One of the most common questions in the Travel on Point(s) Facebook group is whether going after status with an airline or hotel brand is worth it. Elite status is certainly enticing. Who doesn't enjoy complimentary upgrades and other freebies? But the question we must ask ourselves is whether elite status is worth it. Is it worth spending time, money, and effort to achieve that status? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but we lay out some factors to consider in reaching your own conclusion.
Is Elite Status Worth it?
You can obtain airline and hotel status in different ways. The most common method is actually flying or spending nights at hotels. Spending lots of money on a co-branded card can be a shortcut to status with some airlines or hotels too. But regardless of the method, achieving status requires time, money, and effort from even the savviest travelers.
Many of the benefits expected from elite status are pretty obvious. These include free upgrades, lounge access, free breakfast (with hotels), and higher points earning on spend. But should we all pursue these perks?
We each have different travel patterns and needs that affect the amount of work required to get status. Our own travel habits will also affect how beneficial these perks will actually be for any one of us. On one end of the spectrum, road warriors typically achieve status without much effort or out of pocket costs. At the opposite end might be those who take only one or two big trips per year.
Is Elite Status Worth it? What to Consider
How often do you expect to travel over the next year? This is the first point you should consider. Do you expect any life-changing events that could affect your ability to travel? These could include starting a new job or scheduling major surgery. If you only expect to travel once or twice in the next year, it might be cheaper to pay out of pocket for breakfast or a suite upgrade instead of getting status for that one stay. The same goes for checking bags or scoring better seats on a flight.
Are you willing to commit to limiting future travel to that one airline or hotel brand? Status perks are only worth it if you actually use them. How much are you willing to only fly one airline or stay at one hotel chain in your future travels so you can enjoy those upgrades and other perks? For example, if you are considering Hyatt status, make sure Hyatt has properties wherever you plan to visit.
Will you have enough points to enjoy your elite status? If you go through all the work of obtaining status, you should make sure you can afford the flight or hotel room you need to enjoy the perks. For example, if you spend a lot of points on mattress runs to earn elite status, can you replenish that balance in time for your next trip? Will you have other ways to earn those points, such as by transferring from a credit card partner?
Will you actually use the benefits? Free parking and free breakfast sound great, but will you actually use those if you’re staying in Paris? Surely you’d like to check out that bakery across the street where locals are enjoying some fresh pastries. And it’s unlikely you will rent a car there. But what if you're visiting a resort where breakfast can cost $50 per person or even more? This is common in places like the Maldives or Bora Bora. Make sure to consider which of the benefits you could see yourself using in your future trips.
Do the program’s benefits work for you and your travel needs? Not every loyalty program is created equal. Some airlines offer great flexibility for their elite members, which helps those who often book last-minute flights. Also, you should consider the footprint of the airline or hotel. Status with Southwest Airlines is likely more useful for someone based in Baltimore or Houston than in Detroit.
For hotels, consider what types of perks are guaranteed for elites instead of offered subject to availability. For example, if you travel with children and must have a suite so you can stay up after the little ones fall asleep, Hyatt will be a better option than Marriott.
What do your travel companions value? Before you spend time, money, and effort going after status, discuss the potential benefits with your travel companions. For example, you might think your spouse and kids would enjoy a big suite. But what if they're only looking for a clean place to sleep because you'll be out all day seeing the sights? Don't set yourself up for disappointment by chasing after something you think your travel companions will enjoy only to learn they don't really value it the same way you do.
Why are you considering going after status? Are you pursuing status because you actually expect to use and enjoy elite perks? Is it because of FOMO from seeing posts about it on Facebook and other social media?
Assess the true effort of earning status. How much time, cash, points, effort, and mental bandwidth will chasing status take up? Be honest with your estimates here. You don't want to reach the end of the year so far from your goal that your efforts will go unrewarded.
Is Elite Status Worth it?: ToP Thoughts
Elite status with airlines and hotels open up a world of perks. But achieving status almost always requires planning and effort. Before chasing status with any program, it's important to consider the costs and whether you will use and enjoy the perks. Ultimately, you must ask yourself the simple question: is it worth it? The answer depends on each person’s individual situation. We hope that the factors raised here help you make an informed decision on whether to chase status.
Are you chasing status with any program? Come join our Facebook group to share your thought process and learn how others have approached elite status!