Cards often give you a points boost or status at sign-up or at spending milestones
Travel and cards writer
Travel expert who writes the “Have Cards, Will Travel” column for CreditCards.com
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I know a lot of rewards
points collectors who are all-in when it comes to collecting miles and earning
status with their favorite airline, yet when I ask about their strategy for
earning hotel status, they shrug their shoulders.
“I just don’t stay at enough nice
hotels to earn status or to make keeping up with hotel points worth the time,” is
the usual response.
Most travelers assume that
getting hotel status is a time-consuming and complicated process like flying
tens of thousands of miles to earn airline status. This, however, is wrong.
While there are very few
shortcuts to earning airline status, several rewards credit cards make
obtaining hotel status a breeze. By being savvy with the rewards cards you
carry in your wallet, you, too, can enjoy the same benefits of the “road warrior”
business travelers – without having to
sleep away from your own bed 50-plus nights a year.
Three ways cards help you get hotel status
A fairly broad choice of credit
cards, both co-branded hotel cards and flexible rewards credit cards, offer some
level of benefit of elite status with a global hotel property group.
Credit card hotel status
benefits typically come in three forms: cards that give you a head start on earning
elite status, cards that give you complimentary mid-tier elite status, and cards
that let you reach the highest level of elite status by meeting a minimum or
1. Cards that give you a boost to elite status
Both the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase offer benefits by shortcutting hotel status
The SPG card, for example,
gives you an annual credit of two stays and four nights toward your annual
requalification of SPG status at the start of each year.
Since earning SPG gold status
requires 10 stays a year, this card benefit gets you one-fifth of the way. If
you have both the personal and the business version of the SPG card, you’ll
start off the year with four of your 10 stays in the bank before you spend a
single night away.
The Marriott card, meanwhile, includes automatic silver status, your fifth night is free on any hotel stay and you receive an annual free night stay in a Category 1-5 hotel.
This type of flexible rewards
card is a good option for you if you stay at hotels a decent amount, but not
quite enough to hit the status mark on your own.
2. Cards that give you hotel status at sign-up
If you’d rather receive complimentary elite status at sign-up, nearly every
major hotel brand has a credit card with this benefit.
For example, the IHG Credit
Card from Chase gives cardholders automatic platinum elite status, the Hyatt
Card from Chase gives complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status, and the Hilton
Ascend from American Express gives Hilton Honors gold status.
To earn these status benefits
outright, you’d have to stay an average of 40 nights a year with a single hotel
It’s worth noting that
complimentary hotel status isn’t limited to specific hotel-branded credit
cards. Both the Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum
Card from American Express OPEN offer complimentary Hilton gold status and
Starwood Preferred Guest gold status to cardholders.
Now that Starwood, Marriott
and Ritz-Carlton are all owned by the same entity, having free status in one
group makes it possible to get some status benefits across the whole Marriott
Other high-end credit cards
offer similar benefits, so if you’re looking to gain status with a specific
hotel group, it is worth doing a little bit of digging into your card options.
The United MileagePlus Club
Card from Chase, for example, gives complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist
status – with a catch that you need to register to activate your benefit.
In doing your research on
your rewards card options, you might even discover that you already have access
to a hotel status benefit on one of your current cards. You just didn’t know
3. Cards that boost elite standing at spending
A few credit cards let you
spend your way to graduated levels of status. The real benefits here are found
on the cards that will let you charge your way to the higher tiers of hotel
The new Hilton Ascend card from
American Express, for instance, bumps you from complimentary mid-tier Hilton gold
to the highest level of Hilton diamond when you spend at least $40,000 in any
calendar year. The Hilton Aspire card, meanwhile, gives cardholders complimentary silver status.
Likewise, the Hyatt Card lets you level up from Discoverist to
World of Hyatt Explorist with an annual spend of $50,000.
Using the benefits of your card’s hotel status
There is no right or wrong way to secure hotel status. If you don’t stay at
hotels very often and aren’t prone to spending enough to reach the thresholds
for higher status upgrades, finding a card that gives complimentary status at
the one hotel where you’re planning to spend some nights this year is most
likely your sweet spot.
Getting started once your card arrives
Once you’ve reached elite status, the rest of your work is pretty easy. Take
note of these few to do’s, and then sit back, relax and enjoy your hotel benefits.
When your new credit card
arrives, make sure you complete any minimum requirements and/or registrations
to get your complimentary status up and running. In some cases, you will need
to register for (if you don’t already have) a hotel loyalty account.
If you’ve connected a new
hotel credit card to an existing loyalty account, double-check that the account
information is correct. Sometimes the bank may create a duplicate hotel loyalty
account if it hasn’t been able to verify your current account. If this happens,
call the hotel group and ask the representative to merge the duplicate accounts.
Know what you get with hotel status
Familiarize yourself with all
the new benefits your hotel status. This is as simple as looking at the hotel’s
loyalty group webpage to see what you are entitled to at your new level of
If you’ve just become a Hilton
Honors gold member because you signed up for the Hilton Aspire card, you’re now
entitled to free internet, late checkout and a choice of bonus points or free
breakfast on every stay.
Making your reservation and maybe saving on
your room rate
Finally, when it comes time
to make a hotel reservation, do so through the hotel’s website or direct
reservation line. Always include your loyalty club membership number at time of
booking to ensure your status is recorded on your reservation in the hotel system. This increases your chances of an upgraded room upon arrival.
Note that if you book a hotel
night through a third-party discount site you will not be eligible to receive the
benefits of your status. If, however, you find a cheaper rate on a site like
Expedia or Trivago – take a screenshot. You can use this information to apply
for the hotel group’s best rate guarantee after you book through the hotel
You’ll be pleasantly
surprised how little effort it takes to become a hotel elite. The hardest work will
come later – deciding what hotel you’re going to stay at to make use of your
new status on your next vacation.
See related: 5 ways hotel cards can add up to big savings, Know hotel ‘categories’ to book the perfect stay, Use your card to score a hotel upgrade, 5 ways your credit card concierge can help you on your next trip
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