Now is a good time to review where you stand with your preferred airline and hotel partners.
If you don’t take action, when the clock ticks to midnight on January 1, your elite status fate for the coming year will be sealed. Since airlines and hotels base elite status and earned rewards on the calendar year, everything must take place before the end of the year.
It’s also a good time to check on when your miles or points might be expiring so you can plan your travel accordingly. And it’s a good time to plan which programs you want to focus your efforts on in the coming year.
What should you do?
Begin by reviewing your airline mileage accounts to see if you need more miles to reach elite status. Double check that your spending is on track to get you to your elite status goal, or if you are working on a credit card waiver with an airline’s affiliated credit card partner, check to make sure you will reach it. Now’s the time to fly more or spend more if needed. A last-ditch effort to buy gift cards is a great way to boost spending in a jiffy.
If you need more airline miles, it might make sense to take a mileage run or a staycation at a nearby hotel if you need more nights to achieve hotel elite status. Spending a few hundred bucks could pay off if it means more upgrades or airline and hotel lounge access in the coming year.
Watch for expiration dates
If you have not traveled with an airline or hotel brand in the past year, it might be wise to check its expiration policy. While not all travel providers put expiration dates on their miles or points, many do, and often the threshold is 18 months. It should be an annual ritual to review your accounts to assure there has been some type of activity to keep them active. This includes accruing more miles or points in the program by flying or spending, or redeeming miles or points for travel, magazine subscriptions or merchandise. Any type of movement in your account can help keep it active since it shows that you are still participating in the program.
What about benefits that might expire?
Elite status often comes with some nice perks like first or business class upgrades, drink coupons or lounge access passes. These all have an expiration date: either the end of the year or within the first two months of the coming year. These swanky extras can occasionally be gifted to someone else so if you don’t plan on using them, be sure to find a friend or colleague that can enjoy them.
The same goes for credit card bonuses like lounge passes, credits for travel-related services and rebates for Global Entry. These can often be spent on someone else and are quite valuable. The only way to squeeze as much from your credit card as possible is to use these benefits; many of these come as part of cards that carry pricy annual fees. It would be a shame to waste them.
Regulations prohibit selling these items, but online forums and points websites often encourage trading them so they don’t go to waste. Also, if your airline or hotel program gives you employee appreciation certificates, be sure to give them out before they expire. Surely, someone has made a positive impression on you in your travels, and this could have a nice impact for them as well.
Did all of your activity post properly?
It is always wise to save copies of boarding passes and receipts until the miles and points post to your account. If you are not in the habit of checking periodically to see credit is coming in when it’s due, be sure to take stock now. Go through all of your travel this year; you may find you were cheated out of some points or miles (especially if it involved partner airlines that may have systems that don’t communicate properly with your airline). Be sure to request missing credit as this can have a big effect on your elite status for the coming year.
It’s time to start over
Based upon your status earned for the coming year, now’s the time to decide the brands you want to continue to patronize in the new year. Will you continue to enjoy the elite status you love? Or have you given up on complicated airline programs and go with the cheapest or most convenient flight or hotel?
It all depends on what is important to you: hotel suite or first class upgrades? Miles and points for free trips? Or simply convenience?
Now’s the time to decide!