You Don’t Need Those 50 Nights and 100,000 Miles This Year!

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Happy New Year! We were sound asleep at midnight and didn’t see 2017 until at least six hours into the day, which is to say we had a pretty good night sleeping! I couldn’t have ask for a better way to start a new lap around the sun. I hope that you are also having a good first morning of 2017 wherever and however you are bringing in the new year.

One of the first miles and points related headlines I saw today was via View From the Wing, as he has a post titled (in jest) Please Help: I Need 100,000 Miles and 50 Nights to Requalify for Elite Status!”.

 

Even though that title is a bit of a joke, I know for stone cold fact that a good number of frequent travelers absolutely do feel some flavor of that feeling as their elite status counters largely reset to 000,000 today. For some there is an inevitable trek towards re-qualifying for elite status as the months go on because their lives simply keep them on the road and in the sky. For that group I totally get how there is both comfort in the process, as well as a twinge of stress as you go through another year of methodically watching the status counters creep upwards.

However, for those who don’t have a lot of natural travel for work or pleasure, and are now again facing 12 new months to scramble to hit the threshold of 100,000 miles, 50 nights in hotel chain, or whatever status goal you have in mind, I’m here to at least drop a seed of doubt in staying on the hamster wheel this year. It’s okay to walk away, and this is actually the perfect day to do it.

You can travel when you want. Where you want. On any carrier you want. Buy the cheapest flight. Book the hotel room via the cheapest site. Stay at a non-chain hotel or go the Airbnb route. Use your miles. Don’t overly stress about the elite status your travel is earning you, and just travel the way you want. If you notice later in the year you naturally getting close to some elite status thresholds that have value to you, you can always make some minor adjustments to hit those thresholds. You can always hop back on the hamster wheel whenever you want.

But on this first day of the new year I’d encourage you to at least consider starting the year off just traveling the way you want and when you want without worrying about status. You can still get some status and elite-like perks just by having certain rewards credit cards, booking a higher fare or rate when you want extra room or pampering, and leveraging some hotel booking programs like Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts or the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection to get breakfast, late check-out, room credits, and more.

“Free” hotel breakfast tastes just the same whether it was obtained via elite status, or because you booked via a credit card hotel program that includes it as a perk. As an example, my bagel and lox at The Driskill in Austin this week obtained via my Hyatt Diamond status tasted just as good as the “free” breakfast our friends sitting next to us got by booking via Visa Signature’s Luxury Hotel Collection. Of course walking outside the hotel walls to find breakfast can be an even better plan (though not always with young kids)…

Breakfast at The Driskill

Breakfast at The Driskill

Loyalty programs have increasingly very short memories in that they care how much you are spending with them very lately when deciding how to sprinkle out some extra perks and upgrades. It is still possible to come out ahead when you do things like “The Last Great Mattress Run for Hyatt Status”, but those will be the outlier cases. Most people will not come out ahead chasing status, so for a minute just consider not even trying.

I absolutely have some goals for the new year involving travel, but not a single one of them relates to elite status. I have some goals about where I want to travel, who I want to travel with, and what I want our travel to feel like, but I have no goals related to how many nights to spend with this hotel chain or how many miles I need to sit in the seat with that airline. Maybe I will sprinkle in some elite status goals future years, but for now my goals are much less “hamster wheel”, and much more enjoying the view.

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I promise the view is still fantastic whether it is being enjoyed by a Platinum Globalist Diamond Elite Super Traveler or just Joe General Member. In fact, sometimes Joe General Member may enjoy it a bit more. I’ll be here to support your travel years for 2017 whatever they may be, so stay tuned next week as we get back down to the business or traveling more for less!

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

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  1. Well said

    And happy new year!

    The days of leveraging travel for elite status are pretty much gone due to the devaluations from airlines (AA, gulp) and hotels (really Hyatt, really?)

    This year I’ll spread my travel with enough cheap transatlantic J fares and hotel free agenting to end up with probably middling status but less stress about requalifying…

    Not a bad place to be, actually.

  2. Just the post I need it to read to start my year. I couldn’t agree more.
    Thank you so much for making me feel not the only crazy one to stop on the hamster wheel

  3. I love airbnb. I always rent the whole home/apt because strangers around my kids creeps me out. But, it’s always been great! And cheep! I just booked a studio in Paris for two weeks for $650.

    Travel at my speed, cheap and slow, is great. I couldn’t imagine adding the extra stress of trying to meet rewards goals.

  4. My husband and I are going free-agent this year. It’s sad in a way (loved being Platinum on AA) but also liberating (United has a better price and schedule? Let’s go for it!)

    Looking forward to our travels in 2017, and reading about yours!

  5. Opportunities pop up every now and then to obtain status inexpensively…it’s our responsibility to evaluate whether it’s worth the time, effort & money to pursue the benefits of the status.

