How to get a premium status for cheap on a loyalty program?

Getting premium status on a loyalty program and the benefits that go with it is often seen as an impossible quest. And more often than not it is. But there are tricks to achieving status without too much effort.

Upgrades, priority queues, late check-out, lounge access… the benefits that airline or hotel loyalty programs give to their most loyal members are very often more than appreciable. But as the name suggests, these benefits only go to the most loyal and the thresholds required to achieve them are often too high for most travelers.

It is impossible to consider a gold or even a platinum on the Air France Flying Blue program without flying a few very long-haul flights in business or first class per year. I won’t even mention the famous “Senator” status of the Lufthansa Miles&More program. But when it comes to air travel, you can still “cheat” by choosing your program carefully, the airlines on which you travel (not necessarily the same as the one in the program) and by optimizing according to the promotions.

In the hotel industry, the way to acquire a status follows simpler rules than in the airline industry and, logically, it is therefore more difficult to game the rules. You count the nights and that’s it. A Gold at Accor is 30 nights, a Platinum 60 (at least before the umpteenth redesign of the program). At IHG the Gold is 10 nights (but that’s an entry level status with them), the platinum is 40 and the Spire is 75. At Marriott you will be Platinum at 50, Titanium at 75 and Ambassador at 100. It’s work !

But sometimes there are ways to make life easierand save yourself some or all of the effort. Here is a non-exhaustive tour of some practices to make your life easier.

You can buy a status/h2>

So forget about it in the airline business but in the hotel business it is sometimes possible. I had explained to you how to obtain a Gold status at Accor for 90 euros per year instead of 30 nights. Experience has shown that it’s actually 45 because the status obtained is obviously valid for two years.

But it gets even better: are you interested in Platinum status at IHG? Join the Intercontinental Ambassador Program ! For $200 for the first year and $150 renewal for subsequent years, membership in this satellite of the IHG Rewards program will automatically give you Platinum Elite status with IHG and substantial benefits at Intercontinental (upgrades, complimentary breakfasts, etc.) in addition to a voucher for a free night. When you know the prices at Intercontinental, your membership will be refunded after the first night. For me it’s a really good deal!

Think about credit cards

Co-branded credit cards are also a good way to save yourself a lot of effort. Unfortunately for us poor Europeans, this is not at all part of the local brand culture, unlike in the US, and the offer is very poor. Which, having said that, makes me bristle because between a European and an American the rules of the loyalty program are the same but our neighbors on the other side of the Atlantic have levers to reach more easily certain thresholds that we don’t have.

The concept is simple: you sign up for a co-branded credit card between a travel industry and a financial property, you earn bonus points/miles with each spend, often with bonuses when you spend at the industry in question, and you have an annual status miles/points package that helps you progress in status acquisition/renewal.

For example, the American Express Air France card may be the least bad plan available in France compared to what exists in the US. A Gold will give you a bonus of 30 XP per year, a Platinum 60 XP. When you know that the number of XP required to obtain a Silver status is 100 per year, 180 for a gold and 300 for a platinum it does not do all the job but it helps.

British Airways recently launched in France a Visa card co-branded with Sofinco butin a cheap mode: it allows to earn avios (bonus miles) but not status points.

I won’t go any further because if the subject is the subject of an incredible amount of conversations and comparisons on the US forums, the offer and the benefits are scarce when you are French.

With Status Matches, multiply statuses like bread

On another note, you can not only save yourself the effort of gaining status, but once you have it, you can use it to gain status with your competitors effortlessly. This is called “status match”.

What keeps a frequent flyer from switching to the competition? Having to do without all the benefits they are used to while they achieve status in their new loyalty program. When you’re used to priority queues and lounges in airports, I promise you that it’s very hard to learn to queue again.

So hotels and airlines sometimes allow frequent customers of competitors to get a status with them, directly, even without ever having been a customer. If the customer does not use this status afterwards, it does not cost the chain/airline in question anything, but if he does use it, it has enabled them to poach a high-contribution customer without any effort, so it is all profit.

