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Updates:

March 25

  • Hilton extends 2020 elite status through March 2022.

March 12

  • IHG lowers elite status requirements.


The COVID-19 outbreak could have a major impact on both business and pleasure travel for months to come. We’ve rounded up travel companies' policies regarding coronavirus, covered how airlines are offering cancellations and changes to new reservationswhether and how to cancel and existing reservations. Here we cover another affected aspect of travel rewards: elite status.

The calendar is just now on the third month of the year, so re-upping elite status may not be at the top of your mind. But even a few canceled trips at the beginning of the year can hurt your chances of earning elite status by the end of December.

A few hotel programs have already offered elite status extensions and other concessions to those affected by travel disruptions. Some of these offers only apply to travelers based in Asia, while others are blanket offers for all members.

We will update this story if more elite status extensions become available.

Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Alaska launched a promo on March 6 that offers a 50% bonus on elite-qualifying miles for flights taken between March 7 and April 11. This promo bonus does not apply to miles earned from partner airlines or to normal redeemable miles. In order to earn these bonus elite miles, you have to register on this page.

Hotel brands

Best Western

Best Western Rewards elite status holders will maintain their current level through January 2022. That is, if you currently have status with Best Western, you will keep that status through January 2022 regardless of your activity in 2020.

What’s more, those who had a higher status in 2019 but downgraded to a lower tier in 2020 will retain their previous elite level. No action is needed to take advantage of these benefits — all current Best Western elite holders receive them automatically.

Hilton

Hilton Honors has announced the most generous elite status policy to date, extending the current status level for all elite members through March 2022. In other words, if you are currently a Diamond elite status holder, you will enjoy Diamond benefits until March 31, 2022, no matter how much you stay with Hilton in 2020.

Hilton has also extended the status of those members who were set to be downgraded in March 2020 to March 2021. So if you had status last year that was set to expire in March, you also get a bonus year.

It's great to see Hilton taking care of its loyal guests and providing a blanket extension rather than a "challenge" that could force some to decide between extending status and staying safe. Hopefully we'll see other travel programs follow Hilton's lead.

Hyatt

World of Hyatt members based in Asia/Pacific will automatically have their 2020 elite status extended through February 2022. Free night certificates and other upgrades will also remain valid through 2021.

Hyatt claims it is also evaluating whether to extend similar benefits to travelers who frequently visit Asia, but has not announced any such extension yet.

IHG

IHG is the first hotel reward program to systematically lower its elite status thresholds for all members. Here are the updated requirements, per IHG's website:

The bottom line

The coronavirus situation has developed so quickly, and affected the travel industry so greatly, that rewards programs are scrambling to determine how they’ll protect their loyal customers from losing elite status. More brands will likely begin offering similar elite status extensions if travel restrictions continue.

NerdWallet Guide to COVID-19

Get answers about stimulus checks, debt relief, changing travel policies and managing your finances.

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