Wrapping Up Status At The End Of The Year Can Lead To Challenges

Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to earn lifetime status with your favorite airline or hotel chain, keeping those benefits that you value so highly is a yearly requirement. Virtually every loyalty program you’ll come across recognizes your achievements over a calendar year and offers you benefits in the current and following years based on those achievements.

Starwood Preferred Guest is no exception, and also one of my favorite hotel chains.  I carry the Starwood Preferred American Express because I believe it’s one of the most flexible and rewarding cards out there.  This card will also help you get a head-start on status each year, awarding 2 stay credits and 5 night credits each year you renew the card.  If you have both the personal and business version of this card,that means you have 4 of your 10 stays to achieve Gold status or 4 of 25 toward Platinum.  A great head start.

I’ve enjoyed their top-tier (Platinum) status for the past 6 years.  Over the past year they rolled out a number of changes to the loyalty program, all positive IMO.  I’m a big advocate of making sure you re-qualify early in the year so as to avoid complications. But, this year, I’ve found myself trying to get some last-minute stays in to qualify for a new Platinum tier they rolled out that’s available to members who stay 100 nights in a calendar year.  I had no intention of trying to qualify for this at the beginning of the year, but I realized in mid-November I had roughly 85 nights with another 10 or so before the end of the year.  Could I find another handful of nights in an SPG property to try out their new status level?  The travel junkie in me said sure!

I had everything lined up to hit 100 nights on the button for the end of the year, which is another thing I try to avoid.  But, I’ve had one stay from late November that hasn’t posted correctly.  The stay credit posted correctly but the nights for that stay never posted to my account.  So, here I sit just a few days before the end of the year exactly 2 nights short of 100.

I’ve had about half a dozen e-mail conversations with the Platinum concierge I use most frequently.  After that, I moved onto someone in the Platinum Liaison team, who was unable to help me further but recommended I follow up with the research team.  Just shy of 30 days later there’s still no resolution.

So, what to do in a situation like this?  Well, this is where mileage runs and mattress runs come into a play.  Mileage runs are where you hop on a plane to fly, essentially, nowhere.  Your goal for the flight is to earn miles, so the destination isn’t important.  Similarly, a mattress run is booking a cheap hotel room you don’t actually plan to stay in.  Since it’s now the weekend (and Monday is New Year’s Eve), unless I get a satisfactory answer today it’s unlikely I’ll see these nights post before the end of the year.  Rather than risk the chance they never post correctly, I’ll go ahead and book either a cheap stay or an award stay for 2 nights to finish out the year at exactly 100 nights.  One of SPG’s changes this year that allowed me to get to 100 nights was the inclusion of award stays in status calculation, so if rates were particularly high right now I could use points to make an award stay somewhere.  However, rates are generally pretty low between Christmas and New Years, so it’s likely I’ll be able to find a cheap room at an SPG property somewhere.

It’s not ideal, but I’ll take the insurance policy this weekend and remind myself again not to get so close to end of the year without having all my i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

Here’s hoping you’ve already finished your travel and status achievements for the year.  It starts all over again next week!

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