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HomePoints and MilesHow I Earn Elite Hotel Status, Without Ever Buying a Ticket With...

How I Earn Elite Hotel Status, Without Ever Buying a Ticket With Cash

By learning how easy it is to earn elite status, and by choosing the right credit card to get you there, you’ll never be just another guest when you stay at a hotel.

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There’s nothing like the fun of checking into a hotel when you have elite status. First, you get to skip the line and go straight to the front desk, where you’ll likely receive a room upgrade. Then you’ll be told about all the free amenities you’ll have access to, possibly including free breakfasts, late checkouts and perhaps even free parking. And don’t forget that you’ll either be earning extra points on paid stays, or possibly spending fewer points on award stays. 

But you don’t have to pay for dozens of nights a year to earn elite status with your favorite hotel programs, as status is routinely offered through credit card use, award stays or a combination of both.

Unlike airline frequent flyer programs, you actually earn credit towards elite status when you redeem your points to stay at a hotel for free. (Yes, I said “free” as the vast majority of hotel award stays don’t require you to pay any taxes or fees).

How I Earn Top-Tier Globalist Elite Status With the World of Hyatt Program

Despite its somewhat awkward name, my favorite hotel loyalty program is the World of Hyatt, where I have achieved Globalist, the highest status in their program. This status normally requires 60 night stay credits per year; although they have reduced it to 30 night stays for 2020, in light of the pandemic. 

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But even 60 night stays is within my reach, as I enjoy their Hyatt Place and Hyatt House brands. Award nights at these properties tend to cost me just 5,000, 8,000 or 12,000 points per night.

But I stay nowhere near 60 nights a year. Instead, I have the World of Hyatt credit card from Chase, which offers me 5 night-stay credits each year, and another 2 night-stay credits for every $5,000 spent. So by fall, when I have an idea of how many night-stays I’ll earn  at hotels that year, I can dedicate some additional spending to that card to fill the gap, if necessary. 

And boy is it worth it! Beyond room upgrades, Globalists always receive free breakfasts, as well as waived resort fees and parking fees. These expenses can otherwise add up to hundreds of dollars on a longer stay.

I also receive 4 p.m. late checkouts and access to a Hyatt Concierge who assists me in my sometimes complicated travel plans. But even if you don’t achieve Globalist status, the credit card will still grant you entry-level Explorist status, which is a lot better than nothing. 

Earning Status in Other Hotel Programs

I also hold top-tier Wyndham status, which I received by having the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Business Card. This status includes late checkouts, suite upgrades and a welcome amenity kit at check-in. 

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I enjoy mid-tier Gold status with both Marriott and Hilton, by virtue of holding the American Express Platinum card. Hilton Gold comes with late checkouts and a daily food and beverage credit at US hotels, and continental breakfast at non-US hotels. Both come with room upgrades and additional points earnings. 

Credit Cards That Earn Marriott Status

You can earn Marriott Status with these credit cards from both Chase and American Express.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card 

This card also comes with 15 elite night credits, which is good for automatic Silver elite status, There’s no annual fee for this card. Our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Bold has complete details about this popular hotel credit card.

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: 60,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-14X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This card offers up to 14X total Bonvoy points per dollar spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, 2X points on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains) and 1X point on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Marriott loyalists who want to earn rewards without an annual fee or for people who are dipping their toes into the Marriott rewards program.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is a solid choice if you’re interested in getting into the travel rewards game, but don’t want to commit to an annual fee. This credit card offers a solid welcome bonus and can be a great place to start, especially if you’re loyal to Marriott. Every cardmember year, you’ll receive 15 Elite Night Credits, which is enough to qualify you for Silver Elite Status with Marriott. This status level comes with 10% bonus points when you book Marriott stays with cash, late checkout when available and ultimate reservation guarantee.

