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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Having elite status with a hotel chain can make your time away from home a little bit more comfortable. But if you’re not a road warrior with hundreds of nights under your belt, you might think it’s impossible to meet the requirements to get status.
Fortunately, in recent years the major hotel chains have teamed up with their banking partners to provide numerous alternate ways to bestow these elite levels on their customers, in many cases without even needing to stay a single night at their hotels. But knowing exactly who partners with whom and what’s required to get status is vital to properly planning your credit card applications.
So here’s a complete list of the major credit cards that will grant you elite status at major hotels.
Hilton Status With Two Different Banks
Of all the hotels on this list, Hilton makes it easiest to get automatic status with one of its many credit cards, in part because Hilton is the only major hotel chain with credit cards issued by two different banks.
Citibank offers two different flavors of Hilton cards, both of which offer an opportunity to earn elite status. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card comes with Hilton Gold status for as long as you have the card. It has a $95 annual fee but also provides a “fast track” method to Diamond for cardholders who spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
Not to be outdone, American Express offers the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, which also comes with complimentary Gold status and the chance to earn Diamond with $40,000 in calendar-year spending. This card has a $75 annual fee, but has different benefits than Citibank’s offering even though the elite status perks are identical.
But if paying annual fees isn’t your thing, consider the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card, which comes with Hilton Silver status and offers a fast track to Gold by either spending $20,000 in a calendar year, or making four stays within 90 days of opening your account. Or you can choose a similar offer from American Express with its no annual fee Hilton Honors Card from American Express (See Rates & Fees), which also gives Silver status and awards Gold after $20,000 in spend within a calendar year. Note that unlike the Citibank card, the Amex one does not provide an option to earn Gold with four stays in 90 days.
All these cards come with their own great bonuses and varying bonus categories, so you’ll want to consider both your elite status goals and your overall points needs when choosing one of them.
Finally, don’t forget that both the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum® Card from American Express provide complimentary Hilton Gold status, so if you already have one of these cards, you can get Hilton elite status right now just by requesting it!
The Marriott/Ritz/Starwood Triumvirate
Thanks to Marriott’s recent merger with Starwood and its longstanding ownership of Ritz-Carlton, there are now more ways than ever to get elite status at all three of these chains with credit cards. The key is to remember that you can match status at Marriott or Ritz-Carlton to Starwood and vice versa, so by getting status at any one of these hotels, you’ll get status at all three.
The first option is by getting either the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card or the business version, both of which come with 15 elite night credits each year, enough to automatically qualify for Silver status at the chain. You can then earn 1 additional elite night credit for every $3,000 spent on the card. There’s no limit to the number of elite night credits you can obtain this way, so you can make it all the way to either Gold (50 elite nights) or Platinum (75 elite nights) entirely through credit card spend.
A second method for status is through the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Each of these cards award credit for 5 nights and 2 stays each year towards elite status, but if you have both cards, the credits will stack together for a total of 10 nights and 4 stays. That means you’ll only need 6 more stays or 15 nights for Gold, or 21 stays or 40 nights for Platinum. But if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on either of the Starwood cards, you’ll automatically receive Starwood Gold status without any stays or nights at all.
A third way to get status is with either the Platinum Card from American Express (See Rates & Fees) or the Business Platinum Card from American Express (See Rates & Fees), which both award free Starwood Preferred Gold status. Obviously this is the easiest way to Gold, though with a $550 annual fee or higher for each of these cards, it also might be the most expensive.
Finally, there’s the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, which includes automatic Gold status in the first year and with $10,000 in annual spend thereafter. With this card, you can also spend $75,000 in an account year and receive Ritz-Carlton Platinum status, which will be recognized at Marriott hotels worldwide and can also be matched to Starwood Platinum for top-tier status at all three chains.
Credit Card Status With the New World of Hyatt
With the new World of Hyatt replacing the existing Hyatt Gold Passport elite program on March 1, there are some changes to be aware of this year when it comes to earning Hyatt status with a credit card.
As before, there’s only one credit card tied to Hyatt, so you’ll need to get the Hyatt Credit Card if you want to pursue status this way. The card comes with complimentary Platinum status until February 28, which will then transition to the new Discoverist status. Of course, if you get the card after February 28, you’ll simply get Discoverist status from the get-go.
But there’s a major change in the credit card itself this year as well. In the past if you spent $20,000 on the Hyatt card, you’d receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward any Hyatt elite status — spending an additional $20,000 got you another 3 stay credits and 5 more night credits. Unfortunately, all of that is going away with the new program. Instead, $50,000 in spend on the card each calendar year will earn Explorist status through the following year. There will not be any way to achieve top tier Globalist status with the credit card, or even assisted by the credit card.
IHG Platinum With Only a Credit Card
As with Hyatt, there’s only one credit card tied to the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) chain of hotels, and that’s the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card. The card comes with complimentary IHG Platinum status.
While IHG Platinum isn’t quite as impressive as the comparable level status at other chains, the card also comes with a free anniversary night each year that can be used at any IHG property, so it’s not a bad deal for the $49 annual fee (which is waived the first year).
Club Carlson Status With a Smaller Bank Partner
Finally, if your travels include stays at the Club Carlson family of hotels, there are several options for earning status with credit cards. Both the personal Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card and the business Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa provide complimentary Gold status just from being a cardholder. However, if you already have Gold status from stays at the chain, either of these cards will give you 15 qualifying nights towards obtaining top-tier Concierge Elite status.
And if you’re just interested in basic status at Club Carlson and don’t want to pay an annual fee, you can choose the free Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card, which awards automatic Silver status, or 10 qualifying nights towards Gold or Concierge Elite.
With all these options, it’s pretty easy to pick up hotel elite status at a chain or two this year without breaking your back with endless travel. Just make sure you choose wisely with your credit card applications and spending, and you should find yourself getting at least a little special treatment during your upcoming hotel stays.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Card, please click here.
Featured image of the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro courtesy of Marriott.
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