    In 2016 I paired some silly cheap flights to Asia with a challenge to get AA Plat. I snapped up a Jetblue Mosaic match when I learned they’ll be (re)introducing flights here in ATL in spring 2017, and extended it through next year by giving them some flights coupled with promo. But that’s it. The AA is going away in Feb. I don’t know yet if I’ll have enough travel with (or credited to) Jetblue to extend it. But both will have served their purpose. The only status I’ve actively pursued on a continuing basis over the years is Aegean Gold; access to lounges worldwide, even mediocre domestic ones, is valuable to me, as is the free checked bag when I need to do that, and it’s rather easier to maintain once you do achieve it. 🙂

  6. Find me a credit card that gets you Oneworld Emerald stauts and access to F lounges such as the QF and CX ones without having to buy a $16,000 F ticket and we’ll start talking.

  7. I think you’re right on the target, Summer. I just completed a mattress run with Hyatt to maintain Diamond/Globalist for 2017 based on a couple of trips already planned for 2017. But that will be the last of it. I did the math on what it would cost in my city to mattress run to Diamond before Feb 28 and it’s just not worth it. I was able to get AA EXP during a challenge in the fall of 2015 and that will be expiring 2/28. I’ll go from EXP to no status. But that’s OK. It’s been a great ride while it lasted I was able to use the SWUs for family on slights to Asia and hope our SWU’s will clear on our flight to HNL on Feb 27. I was positioning Marriott/SPG points to get a Hotel/Air package with Marriott this month in order to secure a Companion Pass for 2017 and 2018 and now find out that those points will no longer count toward a companion pass. I’ll have to evaluate whether the package with United (135K) miles plus 7 nights of hotel will be the route I take. Good deals come and go, but this year I’ll be more carefully evaluating where I spend why travel dollars and stop chasing the status. It’s off the hamster wheel for me! Happy New Year!

  8. This was the best ever, quality with who you travel with and where you travel to. I was planning to try to qualify this year, as I’ve never held status with an airline. I’m more of a road trip goddess because my kiddos do not like flying(but they love the hotels

  9. Completely gave up on loyalty on both airlines and hotels. I will go with whatever options gives me the best cost benefit. Hospitality loyalty goes against strong economy. We will need to wait for another down cycle when economy tanks again and Delta, AA, Hyatt, IHG, etc will come back begging for us to fly and stay with them. Then it is time for us to go back to our memory and see who was with us and who was not when times were good for them.

  10. I pretty much agree re airlines, but still plan to have 25 SPG stays to re-qualify for Platinum in 2017.

    Then we’ll see what happens when the two programs merge in 2018.

  11. I dunno, I think elite status is especially useful for parents. Free access to extra legroom seats, security line bypass, priority check-in and boarding, plus free bags are all very helpful. At least theoretically one could get UA and DL entry-level status strictly from credit card spend.

    The alternative is to just focus on bank points and always fly J in order to unlock those same benefits.

  12. As a retiree, traveling on my own dime and strictly for pleasure, I could not agree more.

    This year, my gold status on Delta will go away (earned with a paid Business ticket to Singapore last year). I’ll keep my Delta and other lounge access, United silver and Hilton Gold that I get with my platinum Amex card, and my lifetime United club pass (purchased when I graduated law school 45 years ago for $250). I’ll stay with my lifetime Marriott/SPG platinum, earned with 40+ years of fairly loyal Marriott travel due to Marriott’s contract with my principal client.

    Everything else I will buy as I need. If I want an upgrade on a flight, I’ll buy a first class seat, and not stress about where I am on the upgrade list. I’ll use the benefits my professional associations negotiate with hotels, car rental companies and other providers. (How many of you know what your membership in the American Society of Whatever You Do gives you?). I’ll rent cars through Costco, and use its discount, free days (1 free with 3 paid) and free additional driver for my wife when I rent.

    Yes, I have retired from the wheel.

  13. @UAPhil – I agree with you. With changes to Hyatt (2 hotels close to my remote office meant easy to hit diamond on 1 night stays) my ONLY elite question is SPG Plat (closest cheap hotel to my remote office is 16 miles, not sure it’s worth driving in Dallas traffic for that). Especially with Gold SPG via credit card

  14. Well done! My days of chasing elite status are over. For 2017, I will finish my AA platinum status with a match with Alaska..far better service and choice of international partners. As for hotel stays, I’ve been using Hotels.com for rewards given my travel for work takes me to lesser known destinations. Happy to hear of others advice on whether it makes sense to stick with a particular chain.

  15. Summer, I agree with both you and the rest of the “wheel refugees.” For practical and life-values reasons, I’m going to burn my stash of GP points in 2017, then consider future travel options à la carte. Less can, indeed, be more.

    Happy New Year!

  16. Yep… After 5 years of “lots of travel” I have decided that 2017 is both going to be a “less travel” year (only one big trip planned) and a “burn those FF miles” year. I’m expecting to fly nearly zero paid flights and my big flights (to/from Europe) are already booked with miles. My United *G status (earned again on Dec 30th) will be nice, but I have no plans to try and re-up before it expires Jan 31, 2018.

