I Didn’t Realize My Status Expired — Reader Mistake Story

May 29, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jake, who missed out on premium economy seats for a transatlantic flight:

My wife and I took a trip to Morocco in April, flying there on American and home on United. I had earned [legacy] Platinum status with Marriott in 2018 and matched that with United to get Premier Silver status through the RewardsPlus partnership. With my United Silver status, I knew we could select Economy Plus seats for free at check-in on our return flight.

In the lead up to the trip, I checked every couple weeks for aircraft changes and to see how Economy Plus was filling up, and all seemed good. Then, two days before our flight home, I signed in to see that the plane had been changed. We’d been reassigned seats not in the ‘preferred’ section (where we had been), but in the middle halfway back. Also, my status had reverted to Member — my Silver status was gone.

A couple of phone calls later, I learned that my status had expired the month before. Marriott and United had restructured the benefit so you had to have Marriott Titanium Elite status to qualify for United Silver. I’m an AAdvantage Platinum member, and a properly timed status match could have earned me United Gold status for that trip, letting me secure Economy Plus seats well before check in. Since it takes more than two days to process a status match, I was out of luck.

In the end, I was able to salvage our seating on the longest leg of the trip home in the two solo seats at the very back of the plane. Not the worst, but definitely not the seats I thought I’d carefully planned for.

When you earn elite status organically through flights or hotel stays, it comes with a predictable expiration date that’s fairly consistent across different loyalty programs. But when you earn status through other means (like a reciprocal airline-hotel partnership), the expiration date may not adhere to the same schedule. For example, a status challenge typically grants interim status that expires after only a few months if you fail to meet the challenge requirements, and status granted by a credit card could be withdrawn almost immediately if you close your account. If you’re not paying close attention, it’s easy to lose your benefits like Jake did without realizing they’re gone.

My advice is to monitor your elite status just like you would keep track of your points and miles, including expiration dates and notes on how you qualified in the first place. When you plan a trip that relies on an elite benefit (like waived checked baggage fees or late check-out), double check whether you’ll still have that benefit when you need it. Naturally, this step is more important when you book early, since booking far in advance leaves more time for your status to expire. If that’s scheduled to happen before you travel, find out whether any relevant benefits can be applied at the time of booking (like advance seat selection), since they probably won’t be taken away after the fact.

Related: Will I Lose Elite Status If I Close My Credit Card Account?

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Jake a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Maxian / Getty Images.

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