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Easy Ways to Earn Hotel Elite Status Before Your Next Family Vacation

Dec. 14, 2018
18 min read
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Walking into a hotel with elite status on your family vacation will make a difference — from room upgrades to complimentary breakfast and club lounge access, your family can have a more comfortable stay while saving money along the way. While the best chain hotels for families have varying elite status benefits, mark my words that having some elite status is always better than no status at all, even if all it does is keep you from getting the worst room in the house.

Many folks think that you need to travel a ton just to receive hotel elite status, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Just about every joe-schmo family can absolutely earn hotel status with just a little bit of effort. And, there are even some shortcuts to earning hotel elite status.

Earn Hilton Honors Status

Hilton Honors has three different status tiers — Silver, Gold and Diamond — and it is probably the easiest program for you to earn meaningful status without stepping foot into a property. While Hilton Gold and Diamond status will definitely get you much better treatment during your stay, don't discount the lowest-level Silver status. When using Hilton points, having at least Hilton Silver status will allow you to receive your fifth night free, which is huge and can save your family points to use toward your next vacation.

Hilton Hawaiian Village

The benefits of Hilton Gold and Diamond status include complimentary continental breakfast for two guests (excluding Hilton Grand Vacation properties), although in my experience many Hilton properties will actually provide full breakfast. Those two status levels also get you an upgraded room (based on availability).

Gold members can be upgraded to an executive-type room and Diamond members can be upgraded to a one-bedroom suite. Unlike some other chain hotels, there are no certificates you can redeem in advance to confirm an upgrade before your stay. Hilton Diamond members will also receive access to the property's Executive Lounge, when one exists, even if they aren't upgraded to that level. This is technically limited to just two guests per room, but I've found many properties to be liberal with this policy, allowing entire families to enter.

I personally find Hilton Gold and Diamond status worth it at Hilton properties, but wouldn't go too far out of my way to earn Silver status. Find out what Hilton Honors elite status is worth in 2018, according to TPG.

Enjoy complimentary breakfast.

Ways to Earn Hilton Status

One of the absolute easiest ways to earn Hilton status is by having one of its cobranded credit cards. Hilton is actually the only program where you automatically receive top-tier status just by holding one of its credit cards.

1. Be a Hilton Credit Card Member

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Every single one of its credit cards will give you some sort of status. You can sometimes spend your way on the card to the next tier, but it's easiest to just target the tier you need based on what the card automatically confers.

  • Hilton Honors Card from American Express: Automatic Silver status
  • Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Automatic Gold status
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Automatic Diamond status

2. Have a Platinum Amex

Hilton has a partnership with American Express where select credit cards also give you automatic status. If you link your Hilton account with your Platinum Card® from American Express or Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you can enjoy Hilton Gold elite status.

3. Status Match and Challenge

If you have status with another hotel, you can receive the equivalent Hilton status through March 2020. You'll receive the matched status for 90 days and you'll then need to complete a challenge to maintain the matched status until March 2020:

  • Hilton Gold Status: Complete four stays to keep Gold status.
  • Hilton Diamond Status: Complete eight stays to keep Diamond status.

With the status challenge portion, it is stays that count, not nights. So, if you're staying in a city with many Hilton properties, think about hotel hopping each night to rack up the stays.

Even if you don't have status with another hotel, it's good to note that IHG Platinum status will match to Hilton Diamond status. This is so great because you can automatically receive IHG Platinum status just by having the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.

Earn Marriott Elite Status

With the recent Starwood and Marriott merger, there are now five different status levels within Marriott Rewards. They include: Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Platinum Premier Elite and Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador. While earning Platinum Premier Elite and Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador is unobtainable without stepping foot into a hotel room, you can earn up to Platinum Elite status in many other ways.

Enjoy free breakfast with Marriott Platinum.

While Silver Elite is by far the easiest status to obtain with Marriott, there aren't too many guaranteed benefits that will help your family — although having status is always better than nothing. Both Gold Elite and Platinum Elite members receive late checkout (2pm Gold and 4pm Platinum) and a room upgrade (based on availability).

Platinum Elite members can actually receive a suite upon check-in if available. Two other huge benefits over Gold Elite members: 1. You can select complimentary breakfast as your check-in amenity (at most properties, including resorts) and 2. You'll receive club lounge access (at hotels that offer a lounge).

Additionally, Platinum Elite members who actually log 50 qualifying nights (which excludes those who only have the status because of earning lifetime status or via a status challenge/match) also receive five suite night awards. With these awards you can request a suite in advance of your stay and, if one is available, the hotel will allot that room type a few days in advance.

I personally find Platinum Elite status absolutely worth it at Marriott and Starwood properties, but wouldn't go out of my way at all to earn Silver Elite status. I would only put in minimal effort to earn Gold Elite status.

Relax in the club lounge!

Ways to Earn Marriott Status

1. Be a Marriott Credit Card Member

At a minimum, you'll receive Silver Elite status by having one of the chain's cobranded cards.

  • Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card: This card gives you 15 elite qualifying nights toward status per year, which automatically gives you Silver status.
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: This card gives you 15 elite qualifying nights toward status per year, which automatically gives you Silver status.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: This card gives you 15 elite qualifying nights toward status per year, which automatically gives you Silver status.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express: This card gives you 15 elite qualifying nights toward status per year, which automatically gives you Silver status.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card: This card gives you automatic Gold status.

You are unfortunately capped at receiving the 15-night benefit once per Marriott Rewards account, regardless of the number of credit cards you have open. So, holding multiple credit cards tied to your account will not help you reach the next status level.

2. Have a Platinum Amex

Similar to Hilton Honors, your Platinum Amex cards can be linked with Marriott Rewards to score you Gold Elite status , but you’ll need to call 800-525-3355 to enroll.

3. Charge your way to status

Putting a lot of spend throughout the year on your Marriott cobranded credit card can also earn you Gold Elite or Platinum Elite status. This won't make sense for all families, but it is an option.

Most interestingly to me is the ability to earn Marriott Rewards Platinum status via the SPG Luxury Card. The bad news is it will take a lot of spending to the tune of $75,000 on the card in a calendar year.

4. Status Challenge

Back in September, Marriott announced its first status challenge after the Marriott and Starwood programs combined. With this challenge, you can earn either Marriott Gold Elite or Marriott Platinum Elite status.

  • Marriott Gold Elite: Stay eight nights in three months
  • Marriott Platinum Elite: Stay 16 nights in three months

Call Marriott Rewards at 801-468-4000 to enroll in the challenge. Assuming this is an ongoing challenge opportunity, you'll only be able to register once every three years.

Earn World of Hyatt Elite Status

Last year, Hyatt fully revamped its loyalty program and now has three new status levels: Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist. While Discoverist status is the easiest status to earn without ever staying at a Hyatt property, the benefits aren't too special. It will get you late checkout (2pm), although Hyatt resorts are excluded from offering this benefit as a guaranteed perk. The main perk of having Hyatt Explorist status is that you'll receive four Club Lounge passes that you can redeem throughout the year, allowing your family to enjoy breakfast, snacks, drinks, appetizers and more in the club lounges. Explorist members are also supposed to be upgraded to the best available room at the hotel, excluding suites, based on availability.

Hyatt Regency Club at Hyatt Coconut Point

Explorist status is nice, but earning Globalist status can really make a huge difference — and is probably one of my favorite top-tier status levels amongst all of the hotel chains.

With Hyatt Globalist status, you'll receive complimentary Club Lounge access on every single stay as well as upgraded rooms, based on availability, including suites. Not only that, you'll receive four suite upgrade awards to apply to your hotel stay before your arrival. You can request these upgrades at the same time as making your reservation.

Knowing that your family is guaranteed a suite so far in advance is huge. The one caveat to this benefit is that you actually must earn 60 qualifying nights or 100,000 base points in the year. Earning status with a status match or status challenge will not earn you these suite upgrades. Other awesome Globalist member benefits include waived resort fees on paid reservations (all members receive waived resort fees when using points), complimentary parking on free night awards and 4pm late checkout. Globalists can also essentially share their status with friends and family members by using the "Guest of Honor" benefit.

Suite at Grand Hyatt Kauai (image courtesy of hotel)

Ways to Earn Hyatt Status

1. Be a World of Hyatt Credit Card Member

The World of Hyatt Credit Card will give you automatic Discoverist elite status. You can also match this to mLife elite status.

2. Spend on Your Hyatt Credit Card

With the new addition of the World of Hyatt credit card, earning Explorist or Globalist status is now possible by (heavily) using your credit card. This card gives you five elite qualifying nights on a yearly basis just for being a card holder and two additional elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card.

  • Earn Explorist Status: Spend $65,000 on the card, and earn 31 elite qualifying nights, which gets you Explorist status.
  • Earn Globalist Status: Spend $140,000 on the card and earn 61 elite qualifying nights, which gets you Globalist status. **If you already have Globalist status, you only need 55 nights to requalify (not 60 nights), so you'll only have to spend $125,000 on the card.

Remember: With the World of Hyatt Credit Card, you can earn Explorist or Globalist status by combining qualifying nights you stay at a property with your credit card spend. It does not need to be earned by all one or the other.

Earn Wyndham Rewards Elite Status

Unfortunately, the perks that come with having Wyndham status are not nearly as good as many of the other chain hotels, but it is still worth having if you stay at Wyndham properties as it is easy to obtain.

Wyndham has three status levels — Gold, Platinum and Diamond — although I'd probably only put in the effort to earn Diamond status. With Diamond status, you can receive up to a suite upgrade (based on availability) when you check into the hotel. Wyndham properties are definitely known to be a little stingy, so if you do have Diamond status, I would ask if a suite is available and would not depend on the property to automatically initiate the upgrade. The only other real benefit is that all three status levels receive late checkout; only Platinum and Diamond members receive early check-in. Unlike many of the other chain properties, there is no club lounge benefit though Diamond members do get a welcome amenity.

