I share my thoughts and advice on loyalty programs all of the time, I thought it would be useful — and only fair — to also share what I do and let you evaluate whether I practice my own advice.
At the same time, where I focus my own stays (and how much I’m traveling) may help put my advice in context and illuminate how I think about travel.
Ten months into the year it looks like I’ll fly about 200,000 miles and I’ll have stayed in hotels about 40% of the year.
Not all the miles and nights are elite qualifying.
- I’ve been flying a bunch of British Airways-issued short haul award tickets on American and US Airways.
- Add in three major Asia Pacific first class award trips, and one-third of my miles are on points.
- I always think I’ll travel less than I did the previous year. I start the year not fathoming how I’ll make 100,000 miles and hit top tier status with hotel chains. So I leverage credit cards to help ($40,000 on the American Executive card for 10,000 qualifying miles, $40,000 spend on the Hyatt Visa for 10 qualifying nights and 5 stays, and I have both the personal and business Starwood Amex cards giving me 5 stays and 10 nights with SPG). And then I wind up not needing the help..
Here’s how my elite status programs breaks down and why I’ve chosen to do it that way:
I’ll requalify easily this year for American AAdvantage Executive Platinum. In fact, I will qualify on my next flight:
I should wind up the year somewhere in the 120s with American. This is the airline status I value the most — my upgrade track record on domestic flights is fantastic, higher than it would be with any other airline. And they let me upgrade internationally (8 times a year) from any fare. Right now American’s top tier status is the most lucrative.
Add on three major Asia Pacific award trips (each around 20,000 miles flown or more), Avios redemptions, and a handful of paid tickets on other carriers and I’ll fly more than 200,000 miles total in 2014. Not a personal record, but a fairly average year overall.
American’s is not my only oneworld status, but it’s the only one that I earned. I am also currently a British Airways Silver.
When British Airways acquired british midland, I was a bmi Diamond Club Gold. BA gave me Gold in their Executive Club program, and that lasted for ~ 21 months. Then, since I didn’t credit a single flight to the BA program (I’ve earned my BA miles by getting a British Airways credit card from Chase, and by transferring in points from Chase and American Express), I received a soft landing to Silver.
I carry this card in my wallet. As a Gold member it got me access to American’s Flagship (first class) lounges even when flying domestically. Now my Silver status gets me access to American’s Admirals Club lounges. Sure, I have the Citi Executive card which also gives me access, but as a BA Silver I get drink chits — which I usually exchange for free bottles of water before my flight.
When bmi was acquired by BA, Aegean Miles & Bonus also offered a status match opportunity to bmi’s members. That’s unusual for the program. I’ve held that the past few years, but only get to keep it one more year since Aegean status is no longer lifetime. As I’ve always said, lifetime means either your lifetime, the airline’s lifetime, or until they change the rules. And sadly they changed the rules. (I once lost lifetime Airtran elite status this way, too.)
It looks like a year from now I will be down to a single airline status.
My favorite hotel program is Hyatt Gold Passport. I will definitely re-up my Diamond status this year, despite booking a dozen or so nights as awards (full points, not cash and points) which won’t count towards status. (With the introduction of a new redemption category 7 I got in under the wire at places like the Park Hyatt Sydney and Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris, plus I booked a couple of non-qualifying Hyatt Visa annual free nights anda couple of straight award nights when prices were high and cash and points were not available.)
In fact, by the time I post this my most recent stay will likely have posted to my Gold Passport account and I’ll have already re-qualified.
If Hyatt hadn’t changed their award chart this year I probably would have stuck with them exclusively. I was often willing to pay a higher room rate (Hyatt Daily Rate) upgrade to a suite at booking for just 6000 points for a stay up to 4 nights. I used to think of that as one of the best values in loyalty.
Now that they increased that price to 6000 points per night I don’t do it anymore. I pay lower rates. And I’m freed to play the field with other programs. Next month I’ll easily earn Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum status.
I’m also an ‘accidental’ silver with Marriott Rewards, with 12 qualifying nights.
I’m still a Le Club Accorhotels Platinum member.
I’m no longer an Intercontinental Royal Ambassador. It was a good run dating back to 2006 and sadly it’s no longer as simple as getting a friend to refer you, and then referring them back.
Outside of major chains I’ve stayed at properties like the Charleston Place hotel and also the Breakers for work. Those helped my status quest not at all.
In addition I’ve had 4 nights with Hilton. I should wind up with just over 140 actual nights in hotels for the year, once I back out the 20 elite nights earned via credit cards.
Here’s my current rental car status:
I rent mostly from National. I like the ‘Executive Aisle’ choose your own car concept. And I do well with National’s free rental days and especially when paired with their annual 1-2-Free promotion. Avis gives out far more miles, though.
I don’t worry about requalifying for their top tier ‘Executive Elite’ status as Executive status is nearly as good (and Executive status comes with the American Express Platinum card anyway), the key benefit to me is picking from the Executive aisle of better cars when renting a midsize (instead of the standard ‘Emerald aisle’).
So I’m going to miss re-qualifying for Executive Elite. I’ve been renting too often from other companies, last week I rented 6 days from Alamo — hated the experience, even as a program member and checked in online I was sent to the rental counter before I could go back to the booth in the garage. There were no employees working and the kiosks were broken. But it was just too cheap..
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