Which hotels count award stays toward elite status?

Nov 26, 2020

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Hotel elite status comes with a slew of perks, ranging from upgrades to bonus points and free breakfast. These perks can make a massive difference between your stay as an elite versus a non-elite member.

Earning elite status with many programs is fairly straightforward: stay a minimum number of nights to hit each elite tier (though some programs also have a dollar amount tied to their top-tier levels). But what about award stays? While flights purchased with miles rarely count toward elite status, most major hotel programs do count award stays toward elite status. In many cases, the hotel’s co-branded credit cards offer some form of elite status, so you may not want to redeem points for awards just to hit status.

Here’s what you need to know about each hotel loyalty program’s policy. 

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In This Post

Choice Privileges

Choice Privileges offers four elite 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 8,000 points per night, or 6,000 if paying in points and cash).

Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa (Photo courtesy of Choice Hotels.)

Even though award nights count towards 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 15x at eligible Choice Hotels, which you can then redeem for award nights, but it also comes with Elite Gold status. 

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 calendar year. According to Hilton’s terms and conditions, reward stays count towards earning elite 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.

(Photo courtesy of Hilton Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi)

There are currently four different Hilton-branded cards on the market with different features, but share one thing in common: Hilton Honors status. The Hilton Honors American Express Card offers Hilton Honors Silver status. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offer Gold status, while The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status.

As Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, pricing is dynamic and rates can vary. Take the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, for instance. The cheapest room, a King Garden Villa, will only set you back a modest 80,000 Hilton points a night. The priciest room? A two-bedroom estate that’ll cost you a whopping 822,000 points a night.

Sure, you can use award nights to hit Hilton Honors status, but opening a Hilton card or spending on one is a much easier route given Hilton’s dynamic pricing.

IHG Rewards

Like other chains, IHG Rewards Club also counts award stays towards elite status, according to its terms and conditions:

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

IHG offers four membership levels within its IHG Rewards Club loyalty program and announced earlier this year that all elite levels would be extended through January 2022. 

InterContinental New York Barclay Sign
(Photo by DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock)

Like Hilton, 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 are using award stays, you might want to focus on IHG’s lower-tier hotels, like the Crown Plaza or the Holiday Inn where cash + points awards can start as low as 7,500 points a night.

But there’s also an easier way.

There are two IHG Rewards Club credit cards currently accepting applications, and both come with elite status. You’ll receive Platinum Elite status just for holding IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and you can earn Gold Elite status on the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card after spending $10,000 in a calendar year.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to IHG Rewards Club

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 loyalist, you’re in luck. According to Marriott’s terms and conditions, award stays do 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.”

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa (Photo courtesy of the resort)

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, but you were close to hitting Titanium Elite, which normally requires 75 nights. You could then book a cheap Category 1 hotel for as low as 5,000 Bonvoy points a night for off-peak dates (or 4,000 using PointsSavers). Of course, another easy way to earn status is through Marriott’s co-branded credit cards, many of which include some level of elite status.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is offers complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card all offer instant Silver Elite status.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Radisson Rewards

Points + Cash and award nights count toward Radisson Rewards elite status. Like Hyatt, lower-category award nights are priced fairly decently. Standard Category 1 hotels start at 9,000 points a night, and Points + Cash awards start at just 5,000. Radisson might be the best program to use if you want to spend award nights toward hitting Radisson elite status, but, like the programs above, there’s a simpler way.

Radisson Blu Hotel in Kyiv
(Photo by Gelia/Shutterstock)

The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card comes with Gold Elite status, plus you’ll earn a free night for every $10,000 spent, up to $30,000 (valid at any Radisson property in the U.S.), while the Radisson Rewards Visa® Card comes with Silver status. You’ll earn a free night for every $10,000 you spend.

Related: The best loyalty program for earning free nights is one you may not have heard of

World of Hyatt

Hyatt’s terms and conditions state: “A Member may earn awards based on the number of nights the Member stays at a Hyatt hotel or resort; pays an Eligible Rate or redeems a Free Night Award.”

I’ve primarily earned my World of Hyatt elite status through award stays, not cash bookings. In March, just before the pandemic, I hit Discoverist 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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you’re redeeming award nights aiming for elite status, you’ll have much better luck with Hyatt than some other programs — for now at least. That’s because Hyatt’s award chart prices award nights as 5,000 points a night for Category 1 hotels. Note that Hyatt had planned to introduce peak and off-peak pricing earlier this year, but that’s been delayed to July 2021. So you’ll have a little more time to use low-end redemptions to hit Hyatt status if you want.

Like other hotel programs, Hyatt also has a cobranded credit that includes elite status. You’ll get automatic Discoverist status when you open The World of Hyatt Credit Card, plus one free night every year after your cardmember anniversary, valid at any Category 1 to 4 property. You can also earn a second free night by spending $15,000 on the card in your card membership year.

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 terms award nights as Go Free Awards, which count towards Wyndham Rewards elite status. However, when you use one of these awards in combination with one or more paid nights for a stay, only the average daily rate of the paid nights will be considered in determining whether such nights are Qualifying Nights, according to Wyndham. Similar to Hyatt, Wyndham has several hotels under its umbrella on the low-end redemption side, from 7,500 points a night.

Wyndham Sign on the Side of Hotel Building
(Photo by Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock)

But, much like the other hotel programs, Wyndham also offers two different cobranded credit cards that both include elite status. The Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card ($0 annual fee) comes with Gold status, while the Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card ($75 annual fee) comes with Wyndham Rewards Platinum status as long as the card is open and in good standing and 6,000 bonus points on every account anniversary.

The information for the Wyndham Rewards Visa 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: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming Wyndham Rewards

Bottom line

If you’re redeeming points for award nights, you’ll earn nights towards elite status no matter which hotel program you choose. Additionally, you’ll earn elite night credits on some hotel co-branded cards, like Marriott, just for having the card open. If you redeem points often for hotel stays (and we hope you do), it’s a fairly simple way to earn credit towards your preferred hotel’s elite status.

Featured photo by Marriott

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