Completing my short series on the topic, today I cover the US Airways Trial Preferred status challenge program and the opportunity to outright buy elite qualifying miles. Last week I discussed ways to “boost” or otherwise pay to requalify for elite status on American Airlines, as well as how to apply for an elite status challenge if you don’t already have status. Because US Airways and American Airlines are merging, the US Airways programs are other options that might make sense to get your status this late in the year or early next year.
Those who already have status with a competing carrier may request a status challenge. Like American Airlines, you must pay a fee up front. Unlike American Airlines, which uses a fare-based points system, US Airways allows you to complete the challenge based on miles flown — the usual metric for earning elite status.
US Airways will award the status up front for the trial period depending on the fee you pay. Qualifying travel must occur within 90 days to complete the challenge and keep the status.
The status awarded does not need to correspond to the fee you paid. Example 1: If you paid for a Gold challenge and only qualified for Silver, you would receive Silver status. Example 2: If you paid for a Silver challenge and qualified for Chairman’s, you would receive Chairman’s status.
Dividend Miles Silver Preferred – $200
- Complete 7,500 miles (or 10 segments) within 90 days
Dividend Miles Gold Preferred – $400
- Complete 15,000 miles (or 20 segments) within 90 days
Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred – $600
- Complete 22,500 miles (or 30 segments) within 90 days
Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred – No upfront status
- Complete 30,000 miles (or 40 segments) within 90 days
A successful challenge will award status for an entire program year, meaning it won’t expire until February 28, 2015. During early 2014, American and US Airways will begin to offer reciprocal benefits on the two carriers, but it’s not clear when or if it will provide outright matching status. I would be careful about trying to get Chairman’s Preferred status with the hope that it becomes Executive Platinum status with American — but I wouldn’t rule it out.
If a challenge is still too much work, US Airways allows its customers to outright buy elite status with their “Buy up to Preferred” program. It’s a simple table with several lots of preferred miles (elite qualifying miles) and the price for each number. For example, if you need between 1 preferred mile and 1,999 preferred miles, you would pay $249.
Clearly this is a better deal if you are further away from your target, though the marginal benefit of obtaining that status is the same either way. If you have made some progress but really can’t fly to earn a single additional mile, it may still be worth paying a lot to secure your status.
Where strategy comes into play is if you ARE able to credit a few miles to US Airways. Notice that most categories come in just under the full amount to earn an elite tier? To outright buy Silver status, you need to pay $1,499 for 25,000-49,999 miles even though 24,999 miles are only $989. Credit a single flight to US Airways, and you can save $510 on buying Silver status.
At the top end, you can choose to buy all 100,000 preferred miles needed for Chairman’s status for $3,999. But credit a single flight to US Airways, and you can save $1,000 by purchasing 99,999 preferred miles for only $2,999.
Again, I would be cautious about assuming a perfect status match to American Airlines if you go this route. It’s certainly the easiest way to achieve top-tier status, which American doesn’t normally offer, and there is a good chance of Chairman’s Preferred status being matched to Executive Platinum. There is a less good chance of receiving the 8 eVIP systemwide upgrades that Executive Platinum members normally receive. There is no good idea of when a match between programs might occur or what the benefits of the new program will look like.