Photo courtesy of Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs

If you ever stay at the Caesar's properties in Las Vegas, then be sure and match your Wyndham status to status in that program — which may even score you a stay at Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Ways to Earn Wyndham Status

1. Be a Wyndham Card Member

  • Wyndham Rewards Visa Card: This card conveys automatic Gold status.
  • Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card: This card conveys automatic Platinum status.

2. Status Match and Challenge

Wyndham is currently offering a generous status match, where everyone can receive instant Gold status regardless of the status you have in another program. There is also the opportunity to earn Platinum status.

  • Wyndham Rewards Gold Status: All you have to do is show that you have a loyalty account with another hotel program and, viola, Gold status is yours. There are no other requirements necessary.
  • Wyndham Rewards Platinum Status: If you have, at a minimum, low-level status with another hotel chain, you'll be matched to Platinum status. This includes: Marriott Rewards Silver Elite, Hilton Honors Silver, Choice Privileges Gold, Best Western Gold, Hyatt Discoverist, IHG Gold Elite and Radisson Rewards Silver.

You'll keep the status through the end of the year following the year your status was matched. Get the status matched in 2018, and your status will be valid through Dec. 31, 2019, but wait until Jan. 1, 2019, and you'll receive the status through Dec. 31, 2020.

Earn IHG Elite Status

InterContinental Hotels Group offers four different status levels — Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Spire Elite and InterContinental Ambassador — but its top-tier status works slightly differently from most other hotel chains. Anyone can purchase InterContinental Ambassador status for $200 instead of earning it. This status gives you a one-category upgrade, 4pm checkout and an annual weekend night certificate valid for your second night free with a paid stay, along with other perks on eligible stays.. Most folks will only purchase this status if they have an actual use for the free night certificate where the cost would otherwise be more than $200.

With the other status levels, there is no complimentary breakfast, no club lounge and no suite upgrades, although Platinum status is incredibly easy to get at a relatively inexpensive price. While there are definitely benefits of having IHG status, specifically Platinum or Spire status, they will not help you all that much during most hotel stays. There is also no way to earn IHG Spire status outside of staying at its properties.

Overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Tahiti

That said -- getting credit to "raid the minibar" on Kimpton stays with Gold status and above is pretty sweet.

Minibar at Kimpton Van Zandt in Austin

Ways to Earn IHG Status

Be a IHG Credit Card Member

Having IHG Platinum status is helpful as many times it will match to top-tier status with another chain hotel via status matches or challenge promotions.

  • IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: This card offers automatic Platinum status.

Earn Choice Status

Choice Hotels are typically your lower-end hotels where most properties already provide breakfast to guests, regardless of status. There are also no club lounges, and while there are some upgraded rooms, don't expect a presidential suite to exist. With that being said, Choice Privileges status still has value. Like many of the other chain properties, there are three status levels: Gold, Platinum and Diamond. All three status levels come with 2pm late checkout, but only Diamond members receive complimentary room upgrades.

(Photo courtesy Choice Hotels)

Ways to Earn Choice Status

1. Be a Choice Privileges Credit Card Member

  • Choice Privileges Visa Credit Card: This card conveys automatic Gold status.

2. Status Match

If you have status with another hotel chain, Choice will happily match your status. All you have to do is email (for United States and Canadian members) or (for European members) and include the following information: 1. full name, 2. Choice Privileges member number and 3. proof of elite status in other hotel program (include a screen shot of the other program's loyalty card, current status or account status page).

Earn Radisson Rewards Elite Status

Formerly known as Club Carlson Rewards, Radisson Rewards offers three different status levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum. Fortunately, all offer complimentary room upgrades during check-in (based on availability) and all come with early and late checkout. However, only Platinum members will receive complimentary breakfast. Unfortunately, there are no opportunities to earn Radisson Rewards Platinum status aside from actually staying at its hotels.

Radisson Copenhagen

Ways to Earn Radisson Status

1. Be a Radisson Rewards Credit Card Member

  • Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card: This card offers automatic Silver status, although if you are already a Silver member, you'll instead receive 10 qualifying nights to put toward earning Gold or Platinum status
  • Radisson Rewards Business Visa Card: This card offers automatic Gold status, although if you are already a Gold member, you'll instead receive 15 qualifying nights to put toward earning Platinum status
  • Radisson Rewards Premier Signature Visa Card: This card offers automatic Gold status, although if you are already a Gold member, you'll instead receive 15 qualifying nights to put toward earning Platinum status

2. Status Match

Radisson is pretty generous when it comes to status matching. All you have to do is email them at and provide a screen shot with your status from another hotel chain. There is no formal program, but if you have top-tier status with another hotel chain you'll most likely be matched to Gold status. If you have mid-tier status with another hotel chain, you'll most likely be matched to Silver status. Unfortunately, Radisson will not match to Platinum status — you have to earn that the hard way.

Bottom Line

Earning hotel elite status doesn't have to be difficult. Many programs hand over status just by having their cobranded credit card or through a status matches and challenges. Take a look at where your family is planning to vacation over the next year, and then work on earning that program's status. Or, you can flip your strategy around and instead earn status with the easiest programs available (I'd recommend Hilton Honors) and then find a hotel in that particular chain that meets your vacation desires to maximize your points and perks.