Tim’s 2024 Elite Status Plans

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It can be discouraging to see the meters and charts that track our various elite statuses reset to empty as the clock strikes 12:00 on New Year’s Eve. That reset can also be useful, giving us an opportunity to evaluate which statuses we use, which ones we want and which ones give us nothing but an extra brag tag to stuff in the recycling bin.

The FM Team has just emerged from exactly this sort of evaluation. Greg, Nick and Stephen have already shared their plans for elite hunting in 2024; now it’s time for me to spill the status beans. I’ll also include how I plan on earning each one, as well as which of them will be on the menu for Player 2 (aka, my wife).

Tim Steinke

Airline Programs

Alaska MVP Gold 100K

an airplane flying over a bridge
Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines: https://news.alaskaair.com/multimedia/assets/

I’m currently a top-tier MVP Gold 100K with Alaska Airlines, while my wife is an MVP Gold. We plan to requalify again in 2024 and she may even get to MVP Gold 75K, which is Alaska’s second highest elite level. 100K status gives me premium economy seating at booking, free same-day changes, highest priority complimentary first class upgrades for me and a companion, as well as free food and drinks when I do travel in economy. Last year, I flew 37 segments on Alaska and was upgraded to first on 32 of them (~87%), a pretty good ratio compared to many other programs. In addition to the in-flight bling, I also get two “choice benefits” along the way…one upon hitting 75K and another at 100K. The benefit that I always choose is 50,000 redeemable miles, for a total of 100,000 per year.

My wife and I get a ton of value out of our Mileage Plan status, especially since we do almost all of our butt-in-seat Alaska flying on companion fares from several Alaska Visa cards that we have (note that new cardmembers have to spend $6,000 in a calendar year in order to get the companion fare; ours are older cards that have no spending requirement). By using these, we get the majority of my wife’s travel for taxes and fees only…but the fares are upgradeable and earn elite bonuses on miles flown. As a Gold 100K, I get 250% of our actual miles flown as redeemable miles, while my wife gets 200% as a Gold. That means that, if we do a roundtrip flight to New York (~5,000 miles), we end up with ~22,500 redeemable miles. That’s a good stash and doesn’t even factor in the 50,000 mile bonuses we get at 75K and 100K.

This year, I’ll fly around 50-55K miles on Alaska itself (primarily with my wife) and will get another 35K from two open-jaw British Airway business class flights that we’re spreading out over this Summer and Fall. Between those, my wife will be at ~70-75,000 elite-qualifying miles by year’s end and I’ll probably get to ~85-90,000. Whatever we’re missing, we’ll make up by taking another trip or, more likely, utilizing the ability to earn 4,000 EQM’s per $10k spend on the Alaska Visa card (we’ll do most of the spend at 2x). The 50,000 miles that we’ll each get at the next elite level will more than make up for the opportunity cost on the spend. All told, we’ll end up earning ~550,000 redeemable miles for our flying – not counting the miles earned from credit card spend.

As far as statuses go, this is probably the most important for us, and the only airline status that we’ll actively pursue.

American Platinum Pro

a group of airplanes on a board game
The only reason that I have AAdvantage Platinum Pro status is because of the AA Loyalty Games.

AA’s elite qualifying year goes from March 1 to the end of February, as it’s one of the few programs that’s not based on calendar year activity. Because of the FM Loyalty Points Game, I currently have AAdvantage Platinum Pro status through end of February. I got the status without crediting a single flight to AA, simply because we were all trying to explore the new AAdvantage program and see what was possible. Plus, since I was the new guy, I needed to show that I could hang with Greg, Nick and Stephen :). Since I already have oneworld Emerald status and good benefits when traveling on AA due to being an Alaska 100K, there’s effectively no reason to shoot for status with AA. Because of that, I’ll be going down to a regular, normie AAdvantage member come March 1st.

United Premier Silver

I don’t fly United much… like, two or three times in the last three or four years much. Still, I have had United Silver status for several years as a perk of being a Marriott Titanium.  While I do enjoy having increased access to United and Star Alliance awards, I don’t fly United or Star Alliance enough for Silver to make much of a difference to me. This won’t be a factor in deciding whether or not to go for Marriott Titanium again this year.

