Savvy Saturday: Earn elite status with 5+ hotel chains from a single credit card

Aug 7, 2021

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Editor’s note: Some travel cards come with esoteric benefits that are difficult to maximize. This article is part of a series that shows you unique, fun and unintended ways to use your credit card benefits. If you’ve got any questions or have an example of a creative way to use a credit card perk, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook, or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.


The idea of hotel elite status is great. You get preferential treatment like upgraded rooms and free breakfast; you earn more points for your stay than less savvy travelers; in some cases, you’ll get annoying fees waived, like daily parking. There are just two problems:

  • Earning elite status — particularly top-tier status — isn’t easy for those who don’t travel for work. In many cases, you’ll have to stay 50+ nights per calendar year to achieve it.
  • Elite status handcuffs you to one specific hotel chain if you want to reap the best VIP benefits. That’s unfortunate, because sometimes other hotel chains offer better prices in better locations for your upcoming trip.

But what if you could open a single hotel credit card and, almost instantaneously, earn elite status with a whole bunch of hotel brands? It’s actually quite easy to do…if you know how.

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Marriott Platinum elite status gets you free breakfast at many top-notch hotels — it saved us nearly $700 in the Maldives. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

The secret: “Status match” elite status from your hotel credit card

The hotel industry is cutthroat. Hotels continually devise strategies to poach your business from their competitors. One famous strategy, the status match or challenge, is by offering customers who have elite status in a rival program the opportunity to enjoy elite status in their own program, either right off the bat, or upon completing a certain number of stays.

For example, if you tell Hilton that you have Hyatt Globalist status, they know you must stay at hotels frequently. They might be (and probably are) willing to confer top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status upon you to woo you away from Hyatt and spend your money with them, instead.

I booked a hotel in Oregon for later this year. I then realized the hotel brand is under the Best Western umbrella. I immediately sent a message to Best Western letting them know I have Marriott Titanium status, and I was hoping for a status match. Within hours they emailed me back confirming I was a recipient of their highest elite status, which normally requires 50 nights or 40 stays at Best Western property per year to achieve.

Interested in performing some similar loyalty acrobatics of your own? There’s a very helpful site you should know about called StatusMatcher. This site crowdsources data points from travelers who share the results of their status match attempts and provides details that can help you to status match, yourself. As you might imagine, there aren’t a ton of data points lately, but you can browse the history of successful matches to get a feel for how each hotel chain matches one another.

You can apply for status matches through the below contact points:

  • Hilton: Apply here
  • Hyatt: Email worldofhyatt@hyatt.com
  • Choice Privileges: Email status_match@choicehotels.com
  • Best Western Rewards: Apply here
  • IHG Rewards: Apply here (you can only apply during a status match promotion, currently inactive)
  • Marriott Bonvoy: No status matching, but you can apply for a “status challenge,” which fast tracks you to elite status, by calling 800-627-7468
  • Radisson Rewards: Must call to match to a corresponding tier in a competitor program

Some of the above chains only offer status matches periodically throughout the year. You can keep track of them by bookmarking our hotel elite status match guide.

Below are the four most popular hotel loyalty programs, along with helpful data points from StatusMatcher from the past few years.

Marriott Bonvoy

Status you have Status you can earn through a status match
Marriott Silver No data points

Marriott Gold

  • Hilton Gold
  • IHG Platinum
  • Radisson Rewards Silver
Marriott Platinum
  • Hilton Gold
  • Hilton Diamond
  • MGM Mlife Platinum
  • Best Western Diamond Select
Marriott Titanium No data points

 

Hilton Honors

Status you have Status you can earn through a status match
Hilton Silver
  • Sonesta Travel Pass Elite
Hilton Gold
  • Radisson Rewards Silver
  • Best Western Diamond
  • Wyndham Diamond
Hilton Diamond
  • Caesars Rewards Diamond
  • Choice Privileges Platinum

 

Hyatt

Status you have Status you can earn through a status match
Hyatt Discoverist
  • Hilton Gold
Hyatt Explorist
  • MGM Mlife Gold
  • Radisson Rewards Gold
  • Hilton Gold
  • Best Western Diamond
Hyatt Globalist
  • Hilton Diamond
  • MGM Mlife Platinum

IHG

Status you have Status you can earn through a status match
IHG Gold
  • Radisson Rewards Gold
  • Hilton Gold
IHG Platinum
  • Choice Privileges Platinum
  • Radisson Rewards Gold
  • Hilton Diamond (multiple data points confirm, but I wouldn’t count on it)
  • Wyndham Diamond
IHG Spire
  • Hilton Diamond
  • Best Western Rewards Diamond Select

How would this work in practice?

By opening just a single travel credit card, you could scoop up several elite statuses in other programs through matching opportunities. It’s a snowball effect. The key is picking the right hotel card to leverage.

For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with automatic Marriott Gold elite status. According to the above charts:

  • You should be able to match that to Hilton Gold and IHG Platinum
  • You can then match Hilton Gold status to Best Western Diamond and Wyndham Diamond
  • You can match IHG Platinum with Choice Privileges Platinum, Radisson Rewards Gold, and possibly Hilton Diamond
  • Match your Wyndham Diamond (or Hilton Diamond, if you managed to get it) to Caesars Rewards Diamond

Poof! You’ve got varying levels of elite status with up to eight different programs — just from opening one credit card. Without status matching or hotel credit cards, you’d have to stay a total of 220+ nights* in a calendar year to earn all these statuses:

  • Marriott Gold – earned after 25 nights
  • Hilton Diamond – earned after 60 nights
  • IHG Platinum – earned after 40 nights
  • Best Western Diamond – earned after 30 nights
  • Wyndham Diamond – earned after 24 nights
  • Choice Privileges Platinum – earned after 15 nights
  • Radisson Rewards Gold – earned after 30 nights

*Just note, these qualification numbers may vary due to temporary COVID-19 program changes.

Your results may vary — the above strategy is possible only if your status match requests go perfectly. Hotel programs are occasionally unwilling to extend any kind of “free” status, so just be prepared for a few rejections. Other times you may be offered a status challenge, which provides you temporary elite status with the opportunity to keep it if you complete a certain amount of stays in a specific time frame (we see this with Marriott once or twice per year).

Related: Hotel elite status match and challenge offers for 2021

Note that you may have to provide proof of recent stays to finalize some status matches, meaning the credit card route might not always work — unless you book a quick and cheap stay before submitting the status match request.

Credit cards that offer hotel elite status

You can become an elite with a handful of programs just from opening a single card. Below are some cards that come with automatic elite status which will get the snowball rolling on your elite status match strategy:

The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.

Bottom line

Status matching allows you to reap elite status benefits with just about any hotel chain without the need to stay loyal to one rewards program. You can pick the hotel that best fits your travel plans instead of pigeon-holing yourself into staying with one brand.

Featured photo courtesy of The Points Guy.

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