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If you have hotel elite status, you’ll get an improved travel experience with numerous benefits, including complimentary upgrades, free breakfast, late check-out and more. However, since the average American worker only gets two to three weeks of vacation each year, earning hotel elite status can be challenging. Rather than spending countless nights in a hotel each year, the easiest path to elite status is by holding the right credit card.
Here’s how to earn elite status with hotel credit cards and how to use them strategically.
How to Earn Hotel Elite Status
Hotel elite status is typically based on the number of paid nights you stay or the number of points you earn. Some hotels make it easier to earn elite status by letting award reservations count toward qualification. A still-easier way to earn elite status is to have a hotel’s co-branded credit card.
Bethany Walsh, the founder of BougieMiles.com, finds that “earning elite status with hotel co-branded credit cards is sometimes as easy as simply holding the card. You may also be able to level up your status based on your spending each year.”
Most hotel credit cards provide automatic elite status just for having the card. Depending on how much you spend on the card, you can earn additional elite night credits or an upgrade to your elite status level.
Common Benefits of Hotel Elite Status
Benefits vary among hotels for each level of elite status. Here are a few of the most common benefits you might receive when you achieve hotel elite status:
- Complimentary upgrades.
- Higher points-earning power.
- Free breakfast.
- Early check-in.
- Late check-out.
- Free standard or enhanced Wi-Fi.
- Welcome gifts.
Additionally, many of these credit cards also include a free night based on your annual spending or simply for being a cardholder.
How to Earn Elite Status With Hotel Credit Cards
There are numerous hotel elite status programs that you can join. Whether you’re loyal to one brand or like to stay at different hotels, here’s how to earn elite status with hotel credit cards for each of the major loyalty programs.
Best Western Rewards
Best Western has two personal credit cards, and each includes automatic Best Western Rewards elite status for cardholders.
Hilton partners with American Express to offer three personal credit cards and one for business owners. Its cards range from a budget-friendly card with no annual fee to a premium card that offers many valuable perks. Each card includes a different level of Hilton elite status and the option to upgrade your status based on spending.
Greg Johnson, a travel and credit card expert at ClubThrifty.com, prefers the Hilton Aspire Card because he’s “used its Hilton Diamond status for Executive Lounge access, premium Wi-Fi and complimentary room upgrades.”
IHG One Rewards
IHG offers two personal credit cards and recently introduced a business credit card that includes automatic elite status. All of its cards include an option to upgrade elite status based on how much the cardholder spends each year.
Marriott partners with both American Express and Chase to offer credit cards at a variety of prices for consumers and small business owners. Each card includes at least 15 elite night credits toward Marriott elite status. Cardholders can combine elite night credits from the small business card with a personal card to boost their elite status qualification.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card. This no-annual-fee card includes 15 elite night credits, which is enough to qualify you for Silver Elite status.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Cardholders receive 15 elite night credits, which qualifies for Silver Elite status. Additionally, you receive one elite night credit for every $5,000 you spend with no cap. After spending $35,000 in a calendar year, you’re upgraded to Gold Elite status.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bevy American Express Card. Includes complimentary Gold Elite status and 15 elite night credits toward higher status levels.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card. Complimentary Platinum Elite status is included just for being a cardholder. Additionally, you’ll receive 25 elite night credits toward Titanium or Ambassador Elite Status.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card. Small business owners receive automatic Gold Elite Status and can upgrade to Platinum Elite Status when they spend $75,000 in a calendar year. The card also includes 15 elite night credits.
World of Hyatt
Hyatt offers one credit card option each for consumers and small business owners. While these cards only include entry-level Hyatt elite status, you can earn additional elite night credits for higher tiers based on your spending. Plus, its business credit card is the only one that enables cardholders to give elite status to employees.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card. This card includes complimentary Discoverist status. Additionally, it includes five qualifying night credits each year and the ability to earn two additional qualifying night credits for every $5,000 you spend.
- World of Hyatt Business Credit Card. You’ll receive automatic Discoverist status as the business owner and be able to give Discoverist status to up to five employees. The card earns five tier-qualifying night credits for every $10,000 you spend each year.
Consumers have two credit card options with Wyndham Rewards, but the business credit card offers the highest level of elite status of any Wyndham credit card.
- Wyndham Rewards Earner Card. This no-annual-fee credit card includes Gold elite status automatically.
- Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus Card. You’ll be upgraded to Platinum elite status when you are approved for the Plus Card.
- Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card. Small business owners get the best benefits with automatic Diamond elite status.
Hotel Credit Card Comparison
This chart breaks down the hotel credit card options for each of the most popular hotel loyalty programs.
How to Maximize Your Hotel Elite Status
Now that you’ve achieved hotel elite status, here’s how to optimize your benefits.
- Avoid booking rooms with other brands. Book reservations with the hotel you have elite status with, even if it costs you a few dollars more. The perks you’ll receive, such as complimentary upgrades or free breakfast, usually outweigh the few dollars more that you’ll pay to stick with your preferred hotel brand.
- Book longer stays for free nights. Hilton, Marriott and IHG offer free nights when you book longer stays with points. IHG offers the fourth night free on points when you have any of its credit cards. Hilton and Marriott both offer the fifth night free.
- Add a business credit card. Small business owners can also get a business credit card to complement the benefits and earning power of their personal hotel credit card. This provides an easy way to earn additional points toward future travel.
- Get your spouse or partner involved. Your spouse can apply for hotel credit cards, too, even if you have the same card. You can double up on the benefits, such as annual free nights, or your spouse can get cards that you may not be eligible for.
- Hold an event at the hotel. When you book events at hotels, you may be able to earn additional points or credits toward elite status.
While hotel elite status offers valuable benefits to improve your experience and save you money, many people don’t travel enough to earn the status based solely on their stays. One of the quickest and easiest paths to elite status is to hold one of the hotel’s credit cards. Generally, the more you pay in annual fees or spend on the card, the higher your elite status will be. Before applying for a hotel credit card, compare the value of the benefits you’ll receive against the annual fee that it charges.