Given the abundant status match offers in recent weeks — brought on, I think, by the changes at Starwood and American — several readers have asked me if they should take advantage of this or that offer. I’ve personally requested two status matches, and both have been successful.
No one should request a status match just because they can. It can (1) create unrealistic demands on your time and money and (2) preclude you from requesting a future match when you really need it. So here is some of the reasoning I used when making these choices.
Don’t Request More Status than You Need
Top tier status provides great recognition but isn’t always a good idea. For example, I requested a match to United MileagePlus. I originally left United for American a few years ago, mostly because of its devalued award chart and loyalty program. However, American Airlines has now fallen to the same level it in most respects. I still think United does a better job of serving the cities I want to visit, has better award availability, and has better rules for booking awards (including stopovers and no fuel surcharges). It’s perfectly sensible to go back.
But I won’t be going back to my old Premier 1K status. United now has a revenue requirement for elite status that requires spending $12,000 in addition to the qualfiying miles or segments. I know I won’t hit that. Premier Platinum, however, has many of the same benefits and is eligible for a waiver if I get and use a United credit card.
In particular I know that I’ll have trouble using the systemwide upgrades that come with higher status because they are restricted to certain fare classes on international flights. United also doesn’t provide any systemwide upgrades until you earn the status for real, so in the first year the only additional benefits are a few more miles and higher upgrade priority. The real advantage of status, whether Premier Platinum or Premier 1K, is to be able to book and change awards without fees.
Because the qualification requirements for a Premier Platinum challenge are lower, I actually wrote back to United and asked them to downgrade my match.
Don’t Rule out Future Status Matches
United doesn’t offer a status match if you’ve already requested one in the last five years. Though I have had status with them more recently, I’ve always earned my status the hard way before. Starwood doesn’t let you have a match if you’ve already had status in the last five years, which I think is a bit odd. Why prevent someone from requesting a match just because they were able to earn it before? It seems like this customer knows what they like and wants to go back.
Alaska Airlines is different. They don’t allow more than one status match per lifetime, period. Exceptions are rare and probably influenced by some other factor I’m not aware of. If you request a match from Alaska and then lose it you are almost guaranteed to be refused if you ask for one again, no matter how long you wait.
I recall that Hyatt has a similar lifetime rule, though it may be waived during extremely competitive environments like the current one with Starwood/Marriott. In general, it doesn’t make sense to my why someone should request a status match just for the benefits during a single family vacation.
Don’t Sprint If You’re Nowhere Near the Finish Line
Although not the same as a status match, there are parallels in year-end mattress runs and mileage runs. It can still be a situation when people try to obtain status they won’t use. Do you really need to book 15 additional hotel nights just to move from Gold to Platinum status with your preferred hotel chain? You could easily pay for breakfast and redeem some points for a suite upgrade given the additional cost.
Year-end runs are meant to be used when you’re really close to the next tier or because you found an incredibly cheap deal that also lets you earn more miles and points during the trip. For example, I’m only one night away from SPG Gold status, so I’ll probably book a mattress run.
Do Match Status If You’re Low on Options
My Hyatt and SPG status will both be slipping this year. I didn’t travel as much as I used to, my loyalty was split, and I’m far from requalifying for top-tier in either program let alone both. Instead, I’ve used my Hyatt Diamond status to match to Hilton’s Diamond tier.
I don’t really know if I’ll requalify for this status by the end of 2016, but it’s possible if I’m only focusing on one chain. I put my odds at 50/50. I also don’t know if there be problems requesting another match from Hilton in the future. Maybe I am shooting myself in the foot.
But I’m okay with this decision for a couple of reasons. First, it will be my only top tier hotel status. If I’m going to lose Hyatt and Starwood then I may as well find a replacement. Second, they have more locations, so it seems like my chances of requalifying will be higher.
Most importantly, I have a backup in Hilton’s Gold tier. I’ve long had HHonors Gold status through a credit card and think it’s pretty good. I’ve panned Diamond, which doesn’t seem too different. This trial will let me test that theory. If there is no difference or if I don’t requalify, Gold has almost everything I need, much like United’s Platinum tier.
I hope you’ll take these ideas into consideration if you’re still trying to mileage run or request a status match this year. I know sometimes bloggers can get hyped up about limited time offers. As seen with Hyatt’s matches, sometimes there’s good reason — the window of opportunity was very short before the terms narrowed. But you don’t need a portfolio of shiny membership cards in your wallet.