It’s no secret that people with elite status receive certain benefits and typically better service when compared to those without status (or lower level status). Some of those perks range from upgrades to bonus points. Achieving the status you want can mean you need to fly a couple extra flights or stay an extra night at a hotel – bottom line it’s spending more money. However, there are a few exceptions which I’ll get into later.
Airlines, hotels, rental car companies and even a certain coffee shop has elite tiers you can earn. For the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on airlines and hotels as elite status is more well known and the benefits are considerably greater than other kinds of elite status. I am also going to use myself as an example that you can use.
Airlines typically have 3 elite status tiers. You would have to fly either 25,000/50,000/100,000 miles to achieve each level tier (low/mid/high respectively). Each level has its own set of benefits ranging from different amount of bonus miles earned to priority check-in lines & boarding to seat upgrades and even airline lounge access. To achieve the top level elite status at most airlines, you have to fly just over 1920 miles each week. This is per calendar year! That means at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, you’re back down at 0 elite status miles.
My Airline Elite Status
The above mileage thresholds for each elite status tier are generally the standard in the industry. My airline of choice happens to be Alaska Airlines. I usually do over 75% of my flying with them. Alaska Airlines incentives frequent flyers to fly with them instead of a partner airline. Their elite status tiers are 20,000/40,000/75,000 miles, if those miles are on Alaska Airlines. Including miles flown on partner airlines and the tiers go up to the same level as above except you only need 90,000, not 100,000, for the top tier.
Now I don’t fly nearly as much as I would like to – mostly because I have a fairly busy life at home. I’m still trying to learn to balance life to allow me to travel more often, but that’s for another day. However, with the amount of flying I do, I can usually achieve the status level I want without the need for doing a mileage run. Though, a cheap jaunt from LA to Seattle probably wont be passed up, especially if I can get double elite miles.
Achieving elite status at hotels is quite a bit more difficult to detail. There isn’t quite the industry standard as there is in the airline industry. If you want to know more about it, I highly recommend Hack My Trip. He did an excellent series on elite status across the major hotel chains and did some cost analysis on them. I still read parts of it for reference. Most hotel elite status benefits include bonus points, free Internet access, late check-out, free breakfast, and room upgrades. Internet access is typically about $7.95-$9.95, but some hotels include it in a resort fee.
Top tier elite status usually is at least 50 nights or 25 stays. Doesn’t seem that much right? Well 25 stays at 1 night each means in a calendar year you’re staying in a hotel roughly every other week. If you want to qualify on nights, that’s more than 4 nights per month. Sure there are lower tiers that don’t require as many stays or nights, but the benefits are drastically reduced which I’ll get into.
My Hotel Elite Status
My travels typically include seeing people that I know, thus not needing to stay at a hotel very often. That does not mean I don’t have elite status. I just achieve it in ways that work for me. You’ve seen me mention certain credit cards here and there in other posts, but some give you elite status.
Hyatt only has two elite tiers: Platinum and Diamond. The Hyatt Visa card comes with Platinum status. The status gives free Internet access, a small amount of bonus points, and other benefits. There’s a list of about 6 other benefits but as a Platinum member, I really haven’t noticed them (except late check out offered to me on a stay where I had a 7AM flight…thank you Hyatt). Even though the card has a $75 annual fee, it comes with a free night at a Hyatt hotel. So really, I’m paying $75 a year for a hotel room which may be close to $300…and I just happen to get Platinum elite status with it.
Hilton has three elite tiers: Silver, Gold and Diamond. I had Silver and am currently Gold. Silver is quite easy to achieve (4 stays or 10 nights), but also the no-fee versions of the Hilton Amex and Citi Hilton credit cards give the holder Silver status. However, the only benefit to Silver status that I have found remotely useful is a small amount of bonus points earned.
Gold status requires 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Base Points. Hilton HHonors Gold status is one of the best mid-tier hotel statues as it comes with free breakfast, free Internet access and a higher amount of bonus points earning. Free breakfast alone can save you $50/day. You’re probably asking yourself, “how does he have Gold status when he said he doesn’t often stay at a hotel?”. Well first of all, the Citi HHonors Reserve card comes with Gold status and a $95 annual fee. However, I got Gold status with MilePoint‘s Premium Member offering. It was something like $50 or $60 and came with many other benefits. I have easily made up that cost with the savings from the other benefits alone so I don’t feel like I paid anything for my elite status at Hilton.
Elite Status and You
People’s opinions about status is one of the most heated topics of discussion. The gamut ranges from status is everything to elite status and loyalty programs are scams. As I have explained, I don’t go out of my way to get any elite status that I won’t make use of and aren’t of value to me. I feel like I’ve actually saved money with my elite statuses at hotels. Additionally, I earned elite status on Alaska Airlines by flying what I would fly anyway and I don’t feel like I’ve spent more money just to get elite status. Keep in mind that there are some exceptions to what I’ve explained, but it’s up to you to figure them out. 🙂
In a world where cash is king, be loyal to your wallet. You should always try to earn points/miles on hotel stays or flights, even if it’s hotels.com’s welcome rewards. These points or miles are from money you’re already spending – they’re not directly costing you more money (or at least they shouldn’t be). However, you should weigh the benefits of having elite status with the costs of achieving that status.
Don’t strive to achieve elite status that you won’t benefit from or make use of.