On the hamster wheel of chasing hotel elite status? Buy it instead

Dec 28, 2019

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 3, 2019.

Raise your hand if you have elite status with at least one major hotel chain. This is TPG, so I’m guessing most, if not all of you have your hands in the air. But how far have you gone to earn that status? Have you made up trips, booked hotels for others or even gone on mattress runs? There’s no arguing that hotel elite status is lucrative — but what has it cost you to get it?

Like many of you, I have spent countless hours (and dollars) calculating the best ways to earn myself top-tier status at the major hotel chains — until this year. Here’s what I’ve got going on for 2019:

And that’s it — these will be my statuses for the foreseeable future. Why? Because I buy my status, I don’t chase it. While Marriott Gold is good and Hyatt Explorist is nice, holding Diamond status with Hilton and Platinum Ambassador with IHG has upped my hotel game to the point that I don’t feel the need to go big with anyone else.

From a numbers perspective, this makes sense. According to TPG’s valuations, the value of Hilton Diamond status is $3,025 for 2019. Hilton Diamond benefits include guaranteed lounge access (at properties that have them), room upgrades including suites (although they aren’t guaranteed), free breakfast, complimentary premium internet, late check-out, early check-in and a 100% bonus on earned points. These perks bring me tremendous value during my stays. The cost for me to hold permanent Diamond status, every year? The $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) on the Hilton Aspire card (which comes with an up to $250 airline incidental fee credit and up to $250 Hilton resort credit each year, among other perks).

My upgraded suite at the Hilton Dead Sea. (Photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy.)

While it would be nice to have higher elite status with Hyatt and Marriott, the amount of money I’d need to spend in order to earn these just isn’t worth it for me. With Hyatt I’d need to become a Globalist, which requires a minimum of 60 nights, while with Marriott I’d need 50 to become a Platinum member. Even assuming an extremelyconservative room rate of $50 per night, I’d still be out $3,000 for Hyatt and $2,500 for Marriott (this is not taking into account elite night credits earned as a result of holding a credit card or status earned via spend).

Related: How to book Manhattan’s secret — and cheapest — Marriott ‘mattress run’

When Hilton isn’t affordable for me — and sometimes it’s not — I instead stay with IHG. Though Platinum status is valued at just $880 per year, I hold it through my $89 annual fee IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. I also purchase Ambassador status every year for $200, which affords me special perks at InterContinental hotels (and would get me Platinum status anyway). Though I don’t get free breakfast, I doget room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, welcome amenities (which I usually take in the form of drink vouchers) and a buy-one-get-one-free weekend night once a year at an InterContinental hotel. I’ve had amazing luck with room upgrades, including an entire beach bungalow with a pool at the InterContinental Moorea on an award stay. I had literally purchased Ambassador status in the cab on the way to the hotel.

(Photo courtesy of IHG.)

Look, I know others have some pretty fierce brand loyalty — and that’s fine. I come at this from a Hilton loyalist perspective so I’m biased as well. The thing is, I’m only a loyalist because of what they can give me in terms of elite status and redemption opportunities — and from where I stand, there’s absolutely no other chain offering anything near what Hilton does with their Aspire card’s Diamond status. IHG is my next go to, because I can be treated like a top-tier elite for a mere $289 per year.

Feature photo courtesy of Hilton.

For the rates & fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.
For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

This card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new Card to purchase an Expert Flyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year.
  • Enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Each year of Card Membership, get up to $250 in statement credits on your Card Account for eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton Resorts.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
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15.74% - 24.74% Variable
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Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.

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