I was offered top-tier airline elite status for $499 — here’s why

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I have no problem flying low-cost airlines such as Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines if the price is right and they can get me where I want to go.

Usually, the issue with flying an airline that charges extra for everything is that the fees can add up quickly. It can still be less expensive than booking a seat with a full-service carrier but not by as much as you’d think based on the base fare alone.

Because I’m usually flying with my family (a lot of people and even more things), we can’t always avoid bag fees, seat assignment fees and other ancillary charges. There is, however, a way to avoid most of these fees: elite status.

Yes, Frontier has a legitimate and valuable elite status program, and Spirit is just weeks away from launching its own new and enticing program. I recently accepted Frontier’s offer to match (almost) any U.S. airline’s elite status with (almost) no strings attached through 2021.

For just a $49 processing fee, Frontier matched my mid-tier United Gold status with its mid-tier Elite 50k status through December 2021. But that wasn’t the end of the rapid journey up Frontier’s elite ranks.

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Match to Frontier status by Dec. 1

Before we get into the details, know that the opportunity to match your existing Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest or United elite status to Frontier for $49 only lasts until Dec. 1, 2020 — so do that now if you’re interested.

At the Elite 50k level, you get access to family pooling of miles, a free carry-on bag, waived redemption fees, 50% off a Discount Den membership and free seat assignments for your entire party. This even includes extra legroom (stretch) seats at booking. This status could very easily save $100 to $200 per trip, depending on how many family members are flying.

Related: The ultimate guide to Frontier miles and elite status

Top-tier elite status buy-up offer

Normally, it takes a lot of flying, spending or both to earn top-tier airline elite status. There are credit cards that give you a shortcut to elite status, but rare is the opportunity to directly buy yourself a spot at the top with just the stroke of a few keys and a few hundred bucks.

But after my match to Frontier’s Elite 50k status was processed, I received an email offering me the chance to buy Frontier’s top-tier Elite 100k status for a cool $499 — instead of flying or spending my way to 100,000 Frontier miles earned in a calendar year.

While I can’t guarantee it, it’s entirely possible you’ll also receive an opportunity to buy a higher level of Frontier elite status if you participate in the airline’s limited-time match offer.

Why I’m passing on the offer

Top-tier airline elite status for $499 is not a bad offer. People certainly spend more time and money mileage running than that.

If your family was going to book several Frontier Airlines flights next year, wanted flexibility and anticipated checking multiple bags, it could offset the cost of buying a higher level of status. However, I’ll get most of what I need from the mid-tier Elite 50k level I already have. I may need to pay a checked bag fee or two, but I won’t likely spend $500 on extras — especially if I choose Frontier for my Amex airline fee credit in 2021.

It’s possible you could use this top-tier status to play a game of status matching dominoes and parlay it into a match or trial with another airline, but that’s gotten a bit more difficult in recent years.

Now, many programs want to see the miles you earned that year in addition to proof of your status level. And programs that used to simply match status for a year, like Alaska, have moved to a trial program where you have to do a certain amount of flying within a few months to keep the status for the full year.

But if the Frontier status match and potential buy-up opportunity could help you reach a status level you want to try with another airline, that’s something to consider.

Bottom line

This year has obviously been unusually challenging for both airlines as well as travelers. And 2021 may start on a low note, too. But I have hope for travel as we get into the summer months and beyond. Even if I only use my $49 Frontier status match once, it will have been worth it.

And while the $499 offer to buy top-tier status grabbed my attention, it doesn’t make sense for me and my family. It could, however, be just the beginning of airlines seeking unusual ways to grab extra cash toward the end of the year. And that could open doors for travelers who want to lock in elite status that may have otherwise been out of reach.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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