Showing posts with label Elite Status. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elite Status. Show all posts

April 9, 2017

We're Going to Montreal

Emily and I have spent a fair amount of time in Canada over the last few years.  We've taken a couple trips to Vancouver and Toronto.  We've both had Montreal on our list for awhile but given the short summer, has been hard to fit into our schedules.

While it's not Paris, we're headed to Montreal for anniversary this summer.  I was hoping to burn a couple of Fairmont free nights at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth but unfortunately, the hotel won't be open (has been undergoing renovations for over a year) in time for our trip.

I've booked a couple of speculative reservations including one at the W Montreal where I am leaning on staying.  Cash rates were pretty good and the hotel is a great location.

In terms of getting to Montreal, Air Canada launched a direct flight from Denver last year and we're looking forward to flying the route.  Business class tickets were only $175 (roundtrip) more than coach so we splurged - and will earn 200% EQM towards United elite status.

We're both excited to spend a little time up north and experience the European side of Canada.  Will have a full trip report on the flights and hotels later this summer.

Any readers have any thoughts on Montreal hotels and things to do while in the city?

February 11, 2017

American Offering Free Elite Status Challenge

I've never had Elite status with American Airlines.  In fact, I've only ever had status with USAirways (so I guess that's kind of AA) and United and maybe Frontier but that doesn't count.

Yesterday, I received an email from American offering me a fast track to elite status.  Seems like these offers are hitting and mine wasn't even the good one - American is offering straight up status to some that haven't flow on the airline much.

While I doubt I'm going to meet the requirements, I registered anyway.  My leisure trips are booked on United through June and my business travel will likely mean more trips on United or Delta.  So I'm not going out of my way to take advantage of this offer but spending $2,000 and flying 12,500 in the next 3 months seems doable (for Platinum status) for many with consistent business travel.

I'm sure there will be people that receive this challenge that just book a premium mileage run and achieve Executive Platinum but not me.  Will post again if I'm able to make more advantage of the offer.

January 15, 2017

The Status of Status for 2017

We're halfway through the first month of 2017 so it's time for my annual update on elite status.  While we traveled a lot in 2016, most of it was award travel.  So for the first time since 2004, I will not hold any airline elite status in 2017.  And I'm totally okay with it.

It really is a great time to be a free agent.  First class airfare (and upgrades) are cheap.  You can effectively simulate elite status (free checked bags, priority boarding, etc...) with airline co-branded credit cards.  Lack of status creates freedom - it's great to be able to pick a flight solely based on schedule, cost and convenience rather than chasing gold, silver, platinum, etc...You can even earn elite status on Delta solely through credit card spend.

That said, I plan on more paid business and leisure travel in 2017 and likely will end up with lowest tier status on Delta or United.  And that will certainly be better than nothing.

On the hotel front, I'm perfectly content with mid-tier status across several programs.  Lounge access, the occasional upgrade, and bonus points are most important anyway.

To that end, here's where things stand for 2017:

Airline:  Will drop to United General member after flying only 12,000 paid BIS (butt-in-seat) miles i 2017.  Emily had already dropped to General although she did better with nearly 20,000 BIS miles.  I already have 10,000 miles of travel booked on United for 2017.  .

Hotel:  I qualified for Starwood lifetime Gold a couple years ago and am pretty happy with that.  I also have Hilton HHonors Gold, Hyatt Platinum, and Marriott Gold from credit card benefits.  Emily also has gold status across Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton.

The biggest downside dropping from Silver to General Member on United will be the loss of Economy Plus access.  Other than that, it probably won't feel all that different.

October 31, 2016

Amex Platinum Provides SPG Gold in One Day

Over the weekend, I wrote about upgrading Emily to SPG Gold via the American Express Platinum Business Card.

Well we didn't have to wait long.  Emily's SPG account was upgraded this morning to SPG Gold until February of 2018.  That's another 16 months of status.  I would imagine that will stick regardless of whether she keeps the Amex Platinum card or not

Kudos to Amex and Starwood for great IT here.  Emily will be putting her newly minted Gold status to work later this year!

