From the ever-helpful Chris:
"Get elite status wherever you live—and then get it elsewhere.
Travel companies offer “elite status” to their preferred and most frequent customers. Why should you care about such a thing? Because at hotels you’ll get free upgrades, free breakfast, free internet, late check-out, and other perks. On airlines you’ll get priority boarding, priority seating, upgrades (sometimes), and better help if something goes wrong.
You can often get elite status through a “challenge” where you agree to complete a certain amount of travel in a certain period of time. In other cases you can simply call up and request a status match.
One way of getting elite status without traveling much at all is by registering for free when it’s available as a limited-time offer. This happens several times a year with many different hotels and airlines.
You may wonder why you’d get an elite status from a company you don’t expect to patronize. Status matching is the answer: you can use it to gain elite status from a company you do expect to patronize. "