One of the reasons why I love this hobby so much is because you can travel like a pro without having to log all the miles. As much as I try and relate to an average 20-something year old, I am a bit more fortunate in terms of travel — getting to fly weekly and log hotel nights for work, I am not so worried about hitting elite status. It more or less comes with the territory now, and even though it can be tiresome it makes a huge difference getting to board the plane early, and occasionally getting upgraded to first class.
If you don’t travel much throughout the year but still want to get priority boarding, or free checked bags, there are still a ton of opportunities to travel like a king. I want to take some time to go over a few strategies on how to achieve elite airline or hotel status with little to no travel.
NOTE: Most of these strategies involve signing up for credit cards. While there are other ways to gain elite status, without traveling, the only sure fire way to get status is through signing up for credit cards.
1. 5 and a half Different Statuses with the Platinum Card from American Express
While this card carries a $550 annual fee, there are plenty of perks that make it a very valuable card to carry in your wallet. One of those perks being automatic Gold status with SPG, and effectively Marriott Gold that matches to that. It is also worth noting that you get Hilton Honors Gold — so before any purchase or travel, you have SPG Gold, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Gold, and Hilton Honors Gold.
This is where the strategy gets interesting. If you are content with Gold status, I wouldn’t really blame you and you get a ton of valuable benefits. But if you want something more, or have some travel planned, there is a “Road to Platinum” challenge that Marriott offers to fast-track your way to Platinum status. The basic requirements are 9 stays in 3 months. This probably sounds like a big feat, but if you do have some travel already planned or are willing to make some mattress runs in the future, this could be potentially very lucrative.
So we’ll say that you were able to make the 9 stays in 3 months — awesome. You are now a Marriott Platinum, SPG Platinum, and Ritz-Carlton Platinum. But wait, there’s more! Marriott is a partner with United through the Crossover Rewards program, and with that comes United Premier Silver. While it may not sound like a lot, you’ll get free checked baggage, unlimited complimentary upgrades and many more benefits. On top of that, SPG is partnered with Delta, and you receive just about all the benefits a Silver Medallion flyer would get (they don’t call it Silver, but most of the benefits are the same).
So this strategy will take a little bit of out-of-pocket travel, if you have some travel planned in the future I would definitely recommend taking advantage of thes rewards.
2. Companion Pass with Southwest Credit Cards
This one is a bit more straightforward. Currently, all 3 of the Southwest credit cards from Chase are offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. A lot of people don’t realize that you can apply for all of these cards if you wanted to — so yes, you can apply for and receive the sign-up bonus for both cards.
So if you don’t currently have any of these credit cards (and also assuming you are below the 5/24), I would wait to apply, as Chase and Southwest tend to raise the sign-up bonus to 60,000 points a few times throughout the year. If you are able to apply and receive the bonus on both of these cards, you’d have 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after $2,000 in purchases. These points do qualify for the Companion Pass, so it’s that easy and you have one of the most valuable perks in travel out there.
This once again, does require some patience and strategy. But can very easily lead to maybe the most valuable perk in travel.
3. Hilton Aspire Card
Note: this card is set to be debuted in Jan. 2018
This is the new and [very much] improved card from Hilton and American Express. This card comes with a $450 annual fee, but take a look at the benefits and I think you’ll agree that it is plenty worth it. The one benefit I want to make note of is that upon acceptance for this card you receive automatic Hilton Diamond status — the highest status that Hilton offers. There are a decent amount of cards on the market that offer mid-tier status, like the Platinum AMEX I talked about earlier, but nothing like this. Hilton Diamond offers a ton of really lucrative benefits, and this card provides all of that and more — as the card itself carries a ton of extra benefits. It is an interesting move by Hilton, as many people have carried Diamond for years by logging hundreds of nights, while now just about anyone can become Diamond for basically $450.
There isn’t much strategy to this, but I wanted to bring this card to light as it figures to be one of the most popular cards out there. Note that this card currently isn’t available on the market, but is supposed to be debuted in January 2018.
There are a ton of different ways to earn elite status — whether you’re a road warrior or travel very little throughout the year, top level elite status is not very far away. For most airlines and hotels, it is very hard to get top level status, but with a bit of strategy and maybe a bit of travel you too can be traveling like a king.