As with other hotel cards, this one offers outsized rewards on purchases made with the hotel brand. You’ll earn up to 14 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels — that includes 3X points per dollar from the card, 10x points per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy member and 1X point per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy Silver member, which you get automatically as a cardholder. The card also offers 2X points per dollar on other travel purchases and 1X point per dollar on all other purchases you make with the card.


Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card 

This card comes with automatic Silver elite status, 15 elite night credits and automatic Gold status when you spend $35,000 on purchases within a calendar year. There is a $95 annual fee for this card. Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 2X-17X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This card offers up to 17X total points for every dollar spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy and 2X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers new cardholders 125,000 bonus points and one Free Night Reward after spending $5,000 in purchases during the first three months of account opening. Note: the Free Night Reward has a redemption value of up to 50,000 points.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Marriott loyalists and anyone who will stay in a hotel several times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is a solid choice if you’re interested in getting into the travel rewards game and find yourself staying at Marriott properties several times a year. This hotel credit card offers some solid benefits, including the free elite night credits, a free anniversary night every card membership year, a welcome bonus, Silver Elite Status and more.

A lot of the ongoing value this card provides comes through its rewards program. Cardholders will earn up to 17X points per dollar on eligible purchases at Marriott properties — that’s 6X points per dollar from the credit card, 10X points per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy member and 1X point per dollar for having Silver Elite Status, which is automatic with the card. You’ll also earn 2X points per dollar on travel and other purchases you make with the card. That base rewards rate is high compared with most travel credit cards, which settle on a 1X point per dollar base rate.


Other Marriott Credit Cards

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: This hotel credit card comes with 15 nights of elite stay credits. This is enough for Silver elite status and puts you on your way towards higher levels. There is a $450 annual fee for this card. 
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ Card: This credit card also offers you 15 nights of elite stay credits and has a $125 annual fee. 

Credit Cards That Earn Hilton Status

  • Hilton Honors Card: This card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status, and Gold status when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year. There’s no annual fee for this card. 
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: This card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, and when you use it to spend $40,000 in a calendar year, you can earn top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status.There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year. 
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card: This Hilton Amex credit card offers complimentary Diamond status to all cardmembers, and has a $450 annual fee. 
  • Hilton Honors Business Card: This Hilton business credit card offers Gold status and has a $95 annual fee. 

Earning Status With Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

This IHG hotel credit card from Chase offers you Platinum elite status, which includes room upgrades, late checkouts and even free items from the room’s minibar. There’s an $89 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year. Read our full review of the IHG Premier Rewards Club Card.

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $89
Bonus: 150,000 Points
APR:Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-25X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $89

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This hotel credit card awards up to 25X points per dollar at IHG Hotels, 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Frequent customers of IHG hotels and other people who enjoy earning rewards nights for hotel stays and premium hotel status.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Aside from its astounding sign-up bonus, the IHG Rewards Club Premier offers tons of value, especially for loyal IHG customers. You get a free reward night every year on your account anniversary for use at eligible IHG hotels. When you redeem points for stays of four nights or longer at any IHG hotel, your fourth rewards night is free. Cardholders also enjoy Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member. Plus, it offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card. IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels and Holiday Inn®.

This IHG card is a traveler’s dream, especially if you’re already a loyal IHG customer. The perks accompanying this Chase co-branded credit card are worth way more than the $89 annual fee that comes with it. If you’re in the market for a hotel rewards credit card, look no further than the IHG Rewards Club.


Bottom line

If you travel more than just a few times a year, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t hold some level of elite status with your favorite hotel program. By learning how easy it is to earn elite status, and by choosing the right credit card to get you there, you’ll never be just another guest when you stay at a hotel. Get the absolute best deals on your trips with Travelocity Promo Codes and status-based discounts. Booking.com also offers loyalty programs that can help you save more. Booking.com promo codes can help you earn points and miles for your next trip.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Jason Steele
Jason Steele is a journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel and other areas of personal finance. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the credit card industry, Jason’s work has been featured at mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and Business Insider.