Rounding the Corner on Elite Status

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It’s fall and we are approaching the last quarter of the year, and that means the last chance to earn elite status for the next calendar year. As you likely know, the race to elite status ends each year on December 31st.  As we ring in New Year’s, the elite status counters all reset to zero.  It’s not time to panic yet (or ever really), but it is time to start finalizing your elite status goals for the year, as well as how you are going to reach them.

In case you don’t have lots of trips remaining that will naturally get you to the elite status level you desire, here are some things to consider to help push yourself toward the elite threshold you need.

Decide if elite status is really worth it:

Before taking any action to try and push for elite status, you need to really think about whether it is worth it. I know, that might sound crazy coming from a miles and points junkie who has elite status, but it is so true. You have to know what is really worth it for you and your family, and what is just costing you more money than you are saving from the perks and benefits.

Suite upgrade via Hyatt Diamond

Suite upgrade via Hyatt Diamond

Elite status can sort of trap you into being afraid of losing it, but sometimes dropping to a lower level isn’t that bad, or at least isn’t worth what it would cost you to attain a higher status level. For example, I am a top tier United 1K this year, but I just don’t have enough elite qualifying travel to re-qualify at that level. I could book tons of mileage runs to get there, but the benefits I would get at 1K vs. Platinum just don’t justify the extra expense (not to mention the time).  Looking ahead to 2015 it won’t surprise me if I don’t even get to the Platinum level next year, and that’s okay.

Also look at whether your partner has status that you could benefit from without having to replicate status for both of you. If you fly together, stay in hotels together, etc. the whole family may be able to get by with just one person having elite status with a particular program.

I strongly encourage you to really study the benefits you will lose and actually do the math on what you would pay for the perks the status comes with. If you can outright buy, or easily do without, the perks that the status you want would give you, then I would get off the elite status hamster wheel. In many cases it isn’t worth it. Of course, in some it will be worth it, and if that applies to you then read on.

Get elite qualifying miles or hotel nights from rewards credit cards:

Many different hotel and airline co-branded credit cards will give you elite qualifying miles or hotel nights/stays toward hitting status. For example, the Detla Platinum Amex, Hyatt Visa Signature, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express can all give you elite status credit.  Some cards like the SPG Amex grant elite qualifying credit just by having the card, while other cards like the Hyatt Visa grant elite status credit based on how much you charge on the card each year.

SPG Platinum Breakfast

SPG Platinum Breakfast

My husband is trying to re-qualify for SPG Platinum status but it is going to be close, so getting both the business and personal SPG cards would help him have four stay credits (2 from each) toward the 25 total he needs for Platinum status.  If you are running close in a particular program it pays to look and see if there is a co-branded credit card that might help you out.  The same hold trues if you are cutting it close to earn the Southwest Companion pass as the sign-up bonus points for the co-branded Southwest credit cards have been counting toward the Companion Pass and that clock also resets on January 1st.

Book mattress runs or mileage runs:

Mileage runs and mattress runs used to make more sense a few years ago when prices were lower and bonuses were higher, but they can still be worth it if you need one final push to get to the next elite status threshold. If you aren’t familiar, they involve booking a flight or hotel stay solely (or at least primarily) to early the elite qualifying miles or stay credit.

If you time the travel appropriately with fall hotel promos such as the no-longer-super-targeted Hyatt promo, then you can earn extra points for the additional travel you are booking. Of course you will want to keep the costs of the flights and hotel nights as low as possible, so follow @theflightdeal, read the Mileage Run forum on Flyertalk, check off-peak travel dates: for hotels that could be Thanksgiving night, weekends at airport and business locations, and weekdays during the school year at leisure properties.

Remember that points or cash and points stays count with some programs for hotel elite status. For example, Starwood counts points and cash and points stays toward earning status and Hyatt counts cash and points stays.  With SPG you could potentially “buy” elite qualifying stays as low as 2,000 points per reward night on the weekends at Category 1 properties.  Whether or not that is worth it to hit Platinum status will depend on how many stays you need, how you value your points, and how much you will get out of elite status in 2015.

See if you have “rollover miles” that might count:

Delta Airlines is pretty unique in that it allows you to use “rollover” miles earned in the past to help toward this year’s status. Those who were smart enough to hang onto the Continental Presidential Plus cards also might have some “flex” Premier Qualifying Miles that they can use to top up to elite status if needed.  Sadly this card is no longer available for new applicants.  

Buy elite qualifying miles:

If you are shorter on time than money then see if your program allows you to buy elite qualifying miles without having to book an extra trip.  For example, with United Airlines you can purchase extra miles if you go into one of your existing reservations and click on “Buy More Miles”.  There will be an option to buy just redeemable miles, or for an additional (hefty) fee you can add on elite qualifying miles.

Premier Qualifying Miles

As a warning, these rates seem to go up as the year goes on and I just experienced a big jump in price in my account, so figuring out if you need these sooner rather than later is advised.  The rate was closer to 10 cents per mile for me earlier in the year, but now I’m seeing rates for double that – which is extreeeeeemely expensive.

United BusinessFirst upgarde

United BusinessFirst upgarde

Be gifted elite status:

If you are lucky, you might have a friend who can gift you status via program such as American Airlines Business Extras and then you don’t have to worry about a last minute mileage scramble.  In that case someone can redeem 2,400 AA Business Extra points to gift American Gold status.

Outright get elite status from a credit card:

If you have decided all of that sounds like too much work for your situation, then remember that sometimes you can get some elite status levels (or “elite like” benefits) from simply having certain co-branded credit cards.  Two good examples are the IHG Rewards Club Visa that gives IHG Platinum status just by having the card and the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card that gives HHonors Gold just by having that card.  In my mind that means that pushing for either of those statuses the old fashioned way is a little bit of wasted effort (unless you aren’t eligible for one of those cards for some reason).

As you can tell, there are lots of different ways outside of regular travel to earn a little extra toward elite status, and in some cases you can earn elite status 100% without qualifying travel.

It is the point in the year where you need to have a plan on how you plan to hit your desired elite status levels, and I would love to hear what statuses you are working toward and how you plan to get there!

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Disclaimer: The comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Pretty sure the Hyatt card outright gives you platinum, rather than giving you stay credits towards status. I’d love to be wrong on that, but just double checked.

  2. I’m torn as to whether it is worth the effort to pursue status beyond that given via credit card. I was a SPG Plat50 in 2013 and have a sizeable chunk to do to requalify. That said I have the travel plans to make it happen. However I am not sure whether it is worth the effort given the pathetic benefits bestowed for US stays. Out of country it is ok but as I am unsure of travels for 2015 I am not sure what I am going to do. I’m tired of what SPG considers acceptable as breakfast ie a croissant and not much else. I am toying with the idea of doing a Diamond Challenge with Hyatt who at least give a decent breakfast and upgrades are guaranteed.

    • Vicky, if Hyatt aligns with your travel plans I would strongly encourage you to do a challenge to try it out. The breakfast benefit really is exceptional.

  3. Wow… This is a reflection of my own thoughts. I went through a phase of “lots of travel” over the last few years and *G status for flying and the various credit card statuses for hotels has been very convenient. Trips I actually wanted to take (rather than mileage runs) will have me at *G again for 2015 (plus spend on my United card), but I’m not certain I want to do that for 2016. The only *real* benefit to me with the status is free E+ seats. Now, that’s big benefit sometimes and I like it, but I’m thinking I can buy a lot of E+ seats for the cost of attaining *G again.

    I’m starting to think, as I used to, that “status” is nice if you get it naturally but probably not worth working towards.

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