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When Should I Start an Airline Status Match or Challenge?

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TPG reader Russ sent me a message on Facebook to ask about matching elite status:

“When is the best time to status match to another program? I have AAdvantage Executive Platinum status through February of 2017, and I’m wondering when I should match to Alaska Mileage Plan.”

Status matches and challenges are a great shortcut to earning elite benefits with airline (and hotel) loyalty programs. Rather than having to meet the normal mileage or segment requirements, you can challenge for status by completing a certain amount of travel in a set period, or in some cases you can be matched outright without having to travel at all.

Most programs limit how often you can attempt a status match or challenge. Alaska Airlines has a fairly restrictive policy that only allows you to match once during the lifetime of your Mileage Plan account, so it’s important to maximize the opportunity once you decide to go for it. Knowing when to initiate your status match will help you do just that.

Alaska Airlines status matches granted before October only provide status through the end of that calendar year. That means if you get matched to MVP status now, you’ll only have it for the remainder of 2016. However, if you wait until October, then you’ll get MVP status through the end of 2017.

Since current AAdvantage Executive Platinum status doesn’t expire until the end of February 2017, I think that’s the better strategy. You can make use of your existing status this year, and then match (hopefully to Mileage Plan Gold 75K) at the end of the year.

One exception would be if you plan to fly Alaska frequently before October and don’t plan to fly American, especially along routes where elite benefits are likely to make a significant difference. By matching now, you could enjoy your status this year and still have a good shot at qualifying for 2017 the old-fashioned way.

Alaska Airlines Students Invited for Delivery Flight
If you wait until October, you can match to Alaska Mileage Plan status that lasts through the end of 2017.

Keep in mind that Alaska is more likely to match status earned through actual flying, as opposed to status earned entirely or in part through some other channel. If a significant portion of your AAdvantage elite-qualifying miles came from spending on a co-branded credit card, you might be matched to a lower tier.

For more on earning, matching and maintaining elite status, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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