October 30, 2016

How to Get SPG Gold With Amex Platinum

I recently upgraded Emily's Amex Business Gold to Business Platinum.  The offer was too good to pass up - 50,000 mile bonus after spending $10,000 in 5 months.  That's after receiving 75,000 miles for signing up for the gold card in the first place.

I was also able to pay a pro-rated annual fee (~$120) and received the $200 travel credit at Amazon!  One of the benefits of the Amex Platinum is the ability to receive free SPG Gold.

While not life changing, SPG Gold provides the potential for an upgrade, additional points (3x vs. 2x) on stays, and a welcome amenity.  Emily has a few SPG stays coming up in the next six months so figured it would be worth getting her status upgraded.  Since I've been SPG Gold, I've never actually leveraged the SPG Gold perk from Amex.

It was actually super easy.  First, go to this Amex website.  Click on "Enroll Now."

Login and confirm your SPG Number.

That's it.  The page states that status should be updated within 72 hours.  I upgraded this morning and still haven't seen the status change but will post once it's upgraded to Gold.

April 17, 2016

Starwood Offering Double Elite Status Credit

Yesterday I wrote about Starwood's Delta promotion which offers 2 Delta SkyMiles for every dollar spent on Starwood hotels in the US and Canada.

Now, Starwood is out with a second quarter targeted promotion which offers double elite status credit (nights and stays) for qualifying stays during the second quarter.  I've read that others received no offer while still others received a point offer.

While I'm pleased to have received the 2x elite credit offer, I'm not sure if it will actually do anything for me.  Since stays booked prior to registration don't count, I cancelled an upcoming stay and rebooked at the same rate.  I received the email with the offer a couple of days ago but the offer period actually started 4/1.  Seems like Starwood is a bit late getting the email out to members.

I am currently at 5 stays and 13 nights with another 2 stays and 4 nights planned.  That gets me to 7 and 17.  I would need to get to 25 and 50 to qualify for Platinum status which I value at about $1,000 (given upgrades, free breakfast, etc...) a year.

So at this point, I'm 18 stays short which would be the fastest way to qualify.  I could book 9 one-night stays at a cheap hotel in Denver (i.e. an Aloft) for a rate of ~$70 AI to get to Platinum.

I'm not sure an incremental $630 is really worth given the amount of time it would take to manage 9 mattress runs across the next 10 weeks.

So I'm likely to pick up a few extra elite status credits which will ultimately mean nothing given my Starwood Gold Lifetime status.  Regardless, it's a cool promotion and for many it will mean the difference between Gold and Platinum this year.

You can check to see if you are eligible here.

March 20, 2016

United Premier Tracker Overview

In terms of loyalty, Starwood and United are my primary hotel and airline programs.  I've been loyal to both really since college and as my work and leisure travel patterns have evolved over the years, both companies continue to provide products that work for me.

Starwood launched a dashboard last year that shows stats towards elite status (both status year and lifetime).  United's done the same in recent months at

To view your tracker, login to your United MileagePlus account and click on "View Premier Progress."

Click on "View Premier Progress"
Unfortunately, there isn't a ton of additional information beyond what is shown on the my account page.  But it's cool to see the data in infographic terms and hopefully United will build this out a bit more in the future.

Current and lifetime stats
I've primarily flown United for 15+ years and am still only at 459,000 lifetime miles.  At this rate, it's going to take another 15-20 years to hit million miler status.  Time to step it up I guess!

Progress towards status year goals

January 21, 2015

Review: W Taipei

Planning & Booking
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
W Taipei
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
The Wing Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

The cab from TPE to the W took about 40 minutes and cost 1200 TWD (~$38USD).  Upon arrival we were greeted warmly by the bell staff.  The main lobby of the hotel is actually on the 11th floor. We had a ton of stuff so we gave the bellman our bags and headed up to 11 to check in.  There was a dedicated check-in desk for Gold and Platinum members and we were helped immediately.

