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When Do Hotels Not Award Elite Night Credits?

Sept. 11, 2018
6 min read
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For many travelers, the world of hotel "elite night credits" is an unnecessary complexity in a hobby already drowning in obscure terms. But for those chasing hotel elite status and all the bonus points, suite upgrades and free breakfasts it comes with, paying attention to this crucial number is an absolute necessity.

To be clear, elite credits are not the same as free nights. Unfortunately, that means my 66 year-to-date nights with Marriott don't translate to 66 award nights...

But generally speaking, you'll earn 1 elite night credit for each night you stay in a hotel, as well as bonus credits from certain credit cards or from hitting higher status levels. However, there are several scenarios where you won't earn elite night credits on your booking. While the exact criteria vary slightly between different hotel chains, the general rule is pretty simple: If you don't pay in your name, you won't earn points in your name. Not sure exactly what this means? Let's take a look at some of the more common examples where you won't earn elite credit, and make sure you are in fact earning the elite status you deserve.

Booking Through Online Travel Agencies

Sometimes online travel agencies (OTAs) are able to offer highly competitive rates thanks to agreements with hotel chains or room block purchases, and while most hotel chains offer some form of a best rate guarantee, they fail miserably to actually deliver on this promise. But unfortunately, booking through OTAs generally won't earn you elite night credits, elite benefits or points.

For someone like me as a Marriott Platinum Premier Elite, the benefits of my status can really add up over the course of a hotel stay. The welcome amenity, 75% points bonus, free breakfast and suite upgrades can easily total several hundred dollars, so traditionally when I've been looking to book a hotel, I started and ended my search directly on the Marriott website. This works both ways, as I want to not only earn my elite benefits, but I want to earn the elite night credits necessary to retain my status for another year.

For a long time, most hotel elites took this same approach and avoided using OTAs to book their travel. But this way of thinking was challenged when teamed up with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to offer the highest bonus category we've ever seen: 10x miles per dollar spent on bookings made at and paid for with the Venture card through Jan. 31, 2020. When you add in the fact that will occasionally offer lower rates than hotel websites — especially for suites or premium rooms at high-end properties — hotel elites need to consider whether the tradeoff is worth it for the 10x miles, the possibility of a discounted room rate and the Rewards loyalty program, which offers one free night for every 10 paid nights.

Pay With Points

While you'll usually get a better value transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards points to a travel partner instead of redeeming them directly through the Chase or Amex travel portals, bonuses for paying for travel directly with points can sometimes offer a compelling value. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a 50% bonus when you redeem with points, making your points worth 1.5 cents each.

You'll often find these deals in luxury markets where cash rates are cheap, like the Middle East or Southeast Asia. Take, for example, the Ritz Carlton Dubai International Financial Centre. Instead of paying 50,000 Marriott points for a free night, this hotel is a steal at only 19,143 Ultimate Rewards points a night if you have a CSR. Booking this way with points also beats the cash rate of almost $300 a night, but you'll be sacrificing your elite night credits to score this deal.

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Even though you're paying for the hotel with your points, in many ways you aren't actually making the booking. You're redeeming your points through Chase, who in turn makes the booking for you. Because the bank's travel agent is booking the room — not you — you won't earn any elite night credits. You also won't earn points or receive elite benefits, so make sure you're scoring a good enough deal to justify giving those up.

Booking Multiple Rooms

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.
The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Perhaps the most confusing and disappointing exclusion comes from booking room blocks at a hotel, be it for a wedding, conference or some other event or celebration. While some hotel chains will let you earn redeemable points for two or more rooms on the same stay, none of the major chains will let you earn elite night credits for more than one room per stay.

One remaining option to take note of is the Marriott Rewarding Events program. While it won't earn you one elite night credit per room you book, it does give you the opportunity to earn credits for more than just one room if you regularly book for large groups. When Marriott announced the full details of its new loyalty program, it confirmed the following:

"Members can continue to book meetings through the Rewarding Events program. Rewarding Events members will continue to earn 10 elite night credits for their first meeting, plus 1 elite night credit for every 20 rooms booked with a maximum of 20 elite nights per contract."

However, the flip side of this is that the new Marriott program has eliminated the ability of SPG members to earn elite credit for up to three rooms per night.

Bottom Line

If you're not chasing hotel elite status, you should always shop around to make sure you find the lowest rate possible. But if you're eyeing five-star suite upgrades in the near future, make sure you're booking your hotel reservations through a channel that recognizes your elite status and credits you for your stay.

Featured image by W Maldives. Photo courtesy of the hotel
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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