Seven Reasons Why I’m Not Chasing Elite Status in 2018

We receive compensation for some links on this blog and are always grateful if you use these links to support our content. Any opinions expressed in this post are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, sponsored, or endorsed by our advertising partners unless otherwise specifically noted.
Check out our 5 Travel Amenities to Bring Home After Your Next Trip.

Not that long ago, being an elite status traveler was a significant part of my personal identity.  I was proud to display my elite status baggage tags and pull out my top tier cards.  Comparing elite status with other frequent travelers was normal conversation.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve had dozens of conversations like this one over the years:

Then again, I’m the girl who filmed this spot with CNN back in 2010:

I’ve always believed that business travelers have a unique perspective on travel.  In the past I’ve set both annual focus goals and travel goals.  Making the decision that I’m not chasing elite status is a goal as well.  But its a departure from the essence of who I thought I was.

So what changed?  That’s a good question.  I’m still traveling for work, the same way I have for the past two decades.  Its not my travel habits, and my love for travel has not dimmed, so perhaps its my individual perspective.

I’ve pondered it and identified seven reasons why I’m not chasing elite status this year (and maybe ever again).

1. Lifetime status makes travel easier

My first reason for not chasing elite status in 2018 comes from a place of pure privilege.  I don’t need to chase status because already have status.

I earned Lifetime Platinum with American Airlines a few years ago thanks to crossing the 3 million mile mark (all on travel with no credit card lift).  I’ll cross the 4 million mark in the next 18 months.  I also have Lifetime Platinum status with Starwood which in turn gives me reciprocal Platinum status with Marriott.

Because American is my primary airline and Marriott/Starwood are my primary hotel brands, I’ll always be at the minimum threshold for the key benefits I utilize in those programs.  Anything I push for beyond that gives me extra perks (easier chance at upgrades, more points) but won’t tangibly impact my ability to travel easily.

2. Someone moved my cheese

Frequent travelers have felt a bit like Charlie Brown the last couple of years with Lucy moving the football.  Only rather than Lucy, it has been the programs themselves.  Hyatt altered the program so much that it was no longer worth it for me to chase top tier status.  Airline programs have devalued benefits to the point where the extra effort may no longer be worth it.

If programs want me to chase after something, they need to make it worth my while with tangible benefits that I want.

3. If I want it, I’ll pay for it

The reality is, I can buy a lot of the things I got with status without the hassle of trying to obtain an specific level of spend or travel.

First class up-fares are often not that expensive, especially when I consider my billable rate and my ability to work on the plane.  I’m happy to pay $100-200 out of pocket to upfare if it means I can avoid 3-4 hours of extra work on the weekend.  Buying back my own productivity is worth it for me, especially as seats become smaller and pitches narrower.

Staying in a boutique hotel with no brand affiliation often comes with perks that I won’t get at the local variant of a chain hotel.  I have come to value the experience more than the points.

4. Less is more

My 2017 focus was on less.  Less clutter in my life, less filler on my calendar, less unnecessary drama.  Trying to accumulate extra flights or stays was the antithesis of this.

The last month of December tested my resolve.  I found myself less than 4,000 miles away from my next Delta tier.  My spend was already well over the threshold (and had been for weeks) but I’d need some combination of 1-2 more business trips to get me to that point, assuming the right combination of flight segments, paid first, and strange routings.

I passed.  The old me would have cobbled together a mileage run to get over the mark.  Instead, I shrugged my shoulders and realized I’d start the year with 21,000+ rollover MQMs in my account.

Que sera sera.

Less has also meant the catharsis of getting rid of stuff.  Carloads of it.  Many many of them.  And week after week of full-to-the-rim trash and recycle carts.  Among my finds and discards… dozens of amenity kits, drawers full of airline pajamas, stacks of first class menus.  I just don’t need it anymore… and I certainly don’t need to start collecting more.