W Taipei Lobby

W Taipei Exterior

January 10, 2015

The Status of Status for 2015

2014 was the year of airline devaluations.  United announced multiple devaluations of the award chart and announced the migration to a revenue based frequent flyer program.  The economy is improving and planes are full.  I guess the fact that oil is cheap is just gravy if you're an airline CEO these days.

After a couple of great years as a United 1K, I made the decision last year not to chase any status (airline or hotel).  I have plenty of points and miles in the bank and am perfectly happy (so is my bank account) redeeming more awards and earning less from staying/flying.  It is a great time to earn points and miles from credit card bonuses and spend and will continue to focus on earning that way during the year.

To that end, here's where things stand for 2015:

Airline:  Will drop to United Premier Silver after flying 35,000 paid miles last year.  Emily will be dropping to Silver as well after roughly 40,000 BIS (butt-in-seat) miles.

Hotel:  I qualified for Starwood lifetime Gold and am pretty happy with that.  Dropping from Platinum stings a bit (will miss free breakfast) but it's really not that big of a deal.  I also have Hilton Gold, IHG Platinum, Hyatt Platinum, and Marriott Gold from credit card benefits.  Having "mid-tier" status with all the major hotel chains is plenty.  Free internet, bonus points, and upgrades when available are nice perks.

While United and Starwood will remain my core loyalty programs, relinquishing higher tier status makes it much easier to "cheat" on the core programs.  If American is offering a cheaper flight with better times, I'll book it.

The biggest downside dropping from Gold to Silver is losing the ability to book Economy Plus tickets at the time of booking for free.  As a Silver, I can only select Economy Plus (for free) at check-in.  I am taking advantage of the my last month as a Gold - booking as many tickets as possible for 2015 so I can select premium seats without a fee.

In some ways, I'm happy to be a little less loyal.  More freedom = good.

November 28, 2014

Starwood Gold for Life

Starwood sent me a nice note a couple of days ago after I qualified for SPG Lifetime Gold.  250 nights over 10 years in the program means I've averaged 25 nights per year since joining.  While Starwood Gold is pretty easy to obtain through spend on the Amex SPG card or holding the Amex Platinum card, it's great to get it for "free" for life without jumping through any additional hoops.

I've had some great stays over the years.  A few recent stays include the St. Regis in Bali, St. Regis in San Francisco, and the Grosvenor House in Dubai.  Earning 3x points on all stays, free internet, and the chance at an upgrade will definitely keep me loyal to Starwood...even in years when I don't qualify for top tier Platinum stays which will be the case in 2015.

October 7, 2014

Two Nights Away from SPG Lifetime Gold

I logged into my SPG account the other day to check on an upcoming reservation and noticed that I am just two nights away from lifetime Gold status.

We have a W Union Square stay coming up in November so I'll cross the 250 mark in a month or so.  It is crazy to think that I've stayed nearly 250 nights in Starwood properties over the last 11 years.  I won't re-qualify for Starwood Platinum this year but Gold should be fine based on our expected travel in 2015.

Starwood Gold Benefits

I'll post again once I qualify in November.  As a reminder, tt's actually pretty easy to earn Starwood Gold either by staying 10 times in Starwood properties, spending $30,000 in a calendar year on the Starwood Amex, or getting complimentary status with the American Express Platinum.

June 29, 2014

Elite Status "Status" Update

As we near the half way point of 2014, I wanted to provide an update on where things stand in terms of status qualification.  The last time I discussed status qualification was prior to 2014 in one of my first posts.  Being based in Denver, my main airline program is United.  In terms of hotels, Starwood is my program of choice although I have a lot of Hilton and Hyatt stays coming up in the next 6 months.


