You're standing in a long line waiting to check in to your hotel when you see someone else waltz right up to a designated spot at the front and get help immediately. What gives? That's one of many powerful perks of having hotel elite status.
Typically, earning top hotel status requires spending 50-plus nights in hotels away from home. But these days, hotel elite status is more attainable than ever … so long as you have the right credit card.
That's right, all it takes to get top-tier (or near top-tier) elite status at most hotel chains is to open one of their co-branded credit cards. But not just any, no-annual-fee card will get you there – among a portfolio of options, you'll likely need to pony up for the most expensive card if you want a level of status that's actually worth having. And those cards may come with fees as high as $550 a year or more.
Is that really worth it? It depends on you – and how much you stay with that hotel chain. Every hotel chain's status will get you something different, but you can generally expect some complimentary room upgrades (including suites), free breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and even a welcome amenity like a free drink at the bar or bonus points for your stay.
Read on for everything you need to know about hotel elite status and the cards that will get it for you.
Hilton Honors Diamond Status
With Hilton, Diamond elite status is as good as it gets – and getting there is as easy as opening the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Having Hilton Diamond status means you'll be eligible for room upgrades, executive lounge access, and a 100% points earning bonus on stays, among other perks.
Of these benefits, the potential for an upgraded room (including one-bedroom suites) is probably the most exciting. They're not guaranteed – it's up to individual hotels and suite upgrades can be particularly hit-or-miss, so you may simply be moved to a room with a better view or location. Generally, these Hilton upgrades are much harder to come by in the U.S. than abroad.
On top of the benefits you get for making it to top-rung Diamond status, you'll also be eligible for all the benefits of the lower status levels: Gold and Silver.
One crucial benefit of Hilton Gold status is a daily food and beverage credit at U.S. properties – or daily breakfast (for two) at international hotels. While this benefit has changed a bit over the years, being able to grab a bite to eat in the morning before heading out for the day – or even a night-cap when you get back to the hotel – can be a big time and money saver when traveling.
Related reading: Why the Hilton Amex Aspire is the Best Hotel Credit Card
This top-tier Hilton card was recently overhauled, with a higher annual fee and some new benefits.Here are the full details on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card:
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Earn 180,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $6,000 in the first six months of card membership.
- Get Hilton Honors Diamond Status: As long as your card account is open, you'll have Hilton's top-tier Diamond status
- New! Up to $400 in Hilton Resorts statement credits: Each calendar year, you’ll receive up to $400 in statement credits for incidentals charged to your card at participating Hilton resorts – a category that includes many Hilton properties. Cardholders get one $200 credit from January through June and another credit July through December. This benefit begins Jan. 1, 2024 for new cardmembers – existing cardmembers will continue to receive up to $250 in Hilton Resorts statement credits through the end of 2023.
- Free night certificate: After opening your account and each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive a certificate for a free night at almost any property in Hilton's portfolio.
- Additional free night certificates: Earn an additional free night certificate after making $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year, plus another after spending $60,000 in the same year (for up to three free nights total).
- Changed! $200 annual airline credit: Get up to $50 in statement credits each quarter on purchases made directly with an airline (including airfare) or through amextravel.com.
- Earn 14x Hilton Honors points per dollar for each eligible purchase on your Card made directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
- Earn 7x Hilton Honors points per dollar for eligible purchases on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com; on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; & at U.S. restaurants.
- Earn 3x Hilton Honors points bonus points on all other purchases.
- New! Get complimentary National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive Status – easily our favorite status with a rental car chain.
- New! $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Get up to $189 per calendar year in statement credits, when you pay for a CLEAR® Plus Membership with the Aspire Card.
- $550 annual fee (see rates & fees), up from the previous $450 fee
All information about the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite Status
While not the absolute highest level of Marriott elite status, holding the *bonvoy brilliant* is enough to get you Platinum elite status. And that's pretty darn good.
With Marriott's Platinum Elite status you can expect things like early check-in, guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, enhanced room upgrades (including suites), 50% bonus point earning on stays, lounge access, and a welcome gift that includes breakfast.
Like most elite status levels, some of what you get with Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status is fluff and some is substance. The highlights of this status level are no doubt the free breakfast (for two), late check-out, and the chance at a room upgrade.
Much like Hilton's Diamond status, room upgrades in the U.S. are harder to come by than when traveling abroad. Fortunately, Marriott gives its properties less wiggle room to deny travelers with status an upgrade. Even when a suite isn't available for an upgrade, getting a room on the executive floor or even one with a better view is still a nice benefit of Platinum Elite status.
Marriott's free breakfast benefit is about as confusing as its credit card eligibility rules, but you can generally expect free breakfast to be offered as a welcome gift choice at all of Marriott's premium and luxury brand properties … but not at The Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, and Autograph Collection hotels. Other brands in these categories may not offer breakfast as a welcome gift, but do provide it in their club lounge (assuming they have one). Furthermore, brands like Fairfield Inn and Residence Inn offer complimentary breakfast to all guests, which is why it's not available as a welcome gift.
The other big benefit of Marriott's Platinum Elite status is a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out. This is subject to availability at resort and convention hotels but at all other properties, it's implemented just as it sounds: Guaranteed. A late check-out can be key for anyone with an evening flight or business meeting late in the day. Having the option to return to your hotel room to regroup after being out sightseeing – or even just having a secure place to store your luggage – is a huge benefit of this status level.
Find the best Marriott credit card for your travels with all the latest offers!
Here's the full breakdown on the *bonvoy brilliant* that includes Platinum Elite status:
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express Card
- Welcome Offer: *bonvoy brilliant bonus*
- Free Night Certificate: Get a free night certificate each year on your cardmember anniversary, eligible at properties that cost up to 85,000 points. This benefit starts in your second year of card membership.
- Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status.
- Get up to $300 in annual credits to use at restaurants worldwide. These will be available in up to $25 monthly increments and you will lose any amount not used each month.
- 25 elite night credits towards Bonvoy elite status each year you hold the card.
- Priority Pass Lounge Access: Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in a Priority Pass Select membership. This comes complimentary with the card, and enrollment is required.
- Earn 6x Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program.
- Earn 3x Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines.
- Earn 2x Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
- $650 Annual Fee (see rates & fees).
Learn more about the *bonvoy brilliant*
Thrifty Tip: Before applying for a new Marriott credit card, make sure you qualify for the welcome offer by first reading our master guide to eligibility.
IHG Platinum Elite Status
IHG – the hotel chain with stalwart brands such as Holiday Inn and Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts on its roster – offers a few different co-branded credit cards, including the *ihg rewards club premier*, which comes with the benefit of automatic Platinum Elite status.
IHG's Platinum status falls one level below its top-tier Diamond elites but still offers benefits like complimentary upgrades (when available), a welcome amenity at check-in, and a 2 p.m late check-out (when available).
IHG's Platinum status level is admittedly less impressive than what you can get with both Hilton and Marriott. But the Premier Card also comes with a much more modest annual fee.
Similar to status with the other chains, the biggest benefits are the possibility of getting upgraded to a better room at check-in and a welcome amenity. It's worth noting that breakfast isn't a benefit of IHG's Platinum status and there isn't any offsetting food and beverage credit like you'll find with Hilton. Still, getting a drink or snack as part of the welcome amenity is a nice touch. Plus, many of IHG's properties offer complimentary breakfast to all guests, regardless of status.
Here's a full breakdown of the *ihg rewards club premier* which comes with automatic IHG Platinum status:
IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Earn 5x points per dollar spent on travel, at gas stations, and restaurants
- Earn 3x points per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Free night award certificate starting in your second year of card membership, good for properties up to 40,000 points per night.
- Link your United MileagePlus account and get up to $50 of United TravelBank cash each calendar year.
- Receive 10,000 IHG bonus points and a $100 statement credit after spending $20,000 in purchases in a calendar year
- Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status
- IHG Diamond Elite status after spending $40,000 and making one additional purchase each calendar year
- Up to a $100 Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
- Get your fourth night free when booking with points
- Cell Phone Protection Coverage
- Annual Fee: $99
Learn more about the *ihg rewards club premier*.
What About Hyatt?
One brand is obviously missing from our list of easy-to-get hotel elite status: Hyatt.
Hyatt's top-tier Globalist elite status is arguably the best of any hotel chain and a big reason why we think Hyatt is the best hotel rewards program, period. But that means that top tier of status with a top hotel brand is harder to come by.
While having a Hyatt co-branded card like the The World of Hyatt Credit Card or the *world of hyatt business* will get you automatic Discoverist elite status, you'll still be a couple of tiers – and many key benefits – away from Hyatt's coveted Globalist status. But if Globalist is your goal, having one of these credit cards will give you an easier path to top-tier status as you'll earn extra tier-qualifying nights when you reach certain spending thresholds with both cards.
Related reading: Fast-Track Your Elite Status With the World of Hyatt Business Card
Hotel elite status can be extremely rewarding – even if you only travel a few times a year. And unlike airline status, it doesn't require you to spend thousands of dollars a year to get it.
With most (but not all) of the big hotel chains, all you need to do is have the right credit card in your wallet – and once you do, you'll start getting benefits like room upgrades, free breakfast, lounge access, and late check-out. Those credit cards come may come with hefty annual fees, but the benefits you get from status alone could be worth it.