ExpertFlyer Finds New Breed of Loyalty in the Search for Elite Airline Status and Points Accrual

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Jason Steele, Award Travel and Credit Card Expert, Explores Alternatives to Mileage Runs As Airlines Now Award Loyalty Points Based on Dollars Spent vs. Miles Flown

There has been very little incentive in investing miles in a single airline because they continue to devalue their programs -- Jason Steele

Since many U.S. legacy airline carriers have moved their loyalty programs from a “miles flown” to a “dollars spent” model, it has become increasingly difficult – and expensive – for travelers to accrue sufficient reward points to increase (or even maintain) their elite status. Since the days of end-of-year mileage runs and inexpensive trips to “nowhere” are visions of the past, what can travelers do to maintain their status without breaking their travel budget? ExpertFlyer went One-on-One with Jason Steele, an awards travel and credit card expert, to explore the alternatives to the mileage run and low-cost flights traditionally used to secure award program status. During his video interview, Mr. Steele discussed new tactics for maintaining airline status including the long term benefits of “low-cost” upgrades to Business Class, and which airline reward credit cards are paying the highest dividends.

Steele agrees that, based on the new “dollars spent” model established by airlines, it will cost travelers more money to earn more award points for upgrades or discounted travel. That said, he identifies a number of ways to maximize spending to accumulate the most award points including upgrading to Business Class when discounts are available and which credit cards offer the best deals and help accumulate the most points. Mr. Steele also noted that mileage runs are still valid -- regardless of the ticket price -- if one is seeking to fulfill their elite qualifying miles. "Maintaining or leveling up one's elite status comes with its own set of perks, such as baggage allowances, first to board, and lounge privileges. So reaching that qualifying mile threshold is valuable in and of itself,” Mr. Steele said.

Since many airlines are decreasing incentives for loyalty, Mr. Steele believes that credit card award programs provide greater flexibility by allowing the transfer of points to partnership airlines (and hotels), and not limiting point accumulation to a single carrier. “There has been very little incentive in investing miles in a single airline because they continue to devalue their programs,” explains Steele. “Overall, I see the gains in credit card earnings outweighing the losses in the value of the miles since they can often be applied to a variety of airline partners and not relegated to a single carrier.”

“The rules have changed in the game of loyalty programs,” explains Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of, “but if you learn how to adjust to the new travel landscape, you can discover valuable and cost-effective ways of maintaining and even growing your program status with airlines.”

To read the entire list of tips from top travel industry hackers, please visit ExpertFlyer's blog.

About Jason Steele
Jason Steele is a journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel, and other areas of personal finance. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the credit card industry, Jason’s work has been featured at mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, and Business Insider.

Jason is well known within the community of travel rewards enthusiasts as the Senior Points and Miles Contributor for The Points Guy and other outlets featuring airline rewards and family travel. His travel writing is further enhanced with his commercial pilot’s license. Jason lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, three children, and their cat that he does not pretend to like.

Each month, ExpertFlyer's One-on-One blog goes face-to-face with the travel industry's leading decision makers to discuss and address topics relevant to many of today's business and frequent travelers. was conceived and created by an eclectic team consisting of a veteran elite tier frequent flyer, an airline captain and corporate travel manager, and information technology professionals to deliver a 24/7 real time powerful air travel information service. The company provides its subscribers and corporate travel managers alike with a complete, concise and efficient way to access the ever-changing details of worldwide air travel information. For more information, please visit

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