Maximize Monday: Airline and Hotel Elite Status Matches and Challenges

Jul 22, 2013

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On the heels of some legacy airlines revamping their elite status programs to include a revenue-based element, with United Adding Premier Qualifying Dollars and Delta Adding Medallion Qualifying Dollars, I wanted to give readers an update of all the ways to status challenge and status match so that they can take advantage of elite status before having to spend thousands of dollars on top of qualifying flight activity in order to attain it.

Elite status can mean upgrades, priority seating, and more.
Elite status can mean upgrades, priority seating, and more.

Traditionally, July is the best month to do a status match or challenge because airlines will generally give it to you not only for the rest of this year, but for the following year as well, meaning you could have elite status through February 2015, which is 20 months, if you play your cards right. And it’s not just airlines offering status matches and challenges either. As the economy picks back up again and more business travelers are hitting the road, hotels are offering status challenges to frequent travelers in hopes of wooing this bread-and-butter demographic.

Here are the top programs offering status matches/challenges at this time, and what you need to do to qualify.


Alaska (Status Match)
Alaska matches up to their mid-tier level, MVP Gold, which requires 50,000 elite-qualifying miles within a year (40,000 if solely on Alaska). To get a match, you can email a statement of your recently activity along with a copy of your elite card. You can also fax them a current statement of your airline frequent flyer account showing your elite status level (and a copy of your card wouldn’t hurt either) to: Mileage Plan Customer Service, 206-433-3477.

Elite status on American must now be earned each year.
American charges a co-pay for elite challenges.

American (Status Challenge)
Allows challenges, but require a co-pay and that challengers earn a certain number of Elite Qualifying Points (not miles) within a 3-month period – 5,000 for Gold and 10,000 for Platinum – so they expect you to spend a certain amount of money on the airline since EQP’s are based on fare class and deeply discounted economy tickets only earn a fraction of a point per mile flown.

American does not generally do challenges for Executive Platinum, but with the recent SkyMiles changes it can’t hurt to ask as there have been reports of them offering challenges even to this highest tier. While the requirements to fly are less than Delta and United, they do charge to sign-up for the challenge. Once you’ve done your research, enroll in a challenge by calling AAdvantage customer service at 1 800-882-8880. Last year, American was doing status matches for United 1K to Executive Platinu, but that offer is no longer valid (view the Flyertalk post for more information). However, as usual, it can’t hurt to ask and see what they say

Delta (Status Challenge) – My sources have said a new offer will updated this week, so be on the look out!
Details on Delta’s current challenge program can be found here. However, Delta only matches up to their high/mid-tier Platinum level. To achieve it, you will need to accrue 26,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) or 35 Medallion Qualifying segments within 90 days. However, if you hope to go for Diamond, you will still need to rack up the usual 125,000 MQMs in a year to get Diamond status – regardless of a challenge. So for instance, if you challenge and then complete 26,000 MQMs to achieve Platinum, you still need to accrue 99,000 more MQMs to get Diamond (top status). Delta will match your current status and that is the highest level to which you can aspire during the challenge, so even if you fly enough for a higher level, you’re still stuck at the one you were offered the match to.

Delta Gold Medallion requires earning 50,000 MQM's a year and now 5,000 in spending.
Get in on Medallion status before new spending requirements come into effect.

Here are the details from Delta: “If you register for the offer between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 and you complete the flight requirements, your Medallion status will be maintained until February 28, 2014. In order to extend your Medallion status after the 90-days, you’ll need to earn a specific number of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) within the 90-days of enrolling by flying Delta. The number of MQMs or MQSs required is based on your matched Medallion level.” Again, those dates are for last year, but my sources tell me that you can still challenge now and that more information will be coming soon.

First, confirm your comparable status with the SkyMiles program:
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Silver Gold Platinum
American AAdvantage Status Gold Platinum Executive Platinum
United Mileage Plus Status Premier Silver Premier Gold Premier Platinum/1K
Then, determine the MQMs or MQMs needed to retain status:
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Silver Gold Platinum
Flight Requirements on Delta or Delta Connection 8,000 MQMs or 10 MQSs 16,000 MQMs or 20 MQSs 26,000 MQMs or 35 MQSs

United (Status Challenge)
United currently has a special challenge program for Delta Medallion members: Within 90 days, you will need to fly 7,000 qualifying flight miles or 8 flight segments to retain Premier Silver status, 12,500 qualifying flight miles or 15 flight segments to retain Premier Gold status, or 18,000 qualifying flight miles or 22 flight segments to retain Premier Platinum status. For customers who qualify for this promotion on or after July 1, 2013, benefits are valid through January 31, 2015.

