The Best Hotel Credit Cards For Earning Elite Status

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New offer: The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a great way to pad your IHG balance with 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within the first 3 months.

Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express has expired. View the current offers here – personal, business.

Yesterday I posted about the best credit cards that help you earn miles toward airline elite status, and I thought it would be helpful write up a companion piece exploring hotel credit cards that either earn you automatic elite status or allow you to spend your way to elite status.

While some hotel co-branded credit cards simply offer redeemable points and perks that have no bearing on elite status, or free hotel nights every year, there are actually several out there that offer outright elite status, elite-status points as part of their sign-up bonus, as a spending threshold bonus – or even all three.

Taking a look at the hotel credit card landcsape, I included the following criteria:

  • Status Earning Potential (annually)
  • Spend Requirements
  • Current Sign-Up Bonus
  • Annual Fee

Here are my picks for 2014′s best credit cards for awarding or earning hotel elite status/points in alphabetical order of the programs they work with:

CARLSON

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Club Carlson Visa
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Silver status
Spend Requirements: None for elite status
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 60,000 Gold Points – 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 10,000 points once you spend $1,500 within the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $50

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Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Gold status; however, if you’ve already reached Silver, Gold or Concierge status, you’ll receive 10 qualifying nights toward getting/maintaining Gold or Concierge  status
Spend Requirements: None for elite status
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 85,000 Gold Points – 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 within the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $75

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Club Carlson Rewards Business Visa
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Gold status; however, if you’ve already reached Silver, Gold or Concierge status, you’ll receive 10 qualifying nights toward getting/maintaining Gold or Concierge  status
Spend Requirements: None for elite status
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 85,000 Gold Points – 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 within the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $60

FAIRMONT

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Fairmont Visa Signature
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Fairmont Premier elite status
Spend Requirements: For each $7,500 in a calendar year, 1 stay credit towards Platinum status (limit 2 stay credits per calendar year)
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Two-night stay with breakfast for two when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95

HILTON

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Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Gold status and potential for Diamond with spending
Spend Requirements: Upgrade to Diamond with a $40,000 calendar-year spend. You also get a free weekend night when you hit $10,000 per year in spend
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Two weekend night certificates after a $2,500 in eligible purchases in the first four months
Annual Fee: $95

Hilton Visa
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Silver status, but fast track to Gold status if you complete 4 stays within 90 days of account opening
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 40,000 points after making $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 4 months of opening your account.
Annual Fee: $0

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Hilton Amex
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Silver status and potential for Gold with spending
Spend Requirements: Upgrade to Gold status with a calendar-year spend of $20,000
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 40,000 HHonors Points after a spend of $750 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0

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Hilton HHonors Surpass Amex
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Gold status, and potential for Diamond with spending
Spend Requirements: Upgrade to Diamond status with a calendar-year spend of $40,000
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 75,000 HHonors Points after a spend of $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $75

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HYATT

The Hyatt Card Visa Signature
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Hyatt Gold Platinum Passport and the potential for earning Diamond status
Spend Requirements: For a calendar-year spend of $20,000, receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status ; for a calendar-year spend of $40,000, receive an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond, for a maximum of 5 stay credits and 10 night credits each calendar year
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Two free nights at Hyatts worldwide when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $75

IHG Rewards

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IHG Rewards Club Select Card
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Platinum status
Spend Requirements: None; account must simply remain in good standing
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 points after a spend of $1,000 in the first three months, plus one free night each year. (See this thread for information on how to get an 80,000 point offer for this card.)
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $49

MARRIOTT

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Marriott Rewards Visa Signature 
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Silver status
Spend Requirements: $3,000 to receive 1 credit toward additional elite status, with no limit to the number of credits you can earn
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 30,000 points after a spend of $1,000 in the first three months, plus two free nights at Category 1-4 properties
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $45

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Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Signature
Annual Status Earning Potential: 15 credits towards elite status, with 15 credits annually thereafter – that’s automatic Silver status if you don’t have any status already
Spend Requirements: 1 elite credit for every $3,000 you spend
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, plus one free night at Category 1-4 properties, then 1 free night at Category 1-5 properties after your first account anniversary
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $85

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Marriott Rewards Business Visa Signature
Annual Status Earning Potential: 10 credits towards elite status, with 10 credits annually thereafter – that’s enough for Silver status
Spend Requirements: 1 elite credit for every $3,000 you spend
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 30,000 points after a spend of $1,000 in the first three months, plus two free nights at Category 1-4 properties
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $45

RITZ-CARLTON

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The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
Annual Status Earning Potential: Automatic Gold status for the first year, and maintain it thereafter with an annual spend of $10,000
Spend Requirements: After the first cardmember year, anannual spend of $10,000 to maintain Gold status
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 70,000 Ritz-Carlton Reward points after a spend of $2,000 in the first three months; upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club Level three times a year on stays of up to seven nights, subject to availability
Annual Fee: $395

STARWOOD

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Starwood Preferred Guest Amex
Annual Status Earning Potential: 2 stays/5 nights credit per calendar year, potential to earn Gold status
Spend Requirements: $30,000 calendar year spend earns Gold status
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 25,000 Starpoints – 10,000 Starpoints after the first purchase, 15,000 Starpoints when you spend $5,000 within the first six months
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $65

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Starwood Preferred Guest Business Amex
Annual Status Earning Potential: 2 stays/5 nights credit per calendar year, potential to earn Gold status
Spend Requirements: A $30,000 calendar-year spend earns Gold status
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 25,000 Starpoints – 10,000 Starpoints after the first purchase, 15,000 once you hit the six-month spend
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $65

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