Business travellers know the value of holding status with airline and hotel loyalty programs, but getting that shiny card isn't always an easy task.
There are many instances when you can't fly with your favourite airline or stay at you preferred hotel chain.
Thankfully, there are sometimes shortcuts to climb the status ladder and unlock the most practical perks.
Previous High Flyer columns which have shared a few of those tricks have proven very popular with readers, so here are two of the latest fast-track deals to help you pocket a Gold or even Platinum loyalty card and enjoy a sweet set of benefits around the world.
Gratis status with Star Alliance Gold
Air New Zealand is currently offering a rare free status match which comes with a generous six months of Gold status in its Airpoints scheme.
And as the Kiwi carrier is a member of the worldwide Star Alliance airline family, this means six months of Star Alliance Gold status – useful for lounge access, priority check-in, extra luggage alliance and more with the likes of Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Swiss and many more.
The 'Touch of Gold' promotion is available to residents of Australia and New Zealand who hold Gold-grade or Platinum-grade frequent flyer membership with competing airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia (although not, of course, other Star Alliance airlines).
Airpoints Gold status could prove handy for trans-Tasman travellers when the long-standing but often fractious alliance between AirNZ and Virgin Australia is dissolved on October 28.
Your instant status will include two free business class upgrades on flights between Australia and New Zealand (the Kiwi carrier calls these 'short-haul recognition upgrades'), free seat selection and one extra bag on all fares which include a bag (this obviously excludes the cheapest seat-only fares).
However, its greatest value may be if you're stuck in premium economy or (gasp) economy with other Star Alliance airlines, because you'll get pretty much close to business class treatment (except for the actual seal and meals, of course).
The path to a golden year
Beyond the initial six months of free Airpoints Gold and thus Star Alliance Gold status, you can extend this to a full year by earning just 450 status points instead of the usual 900 status year needed to lock in Airpoints Gold.
If the bulk of your potential Air New Zealand travel is across the pond, you'll be looking at anywhere from 7-107 status points on a Sydney-Auckland, Melbourne-Auckland or Brisbane-Auckland flight depending on your class of travel and fare type.
Assuming you typically opt for a flexible economy Seat+Bag fare, that'll land you between 35 and 83 status points – equal to six return trips at the cheapest fare or four return trips at the highest fare category.
Flying with Air New Zealand from Australia to any of its US mainland destinations (Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston) in business class will see you good for Gold with one return trip.
It's also worth noting that you can earn those Status Points with other Star Alliance airlines – so if you've got a Singapore Airlines flight coming up, consider adding your Airpoints frequent flyer number into the SQ booking to edge you closer to a year of Gold.
Going for Gold
To apply for the Touch of Gold status match, you'll first need to be a member of Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyer scheme (it's free to join).
Send an email with your Airpoints membership number and a photo or scanned copy of your Gold or higher frequent flyer membership card with a competing airline.
I also suggest including a scanned copy of a recent activity statement showing your flying pattern, especially on trans-Tasman services, to help assure Air New Zealand that you're a legitimate Gold-worthy traveller.
The Marriott Rewards shortcut
Marriott is also offering a shortcut to Gold or Platinum status in its Marriott Rewards program, which also covers hotels in the Starwood and Ritz-Carlton groups.
This isn't an outright status match, but it significantly reduces the number of nights you need to stay at a hotel in any of those three chains before earning status.
A Marriott Gold card will lob into your pocket or purse with just eight nights over a three month period, giving you perks such as free room upgrades, high-speed Internet access and late checkout.
A Platinum card can be yours with 16 nights across three months: benefits stacked on top of Gold include free daily breakfast, free upgrade to a suite and access to the hotel's executive lounge.
If you're already planning some trips with accommodation at hotels such as Marriott, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Ritz-Carlton, Westin and W, you could already be well on your way to those status goals.
To register for this Marriott Rewards 'status challenge', have your Marriott Rewards membership number handy and call 02 8298 5250 from 10am-10pm from Monday to Friday (or 10am to 7.30pm Saturday.
(If you're a Starwood SPG member, dial 1800 450 010 during those same hours.)
You'll need to specify if you're shooting for a Gold or Platinum status. If there's any reasonable doubt of you reaching 16 nights, opt for Gold, because if you choose Platinum and fail to reach 16 nights you won't get anything.
Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of . His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of 51698009 readers.