How to Game Elite Status Matches

A few days ago, Loyalty Lobby told us that Le Club Accor was providing yet another promotion for top-tier Platinum status at their hotels. Similar offers were available during the winter, which I took advantage of at the time. Now that it’s back, you should jump on it, and I’m going to see if I can use it to extend the duration of my current Platinum status.

Le Club Accor Hotels promotion image

But when am I going to stay at an Accor hotel? The Sofitel brand is nice, sure, though I’m more likely to stay at a nearby Hyatt or Starwood properties to add to already large point balances and more generous elite benefits. Other Accor brands are, well, cheap. That’s about all they have going for them because when elite status is given away for free, it sometimes means it wasn’t worth much in the first place.

Status Matches Multiply Like Rabbits

You should take advantage of this opportunity anyway because of the potential benefits of an elite status match with another loyalty program. Recall Monday’s post on my mid-year progress toward elite status with different airlines and hotels. American gave me an outright match to their Executive Platinum tier because I was a Premier 1K with United.

Other times it is not truly a status match but rather a status challenge. Hyatt wanted to see proof of my elite status with another hotel chain before it would give me an expedited opportunity to earn Diamond status with only 12 nights instead of 50.

In my limited experience, hotels are typically more generous with matches and challenges. Matches still exist, and even a challenge will at least put you at a similar tier as your old program. You might even be able to get a challenge without pre-existing status at another chain.

Airlines, however, rarely give matches, and American’s offer to me was exceptional. More often you will be offered one tier below your existing status (so an Executive Platinum at American might only be offered Premier Platinum or Premier Gold at United), and this still comes with a challenge component. You might have to pay a fee to be eligible for a challenge. Car rental agencies, however, can be some of the easiest.

Every program has its own rules about which tiers at which other programs it will match to its own tiers. The terms can and do change, and temporary promotions sometimes exist. I originally thought this was the case with American’s offer, but for now it seems to be an ongoing strategy to poach high-value customers. As you qualify for each one, you will have yet another tool to continue your domination across the map of elite airline and hotel programs.

Improve Your Odds

Having elite status with one program doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a match or challenge with another program. They might want to see evidence that you actually earned that status. This is not difficult. I was able to use my Hilton HHonors Gold VIP status and a copy of a nine-month old folio plus a Priority Club Platinum account statement with only one night listed to qualify for my Hyatt Diamond challenge. If you want to improve your chances of using free status to qualify for elite privileges with another company, it might be worthwhile to book a cheap hotel or flight just to have something on your account statement when they ask to see it.

image of letter from Hyatt Gold Passport program

As with all travel hacking, there is a range of ethical dilemmas. Using free status and a single hotel night isn’t exactly the same as earning that status the hard way. But if it works, it works.

Status (What Is It Good For?)

Well, definitely not nothing. I found a site called StatusMatcher.com that will help you figure out what programs match to what other programs and the various tiers within them. It’s not perfect because it relies on user submissions, but you might find it easier to use than searching the endless forums on FlyerTalk and MilePoint.

Searching StatusMatcher for Accor A|Club (the old name for Le Club Accor) I found reports that this could be used to obtain Gold status with Club Carlson (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, etc.), Gold VIP status with Hilton HHonors, and Diamond with Best Western Gold Crown Club.

In fact, Best Western has a standing offer to match just about any elite status program, so you don’t need to take advantage of Accor’s promotion if you already have something else. I don’t stay at these cheaper chains quite as often, but status is good to have if you find yourself on a road trip or in less urban areas.

InsideFlyer magazine also had a good article on this same topic in February. It covers a few details I didn’t bother to mention here, and at the bottom it includes a cheat sheet for matching between different major loyalty programs. A warning you’ll find there and here is that you should choose your elite status matches carefully! Some programs only allow one lifetime match or challenge, while others place similar but less restrictive limits. Of course, any match is up to the discretion of the program–rules are made to be broken–but you shouldn’t apply for everything under the sun unless you think you might be able to use it. That’s why I’ve held off so far on a Starwood Platinum challenge.

