Time to Assess Elite Status Progress

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The first quarter of 2013 is in the books, and that means it is officially time to do a status check of where you stand in terms of qualifying or re-qualifying for elite status with your favorite programs.  Some think that posts about elite status are a tad irrelevant for a family oriented miles and points blog, but I think that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Families get x times the amount of value from elite status due to the increased number of beneficiaries of the status, so in some ways I think it is even more relevant for families to focus on elite status than single travelers.

Of course qualifying for elite status by flights and hotel stays is not for everyone. Those who travel just a couple of times per year are best served by getting some easy mid-tier hotel status via credit card like the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card that gives you Hilton Gold or the Club Carlson Visa that gives you Club Carlson Gold. With respect to airlines, you may also be better off getting elite-type perks such as free checked bags and early boarding via cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or the a Delta Amex.  Check here to see if you are targeted for an improved Delta offer (CARDMATCHTM) and read this FT thread for info on an improved United Card offer. 

But for those of us who spend a fair amount of the year up in the air and/or hopping to different hotels, elite status can have very real and tangible benefits that are worth keeping in mind as travel is planned and booked. I personally have gotten a tremendous amount of value from my United Platinum status and my Hyatt Diamond status, and very much want to at least keep both of those status levels for 2014, and may possibly even shoot for top tier United status this time around. We like to divide and conquer in my family, so my husband has the “job” of re-qualifying for Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum so we benefit from his status on our family trips.

I want to share our situation in order for you to see our thought process, and to hopefully help with you assessing your own status in the programs that matter to your family.  With that in mind, here is where my husband and I stand ¼ into 2013:

United:

Summer: 28,000 elite qualifying miles posted with a cumulative total of over 66,000 miles already booked or flown for the rest of the year.

This means that re-qualifying for Platinum status at 75,000 miles is a virtual shoe-in. However, whether or not to push for top-tier 1K is still a big question. It will likely be largely influenced by Star MegaDo 5 (which rumors have started to circulate about), the possibility of additional necessary trips I am unaware of at this time popping up, or a very good “vacation run”. But, my schedule is already pretty full, so I don’t have tons of additional time available to jet off from home just to earn elite qualifying miles. Hitting 1K for me will require leaving the country again at least once as short domestic hops from the middle of the country aren’t going to make-up the difference from where I am and 100,000 flown miles.

Josh: 4,000 elite qualifying miles posted with a total of 16,000 booked for the year.

He hit Silver status last year, and the goal is for him to hit it again this year. This helps him when he travels without me, and makes it technically possible for our family of 3 to get complimentary first class upgrades when flying together. My daughter is my companion on the upgrade list, and then he is there on his own. As a Silver it is rare to score free upgrades, but can happen on leisure routes at off-peak times. The world won’t stop turning if he doesn’t re-qualify, but if he is at least close we will make it happen via purchasing a few elite qualifying miles or a small vacation run.

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Hyatt Gold Passport:

Summer: 6 elite qualifying stays posted with 4 additional booked for 2013.

I need a total of 25 stays to re-qualify for top tier Diamond status. I am pretty much on track for that, but I bet that by the end of the year I will be in a similar position as last year where I need a handful of “mattress runs” to re-qualify for status. In Houston I can get those for $60 – $70 per night, so there will probably be some financial investment for me to return Diamond status since I bet my number of needed stays will stall out around 20-22ish. Way too early in the year for me to start doing mattress runs, but this is something I will keep an eye on as I want to time them with a promotion so I can get as many points for “unneeded” stays as possible.

Since Hyatt Diamond provides me with real benefits like confirmed suite upgrades and free full breakfast for my whole family there is no question I would re-coup some “wasted” money spent on end of the year mattress runs if that ends up being necessary.  Below is the Japanese breakfast from the Park Hyatt Tokyo….3900 Yen or free for Diamond members (they have Western food, too). 

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Josh: He has completed 5 stays with no additional stays currently booked.

He currently has Hyatt Diamond status earned mostly through business trips. He is continuing to travel relatively frequently for work, so he may re-qualify if that pace continues. However, we are giving preference to SPG hotels for him when the price permits so Hyatt is a secondary hotel priority for him since I will be retaining my top tier Hyatt status.

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Starwood Preferred Guest:

Summer: I have 4 posted stays with 1 additional stay booked. I need a total of 10 to re-qualify for mid-tier Gold status. Four of my stays came automatically via having the SPG Business and SPG Personal Amex cards, so I haven’t actually completed an SPG stay in my name this year.

I have stayed in several SPG hotels this year, and have several more stays booked, but all have been via my husband’s account since he has Platinum status and we want him to re-qualify. I do not like the idea of not re-qualifying at least for Gold status, but we are sticking with the divide and conquer approach instead of wasting money and time trying to intentionally duplicate status within our family. If I end up getting an Amex Platinum card again this year I will have automatic SPG Gold status and will continue to earn a 50% points bonus, get free internet, and other SPG elite perks.

