What are hotel and airline status matches and how do you get one?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information. It was originally published on July, 29 2019.
You travel regularly for work and your travel policy allows you to choose a preferred airline/alliance or hotel chain/group. You have finally earned elite status in the program of your choice, which makes all those work trips a little easier with things like upgrades, priority check-in, bonus points and welcome gifts. Then your employer suddenly changes its travel policy and all travel is now with an airline or hotel program with which you have no status.
Or, you might have been loyal to a program for years but you’ve become fed up with how they treat you as an elite member so you’re looking for a brand-new program to move your business to.
That elite status you worked so hard to carefully build up now seems useless.
All is not lost. Enter the world of status matches.
Status matches are where one program will match your status from another program to the equivalent level in their own program. For example, a Oneworld airline might match a Star Alliance Gold status from a competing airline. Why would they do this? Because they want your loyalty and your business. And why would you do this as a traveler? Because it allows you to enjoy some of the perks you have earned in another program immediately, without starting from scratch. It can be a ‘try before you buy’.
Not all programs will even consider a status match. Many airlines and hotel programs have done so in the past — randomly from time to time. They may either publicly advertise the offer, or they may agree to match a status if you contact them anyway. There are all sorts of reasons why they may launch a status match offer.
There are two types of status matches. There is a straight match where the second program will match your status from the first program for a specified amount of time (often 12 months). You can use the benefits of the elite status for the period you are matched for and if you earn enough in the second program during your matched period, you will retain it — just like a member who earned the status the classic way.
There are also status challenges, which are becoming more common and are unfortunately much more restrictive. A challenge is where the program will match your status for a much shorter period of time (like 90 days) and challenge you to complete a certain number of requirements during that shorter time, like a minimum number of flights if it’s an airline, or a minimum number of nights stayed in the case of a hotel program. If you meet the requirements of the challenge, you will retain your status for a longer period (like one year).
Now, there are some very important factors for you to remember in the world of status matches:
- Most programs will only award you a status match once per lifetime, so you should only attempt it when it is most advantageous to use it.
- Some programs may not consider a status match without detailed history from the first program about how you obtained that status (like your program statement for the past six months). They want to ensure you earned the first status legitimately and aren’t just on a matching spree.
- You may be required to have and provide evidence of an upcoming booking with that airline or hotel before they will approve the match.
- Most programs won’t match to a status from the same alliance — i.e. a Oneworld airline may refuse to match another Oneworld status.
- Some programs will not match to the same level in the competing program. They may insist on only providing a level lower. For example, matches to Oneworld Emerald status are very rare regardless of how high your status is in another program.
- Programs have the right to refuse status matches without giving a reason (and they regularly do). They are not guaranteed even if you plan of moving a lot of business their way.
So how to go about applying for a status match? Some airlines like United have a dedicated page, but these are usually for airlines offering status challenges only, which are not a lucrative as full matches.
If there’s a program you’ve had your eye on to match, you can search to see if they have a similar page. If so, that will have all the instructions on what you will need to provide and how.
If not, there’s a great resource called StatusMatcher.com which regularly lists the best options to match to based on members’ successes or failures in doing so. This site will tell you what programs are currently offering (or accepting) status matches and how to apply. Each program may require slightly different submissions, but generally they will need:
- Your membership number in their own program (i.e. make sure you’re already signed up).
- A photo or scan of the elite status you would like to match clearly showing the program, status level, your name and expiry date. Some programs may require a minimum period to remain on your current status (i.e. six months) and are unlikely to match if your status is about to expire.
- They may also ask for a copy of your recent transactions in the program and future bookings in their program, as mentioned above.
Status matches and challenges can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months for the program to approve and process. If approved, you will usually be sent a welcome pack in the (physical) mail for your matched or challenged status with a membership card and details of the benefits you can enjoy. You don’t need to wait for the post to starting using the status, though — check your account online regularly after making a request and see if the status level has changed. Once it does, you can start using the benefits immediately.
Even if the program you want to match to does not appear to be offering status matches but a significant change in your travel plans warrants requesting one, you can still plead your case. If, for example you stay 80 nights a year in Marriott properties and a change in travel policy or employer or client suddenly means you have to switch to 80 nights in Hyatt properties instead, you may wish to explain this to the new program and say that you plan on bringing a significant amount of your business to the program but don’t want to start from scratch when you enjoyed so many benefits in your previous program.
You can attempt this by explaining your situation and pleading your case by email (honestly!), or through an online feedback form. It’s not advisable to call up for a status match as the person you speak to might not know what you’re talking about.
(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
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