The final word? Yon’t need to settle for an average experience on your next trip. Even a graduate student like me can obtain mid- or top-tier status with several major chains thanks to matches! :D

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Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • Colleen

    I strongly believe that you have crossed an ethical line with your discussion of PDF alterations.  I wonder if future potential employers will review your blog postings to gauge your character.

    • Scottrick

      I think I’ve pointed out enough ways that people can obtain elite status legitimately. People who have access to Adobe CS generally already know what they can do with it, and the software costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, even with an academic discount. I haven’t used this trick but know others who have. My point was to show that the airlines and hotels are not exactly checking these documents as closely as they might otherwise suggest.

  • Matt

    The fraud stuff makes me a bit queasy, and it’s worth mentioning that blowing a status match on a program you care about but won’t be able to take full advantage of in the near term can have dubious value, as it’s often a one-shot deal per person/program/account.  Match with care.

    • Scottrick

      Very true (see the second-to-last paragraph), although not all programs are once in a lifetime. Some may only allow one request every five years, and others may give you a second chance if you are a 100% business traveler with the potential to bring in significant revenue.

      As for the fraud aspect, anyone who defrauds a company runs a risk of being banned, not just as a member of the loyalty program but also as a paying customer. I know people who have had this happen to them, too. For the same reason I haven’t used the PDF trick (and really, this shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s what Acrobat was designed to do), I make sparing use of fuel dumps and hidden-city ticketing. I share what I know about the tricks. I expect people to be responsible adults and make their own decisions about which they want to use.

  • JoC

    If you feel this is FRAUD, why are you even DETAILING it in your post on how to do it?

    It is OBVIOUS when you use the words,  ” alter”, “delete “Silver” and write in “Platinum” or turn 0 points into 100,000…”, you are basically detailing the steps on how to do it.

    I’m shock when I read that paragragh knowing you’re a PHD candidate.  I thought you should have some common sense as to what to disclose in a PUBLIC forum.

    • Scottrick

      I dislike the current system for requesting status matches. It’s weak and open to this kind of abuse. Does that mean I think it should be abused? No. But as others have complained about different tricks, publicity gets things shut down. I would not be disappointed if airlines and hotels had more stringent requirements for approving a match than a simple PDF of a webpage. In this respect I don’t think I’m much different than someone who details a security flaw in a piece of new software on the internet so a company will issue a patch.

      That said, there is clearly enough complaint from readers about this amount of information, so I’ll go through and censor the post as requested. If people late to the party have questions about what it is I’m censoring, they can contact me directly.

  • FenwaySteve

    Club Carlson matched Le Club with just a screenshot of the Platinum status. Super easy, but Hilton asked for a year end statement (which I don’t have) so that’s that. Anyone else?

    • Scottrick

      That sounds about right. The bigger, more popular chains are more strict about their expectations for evidence. However, this is why I say it’s worth it to stay just one or two nights. I know that’s harder for Accor if you live in the U.S., but you can sometimes reply with “I don’t have my year-end statement anymore, but I do have these receipts from my last two stays.” Often they just want something to suggest you might have earned the status. Just play dumb.

  • http://twitter.com/robertw477 berg@robert weisberg

    I was thinking about the following. if I got Hyatt to match SPG Plat for a 60 day period, (the benefit) when I use award nights for a vacation. I have the Chase Hyatt card which gives 10 nights credit with 40K in charges. I wonder if in the 60 day period I do the Hyatt challenge I can get 10 nights with the credit card and then do another 2 night stay to get the Diamond status. I wonder if anyone knows whether this would work.

    • Scottrick

      No, it would need to be 12 paid nights to keep your Diamond status. There are certainly some people who get the status match just for temporary benefits. For example, you’ll get the suite upgrades, and if you apply for a Hyatt Visa during your trial period, you’ll get your two free nights in a suite instead of just a general room. But if you fail to fulfill the challenge, then you will have trouble reapplying for a challenge in the future.