Home Stretch for Elite Status in 2013

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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.

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Free Diamond breakfast via room service at Park Hyatt Chicago

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.

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Eating $100 breakfast (for free) each day at Andaz Maui

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.

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Platinum suite upgrade at St. Regis Bahia Beach

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

Conclusion:

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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Comments

  1. May I ask about how much you spent in mattress runs in an effort to keep your Hyatt Diamond status? I am in the same boat and keep balking at any more unnecessary hotel stays. How do you decide if it is worthwhile?

  2. MP, can Josh also get the business SPG Amex? That would give him 2 more stay credits, which would help him requalify for Plat next year.

  3. I was interested like Denise is how much in total it cost you to get to Platinum. As someone who doesnt travel for work, I’d rather stay on awards at Hyatt then to pay for room nights.

  4. I would love for more bloggers to talk about the costs involved with this hobby. So i third the request how much are you actually paying for the status?

    Nothing wrong with this method of mattress running but lets be clear of the price of this status your gunning for. $65* 6 mattress runs lets say is $390.
    $75*6 mattress runs $450.

    Some nice eggs and juice and bacon is always welcome but it aint worth $100 just because thats what the andaz is charging. You could go to a local joint and get $35 breakfast for you whole family.

    So Summer if you dont mind how much are your mattress runs costing you?

    Btw keep up the good work!

  5. I got an email from united last year when I was close to qualifying for status that alloWed me to pay to qualify. I am close to qualfiying for stays this were on AA. Do you know of AA offers a similar deal?

  6. Kristen, that is the best way to get status – when someone else is footing the bill. 😉
    UAPhil, I’m sure he could. Didn’t need the extra help this year, but I’m sure he will get it at some point for sure.
    Christina, I’m not sure since I don’t have AA status (or anything close to it), perhaps another AA pro can chime in.
    Denise, Mileage Update, and Troy, I’m happy to talk about the costs that I know. However, I don’t know how much I spent on airfare off-hand in 2013 since the majority of it wasn’t done for chasing status. I can tell you that the extra Boston run I booked was $197 and I booked a St. Thomas “vacation run” for less than $200, but we also really wanted to go there, so not sure that counts. Most of the trips were ones I either needed or really wanted for actual trips. The hotel mattress runs I can speak more directly to, though only if I don’t get hate mail in return. 😉

    I would guess that I am ending up with at least 7 Hyatt mattress runs, though that number isn’t 100% set in stone yet. Some of those are already booked, and a couple have already happened. The cost for most of them is about $65 all-in. Some are a bit lower, and a couple are a bit higher. I spoke in more detail about this in this post:
    http://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/2013/09/24/mattress-running-for-status-during-a-kids-birthday-party/#sthash.hFt5XDad.dpbs
    But essentially it isn’t a totally wasted $65ish dollars since I get roughly half that value back in points earned (especially since I am timing it with the current promo). However, if you don’t count the points earned as having a real value, it will be at least $400 in money spent on un-needed stays to obtain status.

    I agree that the breakfasts that are selling for $100 aren’t necessarily worth $100, but it does add up over the course of the year, and we love the convenience of it. We would not often spend that much if it wasn’t included, but it does enhance our experience to have it – especially when traveling with the little one. Hyatt Diamond also seems to have some extra perks that sometimes happen throughout the year as “surprises as well”. All that said, I think 7-ish mattress runs is too many for me. I am glad I am doing it this year because A) I am already committed too far to back out and B) I do have some stays planned for next year at properties where I want Diamond. However, I do not plan to chase Hyatt Diamond status like this next year.

    Based on that travel projected for next year, I will be at least this far off again (unless award stays start counting), and this was just too much for me since it isn’t just the time and money involved in the mattress runs, but also some other stays that I could have possibly gotten cheaper elsewhere, used points, etc. All that being said, if I am really off on my 2014 travel projections and end up just a few stays off Hyatt Diamond I would go for it, but I think the threshold should be 5 or fewer MR, at most, at least for me. Doing 7 or 8 is just too much for me to want to repeat.

    • Carl, I love Ric’s perspective and reading his posts. I also think everyone’s situation is different. Your value and impact from having the status will be different from someone else’s. How much travel you naturally have, and your preferences, also will vary from the next person’s and are very important in the equation. I also think that how many people the status will benefit also comes into the equation. If it was just me, it wouldn’t be as valuable as if I am using it for my whole family.

  7. It seems like your spending a lot of money on all this free travel. You buy lots of plane tickets because there ” good deals”.i think you have been to Hawaii twice this year and paid for those tickets and now you are flying BA and paying fuel charges. You are no longer the average American family. The travel budget you have is not normal. I think it’s time to change your logo. You take a toddler on helicopter ride and luau’s, rent corvettes and rent 300.00 cabanas. Also you buy miles because their a good deal and pay some huge CC annual fees.I’m not picking on you and glad that you can afford this, it’s very different from most family travel patterns. I would think many reading this blog are questioning how much money is being spent on free(or almost free ) travel. I’m doing all the same things you are doing at a fraction of the cost.

    • Jim, thanks for sharing your thoughts. My situation is not normal. I have a travel/miles and points blog that is my primary occupation, and as a result absolutely have more trips than the “average family”. Some directly related to work commitments, some indirectly related, and some not really related at all. I also do some things in part so that I can share thoughts about that experience with others and have a better first-hand perspective on what was “worth it” and what wasn’t. For what it is worth, the modest up-charge we negotiated on the corvette in Maui absolutely was worth it to my husband, though would never be for me. 😉 The helicopter tour of Kauai absolutely was worth every penny!

      Honestly though, I can’t get some experiences without actually doing it, so that does sometimes require me to spend money on things that I probably wouldn’t if travel was simply still just a hobby as opposed to being in an amazing position to have this being more than just a hobby. I don’t really pay many huge annual fees, and rarely buy miles, but will in some situations where it will be cheaper for me to do that than any other route that I have time for. I’m not heavily into the manufactured spending routine, though that would be cheaper than buying miles on the rare instances that I do so.

      I do think much of what we do is very relevant to the average American family, though I will readily admit we do more of it than most people could or would want to in a year. That is related to me wanting to expand my first-hand knowledge of many places and things so that I can offer better information to others. Bonus points if my family gets to enjoy a little more of the world in the process. That said, I do want to scale it back a bit from the current state to get it a bit in the next year or so…hopefully.

      As to the logo for the site, I don’t totally disagree for a variety of reasons, though finding the time to get some of that redone is lower on the priority list since I am the furthest thing from an “artist”. I do think that the logo remains absolutely true in that many of the things I write about can make some parts of travel virtually free for other families. Our situation is now a bit unique, but that doesn’t change the mission of the site.

  8. Jim,

    You make some good points. I betcha Mommypoints would admit that the LURE of elite status compels the normal person to do things they wouldn’t normally do (like mattress runs or quick mileage runs).

    BUT — you knew there was a but, right? — I think I’m in the same boat as Mommy. I have twin ten year olds and the difference between booking a garden room at the Grand Hyatt Kauai for $290 a night and then using a suite upgrade to the Ocean Suite that goes for $1200 a night makes mattress running to obtain elite status so I can use those “sweet” upgrades really worth it. Throw in 22K point stays at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the HR Kyoto and the Hyatt Place Vendome — properties I could never afford out of pocket — and elite status becomes a no-brainer.

    Plus, my mattress runs are often Staycation nights. Taking the family out of their routine for a night to a fun place with a pool and free brekkies and exploring a different side of town is definitely a plus, especially for under $100.

    Add in the concept that often I’m inviting guests or work contacts to the high-end Hyatt/Andaz properties for great breakfasts (free for me, but they don’t know that) and the cost/benefit ratio starts to swing more in my favor.

    Conversely, if you apply the same therapy to mileage runs — exploring a city you would not normally go to on a cheap fare that helps you requalify — even if it is just for 24/36 hours — than what appears to be drudgery is now a lot of fun. And it sure breaks up the parental monotony (call it the New Calgon Bath, if you will). [One should also consider that these mileage runs are in First Class with lounge access, so the flying can be a lot of fun, too.]

    From an AA Executive Platinum with Hyatt Diamond Status and thanks to the Milepoint offer, Hilton Gold…

  9. Great article! I have done many trips like the ones you wrote about and get a kick out of the Admirals Club noticing a mileage run over a business trip. Hit a bump in the road this year – pregnancy! Makes flying/traveling and re-qualifying very difficult. AA did just send me an email that lowered my threshold to maintain status (been ExPlat or Plat for 10 years) and that’s the only thing that makes going back to work bearable.

  10. Summer, trust me, once you get to your suite at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome the extra few hundred dollars this year will be TOTALLY worth it. My husband and I lucked into one of their suites a few years ago and they are ah. Mazing.

  11. Thank you for sharing your costs associated with elite status. I know a lot you may get some heat from some readers, but I appreciate your honesty. Keep up the great blog!

  12. My perspective: We all spend money on recreation and entertainment. Some spend it on lottery tickets, gambling, professional football tickets, fine dining, movies, clothes, travel, etc. It’s silly to criticize a person for their choice of entertainment. I say good on ya, MP.

  13. I travel 6-9 times a year on my own dime for conventions put on by a club I belong to, and once a year for work, maybe. This year most of my trips have been award flights and the hotels were not concentrated in one loyalty program, so no new statuses. But I *am* taking advantage of US Airways’ Trial Preferred, Fall Kickoff and Share Miles doubling. For ~$3500 I’m getting Chairman’s Preferred and almost 200k RDMs. The RDMs will take me & my sister to Tokyo in Business next April, and CP can only go up in value if the merger with American goes through.

  14. Of course this travel hobby costs money. But every hobby is costly (whether in money, time, energy, and/or otherwise), whether it be traveling or golfing or cooking or knitting or restoring classic cars or whatever. I don’t evaluate my hobbies on cost alone, but on costs relative to the pleasure derived. Quality of life is important and enjoyable hobbies contribute to it.

  15. You know, they are working up at including award stay count for elite status for Hyatt in the near future. When that happens, I’m going to kick SPG in the rear end and hop on Hyatt all the way…considering I don’t do nearly enough stay to be loyal to more than one chain.

  16. @Jim “You are no longer the average American family”

    Seriously, if they were the average American family, taking a long weekend trip to Disneyworld in the winter, and a weeklong camping trip to Yellowstone in the summer, paid for by clipping coupons from the weekly Supermarket ads, would you ever bother to look at this blog again?

    “I’m doing all the same things you are doing at a fraction of the cost.”

    Wow, really? I’m so excited to read your blog and find out how you are staying at the Andaz Maui, skiing in Colorado and BC, taking helicopter rides, renting Corvettes, going to multiple Olympics, etc all “at a
    fraction of the cost” that MP spends. Please put up a link to your blog so we can all learn how to do that. 🙂

    As for MP, yes, you are a travel professional now, with many opportunities the “average” family, whatever that may mean, doesn’t have. That doesn’t mean though this blog average families can’t learn from your travels. And sometimes the best thing to learn is that a particular trip just isn’t going to be worth it to you.

    The MMS series on Tahiti deflated a decade long fantasy of going there. And believe me, it’s much better to have your fantasy deflated for free at home, than by taking a long, tiring, very points/miles/dollars expensive trip and being disappointed when you get there. 🙁

    Posts like yours on the Andaz Maui let the less advantaged family decide if it is worth going all out for a once every ten years splurge there, or if they would be happier with something more modest. And of course, there is always the fantasy factor of a well presented Trip Report to somewhere you know you will never go, but are happy to read all about.

    I might add, I don’t have any children, and yet I read this blog daily.

    Keep up the good work, Summer…

  17. Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts! I agree that this is also a hobby so there is some enjoyment from simply playing the game. That said, I know some of the elite status stuff certainly isn’t for everyone, and at some point it may not even be for me if my travel plans shift so that I am home more. Only time will tell, but for now it was worth the extra stretch because of the return, but I know my situation may not be the norm. Thanks again to all who took the time to share!

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