On the hamster wheel of chasing hotel elite status? Buy it instead
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
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:
- Marriott Gold elite status (from The Platinum Card® from American Express) ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees) (enrollment required)
- Hyatt Explorist elite status (from an MGM status match)
- IHG Platinum Ambassador elite status (from the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and purchasing Ambassador status)
- Hilton Diamond elite status (from the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card)
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).
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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 extremely conservative 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 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.
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.
For the rates & fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.
For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.