When Status Matters

This is a story about four statuses.  Travel loyalty statuses, to be specific. And how your travel could be a lot more rewarding if you have one.

The story starts back in 2013 when I was still doing a lot of work travel at my old job. I stayed a few times in Starwood hotels, and while I wasn’t traveling enough to hit their “gold” loyalty status, I was apparently traveling enough to make their marketing database take notice.

And so on that fateful day, I got an email about a status challenge.

“Sign up and stay X more nights in 2013,” it said, “and you can get Starwood Gold status for two years.”

“Sweet,” I thought.

And so, for the past two years I’ve had Starwood Gold status, entitling me to late checkout, free room upgrades, check in bonuses and more. It’s been pretty nice, and it’s worked out well for Starwood too, as they had been my preferred hotel brand ever since.

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Until…Starwood announced they were being acquired by Marriott. I loathe Marriott. Horrible rewards program, horrible customer service, horrible beds in their hotels.

And that’s where this story starts to get interesting.

As it turns out, a lot of people that were loyal to Starwood loathe Marriott.  And so, Hyatt, being the smart cookie that they are, started targeting people complaining about the merger on social media with a status match offer towards the end of 2015.

I assumed my SPG Gold status would get me matched to Hyatt Platinum, which comes with a similar range of benefits.  But lo and behold, their marketing team upped the ante.  After sending proof of my Starwood status and qualifying stays, Hyatt emailed me back with a new status: Diamond.

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Hyatt Diamond status, their highest tier, comes with all sorts of goodies like free breakfast, free club-level access, free suite certificates.  I’d basically hit the upgrade jackpot. And yet, I wasn’t done.

In my new job, I also do a fair bit of travel, but it’s almost all to Las Vegas, where we hold several large week-long customer conferences.  These are always booked in the MGM-brand hotels. And it just so happens that MLife, the loyalty program for the MGM brand, has a deal with Hyatt.

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A quick phone call to MLife customer service, and they were able to verify my Hyatt Diamond status entitled me to MLife Platinum status, which means automatic room upgrades, skip the line passes to Vegas cafes and buffets, priority VIP checkin, priority taxi line, etc.  Basically I just took all the hassle out of a trip to Vegas with one quick phone call and status match.

But I still wasn’t done. With my newly minted MLife status in hand, I placed a call to Celebrity Cruises, where we have an Alaska cruise booked next summer. Celebrity also has an agreement in place with Mlife. I gave them my MLife number, gave them my reservation number, and voila – I suddenly had access to a slew of new benefits like priority checkin, complimentary specialty dining, free drink tickets, and more.

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So for those keeping track, I essentially traded my Starwood Gold status for Hyatt Diamond, MLife Platinum, and Celebrity Cruises special benefits.

The beauty in all of this? It cost me nothing. I didn’t spend a single dime that I wouldn’t have already spent in order to get these perks and upgrades; it just took paying a bit of attention to current promotions and partnerships and asking politely.

And this isn’t even the first time this has happened.  In 2012, that same original work travel resulted in my obtaining A-List status with Southwest.  JetBlue gave me a status challenge based on my A-List status, which I completed, earning Mosaic status. And my Mosaic status was enough for Virgin American to match me to Elevate Silver status.

I even have status with a bunch of rental car companies through similar matches, despite almost never using rental cars. It’s like magic.

The moral of this story is a simple one: status matches (where you simply get status for having a comparable status) and status challenges (where you get status for completing a reduced list of requirements) exist in the industry, and they’re not even particularly rare.

If you can earn one status, you can usually parlay that into several others.  As always, be polite when asking and you may just be surprised what you can get in return. Happy travels!

Whitney