Today’s post will outline a significant route to elite status with travel loyalty programs for less than half the qualifications. Status matches and challenges are well known in the “travel hacking world.” Most, including myself, until three years ago, aren’t aware of this fantastic option!
A status match is leveraging your current Elite Status with another travel program to obtain the same status level. Status matches automatically grant you the equivalent status level with your matching company. By deciding to match, you’re indicating that you want to move your business to the program you’re matching.
A status challenge is a shortcut for year one to earn Elite Status with a loyalty program. The loyalty program you’re looking to reach Elite Status will give you a set time to achieve a certain amount of qualifications to earn their Elite Status.
Currently, United Airlines offers a status match challenge for 120 days. If you qualify, you’ll keep your earned status, but if you fail, you’ll return to your status before the 120 days with United.
I’ve decided to accept the challenge for Tash and me because the benefits afforded to us with United Airlines Elite Status fit our travel habits perfectly. I’ll get into why below and why we’re switching from the American Airlines AAdvantage program.
Importance of Status Matches and Challenges
Immediate Savings and Benefits
When fulfilling a status challenge or receiving a status match, you can get status for 25% of the yearly requirements. You’re instantly saving money on flights, stays, and spending requirements.
If you don’t intend to fulfill the status requirements and don’t have plans to do a status challenge or match in the future with specific travel programs, you can leverage them to gain benefits for free!
For example, if you have an economy class flight with Lufthansa scheduled while having another major US airline elite status, you can do a status challenge with United Airlines to leverage benefits that come with having United's Elite Status.
***we have longterm plans with United Elite Status but we recently did the United Status Match Challenge before our flight home to use the Elite Status benefits immediately.***
When matched to United MileagePlus Premier Gold or higher, you’ll have Star Alliance Gold. Benefits like priority first check-in, priority baggage and priority boarding, lounge access, expedited security line, and extra checked baggage allowance are all included with Star Alliance Gold.
On our first day of using our status challenge and match that started July 1st, our experience went like this:
We had an economy ticket on the first leg of our international flight, MXP - MUC. The economy check-in line was crazy long, with at least a 30-minute wait. When looking at the First and Business class check-in line, it was empty.
My plan from the start was to get Star Alliance Gold through United Premier status for this reason. We’re currently on a trial period with United in MileagePlus Premier Gold and Platinum. It got in my head that my plan was too good to be true, so I asked the desk agent without our checked baggage with me, just to be sure. I wanted to save the embarrassment of being turned around to the back of the line.
Fortunately, everything turned out as planned. We could use the first class check-in because our Star Alliance Gold was on our boarding card even though we’re on a trial period with United Airlines. Our status saved us at least 30 minutes already.
As our boarding passes were printed out, I asked if Fast Pass (expedited security line service) was included with the flight since our Star Alliance Gold was already in effect. She confirmed.
After she handed us our boarding passes, she let us know we also had lounge access. The Lufthansa Lounge was complimentary, and the cherry on top was that the lounge was located directly across from our gate.
My goal was to have Star Alliance Gold, and our small sample size of airport benefits proved that my research on Star Alliance Gold benefits was correct!
***Check out our trip recap video highlighting the benefits we were able to take advantage of on our first trip during the United Elite Status challenge and match:
Ability to be Flexible
Status challenges and matches give customers the ability to be flexible when traveling. Without status challenges and matches, when plans, ideas, locations change, or any other sudden changes, most would not be able to keep elite status while traveling.
With the ability to match or challenge elite status, we have the opportunity to keep some of the essential travel benefits we’ve become accustomed to without taking months to earn it through the hefty qualifications.
***if you’re taking a big trip or a few trips within a few months, you can use a status match and/or challenge to leverage significant savings and benefits for your trip!***
Shop Around for Best Elite Status
The last significant option status challenges and matches present is the ability to compare travel companies. Because it takes a lot of spending/use towards a chosen travel company to earn status, it’s rare to have multiple elite statuses without specific travel credit cards.
The ability to shop around elite status is significant because you can figure out what’s good for you through trial and error (we did this with AA status and chose United). Research can only do so much for you when deciding what’s best for you. Customer service and flight experience are things you can’t determine through other people’s thoughts.
Experience is the best way to determine if you like a travel company enough to commit your time and money to them. We’ve heard horror stories about Marriott but love their company ourselves. Just like it's always said with using points and miles, YMMV, so always figure out things for yourself. ***PYP Consultation Available***
United Status Match Challenge Process
Step 1: Include all information asked. Be sure to provide the correct information because it may cause your status challenge not to be registered correctly.
Step 2: Pick a start date for the qualifications to begin.