5. Home is the new priority

We started a large-scale remodel of our home in the fourth quarter of 2017.  Three months in, we have finished a refresh of most of the original 1924 section of the house (including full electrical rewiring, a bathroom gut/renovation, and fresh walls/ceilings/fixtures throughout).  This followed the structural (roof and foundation) and exterior (landscaping, sprinklers, driveway, and fence) work I did in 2016.

But the fun is just beginning.  This spring, we’ll tear down the old dirt floor garage that is no longer structurally sound.  In its place a 550 square foot casita will go up with corresponding alley storage to replace the garage function.  We will then move into that casita for several months so that they 1981 addition to the house (which includes kitchen, laundry room, and master suite) can be gutted and reconfigured for better functionality.  That last bit has been a long time coming ever since the baseline renovations I completed a decade ago.

Jim and I have both written a lot about our love of being home, the tastes of home, and coming home after an international posting.  I’ve realized that my house is where I want much of my extra time and resources going, not unnecessary travels to keep status.

6. I just don’t care what you think

The more self-exploratory of my decision was the realization that I cared what my status said about me.  Whether it was giving me street credibility as a frequent traveler or just one-upmanship, I wanted that brass ring.  It took a lot of introspection to figure out why… and then decide it no longer mattered.

My ultimate truth was that there were always going to be people who traveled more than me, had more pull, or simply had more glamorous travels.  And it simply wasn’t something I could change – not without some other type of sacrifice.

Remember that part about less?  This was part of that letting go.

7. I may just get it anyway

The sad part of all of this?  While I’m no longer chasing elite status, I may just get it anyway.  I travel enough for work and my volunteer commitments that I might still hit top tiers without much effort.

I certainly won’t resent anything I do manage to earn despite my lack of effort.

Conclusion – Why I’m not chasing elite status in 2018

This is where my focus is now and I’ve got 11 months to change my mind in 2018.  (Or in 2019 when our home renovation is complete!)

But while I leave the door open for my perspective to shift again, perhaps if the programs alter benefits in a way I find attractive, I am happy with my decision.

Have you given up on chasing elite status?  Or is it more important than ever?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comments.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

More articles by Jennifer Moody »

Comments

  1. ” I found myself less than 4,000 miles away from my next Delta tier. My spend was already well over the threshold (and had been for weeks) but I’d need some combination of 1-2 more business trips to get me to that point, assuming the right combination of flight segments, paid first, and strange routings.”

    You do know that a simple $300-ish LAX-JFK nonstop roundtrip can easily net more than that MQM requirement already ? No convoluted routing, segment running, or paid F required.

    • I do. But when you live in DFW, there’s that pesky matter of getting to LAX or JFK… and that’s where we get into convoluted routings. Basically, if a project I’d had in NYC hadn’t gotten pushed back to January, I’d have had 1-2 trips for it. 2 straight trips would have done it. Or one in first if I’d detoured through MSP or ATL along the way. Believe me, I ran the math. I just couldn’t justify giving up one of my already-busy weekends in December to take an extra trip… not a priority for me.

  2. Lol 🙂 funny blog. All my elite status levels across 4 airlines are expiring next week. It doesn’t even bug me anymore. Like you said, if I want to pay a little more to fly biz. I will. But most likely I will probably pursue mid tier at least on one alliance. It helps a lot in making travel a bit easier when I fly with family.

    • Its funny how quickly you get over elite status. 🙂 I’m with you… mid-tier does make life easier and I’m glad I have that for life with AA. I don’t know that I’d chase it if I were flying less frequently than what that required though.

      • I do at least 2 to 3 transatlantic flights per year and about 5 domestic flights a year, for business and leisure. We’ll see.

        🙂

  3. It’s refreshing to feel a wide array of options…especially in lodging. I still value OW Emerald and likely will requalify yet again but not fixated on it. Other than using the 6 AA SWUs, my focus will be on carrier quality and places I want to be…though OW has the home court advantage….and thankfully CX, QR and QF.

