My Elite Status Strategy As I Approach The End Of The Year

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As the end of a strange year approaches – with some programs (like Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Air Canada Aeroplan) just extending elite status and others offering expedited paths to keeping status, I had a look at where I stand and the small steps I needed to be aware of to keep my status or earn higher levels of status for next year.

I was an early proponent of the idea that some business trips wouldn’t return, that talks can be done by Zoom – not in the same way as before, but at much lower time cost to the speaker – and that there’d be an equilibrium shift where it’s no longer necessary to ‘show up in person’ to signal importance. While business travel will come back next year, not all trips will.

Nonetheless, in a world of employee scarcity and service cutbacks, having a bit of status seems more important than ever to make the travel we do tolerable. Here’s where I stand:

  • American Airlines. I’ve already requalified for Executive Platinum status based on $15,000 in credit card spend (and I’ll hit it based on $2000 spend during the promo period on my next trip) although with various promotions I’ll earn the status based on this year’s reduced qualification criteria, making me eligible for both the Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum Elite Choice Rewards.

    American Airlines Super Diamond Business Class Center Seats

  • Southwest Airlines. They’re letting customers re-up their status with 4 one-way trips over a three month period. I have three one-ways booked, and need to grab a fourth in the next several weeks to keep A-List for next year. Southwest is the biggest airline at my home airport and I use them for business trips to Washington National airport where they have the only non-stop (by law).

  • Hyatt I’ve requalified for Globalist status with over 60 qualifying nights, in order to earn full benefits like a dedicated concierge and confirmed suite upgrades. I’m pushing myself over the incremental 10 night thresholds via spend on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card for additional confirmed suite upgrades, and waiting until January to select them so that their expiration is pushed out by an additional year. That’ll be useful for confirmed upgrades on 2023 stays before I earn more suite upgrades from stays during 2022.

  • Marriott Bonvoy. I’m going to earn Titanium status for the first time. This year Marriott gave existing elites half the nights they needed to retain their status. As a Platinum I received 25 nights. Then I received 15 nights each from the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantTM American Express® Card for a total of 55 nights.

    Crossing 55 nights lets me select 5 more elite nights as a choice benefit (from 50 nights). That gets me to 60. I’ve only accrued 7 nights at Marriott properties this year, but have reservations for another 7 in the coming weeks, for a total of 74. So I just need one more night for Titanium, and I have 3 credit card free nights. I’ll just burn one of those on a local mattress run, looking for a hotel that doesn’t impose destination or resort fees on free nights, or points if there’s a hotel available on the super cheap.

  • Hilton I simply opt into Gold status from my The Platinum Card® from American Express, though you can also get the same from The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card as well as the consumer Surpass card.

  • MGM M Life this status comes via Hyatt.

  • United Airlines. I will be a Premier Silver via Marriott Titanium status.

  • Hertz. United elites with higher elite status than I used to receive Presidents Club free, I received mine via status match because as much of a basket case as this chain has been they’ve also had the consistently cheapest prices and I wanted some juice there after scavaging for the one car available in the airport.

I have a little more travel with American to do to re-up ‘real’ Executive Platinum status, and one flight and one room night to book for my Southwest and Marriott status.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantTM American Express® Card, click here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m thinking of switching my loyalty from Marriott to Hyatt but the problem is that Hyatt does not have nearly as many properties as Marriott. I’ve already got Titanium and it seems such a hassle to start over with a new program. I’m still on the fence

  2. Hi Gary,

    I’m in the same boat regarding Hyatt, a couple of questions re: “Hyatt … I’m pushing myself over the incremental 10 night thresholds via spend on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card for additional confirmed suite upgrades, and waiting until January to select them so that their expiration is pushed out by an additional year…”

    Question 1: 10 night (Milestone) thresholds earn SUAs (Suite Upgrade Award) based on staying 60/70/80/90/100 nights. Your comment reads as though it’s possible to earn them via CC spend, is that possible? Do you mean that you’re using your WOH credit card to pay for the 10 nights?