After United gutted their award chart and the MileagePlus program earning structure, I feel much less included to go out of my way to re-qualify for Premier Gold (requiring 50,000 miles flown).  Half way through the year, I've flown. 18,491 qualifying miles.  I have another 8,000 or so miles booked already so will easily qualify for Premier Silver which essentially provides no value.  I really value Premier Gold for the ability to select Economy Plus seats at booking and change flights within 24 hours of departure for free but there's no way I am going to fly an incremental 23,000 miles  this year for those benefits.

I will likely fly more on award tickets next year anyway as we are sitting on about 300,000 United miles that need to be used.

May 30, 2014

How Many SPG Points Can You Earn From One Stay?

A couple of weekends ago, we went to Toronto for the weekend.  The original plan was to stay at the Westin with Cash & Points.  But I found a great deal and changed the reservation to a cash rate of $264 USD for the entire stay.

I've pasted my SPG activity below (ignore the CC spend and the W Union Square redemption) to illustrate how many points you can earn on one stay:
  • I spent a total of $279 and earned 837 points (3x) because I am a Starwood Platinum
  • I took the points (500) as my Platinum amenity
  • I went for the Starwood Green Choice (meaning no housekeeping) and earned an additional 500 points
  • Starwood's current quarterly promotion (SPG Earn Away) offers double points so I earned another 558 points from the promotion
  • Since the stay was in Canada, I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with no foreign transaction fees and earned 2x points for my travel (hotel) spend

So in total, I earned 2,395 SPG points for my 2 night stay.  I value SPG points at $.03 each so that's a "rebate" of $72.  I also earned 558 Chase Ultimate Rewards points which I value at $.02 each so that's an additional $11.

All in, I earned a "rebate" of $83 on $279 in spend.  The combination of savvy choices, (Green Choice) elite status, and leveraging the right credit card and hotel promotion can really add up!

May 21, 2014

Great Start to the Holiday Weekend

Just received this email in my inbox.  Somehow both of us just got upgraded at the opening of our upgrade window (48 hours from departure) for our Friday evening United flight to New York.  We're headed to Long Island for a wedding so this is a really good start to the celebration.

I've probably flown to New York a couple of dozen times since moving back to Denver in 2007.  I've had a minimum of Gold each year but was 1K for three years.  I can't ever remember an upgrade cleaning at the opening of the window for one seat...let alone two.

Must be the holiday weekend (a lot of people off for the day or flying earlier in the day) as the seat map showed 21 open first class seats when I looked a few days ago.  Regardless, this is the best kind of Wednesday night email to get!

February 9, 2014

Earning Free Marriott Gold Status with United RewardsPlus

Over the past couple of years, a number of US airline and hotel chains have "hooked up."  Delta with Starwood and Marriott with United are the most notable.  For the United/Marriott deal, United Premier Gold (and higher) elite members are able to get free Marriott Gold by signing up here.  It normally takes 50 nights per year to qualify for Marriott Gold so this is a great benefit of flying 50,000 miles per year on United.

United Gold equals Marriott Gold

February 5, 2014

2014 United Elite Status Update

After spending the last 14 months as a United Premier 1K (for flying 107,000 miles in 2012), the elite status year was reset on Saturday morning and I'm now officially United Premier Gold based on 2013 activity.  Emily also qualified for Premier Gold for 2014 after being Gold in 2013.  United sent me an email last week with a link to review my status (and associated features and benefits) for 2014.

I will likely try to qualify for Gold again this year but it won't be as easy given the new revenue requirements (Gold now requires 50,000 miles and $5,000 in United spend).  That said, you can get a waiver on the spend requirement by putting $25,000 in spend on the United Explorer Card which is something I plan to do leveraging Amazon Payments.

His & Hers 2014 Premier Gold Packages

United Gold gets me three benefits (Economy+ at booking, complimentary upgrades, and reduced award booking fees) that I value enough to try to re-qualify.  I already have 25,000 miles flown/booked in 2014 so don't see a problem getting to 50,000 by the end of the year.  There are a lot of reasons not to be loyal to an airline but United has treated me well over the years and living in Denver, they are really the only game in town that allows me to earn and redeem miles for international travel.