Hotel Programs

Hilton Diamond

a room with a bed and chairs
Pacific View King Room, Waldorf Astora Los Cabos Pedregal (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Currently, both my wife and I are Hilton Diamond members due to previously having had the Amex Hilton Aspire card. Wait, you say, what do mean, previously? Hilton is pretty lax about letting people keep Diamond after downgrading, or sometimes even cancelling, the Aspire card. After we got our anniversary free night certificates last year, I downgraded each of our Aspires to Surpass cards in order to spend $15K on each one for another round of free night certificates (knowing that we would be using them this year). Doing that, I assumed that we would remain Diamond for the rest of 2023 and probably 2024 as well. That’s exactly what happened, and we both just got a note congratulating us on reaching Diamond for 2024.

Unlike most industry folks, I actually think that Diamond provides better benefits than Hilton Gold, perhaps because almost all of my Hilton stays are international. I find that my upgrades are better and I like having access to lounges even if I’m not on a club floor. If one of our statuses does dip down to Gold this year, I’ll probably upgrade back up to an Aspire card so that we can be Diamond during our planned stays in 2024. In fact, I may do it anyway before our card anniversaries to try and snag a couple more free night certs. Regardless, I’m planning on maintaining Hilton Diamond.

Hyatt Globalist

Club lounge at Hyatt Regency Aqaba

Anyone who reads FM knows that we love Hyatt as a whole, and Hyatt Globalist in particular. In my opinion, there’s simply no better hotel program or top-tier elite status. I’ll definitely make sure that I keep it for 2025.

Globalist requires 60 elite night credits in a year. I get 5 nights for being a World of Hyatt (WOH) credit cardholder and another 5 for sharing my annual Guest of Honor upgrades. In addition, I always spend $15K on the WOH card (in 2x categories) in order to get a Category 1-4 free night certificate. I’ll get two elite night credits for each $5k that I spend on the card, so all told, I’ll have 16 nights before I factor in my actual stays.

While I rarely ever pay cash for Hyatt stays, because we can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards 1-1 to World of Hyatt, I spend ~35-40 nights each year with my butt in an actual Hyatt bed. So, I’ll probably naturally end up somewhere around 50-55 nights. I’ll make up the difference to 60 through spending $10K on the Hyatt Business card, which will give me an additional five elite night credits.

IHG Diamond

a patio with chairs and a grill on a deck
Outdoor firepits at the Intercontinental Monterey

2022 was the first time that I had IHG Diamond status, because of a brief hack that gave it to me for free towards the end of the year. I kept it in 2023 by renewing my IHG Ambassador status, which used to automatically extend Diamond for a full year…an option that unfortunately is no longer with us (R.I.P.). Towards the end of 2023, IHG offered current Diamond members the opportunity to extend status for a year by buying points at a non-competitive rate…it was effectively like spending $360-600 for a year of Diamond. That was a bit rich for my blood, but I thought that there might be an opportunity to extend my status for two years by renewing very late on New Year’s Eve (we’d previously seen that happen when the Ambassador hack was still alive).

The good news? It worked (for others). The bad news? I got involved in a board game on New Year’s Eve and completely spaced off doing it. So, now I’m back down to the Platinum status that I get from my IHG cards.

Since IHG re-jiggered its award program, Diamond has become much more appealing…especially at Intercontinental and Kimpton properties, where I’ve had some really nice stays over the last year. So, my plan is to acquire Diamond status through 2025 by spending $40K on my IHG Premier Business card in the first half of 2024.

The IHG Business card card also gives me a $100 statement credit and 20,000 bonus points after $20K in spend. If I can do the majority of the spend within the card’s plethora of 5x categories, I’ll end up with 220,000 points and $100, along with Diamond status, once the $40K is complete. By comparison, if I did that spend on a 2% cashback card, I’d get $800 total, for a difference of $700. Since I’m getting ~$1100 in points, as well as ~18 months of Diamond, I think that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Marriott Titanium

Marriott is such a tough program for me. It probably has the best portfolio of properties among all the major hotel brands, but the elite program is incredibly inconsistent. Regardless, Titanium status does offer some incremental benefits that put it above Platinum, but for me the most meaningful is the ability to select a 40K free night certificate as a choice benefit.

