IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Status vs. Status

As a frequent traveler, I belong to all the "award" programs. Platinum this and Gold that. But unlike most frequent travelers, I'm not very strategic about it. If a conference is at a Hilton, I stay at the Hilton (not the Marriott across the street). If it's at a Marriott, I stay at the Marriott (not the Hilton across the street).

Some people are rabid "points" aficionados. They go on and on about how this credit card gets you these benefits, these passes, these upgrades, etc. My brain gets tired just trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B without sitting in the back of a small plane.

I have to admit, I've been Delta "Platinum" for a few years - but I have no idea how to work the system.

I'll easily fly another 30,000 miles between now and early December. So I'll have the miles I need. But I don't think I'll spend enough money to get past Gold. The same thing happened last year, but some stars aligned and I renewed the Platinum.

The reward programs refer to this as Status. What's your status? Are you Silver, Gold, or Platinum?

Of course this isn't real status. You don't buy real status: Your earn it.

As a non-coupon-clipper, I find all the complicated rules too much trouble to keep track of. (This is the same reason I don't follow sports.) In the long run, here's what I think is really going on:

  • If you can afford to always fly Business or First Class, and you fly a lot, you might reach the top tier.
  • If you get the airline credit card, and spend lots of money on it, you are much more likely to get the top tier.

Both of these strategies consist of buying your way to "status." After all, the airlines are in the business of making money. They don't award status points based on your good looks or zip code.

In a separate realm, I'm not a huge believer in credit cards. I'd rather pay cash in advance whenever possible. As a result, I'm never paying $500 for a credit card just so I can get a jump up on the race for status.

No exaggeration here: I will forget to use the benefits. I always do. I am ending 2019 with five suite upgrade nights and a free night at Marriott. Every year I give up a companion pass on Hawaiian because I forget it's there. So if I added a gaggle of additional paid-for benefits with a $500 card, I would forget those as well.

Here's what brings me value (Inside my head. Your mileage may vary.):

1) When I book airfare, I buy it as far in advance as I can. That gets me a great price.

2) I also balance price with convenience and comfort.

3) When it makes sense, I buy airfare and hotel together on Travelocity. The price is often amazing, but you get zero rewards for the hotel nights.

For example, on my recent trip from San Jose to Manchester England to Seattle to LAX, I bought the tickets five months in advance. I paid $930, and was either Comfort Plus or First Class the whole way. BUT the airfare portion of that trip, without the taxes and fees, was just under $360. As a result, it did me very little good toward renewing my Status.

Some people make points runs in order to get status. So, this time of year, they are looking at spending $3,000 or $5,000 in order to get the dollar spend needed to reach Platinum. Inside my head, that doesn't make any sense.

This wouldn't work for me because I would insist on staying wherever I go. I'd spend at least four days at the location before heading back. So that adds hotels, taxis, and food to the spend.

Because I buy tickets far in advance, I can buy legroom and comfort for $50-150 per leg of the trip. It takes a LOT of hops to spend the extra $3,000-$5,000.

The bottom line for me: I'm not buying status. I'll take what I can get. And if I end up paying for my own upgrades next year, I'll be just fine.

No points runs for me.

:-)

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About the Author

Karl W. Palachuk, is a technology consultant, author, speaker, trainer, and coach. He is the author of fifteen books. He has built several successful businesses, including two managed services companies. His books include Managed Services in a Month and The Network Documentation Workbook. Karl is a frequent trainer and speaker in the SMB Community. His popular blog can be found at SmallBizThoughts.com. He has more than twenty years experience as an I.T. professional and serves on advisory panels for several hardware and software companies.

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