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Is hotel elite status really worth it?

The value of elite status perks can vary, and achieving it can be costly. Here’s how to know if it’s worth the effort


Achieving elite status with your favorite hotel brand can feel like quite an accomplishment, but it may not always be worth the work and cost it took to get there. Here’s what it takes to get elite status, and three questions to ask yourself before pursuing it.

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Achieving elite status with your favorite hotel brand can feel like quite an accomplishment, but it may not always be worth the work and cost it took to get there.

Hotels often provide multiple levels of elite status, and the lower ones sometimes don’t offer much.

There are also ways to fast-track your way into elite status that can make it frustrating for loyal customers who did it the hard way. If you’re thinking about working toward elite status with one or more hotel brands, it’s important to understand the value you’re getting and how to avoid giving far more than you can get in return.

See related:  3 ways many rewards cards give you hotel status

What it takes to achieve hotel elite status

The requirements to reach elite status naturally can vary by program, but it’s often based on the number of stays, nights or the number of base rewards points you earn in a year.

Here are some examples of what it takes to reach the lowest elite status tier with some of the top hotel loyalty programs:

  • Marriott Silver Elite: Stay at least 10 nights in a calendar year
  • Hilton Silver: Stay at least four times, for 10 nights or earn 25,000 base points in a calendar year
  • Hyatt Discoverist: Stay at least 10 qualifying nights, earn 25,000 base points or hold three qualifying meetings or events in a calendar year
  • IHG Gold Elite: Stay at least 10 qualifying nights or earn 10,000 elite qualifying points
  • Wyndham Gold: Stay at least five qualifying nights in a calendar year

Unless you’re on the road a few times a year or tend to travel for long stretches, it can be hard to obtain elite status this way. And if you’re thinking of getting a co-branded credit card to rack up points to earn status, you may end up disappointed.

In general, points only qualify toward elite status if they’re earned on stays at one of the brand’s properties and other related purchases. As a result, the average traveler would find it difficult to meet the requirements to gain elite status with their favorite hotel brand and maintain that status year after year.

See related:  3 ways to earn elite status with airlines

Shortcuts to achieving hotel elite status

If you don’t travel often or you do but don’t stay loyal to any one brand, you don’t need to worry about racking up nights or points to get the benefits that elite status has to offer.

“Unlike airline status, hotel status is something that you can get meaningfully without having to spend a lot of time on the road,” says Dan Miller, founder of travel blog Points With a Crew.

Here are a few ways you can fast-track the process and gain elite status, if only for a short time.

Credit cards

Most hotel credit cards offer some level of elite status to cardholders who keep their accounts in good standing. Some cards also offer a path to earn the next status level after you spend a certain amount on the card in a calendar year.

In general, the level of status you get is correlated with the card’s annual fee, though you can expect to get more than just elite status with higher annual fee cards.

Lee Huffman, author of travel blog, believes it’s worth paying an annual fee to get elite status and other hotel-related benefits.

“If you’re an infrequent traveler, you automatically get perks you wouldn’t otherwise receive because of the boost in elite status,” he adds.

Status challenges

Some hotel chains offer status challenges to encourage customers to book stays and gain elite status faster.

In 2018, for instance, Marriott offered members the chance to earn Gold or Platinum status. All you needed to do was call the chain’s rewards program customer service to sign up, then stay eight or 16 nights over the following three months, respectively.

If you have a long vacation coming up, though, check with your favorite hotel brands to see if they’re offering a status challenge and whether you can qualify based on the travel you’re already committed to.

Status matches

Another way to achieve hotel elite status with one brand is if you already have status with another.

“Sometimes programs will match your status directly from the top tier of a competitor,” says Miller. “Other times, you will get a status challenge, where they will provisionally grant you status and you have to earn it with a certain number of stays over the next 60 to 90 days.”

If you want to try out a new loyalty program or diversify your selection, status match promotions are an excellent way to do it.

“Many hotel programs offer reciprocal elite status benefits through their casino partners, such as Hyatt and Mlife or Total Rewards and Wyndham,” says Aucello. “If you are savvy enough, you could leverage casino status to obtain hotel status or vice versa. There are so many creative ways to explore.”

See related:  How rewards can help you earn status matches or challenges

Is hotel elite status worth it? 3 questions to ask

Whether you’re hoping to achieve and maintain elite status the hard way or by getting a credit card or participating in a status challenge or match promotion, it’s important to consider beforehand whether it’s worth the effort and cost that goes into it.

What does it cost?

If you travel a lot for work on your employer’s dime, the question of whether it’s worth it is a no-brainer. Any travel-related perk is a plus if you’re not paying for it. But if you’re trying to earn elite status by signing up for a credit card or through a promotion, it’s important to consider what you’re spending to gain those benefits.

Fortunately, many hotel credit cards offer more than just elite status. If, for instance, you also get a free anniversary night, that perk alone can more than make up for the card’s annual fee, and the status perks are just the cherry on top.

If you want to take advantage of a status challenge or match promotion, the question becomes more real. If you’re already planning to spend the money required to meet the challenge requirements, it’s likely not a big deal. But if you’re booking a stay worth hundreds of dollars just to gain elite status, it might not be worth it.

What are you getting?

The perks associated with elite status can vary based on the level you attain and the loyalty program. With Hilton, for example, Silver offers 20 percent more points on stays, a fifth night free on longer stays, two complimentary bottles of water and elite tier rollover nights.

For casual travelers, that’s nothing you’re going to write home about. But if you can achieve Diamond status with the program, extra perks include 100 percent more points on stays, complimentary room upgrades, free breakfast at all Hilton hotels, executive lounge access, the chance to extend or gift status and more.

“The breakfast benefit alone can be extremely valuable for traveling families or jet-setting business travelers,” says Aucello.

Other hotel brands may offer even more personalized benefits.

“My favorite hotel brand is Kimpton, which is now part of IHG,” says Huffman. “When I stayed at the Kimpton Shorebreak in Huntington Beach, California, for my son’s birthday, we were upgraded to a room with a huge balcony overlooking the pier. A happy birthday banner and treats for the parents and my son were there when we walked into the room. He was so delighted.”

Carefully consider the perks associated with the status level you’re working toward to ensure the value exceeds the cost it takes to get there.

How loyal are you?

Gaining elite hotel status through a credit card or a status match promotion may be worth it, even if you consider yourself a free agent or you’re planning to stay loyal to a different chain. But it likely makes little sense to spend a significant amount of money on stays to attain status with a brand you’re not planning to stick with.

The bottom line

Hotel elite status can open the door to a more luxurious travel experience, but it’s not always worth working toward. As you consider your travel plans and how elite status can fit into them, take the time to research ways to get the perks you want without needing to spend more than they’re worth to get them.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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