Which hotels count award stays toward elite status?
Editor's note: We've updated this post with current information.
Hotel elite status offers many perks, from room upgrades to bonus points and free breakfast. These perks can make a massive difference, with high-tier elites getting significantly more perks than non-elites in most programs.
In many hotel loyalty programs, you can earn elite status by staying with the program for a specific number of nights each calendar year. Of course, some programs also require members to spend a particular amount to earn top-tier status. And many programs offer other pathways through which you can earn elite status. For example, many of the best hotel credit cards offer elite status as a perk or provide elite night credits that you can use to earn higher status.
You may wonder whether award nights count if you’re hoping to qualify for hotel elite status based on nights. While flights purchased with miles rarely count toward elite status, most major hotel loyalty programs do count award nights toward elite status. Here’s what you need to know about the policies of some major hotel loyalty programs.
Choice Privileges offers three elite status tiers: Gold, Platinum and Diamond.
You can earn elite status in the Choice Privileges program based on the number of nights you spend with the program each calendar year. The Choice Privileges rules and regulations state:
Elite status is based upon the number of point-eligible or reward nights stayed per calendar year.
With the Choice Privileges program, your award nights will count toward the nights you need to earn your desired tier of elite status. Best of all, award nights start at just 6,000 points per night in the Choice Privileges program.
Even though award nights count toward Choice Privileges status, there’s a much easier way to earn elite status. If you stay at Choice hotels frequently, you may want to get the Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card. The card earns 5 points per dollar spent at eligible Choice hotels and provides Gold status as a perk.
The information for the Choice Privileges Visa 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.
Related: The best credit cards to reach elite status before the end of the year
Hilton offers three elite tiers within its Hilton Honors loyalty program: Silver, Gold and Diamond.
You can earn elite status with Hilton by reaching specific thresholds for nights, stays or base points each calendar year. For instance, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status after 21 stays, 42 nights or 84,000 base points accrued in 2022. But Hilton is returning to its pre-pandemic elite status requirements in 2023.
According to Hilton’s terms and conditions, reward stays — and the nights within reward stays — count toward earning Hilton Honors status:
The number of Reward Stays and the number of nights during a Reward Stay will count towards the number of stays and/or nights required for Elite tier qualification.
As Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, pricing is dynamic and rates vary. You can still find Hilton Honors award nights for as low as 5,000 points per night. But standard room rewards can also currently be found for as much as 150,000 points per night (and premium room rewards often cost much more). So, although you can use award nights to earn Hilton Honors status, opening a Hilton card is usually a better option.
Several Hilton credit cards offer elite status as a perk. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Card offers Silver status. And the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offer Gold status. Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status.
And once you have Hilton Honors status, you unlock access to a fifth night free on award stays.
The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.
Related: Take advantage of these Hilton promotions for bonus points and double elite night credit
IHG One Rewards
IHG One Rewards offers four elite tiers within its new IHG One Rewards program: Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite. You can qualify for each tier based on elite qualifying nights, but you can also qualify for all but the lowest Silver Elite tier based on elite qualifying points. IHG uses a calendar year as its qualification period.
Luckily, IHG One Rewards counts award stays toward elite status, according to its terms and conditions:
Reward Nights consumed by Members count as Qualifying Nights towards Elite membership qualification.
IHG moved to dynamic award pricing in 2020. The number of points required to book a reward night at a particular property varies from night to night and may change at any point. If you like to redeem IHG points, you'll want to focus on brands like Candlewood Suites and Holiday Inn Express and visit inexpensive destinations where you may still find award nights priced as low as 5,000 points per night.
But there’s also an easier way. In particular, you could add an IHG Rewards card to your wallet. For example, you get automatic Platinum Elite status and the opportunity to spend on your card to earn Diamond Elite status if you have the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card or IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. And if you have the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card, you get automatic Silver Elite status and the opportunity to spend on your card to earn Gold Elite status.
Related: Why I’m happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card
Marriott Bonvoy offers five elite tiers: Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite. You must stay with Marriott for a set number of nights each calendar year to snag each tier of Marriott Bonvoy elite status (Ambassador Elite also requires you to meet a spending threshold each calendar year).
If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist, you’re in luck. According to Marriott’s terms and conditions, award stays count toward earning elite status:
Free Night Award stay(s) and night(s) will count toward earning Elite membership status.
Like many other loyalty programs, Marriott Bonvoy award rates are also dynamic now. Most properties are still pricing within their previous award category bounds through the end of 2022. But for stays in 2023 and beyond, there won't be any published bounds on award rates. You can still find some good value awards, especially if you redeem Marriott points for a five-night stay (or longer) and get a fifth night free.
Of course, another easy way to earn Marriott Bonvoy elite status is through Marriott credit cards. Most Marriott cards offer elite status and elite night credits as a perk of cardmembership, including the following cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Complimentary Platinum Elite status and 25 elite night credits each calendar year.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card: Complimentary Gold Elite status and 15 elite night credits each calendar year.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Complimentary Silver Elite status and 15 elite night credits each calendar year.
You can earn elite night credits each year from up to one personal card and up to one business card. So, you could earn up to 40 elite night credits per year from Marriott credit cards if you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, for example.
Related: The complete guide to earning Marriott elite status with credit cards
World of Hyatt
World of Hyatt has three elite status tiers: Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist. Throughout each calendar-year qualification period, you can earn World of Hyatt elite status through nights, base points or meetings hosted.
The World of Hyatt frequently asked questions page states:
A Tier-Qualifying Night is any night when the member stays at a Hyatt hotel or resort or an MGM Rewards destination, pays an Eligible Rate or redeems a free night award, and associates his or her World of Hyatt membership number with the reservation.
So, free night awards that you book by redeeming Hyatt points count toward the nights you need to stay each calendar year if you want to earn World of Hyatt elite status.
If you're looking to redeem as few points as possible for a Hyatt free night award, you'll like that Hyatt moved to peak and off-peak award pricing. After all, now you can book off-peak nights at Category 1 Hyatt properties for just 3,500 points.
There are also several credit cards that offer automatic World of Hyatt elite status. In particular, you’ll get Discoverist status each year as a cardholder of the World of Hyatt Credit Card or World of Hyatt Business Credit Card. Plus, both cards offer the ability to earn qualifying night credits when you reach specific spending thresholds by making purchases with your card.
Related: Your guide to World of Hyatt award charts
Wyndham Rewards has three elite status tiers that offer varying benefits: Gold, Platinum and Diamond. You can reach these tiers by completing qualifying nights each calendar year at Wyndham properties.
Wyndham refers to award nights as Go Free awards. According to the Wyndham Rewards terms, a qualifying night toward earning elite status includes "a stayed night obtained by using any variety of Go Free Award."
Wyndham Rewards offers three tiers of Go Free awards, so award nights cost 7,500, 15,000 or 30,000 points per night. However, if you have the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card or the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card, your Go Free awards are discounted by 10%. Plus, having these Wyndham credit cards also gives you automatic Wyndham Rewards elite status in the form of Gold for the Earner card and Platinum for the Earner Plus card.
Related: 17 ways to earn Wyndham Rewards points for your next redemption
If you’re redeeming points for award nights, you’ll earn nights toward elite status with all of the programs discussed above.
But, if you still don't have enough nights for the status you want, hotel credit cards can also help you earn elite status. Some credit cards will give you elite status just for having the card in your wallet, while others let you earn elite night credits as you reach spending thresholds by using your card for purchases.
If you redeem points often for hotel stays, it’s a reasonably simple way to earn credit toward your preferred hotel’s elite status.
Additional reporting by Ehsan Haque, Katie Genter and Ryan Smith.