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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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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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