    • I will likely still do most of my revenue travel on AA – with some DL mixed in just due to schedules/cities served. We are accruing credit card miles with AA and UA… I like the option of having more than one alliance for redemptions!

  4. The status that I found out I LOVE BEST in 2017 was FAMILY BOARDING…the family travel is the absolute best – even if that means the back of the plane! Running from gate to gate stressed but watching the 4 year old in front of me skipping to the next gate just made it. I want to up my status to family traveling!

  5. I was gifted Delta Gold by a kind Diamond Medallion friend. I have lifetime Gold with AA. I was $148 from having enough for status with UA next year. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to fly another flight.

    I don’t really know what happened, but sometime in the last 12 to 24 months, I stopped caring about elite status. I suspect that I’ll be down to just that lifetime Gold with AA by this time next year, and I’m OK with that. When I want first, I’ll buy it…..just did for upcoming flights to a cruise, in fact.

    • I feel you… that’s totally where I am too. I cringed a bit at having spend that was so far beyond the threshold for the next level that it was almost 2 levels up. But my spend will never be the issue with qualifying for airline status, or so I think.

  6. I had given up chasing my Platinum status for AA last year so my status will expire in a few days. I was over it until I received my new Aviator Silver Card. Since I can easily reach $6,000 EQD’s simply by only credit card spend, I figured it would be easy to fly the actual miles needed for Platinum just like the good ole days. With the vacations I have coming up this year to Europe from the West Coast and my vacations to Hawaii and Mexico and the Carribean, I can easily meet the EQM requirement and possibly even make Platinum Pro. With my sub $500 R/T tickets to Europe netting 12,000+ miles each and my free MCE seats already chosen (since I am still Platinum until end of month) I figure I will hit platinum once again by Summer. I am thinking of purchasing the Gold elite offer they sent me to start off so I can use my 500-mile upgrades for now, at least until I start flying longer routes. 99% of my travel is leasure since I don’t travel for business. It’s interesting how I was over it one day and the next, I was given a golden (actual Silver) ticket to avoid what I dreaded most about this new system requirement of EQD’s. Who knows, I may even hit ExPlat. Too bad my kids can’t benefit from this since it requires a CC and they are too young for one. There goes their Elite Status for now as they too will loose their status next week on most airlines except Delta.

    • I can relate! As I said… I feel this way today, but who knows how I’ll feel in 12 months. I have both AA credit card products and get enough spend to get the bonus EQDs and EQMs from both. That said, I don’t need the EQDs with my work spend so the only question will be whether I fly the EQMs! Good luck with your pursuit… I hope you make ExPlat (assuming you still want it after all that flying)!

    • I don’t really see any advantage to Platinum on AA over Gold, except maybe not paying for MCE. Can’t remember the last time I was able to use a 500 mi upgrade, either! Heck — as ExecPlat my husband rarely if ever was getting upgraded for going to Wash DC or San Francisco. One year he had even paid $$s to get back to Exec Plat and not sure it ever helped him. Not wanting to risk being left in Eco, now he just buys those FC tickets … ExPlat only seems to help when there’s an airline problem [except for a last minute cancellation for our hop to DFW requiring us to CANCEL a trip to London for both of us!] Going to Italy last spring, it saved us when one plane after another messed up. I’m pretty sure it was the ExPlat (combined with an agent in the Admiral’s club who spent an hour on phones) that got us on a partner bus class that night. I’ve been trying to talk him out of going nuts to maintain ExPlat for years. Kept trying to get him to use the millions of miles before they weren’t worth anything (which they’re not any more) to no avail cause he HAD to collect the miles for ExPlat.

  7. I stopped a few years back a little ahead of the curve. I think the biggest reason was the huge devaluation of EXP. I am also life time Plat on AA and since all my travel is leisure I decided to get off the train. I have enjoyed the freedom to pick and choose my routes and airlines as I see fit. No more positioning for a AA flight or crazy flights just for miles. I went through a 18 month withdrawal period and felt bad about not flying just to fly . I am well over it now and I see many

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *