How I earned top-tier elite status in five programs this year — and my loyalty strategy for 2020
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With 2019 drawing to a close, now’s the time to make one final push to secure elite status for next year.
In my case, I didn’t need to mattress or mileage run this month, though I’ll still enter 2020 with top-tier elite status in five loyalty programs. I was able to get here thanks to a combination of strategic flying and targeted travel rewards credit card spending, and I’ll dive deeper into the specifics below.
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American Airlines Executive Platinum
I definitely didn’t expect to hit AA Executive Platinum this year. I tried to keep most of my domestic flying on either JetBlue or United, but I ended up with American’s top-tier elite status this year thanks to the airline’s lucrative partnership with Hyatt. At the end of last week, I got a call from my Hyatt concierge informing me that I’ve been targeted for a year of Executive Platinum status on account of my Globalist elite status in the World of Hyatt program.
Before I’d even learned about my good fortune getting selected for Executive Platinum, I was well on my way to earning Platinum Pro. One of the perks of being a Hyatt Explorist or Globalist is the opportunity to participate in offers to earn AAdvantage elite status. In late September, I was chosen for one such offer, which gave me Platinum status for three months, with the ability to earn status for next year at reduced thresholds.
I took just one paid long-haul premium-cabin flight on Cathay Pacific last month, which was basically enough to secure Platinum status for next year. Coupling this Cathay flight with a few domestic segments on AA metal, and I’d almost qualified for Platinum Pro through my targeted offer.
The lesson here is to make sure to link your AA and Hyatt memberships. You never know what type of elite status offer you’ll be selected for, and if this year is any indication, it may even make sense to shift some hotel nights to Hyatt if you’re looking for the fastest way to earn AA elite status.
Hilton Honors Diamond
Earning top-tier elite status is usually really hard. But for Hilton, it’s as simple as holding the right credit card.
Related: What is Hilton elite status worth?
I opened The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card earlier this year, which comes with Hilton Diamond status for as long as you have the card. While the card has a hefty annual fee of $450 (see rates and fees), there are other valuable inclusions like an up to $250 annual Hilton resort credit, up to $250 yearly airline credit and a free weekend night when you open the account and each year on your card anniversary. Though I don’t stay at too many Hiltons (see World of Hyatt below), there’s really no excuse to not have Hilton Diamond status.
JetBlue has one status level, Mosaic, with two very well-defined paths to earning it: You can either earn 12,000 TrueBlue base points and fly 30 JetBlue segments each year, or just earn 15,000 TrueBlue base points from any amount of flying in one calendar year.
Related: What is JetBlue elite status worth?
Although JetBlue Mosaic status will lose some value with the introduction of basic economy fares, I still love the benefit of free changes or cancellations any time before departure.
Being based in NYC and having grown up in South Florida, you’ll often find me flying JetBlue up and down the East Coast for long weekends and family gatherings. As much as my parents would love if I visited 15 times a year to hit the 30 segment requirement, I just don’t have time for that.
So, instead, I resigned myself to earning 15,000 base points this year, which equates to spending $5,000 of base fare on JetBlue. I requalified for Mosaic back in September thanks to some expensive holiday fares and the occasional cross-country Mint flight.
United Premier 1K
Since joining The Points Guy in January, I knew I’d be doing a lot of travel (over 200,000 butt-in-seat miles so far this year). Aside from JetBlue Mosaic, I needed another airline status goal.
Considering American’s dwindling NYC route network, Delta’s unrewarding loyalty program and the location of my downtown Manhattan apartment relative to Newark, I had my sights on United Premier status.
With my target set, I kept most of my non-JetBlue flying limited to United and its partners. I’ve had some pretty incredible Star Alliance adventures this year, including first-class flights on both Lufthansa and Swiss (which gave me a significant PQM boost), as well as some disappointing flights like United’s Premium Plus on the Boeing 787-10.
I’ve been enjoying the 1K life since October. I’ve been really pleased with the airline’s customer service and have so far been upgraded on a good number of my domestic flights. I’m happy with the introduction of PlusPoints, but with overhauled elite status qualification requirements for 2020, I’m going to need to make some significant changes to my strategy to requalify for 1K.
World of Hyatt Globalist
World of Hyatt is my favorite hotel loyalty program. The highest elite status, Globalist, confers a host of valuable benefits like confirmed suite upgrades at the time of booking, free breakfast across the entire portfolio of brands and guaranteed late checkout.
Resort fees are also waived for Globalist members, and parking is included on free night awards. Plus, free night awards are relatively cheap (although the introduction of off-peak and peak pricing stings), and earning Hyatt points is easy with the right Chase credit cards.
Clearly, there’s a lot to love about World of Hyatt. Even better? Holding The World of Hyatt Credit Card makes earning top-tier status within reach. I spent about 31 nights at Hyatt properties this year, so I was 29 nights short of qualifying for Globalist.
I then used the cobranded Hyatt credit card to help me close the gap. Just by having the card gave me five elite-qualifying nights, and for every $5,000 spent on the card, you earn two elite-qualifying nights. So, basically, I needed to spend $60,000 on the card to hit Globalist. I used the card to pay months of sky-high NYC rent and some other large bills, and quickly became a Globalist.
My 2020 status plan
While I was quite successful in earning a bunch of elite statuses this year, it’s definitely going to be harder in 2020. To start, requalifying for 1K will take a lot more strategy and even more flying. I’ve already booked a few United partner itineraries that will help boost my PQP balance, but I’m still going to need to find a way to hit the 54 segment minimum for 1K. Unfortunately, crossing the 54-flight threshold will probably come at the expense of some of my American and JetBlue flying.
As such, my strategy for Mosaic in 2020 has totally changed. I’m going to just open the JetBlue Plus Card and spend $50,000 to earn Mosaic. I’ll get a ton of value from the status without the need to fly JetBlue on $5,000 worth of flights. For American, I’m going to wait and see what types of targeted offers I get next year before deciding how much flying I’m going to do with American and Oneworld.
And then there’s the question of whether I can enjoy the perks of my statuses when I’m spreading my travels across three airlines and two hotel chains. As I get older and more settled, we’ll see, but for now, it doesn’t hurt to set lofty goals.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
For the rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.