The Frugal Travel Guy Shares: How To Earn Elite Status with Airlines and Hotels

To get all the perks and privileges that non-Elite travelers miss out on. 


May 5, 2011 (Hilton Head Island, SC) – Even the most casual traveler is aware of airlines’ frequent flier mile rewards programs for using their airline, and the fact that the more you miles have, the more free travel you can enjoy. Yet most casual travelers are not aware of the many additional perks that come with accruing enough frequent flier miles to warrant “Elite Status.”

Travel hackers like Rick Ingersoll know all about Elite Status. Ingersoll, better known to frequent travelers and fellow travel hackers as “The Frugal Travel Guy” for the popular blog he authors by the same name, explains how anyone can earn “Elite Status” with airlines and hotels to receive all the privileges and perks non-elite travelers miss out on.

“The frequent flier game began as a way to promote customer loyalty,” he said. “Elite status within an airlines rewards program does the same thing. Each airline is a little different, but the standard rule is that if you fly 25,000 miles in a year, you achieve ‘low level Elite’ with that airline.”

According toIngersoll, there are three levels of Elite Status: silver, gold and platinum. Each level brings with it increasing benefits based on the number of “butt in seat” miles you have with that airline. “And when it comes to frequent flier miles, the more ‘Elite’ you are, the more perks you receive,” he said.

A silver elite member may get 1.25 to 1.5 miles frequent flier miles for every mile flown on his or her preferred carrier. Gold members get two miles for every mile flown, and Platinum members may get as high as 2.25 miles per mile flown in addition to unlimited upgrades to first class. The names of the top tier programs vary according to the airline in question.

“Elite members also receive free upgrades to first class when available or with credits they receive for so many miles flown,” Ingersoll said. “Elite status is really helpful in the event that you miss a connection or have to stay overnight at an intermediate city. The airlines take care of their Elite members.”

Airlines often hold more award seats for Elite members and provide Elite members with better seating on all flights, Ingersoll explained, such as access to the exit row or bulkhead seats.

“If you fly enough to reach Elite status, you appreciate having an exit row with plenty of leg room, especially if you’re flying overseas.”

Elite Status fliers can often make changes to their award tickets without charge and will also receive priority standby status on oversold flight.

If you travel frequently but aren’t an Elite member yet, Ingersoll suggests you make a point to study the Elite program of your favorite carrier.

“Sometimes at year’s end, it is actually worth doing a ‘mileage run’ [a paid airline trip designed solely for gaining maximum frequent flyer miles, points or status] just to get the last few miles you need to achieve Elite status,” he said. “Elite status has made it possible for my wife and me to fly to Europe and get enough frequent flier miles from that one trip for a free, domestic round-trip ticket.”

Hotel Elite

The same rules apply for achieving Elite Status with hotel chains, he noted. “The more often you stay at a hotel that offers Elite Status tiers, the higher you’re status will be. And all hotel chains have awards programs.”

Hilton’s HHonors, for example, offer four levels of Elite status. Members earn and maintain elite tier status based on stays, nights, or points earned in any calendar year. “Sometimes just taking out a credit card with a hotel chain gives you elite status for a year,” Ingersoll said, “such as Hilton’s HHonors American Express Surpass card, Marriott’s Reward Premier Visa, Best Western’s World MasterCard and Hyatt’s Visa.”

For their extended honeymoon, Ingersoll and his wife Katy spent one week at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in an oceanfront room for free. How?

“By using the points I accumulated applying for Hilton’s credit card, by staying at a few Hampton Inns, by Walking For The Cure with the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and by generally keeping our eyes open for Hilton Honors Points,” he said. “We also spent four nights at the Rome Cavaleri Hilton on points accumulated instead of the $480 per night we would have paid without them.”

The key to earning Elite status and rewards points with hotel chains, Ingersoll said, is to stay aware of what they’re offering.

“It changes nearly every year, but the rewards are well worth the time it takes to keep your eyes on the prize.”

For more information on Rick Ingersoll and to keep up with all of his travel hacking tips and techniques, visit his blog at http://frugaltravelguy.com.

About The Frugal Travel Guy:

Rick Ingersoll is the author of The Frugal Travel Guy Blog, which is read around the world and averages 5000 views per day, and The Frugal Travel Guy Handbook. He is constantly on the lookout for the best credit card and debit card sign-up bonuses. He posts travel tips daily on debit and credit card deals and on other interesting promotions with the goal of reducing his readers’ travel costs today and for the rest of their lives. He is also available for seminars and speaking engagements. A retired mortgage banker, Ingersoll and his wife live in Hilton Head Island, SC, and Traverse City, MI, when they’re not traveling the globe. For more information visit www.frugaltravelguy.com.

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