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Yesterday I posted five things to do to start 2015 in order to travel more for less (check the post out here if you missed it), but one thing you may notice missing from the list is chasing elite status with a hotel chain or airline. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay attention to elite status thresholds and progress if you naturally have lots of paid travel, because you absolutely should, but if you mainly like to travel on miles and points with occasional paid trips sprinkled in, then it may be time to step away from elite status in 2015.
Backing away from top tier hotel status:
I can say that after several years of doing the opposite, I am personally largely stepping away from status in 2015. For the first time since 2011 I will not have Hyatt Diamond status (or any top tier hotel status), because I came to terms with the reality that I just don’t naturally have enough paid travel right now to worry about chasing it. Doing a couple of incremental stays to get to top tier status can be 100% worth it, but since I had a total of 8 eligible Hyatt stays in 2014, that was clearly too far to push to the 25 stays needed for Diamond status. I could have shifted some stays around to probably get that number up to at least 12 or 13 stays, but that would still be too far from 25 to be worth it.
I will miss the full Diamond breakfasts and upgrades and such, but when I really want those things I can simply buy them for less than earning elite status would have cost. It also helped my decision that my husband still does have enough work travel to qualify for Hyatt Diamond status, so on trips where we both travel together, we will simply book under his name and utilize his Diamond benefits.
That said, even he scaled back on hotel elite status as he will not have both Hyatt and SPG top tier status this year since we decided to not mattress run for the 7 or so stays he needed to get to 25 with SPG and earn re-earn Platinum status. We currently only have a couple of potential vacation stays for the family planned at SPG hotels in 2015, so the several hundred dollars (or thousands points) it would have cost to get those 7 missing stays just wasn’t worth it to us. On top of the money, the time and brain space it takes to check in for stays you don’t need is an expense not to be discounted.
His work travel (sadly) picks back up for the new year shortly, and he will be hotel hopping between different Hyatts each night until he hits 25 stays with Hyatt to hopefully keep Hyatt Diamond status again for 2016, but it is unlikely we will be picking SPG back up in the near future without some sort of double stays elite promo as he doesn’t have enough business travel most years to really qualify with two chains…which is really a good thing.
Saying no to mileage runs:
I dropped from United 1K to United Platinum status for 2015, which is still pretty high tier airline status, but as the new year starts I am very doubtful that I will re-qualify at the Platinum level again for 2016. In addition to really trying to scale back on the number of trips we take, I have been using miles and taking advantage of cheap fares on other carriers instead of always booking a paid fare with United. This means I currently have one paid trip booked on United for all of 2015. That number will certainly increase, but I’m far from certain that I will have 75,000 elite qualifying miles with United in 2015 to hit Platinum status again, and that’s okay.
I’m not going to start booking mileage runs or trips I don’t really want just to up my EQM totals. I will give preference to United for a number of reasons when I do book trips, but elite status needs to be a by-product of travel, not a reason to travel (at least for the most part). If you are deep into this hobby it can be easy to get caught up on the elite status treadmill even if you really don’t have enough paid travel to warrant trying that hard, but it is shockingly easy to get off the treadmill once you make that decision.
Credit cards can give you elite-like perks:
One thing that can make it easier to back away from earning elite status the old fashioned way with paid travel is that most airlines and hotel co-branded cards offer elite-like perks these days. If I lost United status entirely I would still get free checked bags and priority boarding with the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or even have waived close-in booking fees and more with the United Club Card. Alternatively, if I just cared about E+ seats then an E+ subscription might make sense for my family.
I think that mid-tier hotel status has gotten a bit less attractive with most major chains now offering free internet to guests, but if I found myself wanting mid-tier hotel status for some reason I could get that with almost any chain just by picking up their co-branded credit card. That would usually get me a slightly better room, a few extra points, and sometimes a few other little extras.
Use a challenge if your travel picks back up:
If you find yourself getting shaky at the notion of stepping away from chasing elite status, just remember you can always get it back. If you find that your travel picks back up to a level that elite status makes sense, then you can often request a challenge to get the status back pretty quickly. Even the Hyatt Diamond status challenge has returned (with changes) after a couple of months absence, which was a relief to me in case I decide that I somehow can’t live a full and complete life without Diamond status in the future.
In all seriousness, my family has gotten a ton of value out of elite status the last few years, and we still continue to do so even in 2015. However, we have turned the wheel so that elite status is working for us, and not the other way around. We are being realistic with how much travel we really have and want, and not adding lots of trips unnecessarily with the conscious or subconscious goal of elite status coming into play. At least that’s the goal, or resolution as it may be…
What is your elite status plan for 2015? With revenue requirements on the rise, and promised benefits sometimes on the decline, is anyone else taking a step back from status?