My Hotel Elite Status Across Brands
One of the greatest things about this hobby is not only learning how to travel for “free” (cheap), but also enjoying experiences and benefits that are normally reserved for people who spend a ton of money each year. Almost every major travel brand has a loyalty program with elite tiers. These elite levels are designed to award high value customers.
Through credit card sign-ups, status matches and challenges, it is possible to gain elite status with a number of hotel and airline programs. Since I think it can be valuable to see someone else’s strategy, I thought it would be nice to list out all of the elite status I hold across programs and where I got that status from. Some things are quite obvious, but others will probably be interesting to you. Today I’ll talk about hotel elite status and next week I’ll dive into airline & car rental status.
Hotel Elite Status
Hilton HHonors Silver & Gold
I have the lowly Hilton Silver status from one of my no annual fee HHonors Visa Signature cards. I received Gold status almost 3 years ago for filling out a form as part of a promotion and was just finally downgraded. My wife enjoys Gold status from the HHonors Reserve card, so we utilize that if staying in a Hilton property.
In the past our gold status has scored us some nice upgrades. My favorite came at the Hilton in Prague where we were upgraded to the Club Floor which had a nice lounge. The lounge even served a hot breakfast every morning which is quite rare!
Both my wife and I have IHG Platinum status gained from holding the IHG Rewards Mastercard. This card has a $49 annual fee, but we each get a free night at any IHG hotel worldwide. Last year we used one free night at the Intercontinental Times Square (my review) and another at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. Easily $1,000 worth of rooms for $98 plus we received upgrades, free drinks and more as Platinums.
We haven’t used our IHG status as much since I became a Hyatt Diamond (see below), but during our 3 month backpacking trip in Europe, we stayed in their hotels often. Perhaps the best deal we received during that trip was a business class upgrade at the Crowne Plaza Bucharest which included free breakfast for all 3 of us. It was great since we were staying for 5,000 points per night on a Point Breaks rate!
I received SPG Gold status from my $0 first year Ameriprise Amex Platinum card last year. While I won’t be continuing with that card most likely, I will continue to receive this status as a benefit of my American Express Business Platinum that I picked up during the 150K bonus deal.
SPG Gold status isn’t too impressive since it really only gets you very modest upgrades (higher floors, better views). With that said, you do get free premium internet and a welcome gift, so it does carry some weight. I did also receive a club room last weekend at the Sheraton Ann Arbor. I’m not sure if I was booked into that room because of a mixup or upgraded because of my gold status, but it happened either way!
Club Carlson Gold
Both my wife and I status matched to Club Carlson Gold a few years ago. We asked them to match our IHG Platinum status and they did without any questions. Since then we both became holders of their credit card which also extended the status. It isn’t worth much, but modest upgrades are alright and we have even received free breakfast a time or two.
I have Mlife Platinum status which was gained through a match of my Hyatt Diamond status. While they really favor people who gamble a lot no matter the tier (I don’t gamble) I still have received modest room upgrades at their properties. Platinum status also comes with the ability to skip lines at some restaurants and to go directly to the front of the taxi and valet lines!
Hyatt Diamond Status
This is my crown jewel of hotel elite status. I obtained Hyatt Diamond status through a challenge last year where I stayed 12 nights within 90 days. That challenge is sort of still around, although you no longer get the status up front.
To keep Hyatt Diamond status I have to complete a total of 25 stays over the course of this year. After this weekend I will be at 10, with a couple of more stays scheduled. I will probably spend $40k on the Hyatt Visa card (not the best deal) to earn 5 more stay credits. In total I will re-qualify, but it will be tough and involve a lot of one night stays.
The reason I try so hard is because I do value this status highly. I receive lounge access and/or free breakfast in full service hotels, room upgrades, free premium internet and a welcome amenity among other things. Some of my favorite experiences as a Hyatt Diamond member this past year include:
- Using a suite upgrade and enjoying the spectacular views of the Andes Mountains from the Grand Club at the Grand Hyatt Santiago. The food was delicious too!
- Being upgraded to a mini-suite overlooking the tarmac at the Grand Hyatt DFW.
- Experiencing service taken to another level at the Grand Hyatt Macau, which has the nicest lounge of any Hyatt I have ever seen.
- Being blown away by the Grand Hyatt Kauai. We were upgraded to an ocean view room, given things like a free cabana rental and had access to the Grand Club which had an amazing spread.
Is Elite Status Worth It
So Hyatt Diamond status does take work and I acknowledge that. I also spend some money on obtaining it, but that is offset by the value I receive from upgrades and lounge access/breakfast. I also heavily use points + cash and discounted Hyatt gift cards to make things cheaper. But what about the other statuses?
I think many people have HHonors Gold status from either an Amex HHonors Surpass or Citi HHonors Reserve credit card. (You can even get top tier HHonors Diamond for $40K in spend.) That not only gets you free breakfast, but it often gets you upgraded to a club level room. At the very least, you will receive modest upgrades and even the occasional surprise as a lower tier elite.
The truth is that it is incredibly easy to pick up elite status across a number of programs without even trying. Sure top tier elite status takes work, but you can do surprisingly well with a few choice credit cards and a status match or challenge. (Use StatusMatcher to see if you can match your current status to another program.)
It still blows my mind that I hold elite status with five different hotel brands including top tier status with Hyatt. On the other hand, it is all just part of playing the game. If we are going to travel for “free” (cheap), we might as well travel in style.