3 ways many rewards cards give you hotel status
Cards often give you a points boost or status at sign-up or at spending milestones
Travel expert who writes the "Have Cards, Will Travel" column for CreditCards.com
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I know a lot of rewards points collectors who are all-in when it comes to collecting miles and earning status with their favorite airline, yet when I ask about their strategy for earning hotel status, they shrug their shoulders.
“I just don’t stay at enough nice hotels to earn status or to make keeping up with hotel points worth the time,” is the usual response.
Most travelers assume that getting hotel status is a time-consuming and complicated process like flying tens of thousands of miles to earn airline status. This, however, is wrong.
While there are very few shortcuts to earning airline status, several rewards credit cards make obtaining hotel status a breeze. By being savvy with the rewards cards you carry in your wallet, you, too, can enjoy the same benefits of the “road warrior” business travelers – without having to sleep away from your own bed 50-plus nights a year.
Three ways cards help you get hotel status
A fairly broad choice of credit cards, both co-branded hotel cards and flexible rewards credit cards, offer some level of benefit of elite status with a global hotel property group.
Credit card hotel status benefits typically come in three forms: cards that give you a head start on earning elite status, cards that give you complimentary mid-tier elite status, and cards that let you reach the highest level of elite status by meeting a minimum or annual spend.
1. Cards that give you a boost to elite status
Both the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase offer benefits by shortcutting hotel status qualifications.
The SPG card, for example, gives you an annual credit of two stays and four nights toward your annual requalification of SPG status at the start of each year.
Since earning SPG gold status requires 10 stays a year, this card benefit gets you one-fifth of the way. If you have both the personal and the business version of the SPG card, you’ll start off the year with four of your 10 stays in the bank before you spend a single night away.
The Marriott card, meanwhile, includes automatic silver status, your fifth night is free on any hotel stay and you receive an annual free night stay in a Category 1-5 hotel.
This type of flexible rewards card is a good option for you if you stay at hotels a decent amount, but not quite enough to hit the status mark on your own.
2. Cards that give you hotel status at sign-up
If you’d rather receive complimentary elite status at sign-up, nearly every major hotel brand has a credit card with this benefit.
For example, the IHG Credit Card from Chase gives cardholders automatic platinum elite status, the Hyatt Card from Chase gives complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status, and the Hilton Ascend from American Express gives Hilton Honors gold status.
To earn these status benefits outright, you’d have to stay an average of 40 nights a year with a single hotel group.
It’s worth noting that complimentary hotel status isn’t limited to specific hotel-branded credit cards. Both the Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN offer complimentary Hilton gold status and Starwood Preferred Guest gold status to cardholders.
Now that Starwood, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton are all owned by the same entity, having free status in one group makes it possible to get some status benefits across the whole Marriott trifecta.
Other high-end credit cards offer similar benefits, so if you’re looking to gain status with a specific hotel group, it is worth doing a little bit of digging into your card options.
The United MileagePlus Club Card from Chase, for example, gives complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status – with a catch that you need to register to activate your benefit.
In doing your research on your rewards card options, you might even discover that you already have access to a hotel status benefit on one of your current cards. You just didn’t know it.
3. Cards that boost elite standing at spending milestones
A few credit cards let you spend your way to graduated levels of status. The real benefits here are found on the cards that will let you charge your way to the higher tiers of hotel “elite.”
The new Hilton Ascend card from American Express, for instance, bumps you from complimentary mid-tier Hilton gold to the highest level of Hilton diamond when you spend at least $40,000 in any calendar year. The Hilton Aspire card, meanwhile, gives cardholders complimentary silver status.
Likewise, the Hyatt Card lets you level up from Discoverist to World of Hyatt Explorist with an annual spend of $50,000.
Using the benefits of your card’s hotel status
There is no right or wrong way to secure hotel status. If you don’t stay at hotels very often and aren’t prone to spending enough to reach the thresholds for higher status upgrades, finding a card that gives complimentary status at the one hotel where you’re planning to spend some nights this year is most likely your sweet spot.
Getting started once your card arrives
Once you’ve reached elite status, the rest of your work is pretty easy. Take note of these few to do’s, and then sit back, relax and enjoy your hotel benefits.
When your new credit card arrives, make sure you complete any minimum requirements and/or registrations to get your complimentary status up and running. In some cases, you will need to register for (if you don’t already have) a hotel loyalty account.
If you’ve connected a new hotel credit card to an existing loyalty account, double-check that the account information is correct. Sometimes the bank may create a duplicate hotel loyalty account if it hasn’t been able to verify your current account. If this happens, call the hotel group and ask the representative to merge the duplicate accounts.
Know what you get with hotel status
Familiarize yourself with all the new benefits your hotel status. This is as simple as looking at the hotel’s loyalty group webpage to see what you are entitled to at your new level of elite-ness.
If you’ve just become a Hilton Honors gold member because you signed up for the Hilton Aspire card, you’re now entitled to free internet, late checkout and a choice of bonus points or free breakfast on every stay.
Making your reservation and maybe saving on your room rate
Finally, when it comes time to make a hotel reservation, do so through the hotel’s website or direct reservation line. Always include your loyalty club membership number at time of booking to ensure your status is recorded on your reservation in the hotel system. This increases your chances of an upgraded room upon arrival.
Note that if you book a hotel night through a third-party discount site you will not be eligible to receive the benefits of your status. If, however, you find a cheaper rate on a site like Expedia or Trivago – take a screenshot. You can use this information to apply for the hotel group’s best rate guarantee after you book through the hotel property directly.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how little effort it takes to become a hotel elite. The hardest work will come later – deciding what hotel you’re going to stay at to make use of your new status on your next vacation.
See related: 5 ways hotel cards can add up to big savings, Know hotel ‘categories’ to book the perfect stay, Use your card to score a hotel upgrade, 5 ways your credit card concierge can help you on your next trip
– To read more of Stephanie Zito’s pieces on CreditCards.com, check out her Taking Charge blog posts
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