    Stepping off the hamster wheel already feels good. Most of a year in my actual home, in a place where people pay money to visit, is looking better and better.

  17. Here is my problem with that: I did exactly what you suggest here, and opted for cheap tickets and no status at the end of the year when taking my family to Hawai’i. I thought that — well, since I already have Gold on Virgin America and status matched to MVP Gold on Alaska — I might as well save a little money and book on Hawaiian. I had to book *something* on Hawaiian anyway, as we were going to be going inter-island from Maui to Kauai, so . . . and besides, I could get 50% mileage credit on JetBlue, which would be just enough to put me over the top for two MINT tickets SFO-JFK later in 2017. So what could go wrong?

    Well, the trans-Pac flights were HORRIBLE! Who flies 24-year old 767s with no IFE or power outlets on 5+ hour flights? That would be Hawaiian. Who flies with inedible food on 5+ hour flights? That would be Hawaiian. Who flies with a cabin so cold that it makes buying a blanket almost a necessity? That would be Hawaiian. (You should have seen the looks we received, getting of the plane wearing leather jackets, sweatshirts, etc., etc.)

    As for the inter-island flights, the best that can be said for them is that they were blissfully short — 45 minutes. Time enough for take-off, passing out pre-packaged 4-ounce cups of water or juice, and landing. But who flies Boeing 717s???

    AND we still haven’t received any credit — either on JetBlue or Hawaiian — for our flights.

    Should have flown Virgin . . .

    • Great post! I came to the same conclusion over the holidays. I have been AA Exp for 9 years and it is time to quit! AA has devalued the benefits (at least to an international traveler who does not benefit from the unlimited domestic upgrades) to the point where chasing them makes no sense. My lifetime Platinum status gives me early boarding which is the only guaranteed benefit anyway. I already booked my 1st transatlantic on Lufthansa at a savings of over $1500 over AA. Good ridAAnce, and thank you Doug Parker for helping me see the light!

  18. @ MommyPoints — how did you like The Driskill? The only Hyatt hotel in the Austin area I’ve stayed was HR Lost Pines and it was rather disappointing.

    Overall, I agree with this premise and that’s why I’ve not actively done any airline status challenges/matches in the last few years. If you fly a few times a year, status isn’t all that useful.

    For hotels, status can be more meaningful but it can also be acquired through credit cards. And using Amex FHR, Virtuoso, etc. can be very useful, especially for short stays when combined with a hotel amenity and/or Xth Night Free offers.

    (As an example, just spent a night at a Four Seasons on Amex FHR rate with $100 food & beverage amenity. Did that despite being Hyatt Diamond.)

      • Thank you!

        Have you been to Travaasa Austin? It’s adults-only and relatively small but is kind of what I wish HR Lost Pines was like. It’s a bit on the expensive side but they do have semi-annual voucher sales (subscribe to their newsletter) and you can use the spa and, I think, their restaurant without being a guest.

        The spa at Lost Pines was very nice according to my companion and the setting is nice. Overall, though, we found the property to be in need of face-lift, maintenance and better food options. Had a Junior Suite & a connecting room a few years ago — rather worn out & outdated (wallpaper in the bathroom!); were very surprised to learn it was a relatively recent property.

  19. I think it depends on how you use Elite Status. Yes, if you’re using it for a “view” and “breakfast” those things can be acquired in other ways (likely more enjoyable). As someone who travels with family as well as work, the benefits (tangible and intangible) of elite status have been significant for us. Simple example is checking into a hotel and *needing* milk for the baby immediately. Free at the club lounge with status. Without status, it’s either begging at the front desk, paying outrageous markup at the front desk, or going back out to get milk. Yes, I could plan our entire trip around making sure we (somehow) have unspoiled milk when we pull into the hotel at 9:00 at night…but that’s just not realistic for how our family operates and travels.

    Above is one of hundreds of such examples. Suites that save us from having to book 2 rooms, extended family also receiving upgrades and joining us in the Club Lounge for drinks and Espresso in the morning instead of heading “out” somewhere, etc etc. I like the concept and agree that the world isn’t going to end by losing status, but I disagree with what I feel is implied in this post that status isn’t all that big of a deal. For us it has made a significant difference in how we travel, and in some cases even in our ability to go to certain places.

    Then again…hmm…I suppose…yes, by all means, maybe all of you should just go ahead and let go of your hotel and airline statuses and create some urgency in the programs I have status in. I support that 🙂

    • Ha ha. It all depends. If you get all or most of the way to elite status levels with natural travel then I agree with you 150%. Top tier status is great. It is for those who are making up a large portion of the way to status with unneeded/unwanted stays that I think it is worth a re-evaluation. An extra stay or two here and there to get status, absolutely. Ten or twenty extra stays? Maybe not. Now, there will always be the fringe cases where it is worth it, but those are the outliers. That said, enjoy your status. It sure is nice!

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