How To Get Elite Hotel Benefits Just By Having A Credit Card

Elite benefits from hotels are nice. These are the benefits that frequent guests of the hotel chain are given as a thank-you for being good customers. While each chain has different benefits for differing levels of membership, the things you’ll usually see offered are a welcome gift, free wifi, early check in, late check out, an upgraded room and a variety of other perks.

Pferdschwemme (Horse Pond), as seen from our (upgraded) room at the Goldener Hirsch

While I’d like to think that we are traveling all the time, we actually aren’t. We stayed outside of our home for 33 nights in 2016. The breakdown of our stays looks like this:

  • 11 nights – IHG Hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites)
  • 9 nights – Starwood (Tribute Collection, Luxury Collection, Sheraton)
  • 7 nights – Casa particulars in Cuba
  • 2 nights – Hyatt (Andaz)
  • 1 night – Hilton
  • 1 night – Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn)
  • 1 night – Independent hotel
  • 1 night – Airbnb

Types of hotel stays like this will not make it worthwhile for any hotel chain to offer me their premium benefits. That’s fine with me though, because by not having to earn any loyalty to a hotel program, I am able to pick any hotel that I want based on our needs. However, I still would like to have some of those perks given to guests with elite status, so I do the next best thing – I buy status.

There are very few, if any, ways to directly buy status but you can get hotel elite status with many hotel chains by having their co-brand credit card. Several cards offer you the ability to earn status by spending a certain amount on the card each year but for this post I’m going to focus on those that don’t have a spending requirement. There are also business credit cards that provide status but they are, for the most part, identical to what the personal cards offer.

Here’s a list of the cards that offer some type of elite status as a benefit. Please note that links to credit cards in this post may pay a referral bonus.

IHG Rewards Club

Just by having the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card you automatically get Platinum Elite status with IHG. This would normally require staying for 40 nights or earning 40,000 points in a year.  The annual fee for the IHG card is $49.

Benefits of Platinum Elite membership are listed as:

  • Extended Check Out
  • Free Internet
  • Priority Check-In
  • 50% Bonus Earnings on Top of Base Points
  • Complimentary Room Upgrades

World of Hyatt

Holding the Hyatt Credit Card will give you Discoverist status in the World of Hyatt program. This is the first level of the Hyatt loyalty program and you would normally have to stay 10 nights or earn 25,000 points in a year to quality. The annual fee for the Hyatt Credit Card is $75.

View of Los Angeles from our room at the Andaz West Hollywood

Benefits of Discoverist status are listed as:

  • Complimentary premium Internet where available
  • Bottle of water daily
  • Upgrade to a preferred room based on availability at check-in
  • Dedicated check-in reserved for elite members
  • Extend your stay until 2:00 PM upon request (subject to availability at some locations)
  • Resort fees are waived on free night awards
  • 10% bonus points when choosing points

Club Carlson

When you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you are automatically granted Gold status in the Club Carlson program. To earn this status, you would normally need to have 20 stays or 35 nights per calendar year. Annual Fee for the card is $75.

I haven’t focused on this program because the Carlson brands in the U.S. are not places that I stay very much (Radisson, Park Inn and Country Inn & Suites). However this program may be of interest if you are traveling to Europe, where the Radisson Blu hotels are quite nice. My father just stayed at the Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel in Prague and it looked wonderful.

Room at the Radisson Blu Akron Hotel in Prague, one of the Carlson hotels

Benefits of Gold status are:

  • Complimentary Room Upgrade, when available
  • 35% Point Bonus for eligible stays
  • Early check-in or late checkout upon request
  • In-Room Welcome gift
  • 15% discount on food and beverages

Hilton Hotels

Up until very recently, Hilton hotels offered co-branded credit cards through two different banks, Citi and American Express. It was announced that American Express would become the exclusive issuer of the Hilton credit cards as of 2018. The links for the Citi branded Hilton Cards have disappeared from the Citi website so I’m  only going to mention the American Express card.

When you have the Hilton Honors Surpass® Card from American Express, you get Hilton Honors Gold status. Earning this status would normally require 20 stays, 40 nights or earning 75,000 Honors base points in a calendar year. The annual fee for the Hilton Surpass AMEX card is $75. Actual benefits are difficult to list because they differ depending on what brand of Hilton hotel you are staying at. I’ll list some benefits but you can see the whole list at the Hilton Honors website.

  • 25% Elite Status Bonus on base points
  • 5th Night Free on reward stays
  • Standard Internet Access
  • Late check out
  • Two complementary bottles of water (per stay)
  • Continental breakfast (depends on the hotel)
  • Space available upgrades (depends on hotel)


Marriott Hotels

Marriott hotels do not directly offer status with their co-brand card but instead they give you 15 elite night credits per year. Since Marriott Silver requires only 10 nights, you automatically get that with the Marriott Rewards® Premier credit card by Chase. The annual fee for this card is $85

Having Marriott Silver status gives you the following:

  • 20% bonus points on eligible stays
  • Complimentary in-room internet (if booking with Marriott)

Because of the merger with Starwood, Marriott Silver members are matched to Starwood Preferred Guest Plus. This is a quasi-status for Starwood as you can’t earn it through stays but only through credit card access.

It provided you with these benefits on Starwood stays:

  • 4PM late check out
  • ‘Enhanced’ room in same room category.


American Express Platinum Card

While the American Express Platinum card is not a co-branded card, it does provide status with two hotel programs as a benefit but you actually get status with three programs.

With the Platinum American Express card, you automatically receive Hilton Gold status and Starwood Gold Status. These benefits don’t come cheap as the Platinum card has a $550 a year annual fee. I know that seems steep but it can really end up being worth it depending on how much you travel.

I’ve already gone over what Hilton Gold gets you, as it’s the same level of membership that you’ll get with the AMEX Hilton Surpass card. Getting Starwood Gold elite status without meeting a spending requirement is not available with any other credit card. To earn Starwood Gold, you would normally have to stay for 10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year. The benefits of being a Starwood Gold elite member are:

  • 50% bonus on eligible stays (3 points per dollar instead of 2)
  • Enhanced room at check in
  • Welcome gift of 250 Starpoints, in-room internet or a free drink
  • Complimentary in-room bottled water
  • 4PM late check out, subject to availability and hotel.
Drinking our welcome gift at the Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg, Austria

Since Starwood Gold status can also be matched to Marriott, having the American Express Platinum card also gives you Marriott Gold Elite status. Note that this is better than the status that you earn by having the Marriott credit card. Gold status would normally require staying 50 nights or more with Marriott hotels.  Benefits of Gold Elite Marriott status are:

  • 25% additional points on eligible stays
  • Guaranteed room type
  • Complimentary room upgrade
  • Complimentary enhanced in-room internet access
  • Guaranteed 4 PM late checkout, subject to availability and hotel.
  • Guaranteed lounge access and breakfast for two


Final Thoughts

As you can see, it’s very easy to get some type of hotel elite status just by having the right credit cards. Personally, I wouldn’t get any of these cards just for the elite status but fortunately, the hotel cards also come with other perks that I find worth paying the annual fee for, like a free night certificate, so getting status in addition is a welcome bonus.

Do you have any of the hotel co-brand cards? Do you think the status that they give is worthwhile? Let us know what you think.

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