If you have read my hotel and airline reviews, you have an idea of how many perks you can get as an elite member in one of the reward programs. From separate, shorter check-in lines at the airport, lounge access and free luggage check with airlines to room upgrades, free internet or free breakfast at hotels, elite status with the company’s reward program can make your travel a lot more comfortable! Historically, those perks had to be earned through many, many flights or hotel stays. In todays competitive travel business, some companies are willing to make it a little easier for you, because they really want to earn your business. Here is how…
1. Credit Cards
Some hotel programs will offer elite status in partnership with a bank: Their affiliated credit cards allow you not only to earn extra points in their reward program, but offer additional perks or even higher status in their program. My favorite hotel rewards card for that reason is the IHG Rewards Master Card from Chase (my review here): The IHG card offers Platinum Status in the IHG Rewards program, currently still the highest level, waving the need to stay 50 nights at Intercontinental group properties. As a platinum member, you earn more points, can get room upgrades and other perks depending on the hotel. I also have the Club Carlson Visa card (Club Carlson Gold status) and American Express Hilton card (HHonors Silver status). There are a number of other options and you can read my review and comparison of the cards (coming soon).
2. Status Match
Once you have achieved elite status with one airline or hotel program, you have another option to move up the elite ranks: status matching. Some programs are eager to win customers from the competition and want to make the switch easy by offering to match the elite status level you have with another, competing program, so you can enjoy the perks after switching loyalty. For example, Best Western offered me Diamond status to match my IHG Platinum status. I only had to email a form and copy of my IHG card and was able to enjoy an upgraded room at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn, courtesy of my newly gained BW Diamond status! I also gained Gold status with AirBerlin (a OneWorld alliance member) by requesting a status match for my United 1K status. The web site StatusMatcher has an up-to-date list of programs that allow a status match, what level you can reach and how to do it!
3. Buy the perks or ask nicely!
If you don’t have status with an airline or hotel, you can always make your travel a little nicer by paying for specific perks that are important to you. Especially airlines have “unbundled” their ticket prices and are selling services individually. United for example will sell “Premier Access”, perks of elite status, including dedicated check-in and security lines, as well priority boarding, as an add-on to regular economy tickets. You can purchase it for a specific flight, allowing you to tailor it to your needs.
Hotels have traditionally offered the perks from their elite programs for pay as well – but especially with hotels, you can always just try and ask nicely: I have often received late check-outs and even room upgrades without having status in the hotel’s frequent guest program! Treating staff nicely and with a smile goes a long way!
So, go ahead, upgrade your travel experience and enjoy a more luxurious vacation!