Josh: He has 9 stays posted with 3 additional booked for the year. He needs a total of 25 for the year to re-qualify for Platinum status.

He does not currently have any of the SPG Amex cards, but getting one or two could help boost his number of stay credits, if needed. It also helps that award stays count toward status with SPG as several of our trips this year are SPG awards. The only thing that has made SPG a little difficult is that the properties in Austin (where he frequently goes for work) have been a little pricey so far this year with SXSW and the Texas Legislative session going on. He has had to avoid SPG hotels on a few work trips due to the high price. Hopefully that will lessen some as the year goes on and he will be able to re-qualify.

The Platinum benefits aren’t as nice as the Hyatt Diamond benefits for us, but we do still enjoy the free breakfast (even if it is often not a full breakfast), club access, and occasional suite upgrades.

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All in all we are pretty much on-track with getting where we want to be with re-qualifying for elite status in our primary programs. We will seriously re-assess again at the mid year point and probably have to start making some decisions if we don’t continue to be on pace for things to happen naturally.

More importantly, how is your quest for status going at the ¼ point in the year?  Do you track and strategize in a way similar to how my family does it, or do you have a different strategy?

 

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Comments

  1. I suspect I’m like a lot of blog readers, wondering how much of the travel you do is specifically earning / blogging related and how much is the travel you’d do “normally”.
    .
    Can you break down of the 94,000 miles you have flown/booked on United were NOT done primarily for earning status or reviewing a product but rather were for leisure travel? (Also — doesn’t look like you’re that far away from 1K).
    .
    Similarly for hotel stays — how many were actual travel rather than completely or largely for earning purposes?
    .
    Thanks!

  2. I am also in Houston, for cheaper Hyatt nights try the Hyatt House Energy Corridor or Hyatt Place IAH. Not quite the $60-70 rates you mentioned but you can usually find a weekend night for $85-90.

  3. 95,956 miles YTD on UAL(that’s butt in seat). 90% international for work, 10% leisure. Hyatt Platinum and Marriott Gold achieved. The question is: Do I start with AA or DL in Q2?

  4. Larry, sorry it wasn’t clear it is a total of 66K booked or flown for the year, so still a chunk away from 1K. A quick breakdown is roughly 20K for Tokyo/JapanDO I just went on. I have two revenue Hawaii trips booked at close to 8K a pop. One with my kid, one with my husband. I have had/will have several domestic trips for seminars, conferences, etc. I have had/will have a couple of trips to visit family, friends, attend weddings, go skiing, Disney, etc. I have one “vacation run” to St. Thomas. I will likely have StarMegaDo5 in there, but that is not currently counted. Not sure if that helps at all, but that is the main summary of what has made up the 66K number and the hotels for that matter. Last year I had 3 or 4 pure mattress runs for status and another handful via the Club Carlson promos. Travel is my hobby, my passion, necessary to keep my family connected, and is also now in a sense related to my job as a “full time blogger” (as horrible as that title sounds). So, it is impossible for me to separate it perfectly, as it is all just one big clump that makes up a part of who I am. Which was all probably more than you wanted to know….
    Morgan, I’m detecting sarcasm. 😉
    Patrick, I have done some at Hyatt Place IAH last year. In December the rates really dropped. I also got some during 48 hour sales that brought them down to that price range.
    UAL, I have heard very good things from my UA 1K friends who are now Exec Plat with AA.

  5. 18,000 EQM on Alaska with hopes of reaching
    MVP Gold this year. Have 5 stays at Hyatt so
    far and will probably need a few mattress runs
    later. Some great mattress run rates for Hyatt
    are often found at properties near IAD and the
    HR Irvine, CA.

  6. I love travelling too and enjoy your blogs a lot. I see that you have transitioned into a “full time blogger”. Not sure if I can ask this, but I’m curious if you able to support all your travel expenses from the earnings that you get from blogging alone? Or do you serve as some sort of a travel consultant to some corporation?

  7. Matt, sounds like you are doing pretty well!
    Sam, so glad to hear you enjoy the blog. I transitioned about a year ago. The short answer is that I am not a travel consultant to anyone. My travel is a mix of business and pleasure, though it is sometimes hard to truly distinguish between the two. Some of the trips I would be taking irregardless of the blog and some I wouldn’t. The lines (and budgets) are a little blurry though. 😉

  8. MP – are you giving up on requalifying for AA Explat? I seem to recall that you made it last year. I earned my status for 2013 early in 2012.Unless another DEQM comes along this year, I’ll ride out 2013 and do some serious mileage runs & jogs again in Jan-Feb of 2014 to keep status through 2016.

    • Bill, no AA for me last year other than one flight from LAX-IAH and the OWMD. They did offer some very generous status matches and DEQM promos last year, but I did not participate mainly bc AA just does not make sense for me based on my location. Sounds like you have a good plan outlined for your status though!

  9. In follow up to Sam’s comment, I am a United 1K, as his my husband. Since we live apart (he is in San Francisco and I am in St. Louis), one of us is on a United flight almost every week. These trips are all on our dime so we know how expensive those miles are when a corporation is not paying. Because I am self employed my schedule is flexible and we do not have young children but I have to say maintaining 1K status is both time consuming and expensive. We have to take one or two overseas trips (usually going to Europe out of SFO) to make sure both of us get there. Has your transition to “full time blogger” transitioned into a tax deduction for these trips? I’m on target with 33,000 butt in the seat miles so far in 2013.

  10. Carol, it absolutely is time consuming and expensive. All of those places I have been or are going listed is still only 66% of the way to 1K, and all have resulted in time away from home. I do not think that it is worth pushing for anything close to 1K “just because”, but if you are going to get most of the way anyway it can make sense. Some of my trips are tax deductible business expenses, but that was also true when this was just a side gig. (I’m not a tax pro – thankfully we pay someone to do all that nitty gritty for us)

  11. My travels started very early this year so doing very well in terms of status. Got SPG PLT via challenge, and need 3 more stays to hit platinum until 2014. Have booked about 40 nights this year and with CC’s I will get the 50 nights for confirmed upgrades.

    Flew about 38k so far on AA and have two more trips to South America in the next two months which will have me back at PLT until 2014. Still need two more long trips to hit EXP.

  12. Gene, I might. It’s not in my current churn plans, but it is a possibility I will get it again in part for that status. 😉
    Skwok, sounds like you are on track!

  13. On an unrelated note, the kid and I have an upcoming flight where we’re in the unfortunate situation of only middle seats being available. I’m sure no one in their right mind wants to sit next to an unsupervised toddler, should I
    -keep monitoring seat availability to see if something opens up (flight’s pretty full at the moment)
    -shell out $100+ to move us both to E+
    -beg/bribe for someone to switch seats, or offer to pay for their move to E+
    -other options?

  14. Diana, awesome! It depends on how full the flight is. United doesn’t block seats as much as the other airlines, so if the seat map is looking really full – it probably is. Depending on how full E+ is, you can play chicken and wait it out to see if seats open up for free (maybe they will when the Silvers move up at T-24). If E+ is also starting to look full your peace of mind may be worth the $100. The problem with asking others to switch is you need to have something to trade. If all there are is middles then you are trading a middle for a window or aisle? Not really a fair trade for the person moving.

  15. 57,183 YTD on United. Have a couple business trips to east coast should bring me to 64,000+ in April. I will ensure I make 1K again this year.

    Had one MR to Geneva on my way from Corpus Christi to West Palm Beach, FL in Feb.
    Spring break family trip to London & Paris. Didn’t think about snow at spring break time. Snow at Disneyland Paris. Snowball fight in front of the Louve with 6 yr old.
    Japan – wife and I have trip booked using miles in September – enjoying your Japan posts.

    Due to Marriott rollover, I am already qualified for Marriott Platinum for 2014.

    Look forward to seeing you in DC at Frequent Flyer University!!

    -Les (Your Inagural United 787 seat mate)

  16. Keep monitoring Elite Maximizer for your itineraries.

    Although, if your gap is really 34,000 PQM’s, then Elite Maximizer will likely be too expensive.

    Stick with Plat, unless at the megado UA gives attendees some huge PQM bonuses.

  17. Thanks Lark. I wasn’t clear, but I will have many more unknown business trips planned this year that will bump me over 100K.
    Thank you!!

  18. We just moved back to the US and due to my million miler status with UA, my wife has the same status (ie 1K). She didnt think this meant much until she had to fly domestically with her work, and after clearing 4 out of 4 upgrades, she is hooked 🙂

    I took the AA EXP status match last year and I am very very impressed with AA, so much so that I will ensure I requalify for 1K and EXP in 2014. I like having choices and even though I live at a UA fortress hub (ie DEN), AA still works for me.

    Ninety percent of my travel is long-haul, so thankfully, the requalification isnt too tough, but you still need to work at it. I think I am at 40K EQM for UA ytd and only about 20K for AA, so this quarter I will balance the scales a bit.

    Hotels wise, I will maintain Hyatt Diamond and as far as my Royal Ambassador requal goes, I dont worry about doing the required stays anymore, I simply buy a renewal cert each and every year. Much easier and a whole lot cheaper.

  19. Thanks, mommypoints! I agree that an aisle/window for middle wouldn’t be a fair trade. But I guess there were some blocked seats b/c I called United to explain my situation, and the agent was able to give us new seat assignments next to each other. Whew!

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