After my Ramblings About Elite Status post earlier this week, I kept thinking about the majority of travelers who fall somewhere between almost reaching 25,000 miles and $3,000 spent on airfare to make it to the entry level elite status and those who fly at least 10,000 miles a year. Clearly for those in this situation, the way to actually achieving status would be via credit card spend especially in the case of Delta. However, a combination of cards could definitely provide elite-like perks.

I wanted to see if this was possible with jetBlue, one of our favorite airlines, however none of JetBlue cards offers perks such as priority boarding which is what we are interested in. JetBlue cards shine in terms of points earning.

This post is not about earning bonus miles, but rather perks that make your travel nearly as rewarding as that of elite status holders. In my case, priority boarding is extremely important, I almost never check bags and when I travel for business, I always travel in economy class. The United card gets me on group 2, which most of the time works out well for me. I haven’t had to check my carryon bag is ages. This benefit kicks in, regardless of how you paid for your ticket.

Both Delta gold and platinum offer the same perk, but in practice I find United’s priority boarding is superior to Delta’s. This might seem counter intuitive, but in actuality, being on United’s group 2 is better than being on Delta’s group 1. Yet, either is better than not having this benefit.

United’s card comes with 2 free United Club passes per year. Delta cards provide a discount to Delta’s Sky Clubs. If you don’t travel often then this might be enough. People who travel more, would benefit from a premium credit card that would give them access to lounges at many airports. Free checked bags are not a problem with these cards, as long as you pay with the credit card. This is a really nice perk if you have to check bags routinely, since those extra fees can quickly add up. You may have noticed that I’m leaving AA out, here’s my reason: the only way I travel on that airline is if it’s free. I have managed to avoid American for about a decade and counting.

If you don’t want to get yet another credit card, Delta and United let you pay for priority boarding, miles booster, and WiFi among other extras. It’s unfortunate that air travel continues to be such an unpleasant experience especially for those of us traveling from/to the nations major airports. Elite status and the perks associated with such status make traveling somewhat more tolerable in most instances. Certain credit cards can help us get access to some of the perks top travelers get, but there are times when shelling an extra $15 can mean not waiting 3 hours for the carryon we might have been forced to check.

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