Which hotels count award stays toward elite status?

Jan 16, 2022

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Hotel elite status comes with many perks, ranging from upgrades to bonus points to free breakfast. These perks can make a massive difference, with high-tier elites getting significantly more perks than nonelites in most programs.

Earning elite status with many programs is relatively straightforward: Stay a minimum number of nights to hit each elite tier. Granted, some programs also have a dollar amount tied to their top-tier levels and some programs offer other pathways to 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 levels of status.

But, if you’re hoping to qualify for elite status based on nights stayed, you may wonder whether award nights count. While flights purchased with miles rarely count toward elite status, most major hotel programs do count award nights toward elite status. Here’s what you need to know about each hotel loyalty program’s policy.

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In This Post

Choice Privileges

The Ridgeline Hotel-Estes Park, Ascend Hotel Collection
The Ridgeline Hotel-Estes Park, Ascend Hotel Collection. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Choice Privileges offers four status tiers. You’ll become a base member just by signing up for the program. Then, there are three elevated elite status tiers: Gold, Platinum and Diamond. Choice Privileges’ elite status is earned based on the number of point-eligible or reward nights stayed per calendar year. That includes your award nights (which can start as low as 6,000 points per night).

Even though award nights count toward Choice Privileges status, there’s a much easier way to earn elite status. If you find yourself staying at Choice hotels or redeeming award nights frequently, you may want to get the Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card. Not only does the card earn 5 points per dollar spent at eligible Choice hotels, which you can then redeem for award nights, but it also comes with 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: More bang for your buck — hotel credit card bonuses with low spending requirements

Hilton Honors

Hilton offers four tiers within its Hilton Honors loyalty program: Member, Silver, Gold and Diamond.

You earn elite status with Hilton based on stays, nights or hitting a set amount of base points in a calendar year. For instance, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status after 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points accrued in a typical year. And according to Hilton’s terms and conditions, reward stays count toward earning elite status:

The number of Reward Stays and the number of nights during a Reward Stay will count toward the number of stays and/or nights required for Elite tier qualification.

Finally, remember that Hilton has reduced the status requirements for 2022.

Zemi Beach House Hilton LXR
Hilton’s Zemi Beach House. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

There are currently several Hilton credit cards available to new cardholders, but they share one thing in common: Hilton Honors status. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Card offers Hilton Honors 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 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.

As Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, pricing is dynamic, and rates vary. Take the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, for instance. The cheapest room, a king garden villa, will set you back 90,000 Hilton points a night. But the priciest room? A two-bedroom estate that’ll cost you more than 600,000 points per night, with the exact award price depending on the time of year.

So, although you can use award nights to hit Hilton Honors status, opening a Hilton card may be a better option.

Related: 7 great ways to use 180,000 Hilton Honors points

IHG Rewards

IHG Rewards also counts award stays toward elite status, according to its terms and conditions:

IHG Rewards Club Reward Nights consumed by Members will be counted as Qualifying Nights toward Elite membership qualifications.

IHG offers four membership levels within its IHG Rewards Club loyalty program and announced earlier this year that it would extend all elite levels through February 2023.

IHG’s InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
IHG’s InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Most of IHG’s properties have moved to dynamic pricing. That means the number of points required to book a reward night at a particular property can vary from night to night and may change at any point. If you use award stays, you might want to focus on IHG’s lower-tier hotels, like Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, where award nights can start as low as 5,000 points per night.

But there’s also an easier way.

There are two IHG Rewards credit cards currently accepting applications and both come with elite status. You’ll receive Platinum Elite status just for holding the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. And you can earn Gold Elite status on the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card after spending $10,000 in a calendar year. Plus, both cards unlock a fourth-night-reward benefit, which lets you pay zero points for every fourth night of a stay when you redeem points for a stay of three nights or longer.

