Starting a Status Challenge Too Early — Reader Mistake Story

May 11, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there’s also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I’m calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jim, who lost an extra year of elite benefits after he mistimed an airline status challenge. Here’s what he had to say:

Jim may have missed out on an entire year of United elite status by completing his challenge too early.

I recently took your advice and initiated an airline status challenge. United matched my Southwest A-List status, giving me 90 days of complimentary Premier Gold status and the opportunity to retain it for longer after earning 12,500 PQMs over that time period. I knew that wouldn’t be a problem, since I had several long-haul trips planned for April.

My mistake was signing up for the challenge too early. I registered on March 28, which meant I had until the last week of June to meet the requirements. The problem is that completing the challenge before July 1 only gave me status through January of 2018, whereas completing it after that date would have given me status through January of 2019. 

If I had waited three more days to register on April 1 (just before my first long-haul flight), my Gold status would have lasted for another year. I realized my mistake within 24 hours of signing up, but United was unable / unwilling to change my registration date. I’ve already reached 12,500 PQMs from my April travel, but my status only takes me to next year unless I earn another 30,000 PQMs before the end of 2017.

Lesson learned!

Jim’s story is worth heeding, but his mistake may have been less costly than he thinks. The MileagePlus Premier status challenge awards you benefits as soon as you meet the requirements, and United uses that date as the basis for determining how long those benefits last. Since Jim qualified after his travel in April, the scheduled end of his challenge period was irrelevant. If he could have easily completed the requirements after July 1, then waiting to sign up would have been a smart play to extend his status.

In general, you should try to time a status challenge in a way that maximizes your benefits. That could mean waiting until later in the year so your status will last longer, but it could also mean taking a challenge right away if you have a lot of upcoming travel planned. The value you get from having status during the challenge period may outweigh whatever value you get from extending that status in the future (when your travel plans are less certain).

Calendar table photo
Factor in both your travel plans and the program rules when you’re participating in an elite status challenge.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Jim for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.