Boost Your Hotel Status (2021)

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The normal path to elite status is to stay a lot of nights over the course of the year. However, unless you travel a lot for work, this may not be realistic.

Fortunately, there are plenty of shortcuts for getting elite hotel status.

It isn't always possible to instantly qualify for the loyalty program's most valuable benefits like free breakfast, club floor access, or suite upgrades, but there are some shortcuts. And you can usually get at least some level of elite status from the hotel program's credit card.

Status Extended Through 2021

If you had hotel status in 2020, you'll still have status in 2021. All of the major hotel programs extended the status you had in 2020 (which was based on your activity in 2019 before the pandemic).


Typical shortcuts to elite status

Reduced Status Requirements

Since people aren't travelling as much due to the pandemic, the hotel programs are lowering the requirements to earn elite status during 2021. This will entitle you to elite status benefits for 2022, plus the rest of 2021 if applicable, and often the first month or two of 2023. Here's what the largest programs are doing:

    • Hilton has cut the required number of nights or base stays in half and is also rolling over all your elite night credits from 2020. However, many of our readers will already have Hilton Gold or Diamond status from their credit card. You'll also receive 10,000 points for every 10 nights you stay starting at 20 real nights (instead of 40).
    • Hyatt has cut the required number of nights in half. However, keep in mind that some of the benefits associated with Hyatt elite status, such as Suite Upgrade Certificates, Free Night Certificates, and Club Upgrade Certificates, are benefits of hitting specific "Milestones" and these requirements haven't changed for 2021. That said, there are plenty of valuable benefits left in the actual Globalist status.
    • Marriott is giving you a head start by giving you half the number of elite nights that were required for your current status. For example, if you had 56 elite night credits in 2020, you received Platinum status for 2020 (which requires 50 nights). As a result, you should have received 25 elite nights for 2021. Coupled with the free nights from Marriott's credit cards, it is easy for people to re qualify for status or achieve the next higher level.

There are several techniques that can qualify you for elite hotel status, often without a single stay.

  • Almost every hotel credit card automatically gives you some level of elite status in their loyalty program. In most cases, the automatic status isn't good enough for the really juicy benefits. But if you are getting a hotel credit card for its free night certificate and/or signup bonus, you'll get access to at least some extra elite benefits.
  • Many hotels programs offer "status matches". To help woo customers who have theoretically demonstrated that they are a frequent traveler by earning elite status in other programs, they will often provide a shortcut to their own status.
    • In most cases, you can match status that you simply received from a credit card. For example, if you chose to get the Hilton Aspire card for its free night certificate and Hilton breakfast benefit, you can use your high-level Hilton Diamond status to get status in a bunch of other hotel programs.
    • Some hotels will offer status "challenges" instead of "matches". In order to get status, you'll need to spend a reduced number of nights during a limited period (typically 30 nights). For example, you can get Hilton Gold status by staying 10 days in a 90 day period. Note that only paid nights count for completing the challenge. Award nights and elite night credits earned from credit cards won't.
    • If the status challenge gives you temporary status, you can easily gain its benefits for an upcoming stay. Some status challenges will give you the high-level status during the challenge period, so that you can experience the benefits during your stays. If status would be particularly advantageous for an upcoming trip, you could sign up for a challenge even if you don't expect you'll be able to spend enough nights to complete the challenge.
    • Most of the larger hotel companies will theoretically only match your status once per lifetime or once every few years—try to make it count. Wait until you have one or more trips planned where you expect to receive a lot of value from the extra benefits. While official rules will state once in a lifetime, those rules are not always enforced, so you can always try for another match. And if there multiple people in your household, a different person can match their status each time it would come in handy.
    • StatusMatcher is a useful source of information about whether you are likely to be able to get a status match or not. StatusMatcher is a website where travelers share information about successful and unsuccessful attempts to get their status matched. It helps you see whether a program is likely to do any kind of status matching, and if so, which other programs it is likely to match and what level of elite status you are likely to get.
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  • A few hotels have airline partnerships that provide elite status benefits to the airline's elite frequent flyers (and vise versa). For example, United Gold and above elites get Marriott Gold status.
Status Hacks Can Work for Up to Two Years

When you earn elite status during the year, it is actually for the following calendar year. In other words, status earned in 2021 is for the 2022 travel year. But you'll get status for the rest of the year you qualify and usually for a couple of months after the end of the following year. So status earned in early 2021 is good until early 2023.