Related: Here’s your chance to earn 125,000 points and a reward night certificate with the IHG Premier card

Marriott Bonvoy

You can earn the lowest-level Marriott Bonvoy elite status after staying just 10 nights in a year. And 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. Free Night Awards are combinable and may be added to existing paid or Free Night Award stays.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott New York Manhattan/Central Park
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott New York Manhattan/Central Park. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Booking an award stay could be an easy way to get to the next tier. For instance, let’s say you were a Marriott Platinum Elite with 74 nights credited to your account. You’d be close to hitting Titanium Elite, which requires 75 nights. You could then book a Category 1 hotel for as low as 5,000 Bonvoy points a night for off-peak dates (or 4,000 points using PointsSavers). What these hotels might cost after 2023 (when Marriott completely removes its award chart) is still to be seen, though.

Of course, another easy way to earn status is through Marriott credit cards. Most Marriott cards offer elite status as a perk. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card offers complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. And the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card all offer instant Silver Elite status. Plus, some Marriott cards also offer 15 elite night credits each year, which can help you reach a higher elite status tier.

Related: Why I’m keeping my Marriott Bonvoy Boundless for the long term

Radisson Rewards

Points + Cash and award nights count toward Radisson Rewards’ elite status. And Radisson prices some award nights relatively inexpensively: Standard Category 1 hotels start at 15,000 points a night and Points + Cash awards start at just 5,000 points. Radisson might be the best program to use if you want to spend award nights to reach elite status.

Radisson Blu Anaheim room
Radisson Blu Anaheim. (Photo by Ariana Arghandewal/The Points Guy)

However, like the programs above, there’s a simpler way. The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card comes with Gold Elite status, while the Radisson Rewards Visa® Card comes with Silver status.

The information for the Radisson Premier Visa and Radisson Visa 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: It’s tricky, but you can still use Radisson points for international travel — here’s how

World of Hyatt

Hyatt’s terms and conditions state:

A Tier-Qualifying Night is any night when the member stays at a Hyatt hotel or resort or an M life 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.

I’ve primarily earned my World of Hyatt elite status through award stays, not cash bookings. Just before the pandemic, I hit Explorist status after completing a three-night award stay at the Hyatt Regency Mexico City. I’ve been able to earn so many points through a combination of credit card sign-up bonuses (more on that below) and Hyatt’s frequent promotions like Bonus Journeys.

Hyatt room
(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

If you’re redeeming award nights in pursuit of elite status, you’ll have much better luck with World of Hyatt than some other programs. After all, Hyatt has moved to peak and off-peak pricing for new award stays booked for travel from March 1, 2022, onward, and Category 1 properties will require as few as 3,500 points on off-peak nights.

Like other hotel programs, World of Hyatt has several cobranded credit cards that offer automatic elite status. In particular, you’ll get Discoverist status when you open the World of Hyatt Credit Card or World of Hyatt Business Credit Card.

Related: 5 easy ways to maximize Hyatt award redemptions

Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham Rewards has four status tiers that offer varying benefits: Blue, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. You’ll earn status after completing qualifying nights at Wyndham properties.

Wyndham refers to award nights as Go Free awards, which count toward Wyndham Rewards’ elite status. According to Wyndham, “Go Free award nights qualify as Qualifying Nights for the purpose of obtaining a Member Level but do not earn Wyndham Rewards points or Travel Partner Currency.”

Wyndham has three award night costs for Go Free awards: 7,500, 15,000 and 30,000 points. Luckily, Wyndham has many hotels under its umbrella on the low-end redemption side that cost just 7,500 points a night.

Wyndham sign on a hotel in Cologne Germany
(Photo by Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock.com)

But, much like the other hotel programs, Wyndham also offers three different cobranded credit cards that include elite status. The Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card offers automatic Wyndham Rewards Gold status, the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card comes with Wyndham Rewards Platinum and the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Business Card provides top-tier Wyndham Rewards Diamond status.

The information for the Wyndham Rewards Earner Business 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: There’s a Wyndham property for every traveler

Bottom line

If you’re redeeming points for award nights, you’ll earn nights toward elite status with all of the programs discussed above. Additionally, you’ll earn elite night credits on some hotel credit cards, like Marriott cobranded cards, just for having the card open. Some hotel credit cards will even give you elite status just for having the card in your wallet. If you redeem points often for hotel stays (and we hope you do), it’s a reasonably simple way to earn credit toward your preferred hotel’s elite status.

Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.

Featured photo of Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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