The difference between the requirements of Platinum and Titanium is 25 nights. I’ve never really tried to hit Titanium but, since I start with 40 nights from holding the Bonvoy Brilliant and Bonvoy Business cards, I’ve been able to reach it for several years running due to the frequent double elite night promos that Marriott periodically runs.

2024 will be similar. I have ~15-20 nights planned via actual stays at Marriott properties. If there’s a double elite night promo, I’ll probably hit Titanium. If not, I’ll be fine getting bumped down to Platinum next year.

Wyndham Diamond

The Wyndham Earner Business credit card is a fixture in my wallet and will continue to be due to its 8x earning at gas stations; a sweet earning rate given the terrific value that can be had through redeeming Wyndham points on Vacasa vacation rentals. Wyndham Earner Business cardholders earn Wyndham Diamond simply by having the card and, while I don’t have the opportunity to darken the doors of many Wyndham properties, the easy pathway it provides to Caesar’s Diamond makes it a useful (and easy) status to have around.

Casino Programs

a city street with cars and buildings

Caesar’s Diamond

I have Caesar’s Diamond status due to a match from Wyndham (because of the Wyndham Earner business card). Caesars has recently thrown some wrenches in the status match works, but as of this writing, folks whose Wyndham Diamond status comes from holding the credit card have been able to re-match to Caesars Diamond. Once my Caesars status drops on February 1st, I’ll apply for another match and expect to be successful.

There’s a ton of opportunity to leverage Caesar’s status into free cruises. That said, I’m not really into cruising and, as a result, I haven’t done much with my Caesar’s status thus far. One of my goals in 2024 is to change that and finally get to jump on a floating hotel for (almost) free.

MGM

The demise of the Hyatt/MGM partnership means that my MGM status went back down to a big, fat nothing this year. That said, in 2024, Marriott and MGM will (hopefully) at long last announce the details of their new partnership. Once that happens, we may have some new status-matching opportunities…it’s something I’ll be on the lookout for in the next couple of months.

Car Rental Programs

a black car parked in a building

National Executive

There’s a bunch of ultra-premium cards that offer free National Executive status as a benefit. The biggest perk of the status is that you can rent a mid-size car and pick from the Executive Selection of vehicles. However, it usually doesn’t matter to me what kind of car I get and I almost always find better rates with Budget or Hertz. Accordingly, I rarely rent from National. Still, as a status that I don’t have to spend anything to maintain, it’s worthwhile for those few times that I do.

Hertz President’s Circle

I currently have Hertz President Circle Status via my Capital One Venture X card. This will end on 12/31/24, but it’s also a benefit of the Amex Platinum card, so I’ll be keeping it nonetheless. Budget and Hertz are the two companies that I rent the most from, due to great shopping portal rates, Amazon’s partnership with Budget and the ability to get an extra four hours grace period at the end of a Hertz rental via Platinum cards – probably the rental car perk that I value the most. Hertz has had a rough last couple of years, with reports of the company arresting people after returning vehicles. However, my personal experience with them has been great.

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27 Comments
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dave

Regarding the Ambassador “hack” that also awarded Diamond – in my profile it says I have Diamond until 12/31/24 – is that correct or they just haven’t downgraded me yet?

Chris Wright

Hi Tim. Great post. Would love a post from you on how to maximize the value of the companion pass and any tricks you have learned. Also curious how fast you can apply for biz Alaska cards, I got one in November and one last March, but the 75k offer is enticing.

Steven

so If I status match Marriott Platinum to Wyndham Diamond, then Caesars won’t accept my match? Caesars only accept Wyndham Business CC Diamond match?

Lee

Correct. It has to be an earned status and not a matched status.

Lee

Tim, a truly impressive list.

Don’t forget that if you achieve AA Platinum Pro, a milestone benefit at 100k Loyalty Points is Avis President’s Club. Although, Hertz status does offer a jail cell upgrade.

Regarding MGM, in April, it and Marriott should release details about their partnership. It might well be that your Marriott Titanium will deliver some level of MGM benefits or status. Where Hyatt loses, Marriott gains. Improvise, adapt, and overcome. Ooh-rah.

Aloha808

Semper fi

Tyler C

Thanks for the insight Tim! Could you keep us updated on your Hilton Diamond plan throughout the year and how that works out for you?

