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The weird thing about most hotel chains is that the more expensive a hotel is, the fewer perks you typically get for your money. Low end brands typically offer free breakfast and free internet, whereas upscale brands usually charge exorbitant prices for the same. The key to free perks at many upscale hotels is to get high level elite status (mid to top tier). Depending on the hotel, high level elite status can get you many of the following perks:
- Free room upgrades (sometimes to a suite!)
- Free bottled water and snacks
- Free breakfast
- Free internet
- Late checkout
- Club lounge access
- And more…
You don’t even need top tier status for many of these perks. I have had mid tier (Gold) elite status with Hilton, SPG, and Club Carlson for quite awhile. Upgrades are not guaranteed, but they do happen. For example, here are the results of three recent hotel stays:
- Conrad Chicago (Hilton): Upgraded to a beautiful two bath Deluxe Suite and given free hot breakfast vouchers. I was automatically given just two vouchers per night, but I asked for and was given a third to cover our son’s breakfast. Breakfast was awesome.
- Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers (SPG): Upgraded to club floor, given free internet, and granted 4 PM late checkout. The club floor gave us access to the Sheraton’s beautiful two story club lounge in which they served free hot breakfast each morning, and free hors d’oeuvres each evening. On our first night at the hotel we weren’t too hungry, so the hors d’oeuvres became our free dinner. On our last day, the 4 PM late checkout made it easy to spend the day sightseeing before returning to the hotel to change and pack for our train ride home.
- Radisson Reagan Airport Hotel (Club Carlson): Upgraded to a “penthouse suite”. This was very similar to, but not quite as nice as, the suite we stayed in at the Conrad. No free breakfast, however.
Fast track to hotel elite status
Hotel chains automatically grant elite status to guests who stay at their chain a lot. Most chains have multiple levels of elite status, but each has different requirements for the number of stays or nights required to get to each level. Typically it’s fairly easy to get to the lowest level, but it’s also the case that the lowest level doesn’t usually get you much. If you travel a lot, it may be worth it to pick a single chain to focus on and earn status simply by staying as often as possible within that chain. Note that you will need to re-qualify for status every year. For everyone else, here are some tricks to fast track your way to status:
- Credit cards: Some credit cards give you status for simply owning the card. Other cards require high spend to get status. For example, the Chase IHG Rewards Mastercard will give you instant near top-tier Platinum status with International Hotels Group. Another example is the
Hilton HHonors Surpass cardwhich will give you Gold status just for having the card ($75 annual fee) or you can obtain top level Diamond status by spending $40K per year on the card.
- Status challenge: If you have hotel stays planned for the near future, call or email to request a status challenge. With some programs, you may have to prove that you have mid level status with another chain. Often, you will be granted elite status right away and have about 3 months to complete the challenge in order to keep the status for rest of the year (and sometimes through the following year). The requirements for the challenge will vary from chain to chain and will depend on what level of elite status you seek. In some cases, it can be worth signing up for a challenge just to get temporary elite status so that you’ll be treated like a king for your upcoming vacation.
- Status match: If you already have status with a different chain, simply call or email the chain you want status with and request a status match. Not all chains will grant you a match, but it can’t hurt to try!
- Promotions: Every now and then a hotel chain will offer a promotion that makes it easy to obtain status. Hilton and Hyatt for example recently ran very generous status match promotions. As promotions are announced, I’ll let you know via Quick Deals and the blog.
If you are interested in learning more, see: Best current options to fast track hotel elite status
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