One of the savvier moves a frequent, or even remotely frequent traveller can make is to sign up for a status challenge. To put it simply, these challenges are an expedited way to earn a full array of travel perks, without doing all the usually required work over a year. You pretty much just red line it for a few weeks or months to prove yourself.

But “when” you start an elite status challenge with an airline or hotel can make up to a year of difference in how long you get to retain it, should you complete it successfully. Start in one week, you get it for the rest of the year – start it another, you get it for the rest of the year, and the entire next…

Calendar Year, Or Rolling Year?

Most loyalty programs operate on a simple calendar year basis, with the same window to achieve status for everyone. It’s worth confirming how your program works in advance, because some loyalty programs use a rolling year, where your time frame to qualify for status is personal, and based on when you joined the program.

Think of British Airways and Emirates as the only two main exceptions, so if neither program is the one you’re challenging with, assume things will work on a calendar year, ending December 31st.

Don’t Let A Challenge Go To Waste

We’ll get into the precise timing of when to take on a challenge to maximise the validity, but the most important thing is actually completing it successfully. Try to always take on a challenge when you have a window of frequent travel which will satisfy the challenge.

Why? Most programs limit the number of times you’re allowed to take up a status match or challenge to once every five years, or for some, even just per lifetime. Don’t waste it, even if that means taking it up at a time which will give you shorter validity. Something is better than nothing!

Hot tip: If you’re looking for a great resource to find info on elite status challenges you can take up, Statusmatcher.com is invaluable.

It’s Best To Start Challenges After July 1st

In almost all cases, it’s best to start an elite status challenge with a hotel or airline after July 1st. When you aim for the second half the year, you’re allowed to keep the status for the rest of the year once completed, but then also the entire subsequent calendar year. If you complete a status challenge before then, you’ll generally only enjoy it for the rest of the year.

That’s an incredible amount of difference, and obviously it’s a lot nicer to enjoy a year and a half of  elite travel benefits versus just two thirds of a year or so, by simply starting at the wrong time. If you can make a status challenge after July 1st work for you, it’s the way to go, almost every time.

Here are a few current/recent status challenge and match opportunities to get your year started off right. Just remember to wait until July to start one ; )

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