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Free elite status, bonus points and more: Credit cards offering rewards for annual spend

March 30, 2022
14 min read
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Credit card issuers are in the business of acquiring long-term customers. Beyond offering a large introductory bonus to draw new applicants in, banks try to incentivize existing cardholders to not only keep their products for years but to swipe them on a recurring basis.

One of the many tools to drive long-term utilization is offering bonus points, rewards or discounts after meeting a minimum amount of spend every year.

Let’s look at the cards that give a variety of awards after you meet set annual spend thresholds.

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Free hotel nights

Conrad Bora Bora (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The easiest way to justify paying an annual fee on a hotel credit card is by earning a free night award. If maximized to its full potential, the free night award can help you achieve a stay at an aspirational property that would normally cost hundreds of dollars per night.

With that said, here are the hotel credit cards that offer an annual free night certificate once you meet the spend requirements.

CardAnnual feeSpend requirement
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card $95 annual fee (see rates & fees).Spend $15,000 in a calendar year and earn a free weekend night reward.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card$450 (see rates & fees).Spend $60,000 in a calendar year and receive a free weekend night reward in addition to the one complimentary weekend night reward you get each year after your account renewal.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card$95 (see rates & fees).Spend $15,000 in a calendar year and earn a free weekend night reward. Spend $60,000 total in a calendar year and earn a second weekend night reward.
Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card$125 (see rates & fees).Spend $60,000 in a calendar year and earn a free night reward at any participating Marriott property that costs up to 35,000 points in addition to the one free night reward you get each year after your card renewal month.
World of Hyatt Credit Card$95.Earn a free night at any Category 1–4 property after spending $15,000 in a calendar year in addition to the one complimentary night Category 1–4 award you get each year after your cardmember anniversary.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Complimentary elite status

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Did you know that some credit cards offer complimentary elite status just by meeting spend thresholds on a card every year? This is useful because you may not have enough flights taken or hotel nights stayed from your travels to earn elite status, but credit card spend can provide the bump you need to earn that status.

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However, if you've got a large purchase coming up, credit card spend alone could be the easiest way to earn elite status without even taking into account your travels.

CardAnnual feeSpend requirement
Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard®$79, waived the first year.Earn 1 status qualifying point (SQP) for every $10 spent in purchases, meaning you’ll earn Silver status after spending $20,000 annually and Gold status with $50,000 in purchases.
Frontier Airlines World Mastercard$89.Earn 1 elite qualifying mile dollar spent on purchases and 2 qualifying miles after spending $20,000, which could elevate you Elite 20K, Elite 50K and Elite 100K status (named after the number of qualifying miles you’ll need to earn that status).
Hilton Honors American Express Card$0.Spend $20,000 in a calendar year and receive an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

 $95 annual fee.Spend $40,000 and receive an upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status.

JetBlue Plus Card 

JetBlue Business Card

$99.Spend $50,000 and earn Mosaic status good through the end of the following calendar year.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card$95.Spend $35,000 and earn Gold elite status through the end of the following calendar year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

$99.

$99.

$149.

$199.

Earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 spent on purchases annually, meaning you’ll earn A-List status after spending $240,000 annually.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®

$90.

Earn 25 Tier Points per $2,500 in purchases (maximum 50 per month), meaning you'll earn Silver status after spending $40,000.
World of Hyatt Credit Card$95.Earn two qualifying nights towards status for every $5,000 spent, meaning you can reach Explorist status solely from spending $65,000 and Globalist from $140,000 (after accounting for the five elite nights just from having the card).

World of Hyatt Business Credit Card

$199.

Earn five annual elite qualifying night credits for every $10,000 spent in a calendar year, which means you'll reach Explorist status solely from spending $60,000 and Globalist from $120,000.

The information for the Free Spirit Travel More, Frontier and Virgin Atlantic cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: So, what exactly is elite status in travel — and how can I get it?

American Airlines Loyalty Points

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On a related note, American Airlines rolled out an entirely new elite qualification program this year known as Loyalty Points. With these new metrics, it's now possible to earn status with the carrier from credit card spend alone.

You'll earn 1 Loyalty Point for each dollar spent on your cobranded American Airlines credit card (either from Citi or Barclays).

  • Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points.

For instance, if you can spend $200,000 on your American Airlines credit card, you can automatically earn Executive Platinum status without even stepping foot on a plane. However, most travelers will likely want to earn Loyalty Points with a mix of credit card spend, flying on American Airlines (and its partners) and some other unique strategies — especially since you need at least 30 qualifying segments to unlock the carrier's Loyalty Choice Rewards.

Related: American Airlines unveils its list of Loyalty Point-qualifying partners

Elite-qualifying dollars, points and miles

Delta One Suites (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For some loyalty programs, it's not possible to earn elite status from credit card spend alone.

However, it is possible to earn elite-qualifying metrics from card spend, getting you closer to your status goals.

CardAnnual feeSpend requirement
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

$550 (see rates & fees for consumer; see rates & fees for business).

 

Earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, up to four times.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

$250 (see rates & fees for consumer; see rates & fees for business).Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, up to two times.

United Explorer Card

United Business Card

$95, waived the first year.

$99

Earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 you spend on purchases (up to 1,000 PQP in a calendar year) that can be applied toward your Premier status qualification, up to the Premier 1K level.

United Quest Card

$250.

Earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 you spend on purchases (up to 3,000 PQP in a calendar year) that can be applied toward your Premier status qualification, up to the Premier 1K level.

United Club Infinite Card

$525.

Earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 you spend on purchases (up to 4,000 PQP in a calendar year) that can be applied toward your Premier status qualification, up to the Premier 1K level.

Bonus points, miles and more

Earn bonus IHG points toward your next redemption. (Photo courtesy of IHG Hotels & Resorts)

Beyond the welcome bonus, some cards offer the opportunity to earn additional points and miles throughout your card membership year.

CardAnnual feeSpend requirement
Aeroplan Credit Card$95.Earn 500 bonus points for every $2,000 you spend in a calendar month — up to 1,500 points per month.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard$99.Earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $50,000 to $99,999. Or, earn 40,000 miles after spending $100,000 or more on purchases during your card membership year.
IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card$99.Earn 10,000 bonus points after you spend $20,000 on purchases and make one additional purchase each calendar year.
Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card$0.Earn 7,500 bonus points each anniversary year when you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases.

The information for the Hawaiian Business card and Wyndham Rewards Earner Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Airline companion tickets

Earn a companion ticket by spending $30,000 on the British Airways Visa Signature Card. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Some credit cards offer airline companion tickets, perfect for those who travel in twos.

CardAnnual feeSpend requirement
Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card$95.Spend $30,000 and earn an economy companion ticket good for 12 months.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card$75.Earn Alaska's Famous Companion Fare every year on your credit card account anniversary, allowing you to book a companion flight from just $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22).
British Airways Visa Signature Card$95.Spend $30,000 each year on your card and receive a two-for-one Travel Together Ticket.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®$99.Earn an American Airlines Companion Certificate for domestic travel after you spend $30,000 or more in purchases each card membership year and the card is renewed. Redeeming the certificate costs $99 for the ticketing fee plus taxes and fees.
Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard$79, waived the first year.Receive a $100 companion flight voucher each anniversary after making at least $5,000 in purchases within the prior anniversary year.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard$90.Get a companion reward in the same cabin class or a cabin upgrade when you book a ticket through Virgin Atlantic — must spend $25,000 or more in purchases annually.

The information for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select, Free Spirit Travel More and the Virgin Atlantic cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Other benefits

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Last, but not least, you can accrue other perks by meeting hefty spend requirements on a card (such as the coveted Southwest Companion Pass).

CardAnnual feeSpend requirement
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®$99, waived the first year.Spend $20,000 or more during the card membership year and renew your card to earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card

$99, waived the first year (see rates & fees for consumer; see rates & fees for business).Receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit after you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year.
Iberia Plus Visa Signature Card$95.Spend $30,000 and earn a $1,000 discount voucher toward two tickets on the same flight.
Southwest cobranded cards$69-$199.$125,000 in annual spend on any combination of these cards (as long as they are all tied to the same Rapid Rewards account) will result in a Companion Pass.
World of Hyatt Business Credit Card$199.Spend $50,000 or more in a calendar year and get 10% of your redeemed points back for the rest of the year.

Bottom line

Paying with the right cards matter, especially when there's a free hotel night or elite status on the line. If you have a large purchase coming up and carry one of the cards listed above, consider paying with a card that can reward you for spend — no matter what the expense is.

Additional reporting by Senitra Horbrook, Richard Kerr and Carissa Rawson.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Bonvoy Business Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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