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Just as with airlines, having elite status with a hotel chain can significantly enhance your travel experience. Today. TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen fills us in on hotel elite status and which credit cards you can carry to get it for free.
When it comes to hotel elite status, you might think you need to spend hundreds of nights on the road or complete dozens of stays over the course of the year. But the fact is, in addition to other perks like bonus spending categories and the ability to earn free nights, many hotel co-branded (and even other) credit cards actually offer the opportunity to enjoy elite status either automatically or with spending requirements that earn you a certain status level.
Here are six major hotel loyalty programs where having the right credit card can earn you status.
1. Club Carlson
Club Carlson, the loyalty program of brands like Radisson and Park Inn, announced some major devaluations in 2015, including taking away the bonus award night perk from its co-branded credit cards. However, these cards do still offer automatic elite status.
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature: This card comes with automatic Gold status. Its current sign-up bonus is 85,000 points; 50,000 after your first purchase plus 35,000 more once you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. There’s a $75 annual fee.
Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa: The business version also offers automatic Gold status to cardholders. Its sign-up bonus is also 85,000 points, with the same 50,000 after your first purchase plus 35,000 more once you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. Its annual fee is $60.
Club Carlson Rewards Visa: This more basic personal card offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points — 50,000 after your first purchase, and the remaining 10,000 after you spend $1,500 on the card within the first 90 days. It offers cardholders automatic Silver status and has a $50 annual fee.
Club Carlson Silver status is usually earned after 10 stays or 15 nights, while Gold status is usually earned after 20 stays or 35 nights in a calendar year. For more information on Club Carlson elite-status tiers and perks, check out this post.
2. Hilton HHonors
If Hilton is your program of choice, you’re in luck, because there are plenty of ways — and plenty of credit cards — that will earn you elite status. Let’s start with the hotel co-branded cards.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: This is a fantastic card that, in addition to a sign-up bonus of two free weekend nights good at select Hilton portfolio properties around the world when you spend $2,500 in the first four months, awards cardholders with automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status. On top of that, each calendar year you use the card to spend $40,000 or more on purchases, you will achieve top-tier Hilton HHonors Diamond status. It carries a $95 annual fee.
Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express: This Amex card is the direct competitor of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve. Its sign-up bonus is 75,000 points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months, but it also comes with automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status. And like with the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, each calendar year you spend $40,000 or more on purchases with the card, you will achieve top-tier Hilton HHonors Diamond status. The annual fee on this card is $75.
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature : This is the basic, no-fee version of the Reserve, and it comes with a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points when you make $2,000 in purchases in the first four months of cardmembership. Not only that, but it also gives cardholders automatic Hilton HHonors Silver status, and the ability to earn Hilton HHonors Gold status every calendar year they make $20,000 or more in purchases on the card. Not only that, but new cardholders can get a fast track to Gold status after just four stays in the first 90 days of account opening.
Hilton HHonors Card from American Express: This more basic version from Amex has no annual fee, but comes with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $750 on purchases in the first three months of card membership. It also comes with complimentary Hilton HHonors Silver status, and every calendar year you spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on the card, you earn Hilton HHonors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Amex recently announced that cardholders of its top-shelf Platinum Card would receive automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status in addition to the array of other perks this card already offers. The current sign-up bonus on this card is 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in three months, and the annual fee is $450.
For reference, HHonors Silver status is usually earned after 4 stays or 10 nights; Gold status is earned after 20 stays or 40 nights; and Diamond status is earned after 30 stays or 60 nights.
For more on Hilton HHonors elite status, the benefits of each tier and what it’s worth, check out this post.
3. Hyatt Gold Passport
If you want Hyatt Gold Passport elite status from a credit card, you have to get the Hyatt Card from Chase, since it’s the only one that comes with both automatic status and the opportunity to spend your way to a higher tier.
Hyatt Credit Card: Right now, this card is offering a sign-up bonus of two free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide when you spend $2,000 in the first three months of account opening. It also awards cardholders with automatic Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status. In terms of spending, cardholders who spend $20,000 in a calendar year receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status; and for $40,000 in calendar-year spending, they get an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond for a total maximum potential of 5 stay credits and 10 night credits each calendar year. There’s no annual fee the first year, and then it goes up to $75 in subsequent years.
