Reader question: Does elite status from a credit card get you less recognition?

Jul 9, 2020

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. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It can take a lot of nights to earn elite status through hotel stays alone. However, select hotel credit cards provide elite status simply for being a cardholder. In fact, you can even get top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. But do hotels treat elite members who earn their status via credit cards the same as those who achieve it via stays?

Recently, reader Gareth E. wrote in asking about how hotels view status earned through credit cards:

I have Diamond with Hilton, and, although I am brand loyal, I maintain my status through the Hilton Aspire card. I probably only stay at Hilton properties for 20 nights a year. But, I sometimes get the sense that my “Diamond” status is less well regarded (in terms of upgrades, etc.) than people who have the status from having earned it by stays.  Would this be true?

Gareth E.

To answer that, we’ll consider how four popular hotel loyalty programs provide room upgrades to elites. In doing so, we’ll also consider whether it makes a difference how your status was earned.

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

In This Post

Hilton Honors

Hilton Grand Wailea
Hilton Grand Wailea (Photo by Meghan Hunter/The Points Guy)

You can earn Hilton Honors elite status through nights, stays or base points. But, you can also get Hilton Honors status through select credit cards.

Card Hilton Honors status Hilton Honors status earned with spending Annual fee
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Diamond n/a $450 (see rates & fees)
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card Gold Diamond through the next calendar year when you spend $40,000 on your card in a calendar year $95 (see rates & fees)
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card Gold Diamond through the next calendar year when you spend $40,000 on your card in a calendar year $95 (see rates & fees)
The Platinum Card® from American Express Gold n/a $550 (see rates & fees)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express Gold n/a $595 (see rates & fees)
Hilton Honors American Express Card Silver Gold through the end of the next year when you spend $20,000 on your card in a calendar year None (see rates & fees)

Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you

Elite upgrades

Hilton Honors may upgrade Gold and Diamond members when space is available at check-in. Specifically, Hilton may upgrade Gold members all the way up to executive floor room types. Diamond members can get upgraded all the way up to junior, standard or one-bedroom suites.

So, as a Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond elite, you should get the best room available at check-in based on your status. But, what information can Hilton Honors properties see about guests? A Hilton spokesperson gave us the following insight:

In order to recognize and reward our most loyal customers, individual properties are able to view members’ reservation details and Honors information, including (but not limited to) membership tier, length of stay and preferences, etc.

Granted, some Hilton Honors brands don’t offer upgrades. So, don’t expect one when staying at Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations brands.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Hilton Honors

World of Hyatt

Hyatt Regency Hill Country
Hyatt Regency Hill Country (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

World of Hyatt elite status is earned via nights, base points, meetings hosted. You can also earn World of Hyatt status through The World of Hyatt Credit Card.

The card offers automatic Discoverist status. Normally, cardholders also receive five qualifying nights toward the next tier status every year. But, if you apply for the card through Aug. 31, 2020, you’ll get 10 qualifying nights for this status year.

Cardholders earn two additional qualifying night credits for each $5,000 spent on their card. So, it is possible to spend your way up to Explorist or Globalist status.

Elite upgrades

At check-in, World of Hyatt Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist members may get upgraded to a better room, if available. Keep in mind that upgrades aren’t available at Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Destination Residences and Hyatt Residence Club hotels and resorts.

As a World of Hyatt Discoverist, you can be upgraded to a preferred room, while Explorist status gets you the best room available. This “best room” for Explorists excludes upgrades to suites or rooms with club lounge access.

Finally, as a World of Hyatt Globalist, you’ll receive the best room available at the time of check-in. However, Globalists aren’t eligible for upgrades to any suites besides standard suites.

A World of Hyatt spokesperson told TPG the following regarding what check-in agents see on your profile:

Hyatt properties have access to information to understand guest history, preferences, tier status among other things in an effort to ensure a great experience.

So, whether you earn World of Hyatt status through a credit card, status match or stays, your upgrade priority should follow policies for your status tier. As such, how you earned your status shouldn’t affect your upgrades.

Related: 5 reasons to go all in on The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy

JW Marriott Los Cabos
JW Marriott Los Cabos (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

You can earn Marriott Bonvoy elite status by staying at Marriott hotels a set number of nights each year. Select credit cards also offer Marriott Bonvoy elite status as a benefit.

Card Automatic Marriott Bonvoy status Marriott Bonvoy status obtainable with spending Annual fee
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Gold Elite Platinum Elite through the end of the next calendar year when you spend $75,000 on your card in a calendar year $450 (see rates & fees)
The Platinum Card® from American Express Gold Elite n/a $550 (see rates & fees)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express Gold Elite n/a $595 (see rates & fees)
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card Silver Elite Gold Elite through the end of the next year when you spend $35,000 on your card in an account year $95
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card Silver Elite Gold Elite through the end of the next year when you spend $35,000 on your card in a calendar year $125 (see rates & fees)
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card Silver Elite n/a None

Additionally, those who carry both a personal and business Marriott Bonvoy credit card can also get up to 30 elite-qualifying nights each year. That’s enough for Gold elite status and more than halfway to Platinum.

Elite upgrades

As a Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite or higher, you may be upgraded based on availability at check-in. However, upgrades aren’t available at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Aloft, Element and Vistana properties. Upgrades to Ritz-Carlton rooms with club access aren’t available.

Gold Elite members are eligible for upgrades to enhanced rooms, excluding suites. Meanwhile, Platinum Elite members and above can get upgraded to the best available room. The room must be available for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Only Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members are eligible for suites at Ritz-Carlton properties.

A Marriott Bonvoy spokesperson told TPG that room assignment is a complex process. When asked what type of information each individual property can see about guests, the spokesperson said:

The front desk accesses the property management system when checking in guests which includes member info like status, duration of membership, last stay at that property and points in the member’s account.

However, the spokesperson noted that how elite status was earned is irrelevant when providing benefits.

Related: Beginner’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

IHG Rewards Club

Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown
Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

You can earn IHG Rewards Club elite status by completing a certain number of nights or earning elite qualifying points. The easiest option is through an IHG credit card. Specifically, there are two IHG Rewards Club credit cards currently available:

Elite upgrades

IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite and Spire Elite members may be upgraded based on availability. Upgrades may not be available at IHG Residence properties and don’t apply to Holiday Inn Express hotels in China.

When asked what information is available regarding guest history, an IHG spokesperson told TPG:

Each hotel has access to a guest’s arrivals report which provides basic information on the guest including check-in and out date, tier status and stays in the last 12 months.

So, while individual properties have access to a guest’s stays in the last 12 months, the spokesperson stated that “all elites experience the same level of benefits per tier regardless of their nights.”

Related: How to earn and redeem points with IHG Rewards Club partners

Bottom line

According to all four loyalty rewards program reps we reached out to, elite members are treated the same, regardless of how they earned their status. Benefits are provided based on elite status tiers when you book directly with all four hotel loyalty programs.

However, this doesn’t mean upgrades are provided in the same way across the board. For example, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt both instruct properties to provide the best available upgrade to qualifying elites. And, Hilton Honors states that if a better room is available at check-in, it’s yours. But, IHG Rewards Club simply notes that Platinum Elite and Spire Elite members will be upgraded when available.

For rates and fees of the Amex Aspire, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Amex Surpass, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Business, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Platinum Amex, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business, please click here.  

Featured image of the Conrad Bora Bora by Summer Hull/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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.