This can reduce the annualized cost of some of these techniques. For example, if you can generate $75,000 of spend on a Marriott Brilliant credit card, you'll receive Marriott's valuable Platinum status. Assuming you have a way to generate this amount of spending, you'd be missing out on about 1% in rewards by using the Marriott Card instead of a credit card with a higher reward rate. For the people who are able and interested in doing this, buying Platinum status has an opportunity cost of about $750. But if you do this early in a year, it will last for almost two years, making the annual cost "only" $375.

The big three: Hilton, Hyatt, & Marriott

Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott provide have large networks of hotels and provide valuable benefits to people with higher-level elite status.

Hilton

Hilton is by far the easiest of the big three programs to qualify for high-level status without stays. With Hilton, Gold status gets you free continental breakfast across all their brands, along with other benefits. Diamond status provides club access and a better chance of a nice upgrade. Hilton Status Benefits.

  • You can get Gold or Diamond status just by having a credit card. That's it. If you have the Hilton Surpass, Hilton Business, Hilton Aspire, or Amex Platinum card, you're entitled to at least Gold status, regardless of the amount of your spend or stays. The Hilton credit cards also let you earn extremely valuable "free night certificates". Because a large percentage of travelers can benefit from this strategy, it is discussed in its own dedicated guide. Get Free Breakfast or Club Floor Access with the Right Credit Card.
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  • If for some reason you unwilling or unable to get a Hilton or Amex Platinum Card, you can still get instant Hilton Gold status through Hilton's status match. You are only supposed to be able to do this once per lifetime, but many people have been approved multiple times. Plus, if there are multiple people in your household, a different person can take advantage each time it would be beneficial.
  • All you need to qualify is elite status, including the status that comes with many hotel credit cards, and a single stay in the past 12 months with the the other program. About a week after you send Hilton the information, you'll be upgraded to Hilton Gold status for the next 90 days and will get the benefits on any upcoming stay.

    If you wind up staying 10 paid nights during the 90 day period, you'll earn Gold status for the rest of the year, the entire following year, and the first three months of the next year. If you wind up staying 18 nights, you'll get Diamond status instead. Hilton Status Match webpage.

    For 2021, these requirements are cut in half. You only need 5 nights for Gold and 9 nights for Diamond.

Hyatt

Hyatt's Globalist status provides much better benefits than Hilton and Marriott's higher level status, albeit at a smaller number of hotels. Unfortunately, there are normally no great shortcuts to Globalist (which normally requires staying 60 nights in a year). Hyatt Status Benefits.

  • The Hyatt credit card provides a small status boost. Along with the annual fee night certificate (and the opportunity to spend $15,000 for a second certificate), cardholders get 5 elite night credits each year and automatic low-level Discoverist status. But this only entitles you to a 10% bonus on points from stays, a free bottle of water, 2 PM late checkout, and the possibility of a minor room upgrade when available.
  • You can get a bigger boost by using the credit card for spending, but it would take a lot of spending to get all the way to Globalist status. For every $5,000 you spend on the credit card, you'll receive an additional 2 elite night credits. If you decide to spend $15,000 with the card to earn the second free night certificate, you'd earn an extra 6 elite night credits, bringing you up to 11 credits without counting your stays.
  • If you wanted to get all the way to Globalist, without relying on any actual stays, you'd need to spend $140,000 during the year. Even mid-level Explorist status, which doesn't come with fantastic benefits, requires 25 extra nights or up to $65,000 in credit card spending.

  • In 2021, requirements for status are halved. So you only need 30 nights for Globalist status and 15 nights for Explorist status. However, Hyatt's suite upgrade, free night, and club access certificates come from hitting specific "milestones" and the requirements for those stay the same. So if you only earn 30 elite night credits, you'll get Globalist status, but you won't get as many certificates as normal.
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  • Hyatt doesn't usually match status from other hotel companies, except for a special partnership they have with the M life (MGM family) casino loyalty program. If you have Gold status (or better) with M life, you can automatically match it to mid-level Hyatt Explorist status. Unfortunately, no level of M life status is good enough to match to Globalist status.
  • High-level American Airlines elites can periodically earn Hyatt status through a "fast track" challenge program. Platinum and higher elites can stay just 10 nights in 90 days to earn Explorist status and Executive Platinum elites also have an opportunity to stay 20 nights in 90 days to earn Globalist status (elite nights earned from the credit card don't count). For many people, this isn't a realistic path to status.
  • A challenge with identical terms is sometimes available to employees of some large companies.

  • If you ever qualify for mid-tier Explorist status, you can hold onto it indefinitely. Hyatt's status year extends past the end of the calendar year. As a result, you can match your Hyatt status over to M life before it expires. Then you can match back from M life. Explorist status does entitle you to better room upgrades and early check-in (both upon availability), 72-hour guaranteed room availability, and a total of 20% bonus points on stays.
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    In 2021, credit card holders can earn Explorist status with only 10 additional nights. If you spend $15,000 with the card, you'll receive a second free night certificate 15,000 Hyatt points from the spending, and 6 elite status nights. You'd only need 4 more nights, either through stays or additional credit card spending, to become "Explorist for Life". Or at least for as long as the M life matching trick works.

Marriott

It is relatively easy for many people to drop the requirements for Marriott's valuable Platinum status from 50 to 20 nights per year and a few additional ways to earn it without stays. Marriott Status Benefits.

  • If you have some upcoming stays with Marriott, you may be able to take advantage of their status challenge. It is open to people who don't already have status with Marriott (Silver is okay) and have status with one of the other credit card companies and have completed at least one stay with that program over the past 12 months. As soon as they approve your application, you'll have corresponding status (usually Marriott Platinum) and can enjoy the benefits on any upcoming stays.
  • Normally, you'd need to spend 8 nights in 90 days to lock-in Gold status and 16 nights in 90 days to stay qualified for the much more valuable Platinum status. But for the current promotion, they've dropped it to 5 and 15 nights respectively. Status Match Webpage.

  • You can earn up to 30 elite night credits each year with Marriott credit cards (without any spending requirement). This drops the requirement from 50 nights to 20 nights and brings Platinum status into the reach of many more people. You'll earn 15 elite night credits if you have one of the Marriott personal credit cards and an additional 15 elite night credits if you have one of the business cards (you can't earn additional credits by having multiple different personal or business cards).
  • MarriottCardStatus.jpg
  • In 2021, Marriott gave everyone a head start to earning status. Everyone should have received half the number of elite nights that it would have taken to qualify for whatever status they had in 2020. If you had Gold status, that means a free 13 night boost.
  • When combined with 15 or 30 elite night credits from credit cards, it is a great opportunity to re-qualify for status or jump to the next level. Current Platinum elites with the full 30 credit card elite nights should automatically requalify without any stays. Current Gold elites would only need 7 elite nights to move up to Platinum.
  • Each Marriott card also gives you either automatic Silver or Gold status, but this doesn't provide that much in the way of benefits. Silver only entitles you to the potential for late checkout and 10% bonus points on stays. Gold bumps the bonus points to 25% and gives you a small points boost on each stay, enhanced internet access, and the possibility of an upgrade to a slightly better room. Spending $35,000 per year on one of the cards that normally gives you Silver status will bump your status to Gold, but this is almost certainly a bad idea.
  • United Gold elites can also be matched to Marriott Gold status. But no level of United status is good enough for Marriott Platinum. Register Here.
  • You can also earn Platinum status (without any stays) by spending $75,000 in a year with the Brilliant or Ritz Carlton cards. Obviously that's a lot of money, but if you aren't going to spend at least 20 nights, it may be your only option for Platinum. At a 1% opportunity cost, it would "cost" about $750 to earn Platinum status for up to two years. While the Brilliant card has a high annual fee, it is offset by a $300 credit you can use for stays and a free night certificate (good at hotels at up to 50,000 per night).

Caesar's status through Wyndham

The other big programs

It is pretty easy to get higher level status with IHG, Choice, and Best Western. But even their highest levels of status don't provide that much in the way of benefits.

IHG

The IHG Select Card gives you automatic high-level Platinum status, as well as a free night certificate every year. But that won't entitle you to free breakfast or even much of a chance of a substantial room upgrade (at least within the United States). It'll get you a much bigger bonus (50%) on points from stays, a 72-hour room guarantee, and a better chance of a somewhat upgraded room and extended check out. Along with Gold members, you'll get a nice $10 "raid the bar" credit at Kimpton hotels. IHG Status Benefits.

Choice

  • Choice will usually match your status with other programs. Unlike the Hilton and Marriott Status challenges, you're simply granted status—there is no need to stay a minimum number of times over 90 days to lock-in your status. As long as you apply after July, you'll have status for the rest of that year and the entire following year. Status Match webpage.
  • Benefits are light. You're entitled to a free snack or beverage at US and Canadian hotels, the possibility of a minor room upgrade, and either 10% or 25% bonus points on stays (depending on whether you receive Gold or Platinum status). Like the other matches, you are only officially allowed to do this once per lifetime. Choice Status Benefits.

  • If you stay a single time at a Cambria hotel, your status match will bump you all the way to Choice's highest Diamond level status, with a better chance of a room upgrade. Without the Cambria stay, your status match will only qualify for the Gold or Platinum level.
  • CambriaStatusMatch.jpg
  • You'll also get automatic Choice Gold status from the Choice Credit Card. But since it doesn't come with a free night certificate or a huge bonus, getting the card isn't a high priority.

Best Western

  • Best Western is quite happy to match your status from other programs through their “Status Match…No Catch” program. The downside is that even their high-level Diamond status doesn't offer much in the way of valuable benefits. Best Western status match.
  • The Best Western Credit Card gives you automatic Platinum status, which entitles you to a 15% bonus on points from stays and some possibility of a minor room upgrade. $59 annual fee. Like the Choice card, the Best Western card does't provide a free night certificate or a large signup bonus. Best Western Status Benefits.
  • The no-annual-fee version gives you Gold status, which entitles you to a 10% bonus on points from stays.

Radisson

The Radisson Premier Card gives you Gold status, which entitles you to a 25% bonus on points from stays, some possibility of a minor room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, and an in-room welcome gift. It also gives you the option of earning free night certificates. $75 annual fee. The no-annual-fee Radisson card doesn't give you any level of elite status. Radisson Rewards Status Benefits.

Radisson doesn't mention a status match program on their website, but they will reliably match your status up to their Gold level. You just need to email statusmatch@radissonhotels.com. You can only be matched once per lifetime.

Big opportunities at small hotel programs

If you are staying with a hotel that belongs to a smaller loyalty program (which you don’t expect to frequently use), it is often worthwhile to try for status match before ANY stay.

Because smaller programs often have provide more valuable elite status benefits, status matching can often unlock some very nice perks for an upcoming stay. Whenever you are staying at a hotel that belongs to a smaller loyalty program, check to see if they will match the status you have with the large programs, even if you only have that status because of a credit card. You might be pleasantly surprised with free breakfast, a room upgrade, or other valuable benefits.

Sonesta

Sonesta was a relatively small hotel program that grew significantly in 2020. It is now one of the largest hotel programs in the United States.

Their high-level "Elite" status compares favorably to high level status from the big three US programs. It entitles you to club lounge access (or continental breakfast), discounted suite upgrades, a free drink, and a welcome amenity at Royal Sonesta, Sonesta Hotels, and Sonesta Resorts, a $15 "sip 'n snack" credit at Sonesta ES Suites, early check-in and late check-out, and a set of additional minor benefits. {{Link|Sonesta Benefits).

They will almost always match your status from other hotel programs. Instructions are available in their FAQ. You also get automatic high-level status, along with a solid signup bonus, from the Sonesta Hotels Credit Card from Bank of America.

GHA Discovery

GHA Discovery is a loyalty program that works across around three dozen mostly higher-end hotel brands. You'll receive benefits when you stay in any of the hundreds of participating hotels. Guide to the GHA Discovery Program.

One of the unique and valuable aspects of the program are access to free GHA local experiences. You'll earn one experience voucher when you reach Platinum level each year and another when you reach Black level. Platinum and Black members also get a voucher whenever they stay at a new GHA brand for the first time.

GHAExperiences.png

Vouchers can then be redeemed at experiences offered by the various GHA hotels around the world. Each hotel offers their own set of experiences. For example, in Singapore there are dozens of possibilities. At the lower "Platinum" level, these include a Vintage Sidecar Tour, gourmet picnic, or bespoke tailor-made shirt. Premium "Black" level experiences include a commercial flight simulator experience, Rum appreciation masterclass, or several different five-course meals. In some cases, you need to stay at the hotel to redeem. At other cases, you don't. So you could earn a certificate on a stay in Singapore and then redeem in your home city or the next time you visit a different city (like Paris). View activities here.

Fortunately, there are some shortcuts to getting Platinum status (which normally requires 10 nights per year) or Black status (which normally requires 30). GHA will often give you a bump based on your status with other hotel programs. And because many of the GHA brands have their own loyalty programs, you can parlay a status match or promotion with any of the participating brands into benefits at all of them.

You can also pay 30 British Pounds for a membership in the Business Traveller Club and receive automatic Platinum status. Business Traveller Club Website.

Hotel credit card status summary

All variations of the Amex Platinum Card give you Hilton and Marriott Gold status. $550-595, but comes with a large number of credits and benefits.




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