*** It’s better to complete the status challenge after July 1st because you’ll keep your United Elite Status until March 2024. If completed before July 1st, you’ll have to regain the status after March 2023.***
***Map out the start time with flights you know that you will be taking. You can have flights booked before the challenge if you haven’t taken the flights before your selected start date.***
***If you have to pay for extra flights that aren’t in your plans because you want to get status with United, be sure this status is worth it to you long term, not just a flashy thing to show your friends. Most Elite Status benefits can be purchased as an add-on. If you’re not flying enough to earn Elite Status with reduced requirements, it is more likely not worth it. Book business class a couple of times a year, and you’ll get the same benefits.***
Step 3: Take a screenshot of your status with one of the approved frequent flyer programs United has listed for you to match. Ensure the expiration date, and your status shows clearly to prove your status.
Step 4: When everything is proofread, click “submit” to send your form to United.
Step 5: Get a confirmation email that United has received your status match request. The process can take 7-14 days for them to decide.
Tash applied, and it took 15 minutes to be approved.
My first application took four days to be approved in September ’21. I never took a qualifying flight because I didn’t read the rules. After doing the process for Tash, I said why not? Let’s try again. I applied again and was approved in less than 30 minutes! Shhhhh…
Before our Status Match Challenge started with United, we had to ensure our flight schedules lined up well enough to reach the required flights. Everything began with my basketball organization purchasing flights for us.
We have multiple roundtrip tickets given by teams every year for our travel to and from Europe. I time up the flights to ensure they qualify for status earning periods or status challenges and matches like our case this summer.
The following change we needed to make, which was pretty easy, was to switch our flights throughout the summer to United Airlines (we take 4-6 flights within the US every summer) from American Airlines. We’re new to airline frequent flyer programs, so it’s easy for us to adjust, and status matches and challenges have made it worthwhile.
AA Platinum & Platinum Pro Elite Status Pros and Cons
Great redemption rates for award travel with AA and OneWorld Alliance partners
Easiest airline to obtain elite status
OneWorld Alliance has some of the best available business class redemptions we can take advantage of during the off-season.
Bad customer service with check-in and boarding
Low-priced international upgrades are possible but rarely available.
The standard lounges (Admirals Club) are out of date with limited options. AA is smart because they put the Admirals Club next to most AA gates, so it’s your best and most practical option.
AA has a terrible check-in process. The Priority Check-In line includes low to top-tier elite status holders, premium economy, business, and first-class passengers. Hub airports, the economy check-in like is just as fast.
AA is notorious for delays and cancellations. Flying with them, you must take a non-stop flight because your connection is not guaranteed or likely to happen in many situations.
Because we’re overseas 11 months out of the year, alliance partners are a significant part of our commitment to Frequent Flyer programs. OneWorld Alliance, unfortunately, has 14 airline members, and none have good routes for us, especially in-season.
ITA’s recent switch to SkyTeam was the worst blow for us. One of the main factors in getting AA Elite Status was when flying with ITA Airlines. Would receive priority check-in, baggage, and boarding. We would have Fast Track and lounge access also when flying ITA.
Reasons for Change
As mentioned above, we want a consistent airline alliance that we can take advantage of throughout the season and not just during the off-season for vacations. We’re afforded this opportunity with United Airlines, and Eurowings use because we can use both consistently.
Our home airport just so happens to be a Eurowings hub in Europe. Eurowings is our most used airline, and it’s a non-alliance partner of Star Alliance, which means we’ll earn elite status qualifications while flying with them.
Over the last three years, we’ve used Star Alliance partners the most while overseas. When the opportunity came to get AA elite status through FoundersCard, we knew switching flights to Air Italia would be easy. Unfortunately, Air Italia (now ITA) went bankrupt after four months of AA Elite Status.
Our favorite loyalty program is Marriott Bonvoy. I plan on being Marriott Titanium Elite for the long term, so the connection Marriott has with Untied Airlines makes sense to be loyal to using both programs.
Our End Goal
Star Alliance partners
Our end goal is what we accomplished our first time with Star Alliance Gold status. My main focus for Elite Status is airport and airline benefits.
For the same reasons, we want Star Alliance Gold, United Gold, and above offer great airport and airline benefits like priority check-in, baggage, boarding, extra checked baggage, and expedited security. ***United Club lounge access will be available through my United Club Infinite card***
Status matches are a great way to test loyalty programs when you’re on the market to choose one. We went after American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Status because I was offered a status match. Now, we’re expediting the process to United MileagePlus Premier Elite Status with a status match offer.
Star Alliance Gold (comes with United Premier Gold and above) provides excellent benefits to all partners, which include extra baggage, priority airport service, and lounge access. Also, the most crucial bonus is receiving lounge access for Eurowings flights! While AA status fell into our laps, United Airlines was a conscious decision that worked best for us.
YMMV regarding travel loyalty programs and if you want or need them. Tash and I like the benefits of elite status and have become accustomed to them. The opportunity to be relaxed in the airport before traveling is a great feeling because we don’t need to spend top dollar to have it, which makes it even better sense!
Until next time, before you pack your bags, don’t forget to PACK YOUR POINTS!
I am not a financial advisor and highly recommend doing your own homework about the credit card you want to apply for! All of the content on my website, page and channel are for entertainment purposes only.
If you’d like my opinion or help in forming an idea of what works, I’m here to help.