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Shortcuts to Hotel Elite Status: Cards, Spending, and More

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

I’ve gotten a lot of great value out of hotel status (like Hyatt Diamond) over the years, but meeting the night and stay requirements can be a challenge. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen describes some alternative ways to earn those benefits.

Hotel elite status can make or break a trip. Sometimes the on-property benefits are what matter most, while other times it’s the superior customer service or ability for employees to “bend the rules” to keep their most valued guests happy. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a road warrior to take advantage of these perks. Today, I’ll discuss some methods for you to earn hotel elite status with the most prominent brands.

These strategies are a perfect follow-up to my elite status valuation series, where I analyzed the value of each elite status tier in the Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Club Carlson programs. Of course, the value you get out of a given program is entirely dependent on your stay patterns, but in many cases, you can take one of the following shortcuts to status and come out way ahead.

There are some simply ways for you to earn hotel elite status and enjoy benefits at properties like the Ritz-Carlton Washington.
There are some simple ways for you to earn hotel elite status and enjoy benefits at properties like the Ritz-Carlton Washington.

Get a co-branded credit card

The first (and arguably easiest) way to obtain elite status in a given program is by simply opening a co-branded credit card. Many card issuers include automatic status just for holding one of their cards, while others give you elite status credits (either stays or nights) that help you meet status requirements by effectively lowering the standard qualification thresholds.

Here’s a quick rundown of co-branded cards that offer elite stats outright, or can help you earn it:

  • Hyatt Gold Passport: The Hyatt Credit Card from Chase gives you automatic Platinum status.
  • Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Rewards: The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card comes with credit for 15 elite-qualifying nights every year, which results in automatic Silver status and a step toward either Gold or Platinum status; the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card also gives you automatic Gold status for the first year of card membership.

As you can see, every major hotel chain has at least one credit card option that comes with automatic status, and some (like the Citi Hilton Reserve) can get you mid-tier status or even top-tier status (like the IHG MasterCard). That’s not too shabby for annual fees that typically fall under $100!

Some cards allow you to spend your way to top tier status, giving you valuable benefits at properties like the Kaua'i Marriott Resort
Some cards allow you to spend your way to top tier status, giving you valuable benefits at properties like the Kaua’i Marriott Resort.

Take advantage of credit card spending bonuses

In addition to giving status just for having a card, many programs reward high spending on certain cards with additional credits toward elite status, or even outright status at a higher tier. Here are those cards, again organized by program:

  • Hyatt Gold Passport: You can earn 2 stay credits and 5 night credits by spending $20,000 on the Hyatt Credit Card in a calendar year, and you earn another 3 stays and 5 nights when you spend $40,000.
  • Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Rewards: The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card gives you an additional night toward elite status for every $3,000 you spend (so you can earn Gold by spending $105,000 or Platinum by spending $180,000); you can also keep your Gold status with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card after the first year by spending $10,000, and you can earn Platinum status by spending $75,000 (both of which are based on the card membership year rather than the calendar year).
  • Starwood Preferred Guest: When you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on the SPG Amex (either the personal or business version), you’ll automatically earn Gold Preferred status

You may not want to spend this amount of money on any of these cards, but it can be an easy way to earn higher levels of status within a given program.

hilton waikoloa
You could always try a status match (or challenge) to circumvent the standard thresholds for elite status qualification.

Status Match/Challenge

Leveraging elite status with one chain to earn status with another chain can be a great shortcut. TPG Content and Community Manager Ryan Gaines recently completed a Hyatt Diamond challenge, and while that particular status challenge has since disappeared, there are others.  I wrote about these options back at the end of 2014, and as I discuss in that post, a great site to monitor is Status Matcher, which gives up-to-date reports of these requests for every major hotel program. Some programs (like Club Carlson and Kimpton) will match your existing status, while others (like Marriott and SPG) require you to complete a certain number of stays and/or nights in a set time frame to earn your new status.

It’s important to remember that your experiences may not line up perfectly with those reported online, as the chains often don’t have public offers, and instead grant these matches or challenges on a case-by-case basis. Some may also require a screen shot of your account activity, and most only allow you to match or challenge once per lifetime, so you may not be able to use your automatic credit card status to hop from one chain to the next year after year.

United and Marriott's RewardsPlus partnership.
United and Marriott’s RewardsPlus partnership is a quick way for regular United travelers to earn elite status with Marriott.

Partnerships

As of right now, there’s only one partnership that gives you true status in a hotel chain: the RewardsPlus program from Marriott and United. Through RewardsPlus, frequent United travelers who hold Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, and Global Services status receive automatic Gold status with Marriott. Simply visit the registration page to link your accounts.

Starwood Preferred Guest partners with two different airlines to give you some elite benefits (but not actual status) when staying at their properties: Crossover Rewards (with Delta) and Your World Rewards (with Emirates). Both partnerships provide some on-property elite benefits for top tier flyers, including late check-out and “enhanced room” upgrades. However, you don’t have the full benefits of elite status like you do with RewardsPlus.

Planning an event at a hotel can be another fast track to elite status
Planning an event at a hotel can be another fast track to elite status

Plan a meeting

Many hotels offer elite status to high-profile meeting or conference planners, and others will allow these planners to earn credits for elite status. TPG Contributor Max Bloom posted a great summary of these options back in 2012 (be sure to read part two as well). Of course, some things have changed since then. For example, last year Starwood Preferred Guest launched SPG Pro, which modified their existing program. Instead of earning status based solely on spending, you now earn 1 elite night credit for every 20 group room nights.

Bottom line

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: elite status can be an incredibly valuable thing to have. Thankfully, obtaining that status with hotel chains doesn’t require you spending weeks away from your family and friends to earn it the hard way. These strategies are simple ways to extend your benefits to other chains and maximize each and every one of your hotel stays.

What are your favorite “shortcuts” to earning hotel elite status?

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