For those just getting into the airlines credit card miles and points game, it might seem like a lot of information being thrown at you all at once. Have no fear though, this article will break down exactly how miles can be earned and why certain miles are more valuable than others.
How do credit card bonus miles work? When you sign up for an airline credit card bonus offer or make a purchase on your airline card, you will earn regular old frequent flyer miles. There is another type of mile though which is usually referred to as an elite qualifying mile (EQM). These miles are earned through paid flights and are sometimes awarded as part of a sign-up bonus offer. Some cards might offer a 50,000 mile bonus sign-up with an additional 5,000 elite qualifying miles.
The easiest way to rack up EQM’s though is to purchase airline tickets. Any time you fly on a regular paid ticket, you’ll earn redeemable miles for an award ticket and elite qualifying miles based on the fare class you purchase. The redeemable miles are the same as the miles you would get from purchases on your airline credit card and can be used for award travel. The EQM’s are used for gaining elite status with that airline. Most airlines require a minimum of 25,000 EQM’s in order to attain the lowest level of elite status.
When it comes to credit cards with rewards elite mile cards are the best! Some of the more popular elite status benefits include free business or first class upgrades, free exit row and premium seats, lounge access, free checked baggage, mileage bonuses and priority boarding. The higher your elite status, the more benefits you’ll receive, so you can see why so many people care about EQM’s.
The EQM calendar year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31st and all of your EQM’s will reset at the end of each year. You probably won’t be able to achieve elite status with airline card sign-up bonus offers alone but they can definitely help.
If you fly a lot for personal travel or business, you’ll earn EQM’s on each and every flight so it’s important to keep track of where you stand. If you’re only a few thousand miles short of elite status, it might be worth it to sign up for that airline’s credit card if they offer an EQM bonus.
Some travelers take it a step further and do what’s known as mileage runs. This is a flight that is solely for the purpose of gaining elite status. If you’re right on the edge of elite status, it might be worth it to charge a few hundred bucks on your airlines credit card for a short flight that will push you over the edge.
Some programs will even let you qualify on segments instead of flown miles. This is a big benefit to travelers who take a lot of short fights since it’s hard to rack up a lot of miles if you’re only flying a few hundred miles every week.
The most important thing to know is that there is a big difference between credit card miles and EQM’s. You’ll still get redeemable miles every time you make a purchase with your airline credit card but you won’t get any EQM’s. Elite qualifying miles can only be earned through paid flights and credit card sign-up bonuses.
Anytime you see an advertised sign-up bonus offer, they are talking about redeemable miles, not EQM’s. The EQM’s are usually listed in the fine print and are in the 5,000-15,000 range.
There is one last way you can use your airlines credit card to earn EQM’s though and that is through reaching specific spending thresholds. Most cards won’t give you EQM’s for purchases but if you spend a certain amount (usually in the $25,000-$100,000 range) you can earn EQM’s. Most of the spending thresholds are pretty high but if you spend a lot of money every year you can rack up quite a few EQM’s.
Add this amount to the amount from your flights during the year and any sign-up bonus offer EQM’s and you could be well on your way to earning elite status without even knowing it. So make sure you stay on top of those.
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