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There are less than three months left in 2013, which means that we are in the home stretch for those who are concerned with qualifying, or re-qualifying for elite status in 2013 for the 2014 program year. As I always say, elite status is absolutely not for everyone. It is only worth pushing for if you naturally are pretty close to earning status based on the trips you naturally take, and your return for having the elite status depends largely on your travel patterns in the subsequent year. It has been a big part of our own travel strategy the last couple of years as we have leveraged suite upgrades, (very nice) free breakfasts, fee waivers, and more to our advantage.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote a more detailed post that outlines some things to think about to determine if elite status is necessary or realistic for your family. I last posted about our qualification progress for elite status in April, and the situation and plan for 2013 hasn’t changed dramatically since that time. That said, my strategy for earning elite status in 2014 has changed, but I’ll get to that in a post soon. For today, I’m going to focus on where we are for this year, and where we go from here in the hopes that it may spur some thought about your own travel plans and goals as they relate to elite status.
Airline elite status:
Me: I currently have 74,500+ elite qualifying miles on United. After going to Chicago Seminars this weekend I will cross the threshold to re-qualify for Platinum status. I have quite enjoyed having Platinum status, but with 2.5 months left to go in the year, it looks like 1K will be the status for me in 2014. When I did the math a few days ago I was booked to a little over 96,000 miles. This week I pulled the trigger on a vacation-run to Boson. It prices out at around 6 cents per mile which isn’t spectacular, but it is pretty decent out of IAH. The flights are at good times, it is from my home airport, and it is to a city I want to go to anyway. That and another short hop I needed to book will get me to 1k. Truthfully I was tempted to simply buy the elite qualifying miles, but they are pricing for me at about $1,200 for 6,000 miles, so taking a quick vacation run is a better option given that very high price.
Josh: Josh is currently at just over 25,000 elite qualifying miles on United. He is booked at about 35,000 for the year. This places him well over what he needed to re-qualify with silver (so that he has Priority Security, free E+ at check-in, etc. when not traveling with me), but is too far away from Gold to worry about tacking on a vacation run to make up the difference. Honestly, the same is true for my daughter. She is going to end the year close to 20,000 elite qualifying miles, but that is just too many away to worry about her earning Silver which she wouldn’t really benefit much from anyway.
Final tally should be:
Me: 1K top tier status with United
Husband: Silver status with United
Dirt with everyone else
Hotel elite status:
Me: My goal was to re-qualify this year for Hyatt Diamond as we get so much value from the lounge access, confirmed (and surprise) suite upgrades, free breakfast, etc. I am going to re-qualify, but getting there isn’t pretty. Not having a “day job” at all in 2013 hurt as pretty much all the stays were on my dime. Not having award stays count toward status hurt as I had many award stays. I am currently booked to 20 of the 25 needed stays on the year to re-qualify, and honestly some of those were mattress runs. I am left needing to add five more mattress runs, which is truly ridiculous. I have stays booked next year at some Hyatts like the Paris-Vendome where I really will get a good return on my status, but I’m not doing this many mattress runs again, nor do I recommend this strategy for most other folks.
Doing a handful of extra stays is totally justified if you can get them at a good rate, but doing as many as I need is just a little on the silly side. However, I was left in no-man’s-land with a good number of Hyatt stays, but still far from Diamond status. I’m happy with my plan to churn out the needed mattress runs during the current promo at a very inexpensive local Hyatt Place so that my out of pocket cost isn’t all that high, but it is more un-needed stays than I would have liked or anticipated.
I am going to be left with no SPG status as well have been putting all of our SPG stays in my husband’s name. I will retain Gold status if I take advantage of a targeted offer to upgrade my The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Amex to the Platinum version (and get bonus Membership Reward points in the process). I do have Marriott elite status thanks to the Star MegaDo 5 and United and Marriott’s partnership. I also have Gold status with Club Carlson thanks to having the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature. I will likely buy the Milepoint Premium membership and get Hilton Gold status as a result. I am currently trying to get a match to status with Choice Privileges so that I can book an award stay I need more than the 60 days in advance they allow for international stays. Mid-tier hotel elite status is actually pretty east to come-by.
Josh: He entered the year with top-tier status in Starwood and Hyatt, thanks in large part to a heavy (too heavy) work travel schedule in 2012. However, our plan was for him to focus on SPG while I focused on Hyatt. On every trip we took I tried to earn the Hyatt credit and he tried to earn the SPG credit, and it worked out that way 99% of the time. He currently has 20 stay credits and is booked exactly to needed 25 stays with SPG, enough to re-qualify for Platinum status. This was made possible in part thanks to the 2 stay credits he got from obtaining the SPG American Express this summer, and the fact that award stays count toward elite status in the SPG program.
He has 12 stay credits with Hyatt, and will not re-qualify for Hyatt Diamond next year as he is unlikely to have more than one or two more stays with them this year. Since he isn’t re-qualifying for Hyatt Diamond, this made it even more important that I push to get there so at least one of us has that status.
Final tally should be:
Me: Hyatt Diamond (barely), Club Carlson Gold, Marriott Platinum
Josh: SPG Platinum
The elite status plans we went into 2013 with went more or less according to plan. I hit 1K a little easier than I expected, and I am hitting Hyatt Diamond by doing a few more mattress runs than I expected. Josh’s work travel decreased just enough to make keeping status in two programs impossible, but he is keeping the one that was the priority for our family. We have enough travel in 2014 booked or planned in pencil that we will get a good return for the perks our elite status will give us, but as I mentioned earlier in the post our strategy for next year may shift some. This is an ever-changing game and requires our strategy to change with it.
How is your quest for elite status going this year? Have you been able to accomplish what you set out to do in 2013?
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