Is Lifetime Status Worth It?

I’m not entirely sure why, but WordPress decided to burp up one of my posts from 2012 last night and e-mail it out to all of my subscribers.  So, first, apologies to those that got it and didn’t want it.  It covered my thoughts on lifetime status as I saw it back in 2012, almost 2 years ago.

Scott from Hack My Trip weighed in with a comment last night asking my thoughts on the difference of investing in miles or lifetime status.  To wit, are you better off accruing miles for use on airlines you want to fly and/or taking the most direct route or comfortable plane without regards to any loyalty status you might have?  Or, are you better off sacrificing in these areas in order to achieve lifetime status which might pay off more further down the road?

While there haven’t been many examples I can recall of lifetime status being devalued, it has happened and needs to be factored into any decision to chase it.  Most recently, about 2 years ago United devalued lifetime status somewhat by reducing the benefits that MileagePlus Gold received.  They supplemented the benefits by extending status to the spouses of lifetime members and introducing a way for folks to earn lifetime Global Service (4MM miles flown, yikes!). There were winners and losers, for sure.

I strongly believe lifetime status is worth it, but I do think it can be situational.  For example, I’ve already achieved lifetime Platinum status on American Airlines (though I currently hold their top-tier status, Executive Platinum).  That means I can qualify for domestic upgrades and maintain a fairly high place on the list to clear those upgrades as long as I’m willing to pay for certificates once in a while.  I also receive a 100% mileage bonus when I fly on American or oneworld carriers.

What if they took one or both of those benefits away?  That would certainly suck since I already put the effort into achieving the status.  But, those concerns have to be tempered with devaluation of the miles you might be trying to achieve.  United had it’s blood-letting late in 2013 and I expect that American will follow suit in some fashion later this year.  Delta likes its members so much it decided to jack redemption prices on them twice in the past couple months.

At a basic level, I think miles will devalue more than lifetime status will.  By definition, lifetime status ends when you do.  While I’m sure the airlines are tempted to dilute these programs, they don’t likely cause meaningful change to the bottom line.  But, if the CFO decides to change one number in a spreadsheet (making awards more expensive), the financial picture can change very quickly.  I also think that most airlines will find ways to soften changes to lifetime status.  Even while United was making parts of its MM program weaker by virtue of changing their elite tiers, they added spouse benefits and a path to lifetime Global Services.  I certainly don’t applaud them for this, but it could have been worse.

What are your thoughts?  Scott, I’m looking at you!

For the record, here’s where I stand on lifetime status:

American Airlines:  Lifetime Gold status at 1MM miles flown, lifetime Plat at 2MM.  Codeshare miles count towards lifetime status.

Achieved the top-tier American offers for lifetime status (Platinum).

United Airlines:  Lifetime Gold at 1MM miles flown.  Lifetime Platinum at 2 MM, 1K at 3MM and Global Services 4MM.  Based on actual miles flown on United metal making it harder to achieve.

I have 300K lifetime miles.  I need 1MM to get lifetime Gold status.  2 years ago I said this was a long shot when I was at 100K.  I no longer view this as a long shot unless United moves the goal post.  I’ll hit this at some point, I suspect.  But, my dissatisfaction from United will likely slow my progress towards it.  I’ve already booked away from them twice in 2014.  I’ll still likely end up with better than 50K miles on them this year.  Not on my radar to start pushing for this yet and likely not for another 5 years.

Hyatt:  Spend $200K at Hyatt hotels.  Be a member for 10 years.  Period, end of sentence.

I’m about halfway there.  In one sense, I’ll be disappointed if they make this easier to achieve, as I got through half of it the hard way.  But, if my travel patterns were to change I don’t think I’d ever get to $100K in additional spend on my own.  I’m averaging about 10% progress a year (another 5 years-ish to go at current pace) but I hope that pace doesn’t continue (more time home with the family, please).

SPG:  Lifetime Gold for 250 nights and 5 years as an elite member.  Lifetime Plat for 500 nights and 10 years as a Platinum member.

79 nights to go and 3 years as a Platinum.  I’m likely to get most of those 79 nights this year.  I’ll do my best to keep Platinum status the next 3 years to finish this one off.  This one seems to be a lock at this point.


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    1. You never struck me as a runway girl, but maybe with a cute wig and a razor….

      If you were starting today, I think you’d likely need business travel to sustain a push to worthwhile lifetime status if you were in your 30s or 40s. But, if you were in your 20s I still think there’s enough value to consider. For me, the value to lifetime status is the cushion in my later years to NOT have to figure out how to get the benefits each time I fly. I did compromise earlier in my travel career to achieve lifetime status (moving SPG points to American Airlines) but I don’t do nearly as much now as I used to. For the average traveler, the pursuit of lifetime status with the airlines is still something I would consider. I know your thoughts on hotel status, so not sure we’d even get that argument started. 😉

  1. I am primarily a leisure traveler, so don’t let status dictate my travels too much. Having said that, I get mid-level status with credit cards (hotels) so do pay attention to where our options to sleep are, yet it frees me up to use VRBO or priceline as it isn’t that big of a deal to get my room upgrade or late check out, in general. AIrline status, other than the first 25K BIS (which is very hard to do and hold down a full time job and a family), is a dream for those of us who work near home. On the other hand we eat dinner at home most nights and see the family. That is the trade off.

    1. Laura, you hit on one of the primary reasons I want lifetime status. I want to be able to enjoy those benefits later in life when I have time to spend with my family. I would certainly trade in the benefits so I could have dinner with my family now, but that’s not currently an option.

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