To be considered for the status challenge, you must either emailpremiermatch@united.comor fax them at (605) 343-4104. Be sure to include your MileagePlus account number, name, complete current mailing address and email address, and a copy of your most recent mileage summary, or your 2013 membership card identifying your current elite level in Delta’s program. Although United says it does not offer status matches or challenges to its 1K level, some readers have reported being offered matches to it from American Executive Platinum, so it can’t hurt to ask.

Don't feel like doing a challenge or match? You can just buy US Airways status outright.
Don’t feel like doing a challenge or match? You can just buy US Airways status outright.

US Airways (Buy Status):
Though it doesn’t offer status matches, US Airways actually sells status outright by selling bundles of Preferred Qualifying Miles. You can buy Chairman’s Preferred (their top status) for $3,999 (though that drops to only $2,999 as long as you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile) or Platinum for $2,999 ($2,499 if you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile).

If you want to try to get status on the airline without dropping a chunk of change they do offer trial status challenges (which is basically a paid status challenge like American’s) for between $200-$600 depending on what tier you’re going for, and you don’t need to already have status with a competitor. When you pay the fee and complete the flight requirements within 90 days, you get to keep your status for the rest of the year (in this case, just until February 2014).

The levels: $200 for Silver, $400 for Gold and $600 for Platinum and you have to fly:

  • Silver: Fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments
  • Gold: Fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments
  • Platinum: Fly 22,500 miles or 30 segments
  • Chairman’s: Fly 30,000 miles or 40 segments

You can enroll for their trial Preferred offer online, and when you pay for your challenge and complete the flight requirements, you will be awarded the status level you have completed, through February 2014. If I were doing it myself, I would wait until the date was pushed further into the future.

Although its challenge has ended, Virgin America might offer it again.
Although its challenge has ended, Virgin America might offer it again.

Virgin America
Virgin America’s status challenge offer site is still up and running but the offer expired as of June 30. I tried to see if Virgin America’s offer was still valid and received the following response to my email: Thanks for applying to match your United Airlines, American Airlines or Southwest Airlines elite status to Elevate? Gold or Elevate? Silver. Unfortunately, our current status match program ended on June 30, 2013, so we’re unable to proceed with your application. We’ll see if the airline filled their elite status quota, though, because you never know and they may renew their status challenge offer from earlier this year.


Club Carlson (Status Match)
Although it’s not currently publicly offering status matches, Club Carlson apparently does so discreetly on an ongoing basis. To get your status matched, email them here and include a screen shot of your current hotel elite status, your Carlson Gold Points number and request a status match. They match to both Silver and Gold status (low and mid-tier respectively) but almost never match to their highest Concierge level.

Hyatt Diamond status includes a lot of perks - but will it be worth it to me for next year?
You can challenge all the way up to Hyatt’s top-tier Diamond status.

Hyatt (Status Challenge)
Hyatt currently has a Diamond Trial Offer available. You will receive trial Diamond membership for 60 days with proof of top-tier status with one of its competitor programs. However, you must complete 12 nights in 60 days to maintain Diamond membership through February of 2015. You will also receive 1,000 bonus points on your first six eligible nights within 60 days, up to a maximum of 6,000 bonus points. Be aware that the earning period for the promotion begins at the time of enrollment. Email to sign-up for this offer.

IHG Rewards Club (Status Match)
IHG Rewards/Priority Club will offer a status match for their competitors. Make sure you first sign-up for a IHG Rewards Club account. To request a status match send an email to with a screenshot of status from a competitor. Depending on your status, they may offer you a challenge or a status match. There is also this Flyertalk Thread in regards to IHG Rewards Club status matches.

Kimpton (Status Match)
Kimpton offers two membership levels:InTouch and Inner Circle.To match your current hotel status to Kimpton, take a screenshot and attach your current statement in an email asking for a match to: Per this FlyerTalk thread, it looks like my Starwood Platinum would get matched to Inner Circle. It also appears most other major hotel chain statuses should work for a match. Feel free to comment with your experience.

Marriott (Status Challenge)
There is no formal status match with Marriott, however if you email and express your interest they may offer you a Platinum Challenge. Typically this would require nine stays in 3 months.

Starwood will let you challenge to Platinum status.
Starwood will let you challenge to Platinum status.

Starwood (Status Challenge)
Starwood currently has a SPG Platinum Status Challenge  available. You must have not been at the SPG Platinum Preferred status level within the last five years and have never successfully completed a Platinum Status Challenge, at any point, during the lifetime of your membership. If neither of the above scenarios applies to you, simply stay 18 eligible nights, within a three-month period you select, and your account will be upgraded within eight days of your 18th eligible night. Only paid nights, booked at an eligible Starpoints-earning room rate, which posts to your SPG account, are valid toward this promotion. SPG Free Night Award and Cash & Points Award nights do not count toward this offer, nor do reservations booked through any third-party sources. Once you reach the 18 nights in the 3 months time, you become Platinum for all of this year and all of 2014 through January 2015. Email to sign-up for this offer.

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