This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Unlike airline credit cards, one of the hallmarks of hotel credit cards is offering some level of automatic elite status (not to mention annual free nights) as part of their benefits packages. Even though many hotel cards simply offer the lowest tier of status, we’ve also seen the recent introduction of new premium hotel credit cards like the Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card, which offers Hilton’s top-tier Diamond status automatically. The new Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Hilton Honors Ascend American Express Card both offer mid-tier status and the opportunity to spend your way to a higher tier.
Even cards that only confer status at the lower rungs, like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the World of Hyatt Credit Card, might be well worth it for some travelers considering that it could otherwise take you 10-15 nights of paid stays to achieve starter status and perks like a shot at room upgrades, late check-out, or even a hint of preferential treatment.
We have detailed posts on the various status levels of the major hotel programs and what benefits you can expect at each tier.
Here’s a rundown of the travel rewards credit cards that offer automatic elite status within their cobranded hotel programs, or via partnerships. We’ve restricted our list to personal (not business) credit cards that are currently available for new applications.
|Annual Fee||Automatic Status||Spend to Status|
|Hilton Honors Card from American Express||$0 (see rates & fees)||Silver||Spend $20,000 for Gold|
|Hilton Honors American Express Ascend||$95 (see rates & fees)||Gold||Spend $40,000 for Diamond|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire||$450 (see rates & fees)||Diamond|
|World of Hyatt|
|World of Hyatt Credit Card||$95||Discoverist||Earn 2 additional nights per $5,000 spent|
|IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||$89||Platinum|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express||$450 (see rates & fees)||Gold||Spend $75,000 for Platinum|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Chase Card||$95||Silver||Spend $35,000 for Gold|
|Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature||$75||Gold|
|Radisson Rewards Visa Signature||$50||Silver|
|Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature
|Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$550 (see rates & fees)||Hilton Gold, Marriott Gold|
Now for the details on each card by points program.
When it switched its entire credit card portfolio over to American Express back in January 2018, Hilton launched a trio of new cards, each of which confers at least some level of status.
Annual fee: $0
Elite status: Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your card. Spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
Current welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership.
Earning: Earn 7 Hilton points per dollar at Hilton hotels; 5 on purchases at US restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations; 3 per dollar on everything else.
Annual fee: $95
Elite status: Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status with your card. Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
Current welcome bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership.
Earning: This card earns 12x points for charges at Hilton portfolio hotels. Cardmembers also earn 6x points at US restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations; and 3x points for all other eligible purchases.
Annual fee: $450
Elite status: Enjoy automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status.
Current welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of card membership.
Earning: Card members earn 14 points per dollar at Hilton hotels; 7 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select rental agencies and at US restaurants; and 3 points per dollar on everything else.
Other benefits: One weekend night reward every year after renewal plus an additional night at eligible properties after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. Enjoy up to $250 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts. Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $250 per calendar year in statement credits for incidental fees such as checked baggage and flight change fees. Get up to $100 in credits for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts on two-night-minimum stays. Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access for card holder and two guests.
World of Hyatt
Annual fee: $95
Elite status: Discoverist status automatically, though you also receive 5 qualifying night credits toward the next level of elite status each year and the opportunity to earn two additional night credits for each $5,000 spent on the card.
Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points total possible — 25,000 points after you make $3,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening and an additional 25,000-point bonus when you spend a total of $6,000 within 6 months of account opening.
Earning: Card members accrue 4 points per dollar at Hyatt properties; 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting, at restaurants, on airline tickets and on fitness club and gym memberships; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Other benefits: One free night at a Category 1-4 hotel each year after your cardmember anniversary plus a second free night at a Category 1-4 hotel each year when you spend $15,000 on the card during your cardmember year.
IHG Rewards Club
Like Hyatt, IHG relaunched its cobranded credit card in 2018, complete with a new name.
Annual fee: $89
Elite status: Automatic IHG Rewards Club Platinum status.
Current sign-up bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Earning: Earn 10 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Other benefits: One free night annually valued at up to 40,000 points. Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee reimbursement once every four years. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus points if you spend $20,000 on purchases and make one additional purchase each account anniversary year. Fourth night free on award stays.
With the final combination of Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest into the new Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program in February, Marriott also took the opportunity to revamp its slate of co-branded credit cards, including the introduction of new cards and new benefits.
Annual fee: $450
Elite status: Enjoy complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold status with your card, and earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status after making $75,000 in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year. Each calendar year you also receive credit for 15 nights toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy elite status (say, if you already reach Gold status based on your stays but are within shouting distance of Platinum status without having to meet the $75,000 spending requirement).
Current welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months (though this offer has been as much as 100,000 points in the past, so you might want to wait on applying).
Earning: Earn 6 points per dollar at Marriott properties, 3 points per dollar at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline, and 2x points per dollar on everything else.
Other benefits: This relative newcomer is loaded with perks. Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points. Each year you also receive up to $300 in statement credits for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and enjoy up to $100 in credits for on-property charges when booking stays of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties. Cardmembers also get Priority Pass Select lounge access and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth up to $100 every four years. Card holders can enroll for free in the Amex Boingo Preferred plan with unlimited access to over one million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world.
Annual fee: $95
Elite status: Automatic Silver elite status plus 15 elite night credits each calendar year toward reaching a higher status. Reach Gold status by spending $35,000 or more on your card in a calendar year.
Current sign-up bonus: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you spend $3,000 on your card in the first 3 months.
Earning: This card earns 6 points per dollar on Marriott purchases and 2 points per dollar on everything else.
Other benefits: Receive a free night award every year on your account anniversary when you renew your card, worth up to 35,000 points. Enjoy free premium in-room Wi-Fi (beginning in August).
Radisson Rewards has several co-branded credit cards whose benefits include automatic elite status.
Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature
Annual fee: $75
Elite status: Automatic Gold status when you activate, but you also receive 15 nights of elite credit each year toward reaching or maintaining Platinum status if you are a more frequent traveler.
Current sign-up bonus: This card is currently offering a historically high sign-up bonus of 120,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days.
Earning: Cardmembers earn 10 points per dollar at Radisson properties and 5 per dollar everywhere else.
Other benefits: Earn one free night e-certificate for each $10,000 in spend, up to $30,000 per cardmember year and renew your card. Earn 40,000 bonus points each year when you renew your card.
Radisson Rewards Visa Signature
Annual fee: $50
Elite status: Automatic Silver status when you activate, but you also receive 10 nights of elite credit each year toward reaching or maintaining Gold or Platinum status if you are a more frequent traveler.
Current sign-up bonus: Up to 60,000 bonus points – 50,000 with first purchase, and an additional 10,000 if you spend at least $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Earning: Cardmembers earn 6 points per dollar at Radisson properties, and 3 points per dollar everywhere else.
Other benefits: Earn one free night e-certificate for each $10,000 in spend, up to $30,000 per cardmember year and renew your card. Receive 25,000 bonus points each year when you renew your card.
Don’t overlook this points program, which counts over 9,000 participating properties worldwide.
Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature
Annual fee: $75
Elite status: Cardmembers receive Wyndham Rewards’ top-tier Platinum status automatically.
Current sign-up bonus: Up to 30,000 bonus points — 15,000 after your first purchase and an additional 15,000 after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
Earning: Earn 5 points per dollar at participating By Wyndham hotels, Wyndham Vacation Rental North America properties, and Wyndham timeshare properties; 2 points per dollar on gas, utility and grocery store purchases; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Other benefits: Earn 6,000 bonus points after your account anniversary each year.
Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature – No Annual Fee
Annual fee: $0
Elite status: Card holders enjoy automatic Gold status.
Current sign-up bonus: Earn 15,000 bonus points after your first purchase.
Earning: Earn 3 points per dollar at participating By Wyndham hotels, Wyndham Vacation Rental North America properties, and Wyndham timeshare properties; 2 points per dollar on gas, utility and grocery store purchases; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Just because you don’t have a co-branded hotel credit card doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy automatic hotel elite status.
Platinum Card from American Express
Annual fee: $550
Elite status: Cardmembers can register for automatic Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status.
Current welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Earning: Earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and through American Express travel, plus prepaid hotel bookings through amextravel.com and Fine Hotels & Resorts. Earn 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Other benefits: Almost too many to include. Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. Up to a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 fee credit for TSA PreCheck every 4 years. Up to $200 annual airline fee statement credits on incidental fees charged by the airline you select. Uber VIP status and up to $200 annual Uber credit split into monthly $15 credits for US rides plus a bonus $20 in December. Up to a $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit split into two $50 statement credits for the two halves of the year. Complimentary memberships in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive. Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings and perks. Discounted premium tickets via the Amex International Airlines Program.
If you’re carrying a hotel credit card that does not offer you automatic elite status, it’s time to get another card. Though many credit cards from hotel loyalty programs include at least the bottom level of elite status, many have upped their perks portfolios to include mid- or even top-tier status.
Many of the cards that now do so have reasonable annual fees that are more than made up for by the value card holders can reap from their complimentary status plus additional benefits like annual free nights, discounted award stays and bonus earning opportunities. If you spend even a few nights per year with a particular chain, check out its cobranded credit cards and see if it makes sense to carry one so you can enjoy the perks of being an elite when you travel.
For rates & fees of the Hilton Amex, click here.
For rates & fees of the Hilton Ascend Amex, click here.
For rates & fees of the Hilton Aspire Amex, click here.
For rates & fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, click here.
For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
Featured image W Maldives (Photo courtesy of Marriott).
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees