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In the last section I wrote about the benefits of hotel elite status. Perks like free breakfast, free internet, room upgrades, and more can make hotel stays more enjoyable and less expensive. Here is a brief recap of ways to get to elite status more quickly than staying a bazillion nights in hotels:
- Credit cards: Some credit cards give you status for simply owning the card. Other cards require high spend to get status.
- Status challenges: If you have hotel stays planned for the near future, call or email to request a status challenge. 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).
- Status matches: If you already have status with a different chain, simply call or email the chain you want status with and request a status match.
- Promotions: Every now and then a hotel chain will offer a promotion that makes it easy to obtain status.
Now let’s look at some of the major hotel chains to see the best current options to fast track to high level elite status:
Hilton makes it very easy to obtain status through one of their many co-branded credit cards. The easiest routes to Hilton Gold are the
Hilton Honors Surpass American Express card ($75 annual fee) or the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Visa card ($95 annual fee), both of which will give you Hilton Gold status just for owning the card. (The Reserve also gives a free weekend night each year you spend $10,000 or more on the card.) With either card, you can get Hilton’s highest level Diamond status by spending $40,000.
Another option is the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express card (not the “Surpass”) which will give you free Silver status immediately, and Gold status with $20,000 spend. You can find all of these cards on my Best Credit Card Offers page. In addition, Hilton frequently runs promotions that make it easy to obtain Gold status. If you have travel planned that includes Hilton properties (including Hampton Inn, Conrad, Waldorf Astoria, etc.), search the web for a current Hilton Gold promotion.
With Hyatt, you can request a Diamond Trial Offer (status challenge) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling. If you are accepted into the trial, you will have Platinum status for 60 days. If you stay 6 nights during the 60 days then you will maintain Platinum status through the following February. If you stay for 12 nights during the 60 days, you will be upgraded to Diamond status through the following February. Another option with Hyatt is to sign up for the Chase Hyatt credit card. This will automatically give you mid tier Platinum status. Platinum status only has modest benefits and isn’t as useful as mid tier status with chains such as Hilton or Marriott.
This one is easy. Simply sign up for the Chase IHG Rewards Mastercard and you’ll be given near top-tier Platinum status as long as you keep the card. The card is free the first year, but charges a $49 annual fee beginning with year 2. To offset the fee, you are also given one free night at any IHG hotel (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Intercontinental, etc.). Note that IHG Rewards Club Platinum status is not as generous as top tier status with other chains, but it can occasionally mean a nice room upgrade or other perks. If you are interested see Best Credit Card Offers to find the current best offer for the card.
Starwood makes it difficult to fast track to top level Platinum status. They do offer a Platinum Challenge that requires 18 paid nights in 3 months, but you do not get Platinum status during the challenge. SPG Gold status is much easier to get, and while it’s not Platinum status, it can mean occasional room upgrades, free internet, and more. Gold status comes free with the expensive American Express Platinum card. Another option is to spend $30K per year on the Starwood Preferred Guest card.
If you have elite status in another major chain, simply email Club Carlson (email@example.com) to request a status match. In the past they have been known to give Gold status to those with top level status in another chain (e.g. Hilton Diamond, IHG Reward Club Platinum, etc.), whereas they give only Silver status to mid tier elites (Hilton Gold, Hyatt Platinum, etc.). Another option is to sign up for one of the US Bank Club Carlson credit cards. Two of the cards offer automatic Gold status to every card holder.
Marriott offers a status challenges upon request. Not everyone qualifies, but it can’t hurt to ask. Another option is to sign up for the expensive Chase Ritz Carlton card. With that card, you are granted Gold status the first year and each year thereafter as long as you spend at least $10K per year on the card. Ritz Carlton and Marriott appear to have separate loyalty programs, but they are different in name only. In fact, you can call and have your Marriott Rewards account changed to Ritz Rewards or vice versa. That said, I don’t know of any particular reason to do so. They really are the same program.
If you are planning to stay multiple nights in a popular hotel chain, it’s worth spending a bit of time looking into the chain’s elite program before you go. You may be able to make your stay a bit nicer (and possibly cheaper too) by fast tracking yourself to elite status.
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