How to Fly Like a VIP Without Having Elite Loyalty Status

We all know that one person who travels like a true VIP - and for me, that’s my friend Martin. Because he frequently travels for work, he’s been able to rack up enough points to attain elite loyalty status with not just one but several of his favorite loyalty programs. Because of this, Martin travels like a king. When he flies, his checked bags are free and he frequently gets upgraded to first or business class, enjoying better snacks and wider seats. When he stays at hotels, he gets to stay in nicer rooms.

And more often than not, he doesn’t have to pay a penny for these extra perks - it’s all a part of his loyalty status.

While elite status may be hard to attain for the average traveler, the perks that Martin and other elite members aren’t completely out of reach. It’s still possible to earn and redeem perks such as first class seating, late hotel checkout and free breakfast. Here are some strategies to help you too fly like a VIP.

Create a “Wishlist”

Is there a certain perk or (several) you’re dreaming of for your next trip? Take inventory of what each of your loyalty programs has to offer and create a wishlist of your ideal VIP experience. If you want to be pampered at your hotel, MeliáRewards allows members to use loyalty points in for late checkout and in exchange for spa services from the moment they sign up, and offers complimentary breakfast after as few as two stays. For a first-class experience at the airport, Virgin America Elevate offers access to its elite lounge at LAX for a small fee and other perks such as expedited security and boarding.

Sign up for a travel credit card

Just about every major airline and hotel has an associated credit card. While many of the points you earn by spending on these co-branded credit cards don’t necessarily qualify you for elite status, some do offer sign up or spending bonuses that boost your loyalty status for added points, miles and associated perks. Delta’s Platinum SkyMiles card, for example, awards 10,000 miles after you spend $25,000 in one year. If your co-branded credit card offers similar bonuses, use your credit card for everything you can, including groceries, gas and more, so you can constantly be earning miles and points.

A seat upgrade or complimentary massage might only be a few everyday transactions away.

Buy and gift loyalty points

But if your heart is set on achieving that elite status and you’re not sure you’ll be able to accrue enough miles and points, some airlines and hotels allow customers to buy or boost loyalty status for a flat fee. For example, American Airlines runs promotions for customers who do not travel very often but still want that elite status by offering the option of paying a flat fee. For example, if you have 10,000-14,999 points you can pay $649 to get the remaining 25,000 needed to reach elite gold status.

In addition to buying points on your own, you can encourage other people such as your family, friends or employer to gift you points to get you one step closer to elite status.  The United MileagePlus program gives members the option to either transfer their loyalty points to another user's’ account or buy loyalty points as a gift.

Loyalty status and associated miles and points enables even the occasional traveler to be treated like a VIP. By following these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to living the life of luxury on your next trip, whether for work or play.