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Is hotel elite status worth it anymore?

September 24 2021
10 min read
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Once a sought-after achievement for travelers both frequent and occasional, most hotel elite status levels no longer have that same super-exclusive allure.

It is easier to come by hotel elite status than ever before thanks both to numerous hotel credit cards that offer it as a perk, and the fact that many hotel brands have slashed qualification requirements during the pandemic.

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On top of that, benefits such as free breakfast and guaranteed suite upgrades are hit or miss, while many hotel programs have also devalued their redemption charts in recent years.

In short, it makes us wonder: Is hotel elite status worth it anymore?

Here’s why hotel elite status no longer feels as special ... but also some of the reasons you might still want to aim for it, even if you only travel from time to time.

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Hotel elite status perks

If you aren't already familiar, what hotel elite status does -- and doesn't -- get you varies a lot by status level, program and brand.

Hotel status may entitle you to you anything from just 500 more bonus points on a stay to a full room-service breakfast included for the whole family, a massive suite upgrade, waived resort fees, free parking and more.

Related: Is airline elite status worth it anymore?

Included room service breakfast (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

When staying with the brands and programs that are more generous, the (included) juice has in the past been worth some level of squeeze, but the last few years have brought lots of changes to the world of hotel loyalty programs and hotel operations, which could shift the equation.

Qualification has become (too) easy

(Photo by Maskot/Getty Images)

In the past, the primary way to achieve hotel elite status was through paid stays — the more nights you stayed, the higher the status you earned. Only true road warriors had a shot at top status with some programs. Now, however, it feels like you barely have to do anything at all to become an elite.

That’s thanks to hotel credit cards that offer status automatically, but also a raft of status extensions, earning promotions and expiration waivers that have spawned a glut of hotel elites (and folks with free night awards and suite upgrade certificates) just waiting in the wings for travel to resume in a meaningful way.

Related: Best credit cards for jump-starting elite status

This year has also presented a unique way of earning status faster than usual due to decreased qualification thresholds during the pandemic.

For example, the World of Hyatt program, which is generally regarded as one of the most rewarding hotel loyalty programs, slashed qualification criteria in half for 2021. On top of that, the World of Hyatt Credit Card is currently offering new applicants who apply through Sept. 30, 2021, two tier-qualifying night credits for each eligible night stayed through Dec. 31, 2021, as part of its welcome offer.

That means earning World of Hyatt's valuable top-tier Globalist status can be effectively done in as few as 15 nights instead of the usual 60, making it much more within reach for those who are traveling right now.

Generally speaking, more lenient qualification requirements can be good news for those seeking status as it's easier to argue a status level is worth it if you can snag it just by holding a credit card, or you can earn it with a small number of nights.

If everyone is elite is no one elite?

On the flip side, while easy access to hotel elite status is a good thing for travelers looking to level up, it does mean there are probably more elites, especially here in the U.S., than there are upgrades and perks to go around.

An easy gauge for this is when you are traveling in Europe or Asia. There, it's more common to be treated as pseudo-royalty with upgrades and the like thanks your hotel status because it's typically more difficult for travelers based in those areas to earn status without the credit card boosts available here in the U.S.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

But, when traveling in an area where there are lots of elites (i.e. domestically), the finite availability of benefits such as suite upgrades mean many elites will simply miss out on perks they may feel entitled to based on the stated benefits.

We've also seen some properties that receive lots of loyalty program visitors institute longer minimum-night-stay requirements for folks hoping to use points (thus making it harder to redeem for stays), while others try to skirt around offering very much in the way of an elite breakfast benefit.

So while easier status qualification is a good thing -- it's possible that it has also caused hotel programs to devalue their elite status offerings.

Benefit reductions

In addition to a large pool of elites, during the pandemic, we’ve seen hotel loyalty programs lessen the quality and quantity of some perks they offer elites, on top of a reduction in the general offerings we’ve come to expect during stays.

Restaurants have been closed, room service has been reduced or discontinued altogether, club lounges have not all reopened and housekeeping is no longer a standard amenity everywhere. But even before the pandemic, loyalty programs were changing and slashing elite benefits.

