guess he flew them a lot for work many many many decades ago.
Now I’m not really sure how much value he’d get out of lifetime Silver Medallion status on Delta, though there’s no reason not to earn lifetime status if you can. It’s not just the Silver status, but you also get to choose a gift, with choices including Tumi luggage and Tiffany & Co. jewelry. That’s certainly a nice add-on to a credit card sign-up bonus. 😉
So if my dad applied for either of those cards and completed the minimum spend, he’d be a Delta million miler, which is pretty cool.
I know that Delta actually recognized people who earn million miler status on flights, though I’m not sure that would apply to someone who is a non-elite. If they do it for anyone earning million miler status, I’d be amused to book him on a flight and have him be surprised to learn that he passed that threshold, since he’d have no clue. Does anyone know if Delta does million miler recognition for anyone who passes the threshold on a flight, or only certain elites?
What do you guys think — should we have him sign-up for The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express to earn million miler, or have him earn it as a surprise on one of his next Delta trips?