Reader Question: If I book a hotel on December 31, what year will my stay count toward?

Dec 8, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. TPG suggests you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We’ll be here to help you prepare, whether you’re traveling next month or next year.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card 

With just weeks left in 2020, travelers are beginning to think about their elite status plans for 2021. Hopefully, you already have some level of status locked in thanks to status extensions announced in response to the pandemic or your hotel credit card. However, some of you were hoping to earn status for the first time this year or chasing a higher tier of status. If you’re on that boat, you might be planning to get there through organic travel or are even considering a mattress run.

It’s often much easier to qualify for elite status with hotels than with airlines because award stays at major chains count towards hotel elite status. But do hotel stays from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 count towards earning status this year or next year? TPG reader Hailey asks…

After accounting for all my work travel I’m going to be one night short of Marriott Platinum status this year. If I book an award stay over New Year’s Eve, would that count towards 2020 (when I check in) or 2021 (when I check out)?


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Earning elite credits on New Year’s Eve stays

There’s a short answer and a long answer to Hailey’s question. The short answer is that the four major hotel chains, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG all credit stays from Dec. 31 – Jan. 1 to the previous year. That means if Hailey books a one-night stay over New Year’s, it would push her over the threshold to earn Marriott Platinum elite status for 2021.

Things start to get a little more confusing if Hailey were to book a longer stay, for example, checking in on Dec. 31 and checking out on Jan. 3. Representatives from the three major hotel chains have shared with us that the official policy is that the nights would split — so the night of Dec. 31 would count towards Hailey’s 2020 qualification year. The subsequent nights in January would count towards her 2021 qualification year.

Related: Make sure you’re on track for airline and hotel elite status

A Hyatt agent we spoke to said that the default setting is for all nights to post to 2021, but if you call in, they have a process to adjust it manually. Meanwhile, a Marriott agent explained told us that the nights would automatically split.

When Hailey posed this question in the TPG Lounge, some readers commented that in their previous experiences, the entire stay had posted to the later year, or 2021. It’s important to understand that the stay might not post correctly on its own, but Hyatt at least is aware of this problem and has a system in place to manually adjust your account. Given that both Hilton and Marriott follow the same policy, where the elite night credits post to the year that they occurred in, regardless of your check-in/check-out date, they should be able to help correct your account as well if there are any problems.

Hotel elite status could land you an upgrade to a suite. (Photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)

Changes to earning elite status this year

Whether or not you’ll be able to squeeze in a few more hotel nights before the end of the year, you should not be stressing about chasing elite status right now. In addition to status extensions, several major hotel chains have announced changes to qualification criteria for 2021. For instance, Hilton and Hyatt have cut the normal elite qualification thresholds in half.

Additionally, as a part of Hyatt’s Bonus Journeys promotion, for every night you complete through Feb. 28, 2021, you’ll earn a bonus night toward both 2020 and 2021 World of Hyatt elite status. So if you’re strategic and hold the right cobranded cards, you could earn two years of top-tier Hyatt elite status after just 9 nights completed by the end of February.

Although Marriott hasn’t adjusted elite qualification thresholds yet, it is offering shortcuts to 2021 status. For instance, now through Jan. 31, 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is offering new cardholders automatic Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status for the 2021 status year as a part of the welcome bonus. Platinum status includes perks like upgrades to suites, free breakfast and lounge access.

Hilton is the most generous chain, offering automatic top-tier Diamond status for cardholders of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card year after year. 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.

Related: The best credit cards to jumpstart elite status

Bottom line

It’s risky to leave requalifying for status until the very last day possible, especially given how big of a gap there is in benefits between Marriott Gold and Marriott Platinum status. That being said, Hailey will be able to earn her last elite qualifying night on Dec. 31, even if her stay stretches into January of the following year.

Regardless of what your current situation is, you likely won’t need to go on any last-minute mattress runs this year — unless you want to. If you’re planning on using New Year’s travel to qualify for hotel elite status, make sure to keep an eye on your account for the first week of January to make sure your stay credits the way you expect it to.

Thanks for the question, Hailey, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us.

Ethan Steinberg contributed to this story.

Featured photo by Mengzhonghua Photography/Getty Images.

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