January 5, 2014

2013 Year in Review - Hotels

I spent some time over the holidays compiling a few stats from 2013.  We stayed in some awesome hotels (and had some great flights) all over the world.  There was less business and more personal travel  I ended the year with 55 total nights across Starwood, Hyatt, Hilton, and IHG.  About 8 of the nights were business travel and I earned 10 total "night credits" with my Starwood American Express credit cards.  I closed out the year with four "mattress runs" to re-qualify for Starwood Platinum for 2014.

The four incremental stays brought me to 25 nights and cost about $250.  I'll have more on on the value of Starwood Platinum in a future post but for me...the combination of the renewal gift, free internet, upgrades, and free breakfast during each stay for the next 14 months far outweighs the $250 spent to re-qualify at the end of this year.

Here are a few of the highlights and pictures from 2013:

January 3, 2014

Getting Started: Credit Card Bonuses

2013 was a great travel year for us.  Emily and I took trips to Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Istanbul, Hawaii, and London!  Many of you have asked us how we afford to go on all these trips.  The answer is pretty simple…we don't usually pay for them.

I started looking into ways to save money on our honeymoon in early 2012.  We both wanted to go somewhere really special but didn’t want to completely break the bank.  So I started researching ways to use our existing miles and points, build on those balances, and then redeem them for our honeymoon.  There is a ton of information online (favorite blogs coming soon) that I consumed early on and blogs that I read on a regular basis.

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve built up our point balances, redeemed for several ridiculous trips, and managed to train Emily to use the “right” credit card when going out to dinner, buying gas, or shopping online.  Since so many people have asked us about our trips, I’ve put together a top five list of sorts for those of you that are interested in learning more.  Here is the first post.

January 2, 2014

2013 Year in Review - Flights

Happy New Year!  I spent some time over the holidays compiling a few stats from 2013.  Overall, it was a was a really fun year in flight.  There was less business and more personal travel.  I still managed to fly over 87,000 miles after flying 107,000 in 2012.

I redeemed United miles for two amazing award trips to Singapore and Dubai/Istanbul.  I flew both Singapore (thanks to the July 2012 mistake) and Lufthansa First Class and thoroughly enjoyed my United 1K status throughout the year. 

Here are a few of the highlights:
  • Visited 7 countries (6 new)
  • Visited 2 continents (Europe & Asia)
  • Flew on 6 airlines (United, Frontier, Thai, Singapore, Lufthansa, & Turkish)
  • Flew 56 segments
  • Flew 87,361 miles
  • Visited 30 airports in 10 countries including 13 US States
  • Shortest flight was Phuket to Bangkok at 417 miles
  • Longest flight was Istanbul to Houston at 6,388 miles
  • Favorite flight was Lufthansa First Class Dallas - Frankfurt
And the visuals:

2013 Domestic Flights

 2013 International Flights

I am excited to see what 2014 has to offer.  We already have some great trips planned!

December 28, 2013

The Status of Status

As we enter the new year, it’s also the end of the status earning year.  Here’s where things stand going into 2014:

  • United Premier Gold (50,000+ PQM)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum (25 stays)
  • Hilton Gold (Citi Hilton Reserve Credit Card)
  • Marriott Gold (Chase Ritz Carlton Credit Card)
  • Hyatt Platinum (Chase Hyatt Credit Card)

United and Starwood are my main programs so things are well setup next year.  While certainly a downgrade from 1K, United Gold still allows Economy Plus access at booking, CPUs, Star Gold, free checked bags, same day changes, etc...While I didn’t hit 50 nights to receive the ten suite awards, (will end the year with 44 stays) I’m satisfied with Platinum.  I usually take the breakfast if traveling with Emily or the points if traveling alone.  We were pretty lucky in terms of both treatment and upgrades in 2013.  Let’s hope that continues into 2014.