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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.

Free nights and extra perks at hotels are what any smart award traveler should strive for. But TPG reader Marisa wants to know if there’s another benefit that award nights may offer toward a hotel chain’s elite status…

Do award nights at hotels count towards earning status?

TPG Reader Marisa

Earning elite status with a hotel chain is normally based on hitting either a minimum number of nights each year. Fortunately, unlike some of the airline elite programs, there’s usually no spend requirement. And while flights purchased with miles rarely count toward an airline’s elite status, those who stay at large hotel chains are in luck. Many of the major hotel chain loyalty programs do count award stays toward elite status.

In fact, as of the start of 2018, all of the big players will give you elite credit for your award stays. After a long wait, Hyatt finally added the benefit at the top of the year, while Marriott and SPG kept the perk even with the merger of their two loyalty programs. Other large players like Hilton and IHG also count award nights toward a member’s elite level.

Here’s a list of major hotel chains that give elite credits on award stays:

Program Award Nights Count Toward Elite Status?
Marriott/SPG Rewards Yes
Hilton Honors Yes
World of Hyatt Yes
IHG Rewards Club Yes
Choice Privileges Yes
Wyndham Rewards Yes
Best Western Rewards Yes

Now, hypothetically, you could earn elite status on a combination of paid and award nights, or even on award nights alone. However, another “free” or discounted way to earn status is by holding a hotel’s cobranded credit card. A few of these products, like the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, even award a program’s top-tier elite status just by holding the card.

So if you’d prefer to simply take an easy shortcut to elite status, here are some of the best hotel credit cards and the complimentary status they offer:

Additionally, on some of these cards you’ll earn credit toward elite status just by spending. For instance, the new World of Hyatt card earns two qualifying elite night credits for every $5,000 in spend. And on top of complimentary Marriott Gold status, the SPG Luxury card will get you up to the Platinum tier after putting $75,000 on the card in a calendar year.

So whether you want to make a mattress run for cheap or get closer to elite status while on a free vacation, using a mix of paid stays, award stays and cobranded hotel credit cards can help you keep or attain your desired rank within a hotel’s loyalty program. And if you’re trying to decide which hotel loyalty program is best for you, make sure to read our study on “The Best Hotel Rewards Programs of 2018.”

Thanks for the question, Marisa, 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 at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Shutterstock.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

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 Aspire Card from American Express after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your card at U.S. Supermarkets, U.S. Gas Stations, Eligible Airfare, Eligible Car Rentals, and U.S. Restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74%-26.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Good,Excellent
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.

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.