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TPG reader Lisa sent me a message on Facebook to ask how long her elite benefits will last:
“I earned United Premier Silver status this year, but I’m not clear on how long it’s valid. Will I lose my status in 2016?”
As we kick off 2016, the cycle of elite status begins again for frequent flyers everywhere. Whether you’re a top-tier elite or an occasional traveler looking for the best low-tier status, knowing the calendar for elite status qualification and membership can help you meet the requirements on time and maximize your benefits once you’ve earned them.
There are two sets of dates to keep in mind when it comes to elite status. The first is the qualification year, which is the time you have to accrue whatever elite miles, points, segments or dollars you need to earn status in the first place. This coincides with the calendar year for United and the major domestic airlines, so you have from January 1 to December 31 of a given year to qualify.
The second set of dates is the membership year, which is when you get to actually enjoy your elite benefits. This varies a little from one airline to another, but generally lasts from near the beginning of the year after you qualify until a month or two into the next calendar year. Specifically, United’s membership year runs from February 1 to January 31 of the following year.
What often confuses frequent flyers is that airlines typically extend elite benefits as a courtesy for the remainder of the qualification year, beginning soon after you first meet the requirements. As an example, Lisa earned United Premier Silver status during the 2015 qualification year. She was then given complimentary Silver status for the rest of 2015, but she’ll get to enjoy that status through the 2016 membership year, which actually ends on January 31st, 2017. If you earn elite status during the 2016 qualification year, it will be valid until the beginning of 2018.
The dates are mostly similar on American, Delta and Alaska. American recently changed the dates of its membership year, which currently runs from March 1 to the final day of February in the following year. If you earned AAdvantage elite status in 2015, your status will last until February 28, 2017. However, for status earned in 2016 and beyond, the membership year will instead run from February 1 to January 31 of the following year. That means if you earn status on American in 2016, it will last until January 31, 2018.
Alaska keeps things a bit simpler by aligning its memberhsip year with the calendar year, so if you earned MVP elite status in 2015, it will last until December 31, 2016. It’s easier to remember, but a little less charitable than the other airlines.
For more updates on earning airline elite status, check out these posts:
- United Increases PQM Earning Rates for 2016
- Shortcuts to Earning Elite Status with Airline Credit Cards
- Buy Up to the Next American AAdvantage Elite Level for 2016
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