You can speed your way to elite status at Hilton, Kimpton, and Marriott hotels (and more) simply by being a cardholder.
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Travelers nowadays want to get the most out of their vacation. Some great options to enhance a hotel stay include free room upgrades and late check-outs, as well as food and drink credits. At top hotel chains, such benefits are usually reserved for those of high elite status. However, achieving such status no longer requires the loyalty it once did. All it takes is the right credit card.
Fortunately, several of our favorite travel credit cards grant elite status high enough to reap serious benefits. Here are the ones you should consider before booking your next hotel stay and why.
Hilton Honors Gold Status: The Value and Associated Credit Cards
Hilton’s portfolio of hotels and resorts includes 18 brands, from Waldorf Astoria to Curio Collection to Hampton by Hilton, with more than 6,700 properties in 122 countries. Hilton’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors, has four membership tiers: Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond.
The benefits of elite status really start to kick in when you reach Hilton Honors Gold status. At this level, benefits include, but are not limited to: space-available room upgrades, free Wi-Fi, and daily on-site food and beverage credits. (The amount of that credit varies by brand, but luxury brands like Waldorf Astoria offer an impressive $50 per room per day, assuming two guests per room.) Travelers earn 18 points per dollar spent on real estate (except at Tru and Home2 properties ) and get their fifth night free when booking a standard room stay with points.
Achieving Gold status typically requires a 28 night stay, 14 stay or earning 52,500 basis points within the larger Hilton portfolio. Alternatively, you can get around these requirements and get Gold status simply by using one of the following credit cards (registration required):
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Status: Its Value and Associated Credit Cards
Marriott International’s portfolio is the largest of any hotel chain in the world. It includes more than 30 brands, including W Hotels Worldwide, the Ritz-Carlton and Courtyard by Marriott, with more than 7,000 properties in 131 countries. Marriott’s rewards program, Marriott Bonvoy, has a whopping six tiers, starting with Member, followed by Silver Elite, and rising to Ambassador Elite. Gold Elite is the third tier of the program and is typically earned by staying 25 qualifying nights annually. Primary benefits include space-available room upgrades, free premium internet, 2:00 p.m. late check-out, and 25 percent bonus points for hotel stays/qualifying purchases. (Note that prior to the introduction of the new Marriott Bonvoy program in 2020, Gold Elites had access to lounges at hotels within the portfolio. That benefit is now only for Platinum Elites and above.)
Instead of banking for 25 nights, travelers can upgrade their status to Gold Elite simply by being a cardholder of the following credit cards (registration required):
IHG Platinum Elite status: the value and the corresponding credit card
IHG Hotels and Resorts has grown to 6,000 properties from 16 brands, including Kimpton, Intercontinental Hotels and Holiday Inn. The new IHG Rewards program is currently under restructuring and has five tiers: Club, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, and Diamond Elite. Of note is Platinum Elite status, which under the new rules either requires 40 nights per year or earns 60,000 qualification points. However, this status is automatically granted to those with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee). Key benefits of Platinum Elite status include late check-out, free room upgrades (space available), free WiFi, and 50 percent bonus points on hotel purchases.
Which card should you get for the hotel’s elite status?
The Platinum Card from American Express is hands down the best credit card to get elite status. With a card membership, you gain Gold Status with both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy by simply following the directions on the Benefits page (located under your Amex login) or by calling the number on the back of your card. While this card has a large annual fee, annual travel credits can easily offset this annual fee. The card also offers the best airport lounge access worldwide. Another plus: additional cardholders can also take advantage of the Gold Status.
Those who just can’t stomach the idea of paying a large annual fee can still gain status with the low fee Hilton Honors American Express Outperforms Card or the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Status benefits you receive from just one stay can offset the annual fee.
Suffice it to say, you no longer have to be a brand loyalist and stay dozens of nights to reap the benefits of higher elite status and maximize your hotel experiences. All it takes is the right credit card.
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>> Next: The 5 Best Hotel Credit Cards
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