For reference, Platinum status is usually earned after 5 stays or 15 nights in a calendar year; and Diamond status is achieved by completing either 25 stays or 50 nights at Hyatt properties each calendar year. For more information on Hyatt Gold Passport elite status and what it’s worth, check out this post.
4. IHG Rewards
Though it’s a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, IHG Rewards only has a single co-branded hotel card. Luckily, that card gets you automatic elite status.
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card: This hotel card from Chase comes with automatic IHG Rewards Platinum status as one of its perks. Its current sign-up bonus is 60,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. It has no annual fee the first year, and costs $49 in subsequent years. For more information on the card and its benefits, check out this post.
For reference, IHG Rewards Platinum status usually requires staying 40 nights or more or earning 40,000 elite-qualifying points in a calendar year. For more information on IHG Rewards elite status and its various perks, check out this post.
5. Marriott Rewards
Marriott Rewards has three status tiers, and a few credit cards that can offer automatic and spending-based elite status.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: The current bonus on the personal version of this card is 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months, though the sign-up bonus has been as high as 80,000 points recently. It has a $0 introductory annual fee, after which it goes up to $85. But this card also offers cardholders 15 nights’ elite-status credit each year after account anniversary, which is equivalent to automatic Silver status, and is a big boost toward both Gold and Platinum status. In addition, you can also earn 1 elite-night credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card in a calendar year.
Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: The automatic and spending-based elite benefits are the same for the business version of this card, but the annual fee is $99 after the first year ($0 introductory rate). It has a current sign-up bonus of 70,000 points when you spend $3,000 in three months.
Marriott Rewards Credit Card: If you already have the more basic Marriott card (you cannot apply for it at this time), it comes with no annual fee, but gets you 15 elite-night credits every year, enough for automatic Silver status, as well as 1 elite-night credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card in a calendar year.
Marriott Silver status is usually earned after 10 nights; Gold status after 50 nights; and Platinum after 75 nights.
For more information on Marriott Rewards status and what it’s worth, check out this post.
6. Starwood Preferred Guest
Starwood Preferred Guest offers two co-branded cards from American Express, a personal version and a business version. Unfortunately, neither comes with automatic elite status, but both offer the opportunity to spend your way to elite status.
Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express: The personal version comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Each year, you automatically get 2 stays’ and 5 nights’ credit toward elite status, and if you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, you get automatic SPG Gold status. The annual fee on this card is $0 the first year, then $95.
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express: The business version comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Like the personal version, each year, you automatically get 2 stays’ and 5 nights’ credit toward elite status, and if you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, you get automatic SPG Gold status. The annual fee on this card is $0 the first year, then $95.
If you have both cards, you can actually stack those elite night/stay credits, so you would get credit for 10 nights and 4 stays annually.
Both cards started offering a slew of new benefits in August 2015, including waived foreign transaction fees, complimentary unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices and complimentary premium in-room internet access, among others.
However, it’s actually a non-co-branded card from American Express that offers SPG status outright…
Platinum Card from American Express: The current sign-up bonus on this card is 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in three months and the annual fee is $450, but in addition to a variety of other value-added benefits, it also comes with automatic SPG Gold status with no spending requirement. The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN offers the same status benefit.
Starwood Gold status usually requires 25 nights or 10 stays. For more on SPG elite status and what it’s worth, check out this post. In the meantime, keep an eye for further developments in the Starwood Preferred Guest program as Starwood’s takeover by Marriott progresses.
Clearly, there’s no shortage of ways to earn elite status through credit cards, both by merely being a cardholder as well as by hitting certain spending requirements. Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for working toward status with the loyalty program of your choice.
What is your favorite credit card for earning hotel status and/or benefits?
While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
- Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year for baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations worldwide. Terms Apply.
- Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors™ Gold Status with your Platinum Card.®
- No interest charges because you pay your balance in full each month.
- Terms and Conditions apply.
- See Rates & Fees