Elite status may not be what it used to be, but it sure beats being an ordinary traveler. With increasingly popular fees, delays, cancellations, over bookings and all the other movie scene worthy frustrations of life in the air or on the move, having one of those shiny cards that says you’re important matters more than ever. Here are a few key ideas and strategies to make the most of your (fledgling) loyalty in 2017…

First Do Your Homework On Which Programs To Pursue…

What a lot of flying on one airline or sleeping with one hotel brand gets you may be entirely different or inferior to what you can get with someone else. Aside from programs that reward your loyalty the most favorably, you need to also find programs that fit your footprint. Look for an airline which, combined with their partners, gives you easy connectivity to all of your main destinations. Look for hotels that service your main cities and offer a variety of properties that fit both your personal and or business travel needs. Finally, figure out which benefit is the most important perk for your needs. Some airlines are great at upgrades, but terrible at fee waivers; some hotels are excellent with breakfast, but terrible with upgrades. You must window shop. You should absolutely consider the relative value of the brands points program as well.

Spend Your Way To Elite Airline Or Hotel Status…

Being a big spender certainly has its perks. Even if you’re not a big spender, which credit card you do your spending on can give you an instant advantage and head start towards elite status in 2017. Premium credit cards like the American Express Platinum offer Gold status in two or more hotel chains (depending on your region). That’s an instant step up to late check out, breakfast, wifi and more. If you’re in the US, the Ritz Carlton card offers Platinum Ritz Carlton status, which you can easily match to both Starwood (SPG) and Marriott Platinum status just for spending. Of course you can probably then match that to other chains. Delta is another one. Delta allows cardholders in the US to reach Platinum, their second highest elite status just by spending on their Delta American Express cards. Since many brands offer credit cards all around the world, it’s worth taking a look to see if they carry any additional perks.

Create A Loyalty Inbox For Double, Triple, Quintuple Points…

Since we have a mailing list, we know exactly how many of you throw our weekly mailing straight into the trash! Just like missing out on the amazing offers we highlight, you’ll miss out big time if you fail to register for double elite nights, 15,000 bonus miles, 50,000 airline miles or any of the countless triple hotel points offers that come out each year, not to mention the limited time discounts. If you don’t like hearing your phone buzz too many times per day, create an inbox just for your loyalty programs and don’t add it to your phone. Simply login once a day or so manually and see if there’s anything enticing. When bonus elite status credits or miles are on offer you can literally accelerate your earning, benefits and status.

Parlay Current Status Into FREE Status With Others If You’re Thinking Of Jumping…

People fail to realize how valuable they are to airline and hotel brands (not that either do much to make them feel otherwise). If you’re a high flyer or a big sleeper you can quite often email a competitor of your current loyalty program asking for a status match or challenge. Essentially, you’ll be granted either a temporary or long term status of equal (or better) equivalent as a complimentary token of good will towards your big jump to their program. You do not have to forgo any current status and you do not have to actually switch, it’s just a way to entice you over. Some programs won’t simply give you the perks and status, but instead will offer a challenge, where you complete a certain amount of nights or flights in an accelerated period of time to get you your benefits sooner. Even if you are without status currently, some programs will allow you to request a challenge to fast track you to benefits.

Our Picks? Here Are A Couple…

The Starwood and Marriott merger has created a very unique opportunity this year. If you qualify for status with either Marriott, Ritz Carlton or SPG, you’ll now have matching elite status with all of them. That means you’ll have elite perks at every Ritz, JW Marriott, W Hotel, St. Regis, Marriott, Edition, Courtyard, Andaz, Luxury Collection and Design Hotels property, just to name a few of their brands. That’s hard to beat, though Hyatt offers another exceptional loyalty program and suite upgrades can be a great perk. 

The Airline world is a bit fuzzy as airlines continue to devalue or mystify their mileage programs. As far as benefits go, it’s hard to beat lounge access and international upgrade certificates. On that front, American Airlines and Delta are very generous with “system wide upgrades” for top tier flyers, which allow them to upgrade almost any economy fare to business class on any international flight. Couple that with lounge access and you’re doing quite well. Business travelers may also enjoy fee waivers, in which case American and Delta also remain top picks. If you don’t care about the perks outside of fancy check in, lounge access and such, Japan Airlines offers arguably the most valuable mileage program, a nice benefit for people who travel for work, but get to spend their miles for personal enjoyment.