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I find there are few things in travel that are more frustrating than a disappointing hotel stay. After spending a day enduring your journey on planes, trains, or automobiles, it can be a huge let-down to find yourself waiting in a hotel check-in line only to receive a sub-standard room. The experience only gets worse if you are nickel and dimed for resort fees, parking fees, and an expensive breakfast.

But when you have top-tier status in a hotel’s loyalty program, these kinds of issues may rarely come up. That’s because some hotel programs offer their status-holders a priority check-in line, room upgrades, or waived fees. The best programs will even offer free breakfast and waived resort fees and parking charges on award stays.

While I don’t qualify for top-tier status each year based on my hotel stays, I’ve found that there are other ways to get this status. In fact, it’s so easy that I’m able to hold the highest status in my three favorite programs, some with very little effort.

Here are my three favorite hotel rewards programs that I hold top-tier elite status with and how you can easily do so yourself.

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World of Hyatt® Globalist Status

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Hyatt has long been my first choice for hotels, and its World of Hyatt program top-tier Globalist status is the one I most covet. Those with Globalist status receive room upgrades up to available standard suites, as well as free breakfast and a 4 p.m. late checkout (when available). Resort fees are waived at participating hotels for all members on award stays, and Globalists may also receive waived parking charges during award stays. That can be an incredibly valuable perk if you're staying in the heart of a large city where parking can cost $50-$100 per night.

To earn Globalist status, you need to accrue 60 night-stay credits during the calendar year, 100,000 Base Points, or meet the 20 meetings/events requirement. I hardly ever pay for my hotel stays, and 60 is more nights than I’ll be away from home in a typical year. But I get a head start with five night-stay credits because I have the World of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase. I then earn additional night-stay credits, largely from my frequent award stays.

I tend to favor Hyatt’s family-friendly, budget brands like Hyatt Place® and Hyatt House®, which typically require a mere 5,000 - 12,000 points per night for a standard rate booking. You can easily earn these points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® or the Bilt Rewards programs and transfer them to your World of Hyatt account.

But even by redeeming points for my stays, it’s still a challenge for me to spend 55 nights at Hyatt properties each year. I make up the difference with spending on credit cards. Thankfully, the World of Hyatt Credit Card offers two night-stay credits for each $5,000 spent, while the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card, also from Chase, offers a slightly better rate: five night-stay credits for every $10,000 spent.

Each fall, I add up the number of night-stay credits I’m on a path to earn, and then I plan to make up the difference by earning additional night-stay credits from my credit card spending. Using this technique, I’ve enjoyed World of Hyatt Globalist status for several years.

Hilton Honors™ Diamond Status

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Hilton Honors is another very valuable hotel loyalty program, and its Diamond status level is the top tier. Diamond members receive space-available room upgrades and free breakfast (or food and beverage credits). The easy way to earn Diamond status is simply to have the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. However, this card has a $450 annual fee.

Another way to earn Diamond status is to get the Hilton Honors Business Card from American Express. It offers instant Gold status and an upgrade to Diamond after spending $40,000 in a calendar year.

However, I’ve been able to earn my Diamond status because I’ve been producing a professional event at a Hilton property each year. When you spend $12,000 each year at Hilton properties, which may include food and beverage charges, then you earn Diamond status. The money spent accumulates Base Points, and 120,000 Base Points, which is the minimum per year to get Diamond status, equals $12,000. You can also earn Diamond status with 60 nights or 30 stays in a year.

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Wyndham Rewards® Diamond Status

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Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

In addition to having top-tier status with Hyatt and Hilton, I automatically received Wyndham Rewards Diamond status when I got the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Business Card. It offers me a free welcome amenity at check-in and room upgrades at Wyndham properties, as well as the ability to redeem 10% fewer points for free night stays. The card itself has fantastic bonus offers, including 8x points at gas stations and 5x points for utility payments.

I think the Wyndham Rewards program is very unappreciated. Not only does Wyndham offer many budget properties in places that may lack a Hyatt or a Hilton, Wyndham also offers thousands of vacation rental properties near ski resorts, beaches, and other major attractions.

For example, I’ll be staying at the La Quinta Inn in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this year during the massive EAA Airventure air show. This event is so large and popular that this conveniently located hotel sells for nearly $600 a night during the event. It costs a mere 15,000 points per night for an award stay. And by receiving a 10% points discount, I’m only paying 13,500 points per night to stay there.

Likewise, I enjoy staying in Wyndham vacation rental properties at ski slopes in Colorado or by the beach in Maui, Hawaii. You can redeem your Wyndham Rewards points for free night stays at these properties at the rate of 15,000 points per bedroom, per night. So, a two-bedroom condo costs 30,000 points per night. With the 10% points discount for cardholders, that works out to only 27,000 points per night for a two-bedroom condo. You can also transfer your Capital One Miles to Wyndham Rewards at a rate of 1:1.

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Bottom Line

Whenever you spend the day traveling, it feels great to enjoy an upgraded room and other perks and benefits at your hotel. By choosing the right strategy and having the right credit cards, you can make sure that you enjoy the benefits of having top-tier elite status every time you stay at one of these major hotel brands.


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.