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Yesterday I answered a reader question about airline status matches and challenges, and I mentioned a website called Status Matcher, which provides a bounty of information about the status match and challenge policies of most airlines, hotels, and even auto rental companies (hat tip to TPG reader Ali who introduced me to the site!). I think this website is a great tool for frequent travelers, and since we’re approaching the best time of year to attempt a match or challenge, I wanted to introduce it to readers in more detail.
First of all, what is a status match or challenge?
Despite the tangible erosion of elite benefits in recent years, elite status is generally prized among travelers. In exchange for brand loyalty, travel companies offer an array of perks, upgrades, and otherwise unattainable services to their best customers. Since elite status is built to keep customers coming back, you can bet that for every company offering you elite benefits, there’s a competitor who will offer (more or less) the same benefits in the hopes of stealing your business away.
A status match, then, is just what it sounds like. In an attempt to woo your business, one company will match your status with a competitor to a similar level within their own loyalty program. For example, someone with American Airlines Platinum status could match to Premier Gold status on United, but wouldn’t be able to match to United Premier 1k. To match status, you’ll need to provide proof of existing status in your current program. Also, status matches are often available only periodically (or in some cases only once, period).
Status challenges are similar, except they confer elite status conditionally. Those who attempt a challenge must earn their status by flying a certain number of flights or miles (for airlines), staying a certain number of nights (for hotels), or completing a certain number of rentals (for auto rental companies). Challenges generally don’t require you to prove existing status with a competitor, since you still have to prove yourself worthy to the company in question.
Like many aspects of the travel industry, information about elite status and the rules of status matches and challenges can be arcane and difficult to interpret, since the details differ so much between programs. Status Matcher attempts to arrange all that data comprehensively and accessibly, so travelers can make informed decisions about how to pursue status within a given program. The website has a pretty rudimentary design that is entirely void of graphics, but it’s easy to use.
First, to help travelers understand the benefits of various loyalty programs, Status Matcher offers a Compare function, which helps you examine the features of up to three programs side by side. Below, for example, is (a portion of) a Status Matcher comparison for Marriott Rewards, Hilton HHonors, and Hyatt Gold Passport. (For layout reasons, the image shown here only includes results for the lowest tier in each program; on Status Matcher, the results extend to all tiers.)
The information appears to be accurate, though there’s an enormous amount to keep track of, and the website cautions that what’s listed is subject to change at any time. Generally Status Matcher does a good job of comparing equivalent tiers between programs, but sometimes the comparisons are clumsy, and it’s not really clear what the basis for comparison is. For example, a comparison of American, Delta, and Southwest ends up putting Delta Diamond Elite Status side by side with Southwest Companion Pass Status, even though the two really aren’t comparable. I think this is more a reflection of the idiosyncrasies of the many different loyalty programs than it is a flaw of Status Matcher. The site remains a useful tool regardless.
Second, to facilitate status matches and challenges, Status Matcher details the matching process for each loyalty program, and at each tier within those programs. So, for example, you can review United Airlines’ policy for silver, gold, platinum, and 1k status, or similar policies for other airlines and hotels. It’s helpful to have all this information in one place so that users can research various programs without having to navigate dozens of websites to track it down.
Finally, Status Matcher has created a database where those who have attempted matches or challenges can report their results, so other users can estimate the likelihood of success when undertaking a match or challenge themselves. The reports are categorized by loyalty program, so you can see how others fared both trying to obtain status in a given program, and trying to use existing status within that program to leverage status elsewhere. The image below, for example, shows a list of recent reports from individuals attempting to gain elite status in the United MileagePlus program.
Most of the reports are tersely written, containing just a few words or sentences. Still, this anecdotal evidence could be very helpful when trying to decide whether to attempt a status match or challenge, since you could avoid wasting your time with an attempt that is unlikely to succeed.
What I like most about Status Matcher is that it’s a tool created by travelers for travelers. As I discussed in another of my reader question posts yesterday, the information you get from the travel community is often going to be more reliable than what you get from a phone rep (or even a company’s own website). I’m always excited to see sites like Status Matcher, Autoslash, Award Wallet and others making things easier for travelers.
Have you use Status Matcher? Please share your experiences in the comments below, and let us know what you think of the site.