DEFINITION of 'Elite Status'

Classification as a preferred customer, most commonly with an airline or hotel rewards program. Elite status comes with benefits that are not available to the general public or that are available to the general public for an additional fee. Elite status offers consumers both an incentive to become a frequent customer of the same company and a reward for ongoing brand loyalty.

BREAKING DOWN 'Elite Status'

For air travel, elite status benefits might include early boarding or seat upgrades on flights, access to faster check-in or security lines at the airport, complimentary access to the airline’s airport lounge, higher frequent-flier mile earning rates, priority rebooking for changed or canceled flights, and free checked luggage. For hotel stays, elite benefits might include elite-only reservation and customer service phone numbers, late checkout, weekend stay discounts, free WiFi, room upgrades, free breakfast, guaranteed room types, executive lounge access and free phone and fax service. Some reward programs divide elite status into tiers, such as silver elite and gold elite, with gold elite customers receiving greater perks than silver elite customers.

While elite status used to only be available by signing up for a company’s loyalty program and making repeated purchases, it’s now sometimes available to anyone who qualifies for a certain co-branded credit card. The old-fashioned way to earn elite status might entail staying in the same chain of hotels 20 times during a calendar year or flying at least 25,000 miles in a year on the same airline. In recent years, elite status has become less exclusive, not only because it is easier to obtain elite status through a credit card, but also because some travel companies now sell to the general public on an a-la-carte basis.

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