Points Intervention: Using an Elite Status Match or Challenge

May 25, 2015

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I get a ton of e-mail from readers asking for advice on how to maximize their points earning, whether it’s for personal use, business or both. This week, we’re featuring a new Points Intervention series where I help individuals and small-business owners get their awards earning on track — just in time to take advantage of the Chase Ink Plus Business card’s current offer of 60,000 bonus points after a spend of $5,000 within the first 3 months.

Intervention: Carissa Reiniger Episode 6

This week I’m working with Carissa Reiniger, a small-business owner who hasn’t been using points and miles to her advantage. Yesterday Carissa and I talked about different hotel loyalty programs and how, in most cases, using them can get you more perks and points than booking through online travel agents.

Today, Carissa describes how overwhelming and confusing it got when she sat down to assess her points earnings before coming to me. Maybe you’ve once felt her pain? You’ve come a long way with one airline, but after you take a more careful look at what the loyalty program’s options are, you start to think that maybe it’s the wrong one for you.

Enter the airline status match.

points intervention

Carissa tells me how she recently sat down with the intention of decoding all of the different airline loyalty plans and elite status requirements, wondering if she was doing everything right. She spent hours looking at websites and information, but only ended up overwhelmed and confused.

Switching Airlines

This doesn’t have to be you. The good news is that if you’re unsatisfied with the airline with which you have elite status, you can do a status match or challenge if you decide, for example, that you want to switch from Delta Air Lines to American Airlines. You can simply call American and explain that you’d like to move your elite status over there.

The tricky part is that airlines count elite qualification differently. For instance, with American — which Carissa flies most often — you can qualify for AAdvantage elite status in three ways: points, miles and segments. With points you get more points based on the value of the fare class you purchase, miles are based on how far you fly and segments are measured in take-offs and landings. Generally, qualifying on segments is the hardest method, because you have to fly a lot.

Match or Challenge?

You can try asking American to accept your status from Delta (as in our example), in which case the airline may “match” your elite status and grant you a similar level with no additional work on your part. Most likely, though, they’ll offer you a “challenge,” in which you’ll be granted elite status — though not necessarily the same tier/level — with a requirement to earn a certain number of elite-qualifying points and/or miles within a short time period in order to keep your matched status.

In other words, with a status challenge, transferring your status from one airline to another is hard, but not impossible. Status matches and challenges are explained in greater detail in our latest rundown here.

Unfortunately, there’s no one easy way to keep track of all of the different airlines and their elite status qualifying requirements and compare them to each other. My recommendation is that travelers figure out which airline they want to fly — which has the best routes, the best partners, etc. — and then contact them directly. Our Travel Resources page can help you stay organized.

It Never Hurts to Ask

Airlines want your business as a frequent traveler, especially if you’re in major markets such as New York, Seattle or Los Angeles. They’re competing heavily in those markets, plus they want small-business owners. It never hurts to reach out and ask for help, saying “I want to give all my business to you, dear airline. How can you make it easier for me to join without starting from the bottom?”

Now that we’ve covered a lot of ground in terms of earning points for travel and spending, it’s time for an action plan. Tomorrow I’ll give Carissa her top three tasks to get started on her way to putting a lucrative points-earning strategy into practice. And if you or your small business needs a Points Intervention, email intervention@thepointsguy.com.

Missed the earlier posts in this series? View them here:

Episode 1: How To Start Earning
Episode 2: Maximizing Your Miles
Episode 3: Choosing the Best Transferable Points Program
Episode 4: Personal vs. Business Credit Card
Episode 5: Maximizing Hotel Stays

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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