Frequent travelers are no longer guaranteed Elite status. here’s why

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The travel industry has changed over the past few months, and more changes are likely to occur. Air services were cut and flights were kept on the ground. Although travel has started to pick up, an increase in variants coupled with increased uncertainty about the future of the pandemic has left many aspects of the travel industry hanging.

Many airlines and hotels have also changed the way travelers can achieve and maintain their elite status when travel is restricted. The easiest way to achieve elite status for some airlines and hotels doesn’t necessarily require stepping foot in an airplane or hotel suite. You can earn elite status from the comfort of your sofa.

To get elite status, you have to spend a lot.

Here’s how some players in the travel industry are getting (and keeping) a loyal customer base.

Obtain elite status by credit card.

Previously, traveling thousands of miles each year guaranteed you elite status with the airline. While this may still be true to an extent, flying is just not enough to achieve the highest elite status at many airlines and hotels, especially if you fly basic economy often.

Instead, airlines and hotels are offering status through their co-branded credit cards with leading banks like Citi and Chase. Some of these premium cards, which usually come with an annual fee of $ 199 and above, automatically come with Elite status, with the option to spend a certain amount to upgrade your status.

For example, the new World of Hyatt Business credit card has World of Hyatt Discoverist status, a step up from membership. You will earn qualifying Level 5 Night Credits towards Explorer or Globalist status and Milestone Rewards for every $ 10,000 spent in a calendar year. You must keep your card open to maintain Discoverist status.

There are also specific requirements for obtaining airline status. American Airlines has announced an overhaul of its loyalty program which will come into effect in January 2022. Instead of having multiple Elite status requirements, members can focus on their loyalty points (replacing Elite qualifying miles, Elite qualifying dollars and Elite qualifying segments which had been used to qualify for status). These are earned by spending money to fly (award flights don’t count), spending on credit card, and more spending options.

Elite status can still be purchased if you are not loyal to a hotel chain or airline. The accompanying bells and whistles will be more flexible. However, they can also come with more terms and conditions.

For example, the Platinum Card from American Express offers cardholders up to $ 200 per year for incidental charges, such as checked baggage or in-flight beverage purchases, with an eligible airline of your choice. However, airline choices are limited, and the $ 200 refund comes in the form of statement credits. Additionally, the airline must charge your card with the correct service code to get the statement credit.

On the other hand, you can also register for Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold status. This elite status is automatic (after registration) simply by being the holder of a Platinum card. But, if American Express terminates its partnership with Marriott or Hilton, you will likely lose your status. In addition, the annual fee is $ 695.

Is elite status worth it?

Elite status may be worth it if you are a frequent traveler. Those with Elite status can get upgrades, free checked baggage (usually for you and multiple companions), lounge access, dedicated phone and check-in lines, and more. Having access to these benefits not only makes traveling more enjoyable, but they are also useful if you are delayed or a flight is canceled.

Additionally, many cards, including those that offer flexibility, also offer perks like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR, all of which can help speed up your airport check-in process. With limited staff and the number of people on the move in recent weeks, having access to these services can save you time and money.

It’s getting easier and easier for those who can afford to spend money with a co-branded card to achieve elite status. American Airlines is one of the largest airlines to change its loyalty programs in recent years. Time will tell if the other major airlines follow suit.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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