Tyler C

Exactly

DC not in DC

Tim’s posts are the most relevant to me. I just flew back from Fairbanks, starting my requalification for AS. Though only a Gold 75K, I hope AS keeps the butt in seat metric for elite status. Maybe I should have kept my old AS personal credit card. I only kept my business card. P2 and I will open new AS cards once or twice a year for the SUB.

Albert

Don’t forget about President’s club status with Avis through your 100k status with Alaska.

LSP

Great post, Tim. How do you use all your Alaska miles?

Vince

Tim, thanks for the good info. Some questions regarding Alaska:
-any tips on using the upgrade certs that come with status? Have had at -~12 of these over time and have only successfully used about 4 of them as flight availability for these is usually poor or of marginal value for my searches.
-can the spend for EQMs be done both on the personal and business AS Visas? Likewise, can the EQMs by spend be earned on multiple personal AS Visas for those who have them?
-when upgraded to first on a a paid ticket, does the first class bonus multiplier apply? Or are the miles earned based on the base fare of purchase?
Thanks again for your help!

Beth

Just thinking- Re Hyatt and credit card spent—gaining credit for nights in order to earn status is your point–but this statement: “In addition, I always spend $15K on the WOH card (in 2x categories) in order to get a Category 1-4 free night certificate.” ignores the opportunity cost of spending $15,000 on a credit card.

It’s not hard to get 2% cash back with a Citi Double Cash-and others–or even more (BOA premium, first year discover,etc.) Which means you’re giving up at least $300 and as much as $450 to get a free cat 1-4 certificate. would you pay that much for one of those certificates? I highly doubt it.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Don’t forget the value of the points that Tim earns. If he spends $15K in 2x categories, then he gets all of the following:

  • 30K Hyatt points
  • Cat 1-4 free night
  • 6 elite nights

Vs. if he puts the spend on a BOA card earning 2.62% he would earn just under $400. I’d argue that the Hyatt points alone are worth considerably more than $400 so this is a decent use of Tim’s spend.

Beth

True. He is not spending 15K just to gain the certificate–.my point was that he says he always does it for that reason.

It’s just a reminder to think about opportunity cost and I don’t think all of us do that regularly. Especially when we start playing this game

Cash doesn’t expire, can be used everywhere for anything, and –aside from inflation–is not subject to random, unannounced, massive devaluations.

Vince

I can see that value, but wonder how to hit 15K in those categories for that card — that is either a lot of local transit or gym memberships (!) Or results in a lot of opportunity cost away from cards that give a better category bonus (3-6x on restaurants for many other cards). The opp cost for everyday spend varies based on your comparator, but what about paying taxes at 1x for 1.82%? makes it cost neutral (based on RRV) at minimum for the points earned (or like buying Hyatt points for 1.82 cents each). It’s about $270 for the 15k points and then there’s the FNC and elite nights.

Josh

Yes. But how about- vs the freedom unlimited with the recent offer.
I am having trouble justifying spending almost anywhere else. The 15k here, would be at least 45k chase (hyatt) points and potentially much more.

Dave Hanson

Very helpful Great writeup Tim, and it’s a really nice complement to Greg, Nick and Stephen’s.

It’s great that you have several grandfathered Alaska Visas. Like Barclays, BofA seems more generous than some banks about not removing preferential terms when they devalue a card for new applicants.

FWIW I share both your enthusiasm for Hyatt and your finding of real value in IHG Diamond. You are the first blogger I can recall who’s decided to CC spend back to Diamond. If I weren’t hitting it organically with 40 stays, I would do the same. I wouldn’t try for 5x category bonuses, just because other cards tend to offer much better returns on those categories, and 5x is only approximately 1 cent per dollar return over base spend’s 3x. But even with stay requalification last year, I did spend 20k, mixed between IHG spend and base spend, to capture the $100 and 10K points bonuses.

I wasn’t aware of Budget’s Amazon partnership…interesting, thanks for that!

For many readers, the Wyndham business earner offers the single best value proposition among all CCs. The 8x gas return is exceptional as you note, but I find the 5x in essentially all utility categories more unusual and for us at least, more valuable.

Again, great writeup! Thanks for sharing.