There are two ways to do this.

First follow the offers of the different chains / airlines and wait for such an operation to be announced. These operations are of variable duration (one week, one month, one year). Either you will only be asked to prove a status with a competitor(Status match stricto sensu) or you will be asked to make a defined number of flights / nights in addition to validate it (in this case we talk about challenge).

Here’s how United is trying to steal customers from Delta and American Airlines right now. Here it is a challenge: they are given a status and they have three months to confirm it by making a certain number of flights.

Status match united
the latest United Status Match campaign

At Hilton it’s a permanent offer.

Hilton Honors Status Match

Again, this is a challenge. You get a status based on your original status and you have 3 months to confirm it.

We can even envisage a rather funny scenario: an IHG Platinum status via the ambassador program, then a status match at Hilton to get a diamond: two hyper premium statuses without having spent a single night anywhere.

The second way to proceed: you ask the airline and they tell you yes or no and under what conditions. Some airlines are accommodating, others systematically say no, others say yes but take you at a lower status than yours so as not to devalue their “natural” members. Most often they have a “regular” policy, sometimes it’s a bit like Russian roulette. To know how to proceed and what to expect you can use the statusmatcher website.

Be careful: most of the time it’s a “one-shot gun”: once a status match is done, you can’t do it again the following year. So if you don’t meet the requirements to requalify your status will only last one year. For example I am Titanum Elite at Marriott, I and let’s say I am tempted by a status match at Hilton. I know that if I don’t stay the required number of nights in a year I will lose my Hilton Honors gold/platinum after one year.

So the operation is interesting for me if :

– I know I can travel enough to keep my status in both programs. Good luck.

– I’m going on vacation, there’s a great Hilton where I want to go and I want to go with the benefits of premium status. But I know that after that I won’t be back at Hilton for several years.

– I want to leave Marriott.

Doncle status match is interesting for a one-time use or in case of divorce with your current program. Or, last but not least, if you have obtained a lifetime status on your program and want to play somewhere else.

Leverage partnerships

Along the same vein as the status match, there are partnerships between different players in the sector that offer their members equivalent status.

For example, my Titanium Elite status at Marriott gives me a Silver at United. Well, it doesn’t make you dream but it can help and it exists.

Hyatt and American Airlines have announced a reciprocal loyalty program: Not only will members of each program earn points by using the services of the other partner, but soon something will be put in place so that if you have a status with one it will be easy to get a status with the other.

Get a status from a friend

The last option is to ask a friend for a status! Some programs allow their members with the highest statuses to gift a status to a friend. A system initially created for couples so that when one goes through the priority line and can choose his seat where he wants in the cabin, the other does not find himself waiting in line and is automatically assigned a seat at the rear of the plane.

But there is nothing to prevent you from offering the status to whoever you want!

For example, if you have a Diamond friend at Hilton, he can offer you a Gold!

Gifting a status at Hilton Honors
Hilton allows you to gift a status to a friend

If your best friend is a Diamond on Eurobonus, the SAS loyalty program, she can give you a Gold!

Gift a Sas eubonous status
Sas allows its Diamond members to give a Gold status to a friend

But what is the interest of a Gold Eurobonus when you are in France and never fly on SAS? It is recognized as Gold on all Star Alliance airlines(so Lufthansa, Swiss, Singapore Airlines, United…) which is the highest level within the alliance. Easier than flying 4 times a year around the world to get the Lufthansa equivalent, the Senator status.

If you have a friend who is a Diamond on Delta Skymiles he can gift you a Gold!

gift a delta skymiles status
Delta allows Gold and Diamond members to offer status to a friend

This Gold status is recognized at the Skyteam alliance level, so …. is recognized as Gold at Air France.

The advantage of the “gift status”is that it is renewable from year to year...so you can keep the status as long as your friend keeps his or hers…. and you stay on good terms!

Have a great status hunt!

Photos : Elite status by M-SUR via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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