    Hyatt’s T&C are: “Complimentary Suite Upgrade Awards are valid through the end of the year in which they were earned (or, for Lifetime Globalists, gifted annually on or around March 1) plus fourteen (14) months.” Question 2: Will selecting the SUA award (presumably earned in December) in January change the expiration date?

    Thank you.

  3. Must be nice to have somebody pay for business trips and stays. The reality for a normal privateer is a bit different. And with normal one-person household credit card spend many doors stay locked as well.

  4. No more Hertz status for united elites, I don’t think you can even earn united miles on hertz res now.

  5. I don’t think Marriott Elite’s earn Hertz President’s Club any longer either. I can not find a link on either site and I am LifetimeTitanium Elite. I still enjoy my Marriott benefits, and have not had much issue with properties honoring Titanium benefits. MClub’s are starting to reopen, and most offer a breakfast.

  6. Neo believed his world (the Matrix) was real . . . until Morpheus opened his mind to an alternative reality.

    Consider the following. It might not work for you now but keep it in the back of your mind and revisit the concept periodically (to either accept or reject). For those without the flexibility and the funds, perhaps this gets you thinking outside of the box for your own circumstances. Remember, it’s all a game.


    If one simply buys domestic first or international business / first, one receives most of the benefits received by elite tier status:
    – upgrades are irrelevant as you’re already in the upgraded seat
    – advanced seat selection
    – priority check-in
    – free / extra baggage
    – priority boarding
    – complimentary onboard drink / snack / meal
    – prior baggage reclaim
    – lounge access on international flights

    Do it for a year. A year from now, ask yourself whether you miss the money that you’ve spent. I guess that you won’t . . . and you’ll feel better about your travels.


    Regarding hotels, are your travels consistent enough so that you might be / become a “regular” at a particular property? That is, whereby upon first sight, a hotel team member says “Mr. / Ms. Smith, it’s good to have you back with us again.” This regularity is the loyalty that the property owners understand and are willing to reward. There are the tier benefits of a loyalty program and then there are the benefits of being a “regular” of a specific property.

    I’d bet the vast majority of travel blog readers discount hotels without formal loyalty programs. Their minds are locked into points and (the lie of) tier status.

    In my experience, the value of benefits of being a “regular” far exceed any benefits that the loyalty programs offer. And, if you’re “regular” enough, you can even obtain a negotiated rate with the sales team. For value-driven individuals, there you go.


    Hopefully this gets everyone thinking beyond their own Matrix.

  7. @Reno Joe You have a point to an extent, and if you fit a certain restrictive travel pattern where you go to the same place all the time, then your formula can somewhat compete.

    However, I think when people target the outsized values and go to the effort to maximize the benefits, then it’s not even a close call. Unfortunately you wind up paying insanely higher prices for your way of doing it. Many people who follow this blog and play this game are value hunters who enjoy luxury products and services at coach prices (if done right). If you don’t have the desire to hunt for big value (and I’ll concede they make it harder most of the time with devaluations) and money isn’t as scarce for you, then I’d agree with you: Turn in your hunting license and take it easy.

  8. Hello again Gary,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Re: “@Hyatt Questions – what I meant is spend on the card earns nights that count towards the threshold awards”, yes, of course, my bad (slapping forehead).

    I should be hitting 70 and 80 nights before the end of the year. Re: “… waiting until January to select them so that their expiration is pushed out by an additional year. That’ll be useful for confirmed upgrades on 2023 stays before I earn more suite upgrades from stays during 2022.” I’d love to accomplish the exact same thing. Does that actually work? Seems contrary to the part of their T&C I quoted above but I could easily see their systems making that mistake.

    Thanks again.

  9. I am a lifetime Titanium with Marriott. Got there by renting and staying in rooms with them. The more people qualify for elite status with credit cards (hotel or air), the less benefits there will be.

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