It’s past due, but I think it is time for an update on where I stand for elite status this year. I’ve made a lot more progress in some areas than I expected, and a lot less progress in others. If you go back to look at my rough plan from the start of the year, my actual travel patterns have been nothing like that. But I knew that going in. The point of that exercise was only to start thinking about where and how much I would need to travel to reach my goals for 2012, and in that regard it was still helpful. So here’s where I stand right now with my current miles and points and what I expect to earn in the final months this year.
Goal: Premier Platinum
This has been my first year as Premier 1K after I earned just over 100,000 elite qualifying miles (EQM) in 2011. For the most part things have worked out, and I’ve gotten a fair number of upgrades–for both Megan and I. But United has also been raising fares, mileage run opportunities have been slim, the merger transition has damaged service quality sometimes (not always), and I’m learning just how difficult to use those systemwide upgrades can be.
I have about 40,000 EQM already and another 40,000 EQM booked. This includes two mileage runs, the Star Alliance MegaDO, and related positioning flights. With my mixed impressions of 1K, I think I’m going to stop there. I have no real motivation to requalify for 1K this year and instead will settle for Premier Platinum status (75,000+ EQM). At that level I will still be able to use the elite check-in and security lines and redeem and change award flights with no fees, which have been my greatest benefits this year.
Goal: Executive Platinum
I have not flown with American Airlines for nearly eight years, not since a family trip to Oahu when I was an undergraduate. However, American offered free status matches with no strings attached in early summer (there are rumors that this program is still available on a case-by-case basis). I was not about to pass up the opportunity to get Executive Platinum status and eight systemwide upgrades that can be used on any fare.
Then, a few weeks later American announced that those getting a status match would only have to fly 55,000 EQM to requalify. It makes perfect sense given that I only got the status partway through 2012 and don’t have a whole year to fly 100K as is typically required. This was followed up by several emails and calls, a free GoGo in-flight Internet pass, and some Admirals Club passes.
I’m excited to requalify for EXP even though I don’t have any flights booked just yet. I did book a nonstop to Las Vegas on Alaska, which I can credit to American. I also need to take two flights to Amarillo for which I normally use United. American actually has a better schedule. Megan and I will probably burn some upgrades on a trip to London, and beyond that I’ll fill in the rest with mileage runs.
Priority Club Rewards
Goal: PC Platinum/IHG Ambassador
I paid $460 for 60,000 Priority Club points earlier this year. Fortunately when you buy Priority Club points those also qualify for elite status, unlike with many other programs. Using my Platinum status from Priority Club and Gold status from a Hilton promotion, I was able to finagle a Hyatt Diamond challenge. That was the real goal. A few months later I then paid $200 more for Ambassador status from Intercontinental Hotels.
The Platinum status has earned me a few upgrades at Holiday Inns, but honestly I don’t stay there much. It’s just nice to be earning something when I stay in a city that lacks my usual chains. The points from my Platinum status were redeemed for a stay at The Venetian in Las Vegas, an InterContinental Alliance Resort, and the Ambassador status should help with a room upgrade and late checkout. I also got a free 2-for-1 weekend stay certificate that I may use in Hong Kong. As a result, I consider the purchase of these two status tiers effectively free.
I signed up through a Visa Platinum card promotion to earn free Gold status. I haven’t used it at all except as part of a Hyatt Diamond trial, though I have earned over 100,000 points through credit card churns. These also extend my Gold status for another year. I don’t expect to take advantage of it until we visit London, or perhaps on our honeymoon next year. Conrad Koh Samui anyone?
Hyatt Gold Passport
I got two surprise credits toward elite status earlier this year that I wasn’t expecting because they were booked through third parties. At that point I also foresaw a few stay opportunities in rapid succession over the next few months and decided to apply for a Hyatt Diamond trial. With a little back and forth it was eventually approved. I had to stay 12 nights in 60 days, and I took it down to the wire but eventually succeeded.
The great thing about the Diamond trial is that the benefits start right away. The upgrades, free breakfast, and other perks during and since completing the trial have been amazing, and now I only need 11 more stays to requalify for 2013. I’ve got three more nights booked for the Star Alliance MegaDO, brining that down to eight. A couple more stays not yet booked on trips to Asia, Texas, and California will whittle this down further.
Up in the Air
I have Gold status with Club Carlson through a status match and Platinum status with Le Club Accor through a promotion. I also have various affiliations with several rental agencies through other promotions, but honestly I don’t keep track of those closely because I rent a car maybe two or three times a year. If I lose status with one, I can make it up with another.
My President’s Circle membership with Avis is linked to my United Club Visa, so I’m not going to lose that. I prefer my Emerald Club Executive status with National, however. I’ll have to see what I can do to keep that going. Maybe an annual status match from my Avis will do the trick.
Other new achievements in elite status? Gold with My Starbucks Rewards, of course. I have gotten hooked on the easy payment and tracking system through the iPhone app and got Gold status during the course of writing my dissertation. Buying an engagement ring will also get you perks with some jewelers.
The one obvious status opportunity I have passed on is an Executive membership at Costco. Even though you pay extra for this ($110 vs. a typical $55 membership), you can make it back because Executive members earn a 2% rebate. You need to spend $5,500 or more to get your entire membership fee refunded, and I’ve definitely done that by buying and reselling American Airlines gift cards. You can also ask for a partial refund of your membership fee if you don’t use it as much as you expected.
I still get my membership by mooching off my mom’s account, so the potentially free-after-rebate opportunity when I’m already paying nothing does little to motivate me. Maybe now that I have more free time I’ll be able to examine these and other low-margin deals more closely. But notice how I turned status with Hilton and Priority Club into status with Hyatt, which is what I really wanted? That’s the key value of signing up for promotions even if you think you may not use them. Be prepared, and you, too, can rearrange the chess pieces in your favor.