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If you travel frequently, then you surely have to sign up for frequent flyer and frequent guest programs – that way when you fly or stay in a hotel, you’ll get rewarded for it. There is no fee to sign up for a loyalty program and you don’t need to stay a certain number of nights or fly a certain amount of miles to participate in the programs as a base member. The more you fly or the more you stay in hotels, the more benefits you’ll receive. When you qualify for elite status with an airline or hotel, you’ll receive a number of benefits. The catch is that you have to re-qualify for airline or hotel elite status each year.

elite status makes a big difference when you travel

elite status makes a big difference when you travel

Elite Status Qualification Period

Most airlines and hotels use the simple method of the calendar year to determine your elite status and the qualification period. When based on calendar year, you have from January 1 to December 31 to qualify for status and then your status would be extended by a further year.

There are some loyalty programs that don’t use the calendar year as a qualification period and rather some consider the range from March until end of February to determine your status. There are also some programs where your personal qualification period is based on when you join the program – every program is unique in some way.

Airline Elite Status Qualification Criteria

Most frequent flyer programs have you qualify for airline elite status each year based on a number of miles flown or segments flown. There are some airlines that make you spend a certain amount of money with the airline in order to qualify.

Some programs are drastically different than others and may have their own criteria that is used to qualify for elite status based on other factors – which may be a combination of segments and miles flown and perhaps money spent with the airline as well as other factors. Some airline programs allow you to earn elite status purely based on spend without having a requirement to fly a certain number of miles.

Revenue tickets count towards elite status and the higher your fare is, the more miles you will usually earn. Note that some programs don’t allow elite credit for Basic Economy tickets.

Award tickets don’t count towards status except on a few airlines – but this is the exception rather than the norm.

Each year you have to renew your elite status unless your program has different requirements for (re)qualification.

Hotel Elite Status Qualification Criteria

Hotel frequent guest programs are a little more simple than airline programs. Hotel programs allow you to qualify for hotel elite status based on the number of nights you stay every year with that hotel chain. Some programs allow you to qualify based on nights, stays, or points.

A night is defined as one hotel night, a stay is defined as a stay in a certain hotel that is consecutive, regardless of multiple nights booked and check in or out activity. Then points would be the amount of points you earn for staying at a hotel – this is usually based on how much you pay for the hotel and then multiplied by a factor, depending on what your status is.

Hotel programs don’t generally have a revenue requirement for status and rather only count the nights or stays needed every year. There are some top-tier elite statuses with hotel chains that do require a certain spend amount, but usually most elite status levels that are worth it, don’t have a spending requirement.

Hotel frequent guest programs generally credit you nights and stays even if you’re on an award stay – unlike with most airlines. So if you book your hotel stay using your hotel points or a free night certificate, that would most likely count towards your elite status qualification.

Like with airlines, it is you who needs to be the main reservation holder so the points and qualification goes into your account. Hotel reservations are more flexible than airline tickets since you can usually add a name to a hotel reservation and someone else can check in for you.

Mileage or Mattress Runs

A mileage run is a trip you take for no other purpose than to earn frequent flyer miles and elite credit. A hotel mattress run is essentially the same thing except you’re staying at a hotel for no reason other than to get nights or stay credit towards elite status.

Mileage runs were quite popular back in the day but due to a number of changes with frequent flyer programs, they aren’t that popular anymore. Usually when airlines have promotions or discount tickets, it could still make sense to book a mileage run in some cases.

Most mileage and mattress runs are done at the end of the year when you think you won’t (re)qualify for status based on your past activity and planned future trips. Sometimes it doesn’t take much more to push you over the finish line for elite status and a mileage or mattress run may be just the thing.

every year you must fly/stay to renew elite status

every year you must fly/stay to renew elite status

All in All

Airline and hotel elite status comes with a number of benefits that truly can improve and elevate your travel experience. The catch of course is that you need to renew your elite status every year – which is fair, after all the airlines and hotels will reward the most loyal guests.

In the most recent years, there have been a number of changes in how airline and hotel programs work – including changes in qualification criteria – some of these changes were positive and others were negative. Loyalty programs frequently tweak various aspects of the programs including benefits and services offered when they see the need to make changes. After all, if everyone’s an elite status holder, then benefits and upgrades are much harder to attain.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.