From Wikipedia: Game theory is the study of strategic decision making. Sounds like what we are all trying to do with the game of acquiring and redeeming miles & points. To me it is a game since there are rules for all to follow and everyone is just trying to use those rules to maximize their (or their team’s) gains. Notice that I did not say breaking the rules which is why I purposely stay away from the term “travel hacking” as, in my mind, hackers break rules. I am never going to advocate that you break any rules.
So let me show you some of the things that I have done to maximize my own miles & points game. I started the year as a United 1K, Alaska MVP Gold and Marriott Platinum. I have consistently held all these levels for the last ten years or more. Tip: I held these statuses even while deployed twice to Iraq. All these organization maintained my status during any year in which I was deployed since I was unable to re-qualify – just send them an email with a copy of your orders.
So this year did not involve nearly as much travel as I normally do. Living in D.C. now cut down on the distance that I flew to many events. So I reached October and only was expecting to end the year at 62K in UA EQM, 32k in AS EQM and 55 nights (incl. 15 from the Marriott Rewards VISA). Although I reached lifetime UA Gold last year, being Gold meant very few complimentary upgrades and not having AS Gold meant that I wouldn’t receive free changes to tickets – one of the best benefits of any program. Getting only Gold with Marriott was less traumatic since Gold is an adequate level in most hotel programs, since it gives you free internet and breakfast.
I had actually booked a mileage run in December to at least make MVP Gold, but then reading Boarding Area every day paid off. Ben from One Mile at a Time and Scott from Travel
Hacking Codex both wrote that Alaska was now granting MVP Gold 75K status by status match. I sent AS my United 1K statement and within a few days I was a level that I have never achieved MVP Gold 75k (yes, that is a mouthful). Trick: Before you lose a high status, see what other program you can match that high status to.
BTW, I cancelled my flight for the mileage run so I could use its value to qualify in 2015 and then booked a 30K mile OW First Class United ticket to Alaska for Christmas vacation. Note, that I was able to quickly earn back these miles from the recent United/ Marriott Rewards Plus promotion running Nov.-Jan. which then gave me an extra 100% on my UA flights AND Marriott stays.
Now here it is January and I expect that I will be knocked down in UA Mileage Plus from 1K to merely Gold. While I am hoping that they take a look at my history and give me a soft landing to UA Platinum, I have a plan if they drop me all the way to Gold. I will then apply to use my new Alaska MVP Gold 75k status to status match to UA as a UA Platinum. Tip: Status matching is often advertised as a once in a lifetime benefit, but my experience is that it is more like once every 3-5 years. So use it, but only if you really plan on flying that airline next year.
Lastly, What to do about Marriott dropping to Gold? Well, no tricks for that one, but reports on Flyertalk’s Marriott Forum post talk about Marriott averaging your last three year’s stay and possibly keeping your status up based upon that. My status hasn’t dropped from Platinum yet, but I am not about to call them and ask. I did notice that they added a little “thank you for staying over 500 nights next to my status.
I figure if they give it to me for being a good customer (717 nights lifetime) then I’ll take it. However dropping to Gold won’t be as consequential as dropping status on one of the airlines.
So I hope some of those experiences give my team (all of you) an advantage. Let me know of your successes with these tips & tricks.