How spending on credit cards can help you get elite status — even during a pandemic

May 15, 2020

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Editor’s note: At TPG, we paused traveling to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Local and federal governments around the globe are now debating the appropriate levels of isolation and distancing. Before booking that next trip, we recommend you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions. TPG is continuing to publish deals, reviews and general travel news to inform and prepare you for that trip, whether it is next month or next year.

Even though we’re not traveling right now to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, we’re still thinking about elite status.

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Many major airlines and hotels (and even some car rental companies) have announced status extensions for its elite members. Delta last month became the first airline to do so, with other airlines quickly following suit.

But what if you don’t already have elite status? With travel all but grounded for the foreseeable future, what should travelers do if you didn’t earn elite status for 2020 but want status down the road? Luckily, several new credit card perks can put you well on the way towards elite status when it’s safe to travel again.

American Express recently announced limited-time promotions for some of its U.S.-issued consumer and business cards. The promotions vary based on card type, and, in most cases, these limited-time benefits and earning rates complement existing card features. Let’s walk through a couple of credit cards offering limited-time perks.

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the go-to card if you’re a Hilton Honors loyalist. For starters, it’s loaded with top-tier benefits like Hilton Diamond status (worth $3,025, according to our valuations) that you’ll keep as long as you hold the card. You’ll also earn 14X points on spending at participating Hilton hotels. In addition, the card comes with up to $250 in airline fee credits and up to $250 in Hilton resort credits every year. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Here are some of the limited-time perks:

  • Earn 12x Hilton Honors points at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020.
  • Eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery, will now qualify toward the Hilton resort credit of up to $250 from June through August 2020.
  • Bonus points earned through eligible purchases, if they post to the card member’s Hilton Honors account between May 1 and Dec. 31, will be considered base points and will count toward elite-tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.
  • Unexpired weekend-night certificates — plus those issued through Dec. 31, 2020 — can now be used on any night of the week. Any unexpired Hilton weekend-night certificates available for use as of March 11, 2020, and all new ones issued through May 1, 2020, will be valid until Aug. 31, 2021. And free-weekend-night certificates issued between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be valid for 24 months from the date of issuance.

Again, you already get Hilton Diamond status just for holding the card, but if its Lifetime status you’re after, this limited-time promotion could come in handy. That’s because to earn lifetime Diamond status, you need to earn Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years, and either complete stays totaling 1,000 paid and reward nights or earn two million base points.

Related: 7 reasons to get the Amex Hilton Aspire card

Enjoy complimentary braekfast with Hilton Diamond or Gold status (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Enjoy complimentary breakfast with Hilton Diamond or Gold status. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

This is also an improvement from before, when base points were considered only the points you earn on your hotel folio, which previously meant that attaining two million base points would require you to spend $200,000 at Hilton.

Let’s assume you haven’t held Diamond status for nearly a decade, but you’re close to hitting that two million base points goal. If you’re like me and not spending much money on travel but are spending money on groceries, that 12x at U.S. supermarkets should help. Let’s say you spend $750 at supermarkets in June. That means you’ll earn 9,000 Hilton Honors points just from those purchases alone. And remember that you already earn 7x Hilton Honors points at U.S. restaurants and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies.

Other Hilton cards offer similar perks. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee; see rates and fees), unlike the Aspire, doesn’t provide automatic Diamond status, just Gold status. But identical to the Aspire, bonus points earned through spending on the card that post to your account between May 1 and Dec. 31 will be considered base points that count towards elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.

Now through July 2020, you’ll earn 12x Hilton Honors at U.S. supermarkets, in addition to the exiting 6x Hilton Honors points at U.S. restaurants, which includes takeout and delivery.

If you want to earn lifetime Diamond status, this can be an excellent opportunity to boost your lifetime base points. You’ll still need to earn Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years — and earn two million base points or stay 1,000 nights — to earn lifetime Diamond status.

Finally, bonus points earned through eligible purchases on the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates & fees) will be considered base points. They will count towards elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status. You won’t earn as many points at U.S. supermarkets or dining as the Aspire or Surpass, but if you’re looking to top off your lifetime Hilton base points to reach lifetime Diamond status, using this card to do may help you get there faster.

Some Delta cards also have some limited-time perks to help you earn miles and potentially reach elite status, though not as good as Hilton’s.

If you’re a Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card cardholder, you may want to use this time on the ground to earn MQMs through the Delta Status Boost benefit or to earn an MQD waiver.

For instance, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card cardholders can earn even more Medallion® Qualification Miles through spending after the card was updated in January 2020. You can earn four, separate 15,000-MQM boosts for every $30,000 you spend up to four times a year, and with the MQD waiver, that equates to Gold Medallion status without a single Delta flight. Delta Platinum Amex cardholders can earn MQMs through the Status Boost by hitting spending requirements and by obtaining an MQD waiver. So if you need to stock up on groceries anyway, it might make sense to put the purchases on this card to earn the 4X miles plus the regular spending towards the boosts.

Bottom line

Amex is making it much easier to earn status through everyday spending at grocery stores from now through July, even though you aren’t traveling right now. Now, people who didn’t earn status in 2019 have the chance to earn elite status for next year, which will be good news as the pandemic begins to slow down.

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex, click here.

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.