For example, Marriott began encouraging guests to waive housekeeping at check-in and opt for bonus points instead. And some popular brands, such as Ritz-Carlton, don't offer many measurable elite perks at all.

(Igor Vershinsky / Getty Images)

Related: When it comes to housekeeping, cruise ships blow hotels out of the water right now

Many hotels have also done away with welcome amenities. Hilton slashed the already dramatically changed the breakfast benefit that came standard for Gold and Diamond elites within the U.S. Space-available upgrades are also less likely to come through with a lot of the major chains now due to capacity limitations and more last-minute upsells to that hotels now proffer in order to generate more cash quickly.

That said, hotel elite status hasn't gone totally downhill.

When hotel elite status is still worth it

Despite the diminution of some perks and the large number of travelers with hotel elite status, there are plenty of reasons why you might still want to pursue hotel elite status for yourself. There are certainly plenty of TPG staffers who still keep a close eye on their hotel elite status progress.

First and foremost is that, because it’s so easy to achieve these days, there’s simply no reason not to do so. Beyond that, though, there are other benefits to becoming or remaining a hotel elite.

Pick up the easy status

If you can get your hotel status just by leveraging a credit card already in your wallet -- or by strategically adding one that will help boost your status levels -- why not do that?

For example, the Hilton Gold status you can enroll in with your The Platinum Card® from American Express or get automatically when you open the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card probably won't land you the world's greatest suite upgrade. But if it gets you some extra points and some food and beverage credit then make sure you're using it on your Hilton stays.

Double down if you are already loyal to one hotel brand

If you stay at one or two hotel chains often enough to earn some status, it makes sense to continue doing so rather than spreading your stays around and not earning any status at all. That way, you can be sure of at least some perks during your travels. Additionally, if you can bump up to the next level with just a little extra effort, it can be worth it to activate free breakfast or score some confirmed suite upgrades.

For example, there's a world of difference between Hyatt Explorist and Hyatt Globalist status that can be worth pushing for a few more nights to unlock the perks such as complimentary club access or breakfast during stays and suite upgrades. Likewise, if you make the leap from Marriott Gold status to Platinum, you can select from Annual Choice Benefits that might include extra elite night credits or five Suite Night Awards, which can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

There are still exciting perks to be had

No matter how many people have status, the fact remains that there are perks that make chasing status still worth it. Those include things like:

  • Space-available room upgrades, and even suite upgrades at the higher echelons
  • Club lounge access at certain premium properties
  • Welcome amenities of extra points, on-property credits or free food and beverages
  • Early check-in
  • Late check-out
  • Dedicated customer service phone lines and desks at hotels
  • Priority and guaranteed reservations
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Depending on how high you aim, you could get substantially better treatment with your hotel chain of choice with the right status level. For example, if free hotel breakfast is a perk you can unlock, and you can take advantage of it many times a year during various stays, that can be enough of a money-saver to convince you to redouble your efforts to reach a higher tier.

That said, hotel amenities and elite perks are likely to remain fairly curtailed for the foreseeable future thanks to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, so always plot your status strategy with an eye to the benefits you absolutely value versus those that are just nice to have on an occasional basis.

Bottom line

It might feel like there’s no reason to chase hotel elite status anymore given how easy it has become to earn and how few perks seem to remain, especially with certain chains or programs. And it may be true that it's not worth actively chasing status levels for a random hotel chain where you don't stay frequently, it's still worth factoring status into the equation.

Afterall, having status is still better than no status at all.

Ongoing benefits such as late checkout, complimentary Wi-Fi and food and beverage credits can still make having and earning status worthwhile ... especially if you can leverage your stay activity and credit card offerings to attain the higher echelons of status without much extra time or cash outlay.

Just considering how easy it is to earn hotel elite status, though, whether through credit cards, lowered qualification requirements, status matches or good old-fashioned paid hotel stays — it still makes sense to achieve and maintain status with brands that you patronize, even if you only stay a few times a year.

Additional reporting by Eric Rosen.

Featured photo by The floating breakfast was one of my favorite things at the Ritz-Carlton Bali.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees