Best Mid-Tier Hotel Elite Status And How To Earn It

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Every major hotel chain offers some form of loyalty program that recognizes and rewards frequent guests. A few, like Marriott's Platinum Premier with Ambassador elite status or the new invitation-only Four Seasons Card, aim to distinguish only the very top echelon of guests and focus on client experience over earning rewards.

Most, however, are tiered programs allowing members to earn points by staying at a property within the family of hotels, through reciprocal agreements with airlines and retailers, and increasingly, though spending on co-branded credit cards.

Free continental breakfast for Marriott Platinum Elite

Traditionally, the only way to earn elite status with a hotel loyalty program was to put in the hard yards and clock up the required stays or nights; not anymore though. As the big hotel brands compete harder to fill beds and up occupancy rates, rewards programs have created multiple paths to reach elite status.

You can earn elite status as a benefit of select credit cards, through status matches and reciprocal agreements with airlines, promotions, and occasionally even through a status challenge.

This week, we shine a light on hotel loyalty programs to find the best mid-tier elite status' and discover how you can earn them.

Hilton Honors Gold

Hilton’s mid-tier elite status offers some of the best benefits when combined with the global reach of the Honors program. Free breakfast from a mid-tier program is always going to be a value winner, and when leveraged correctly, the 5th night free for award stays can drop the cost of redemptions dramatically.


  • 25% bonus on all Honors Base Points
  • Receive every 5th night free on award stays
  • Receive complimentary breakfast at most Hilton Hotels
  • Space-available upgrades at Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton and DoubleTree

Do award stays count towards elite status? Yes

How many nights/stays required? 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Honors Base Points

The following cards award Hilton Honors Gold as a benefit:

Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.

The Hilton Honors American Express Card receives complimentary Hilton Silver status with a fast track to Gold after spending $20K on the card in a calendar year.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn up to 180,000 Bonus Points. You'll receive 130,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
  • 12X Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio
  • 6X Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3X Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card

Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite

During the reshuffle of Marriott's elite tiers, mid-tier Gold status was devalued and lost some key benefits, free breakfast for two being the most lamented Gold Elite perk.

An interesting way of gaining Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy is the reciprocal agreement with United MileagePlus through RewardsPlus. United members that have earned Premier Gold status can register for Marriott Gold Elite status as one of the benefits.


  • 25% Bonus Points on Stays
  • 2 p.m. Priority Late Checkout (Based on Availability)
  • Enhanced In-Room Internet
  • Gold Welcome Gift (Points – Varies by Brand)
  • Enhanced Room Upgrade (Based on Availability)
  • Ultimate Reservation Guarantee

Do award stays count towards elite status? Yes (as of October 2015)

How many nights/stays required? 50+ qualifying nights

Which cards award Marriott Gold Elite status as a benefit?

World of Hyatt Explorist

After making the transition from Gold Passport to World of Hyatt, Hyatt’s elite status is heavily weighted towards members that spend the most, and as yet, doesn’t offer the same benefits as the leading opposition. Explorist also comes at a hefty cost of 30 nights, 50,000 base points, or 10 meetings.

While you do get 4 complimentary Club Lounge Access Awards for paid or award stays, there is no 5th night free like you receive from Hilton. Following the latest reshuffle, Hyatt is still lagging behind the competition when it comes to mid-tier status.


  • 4x Club Lounge Access Awards
  • Best room, excluding Club Level & Suites
  • 20% point bonus
  • 72-hour room guarantee
  • 2 pm late check-out

Do award stays count towards elite status? Yes

How many nights/stays required? 30 nights, 50,000 base points, 10 meetings

Which cards award Hyatt Explorist Membership as a benefit?

IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite

With IHG’s relatively easy points earning structure, budget redemption options, elite rollover credits, earning Platinum Elite is an easier task than with similar status in other programs. You receive Platinum Elite with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which also features the best free night certificate of any credit card on the market.


  • 50% point bonus
  • Elite Rollover Nights
  • Complimentary Room Upgrades (on availability)
  • Guaranteed Room Availability

Do award stays count towards elite status? Yes

How many nights/stays required? 40 nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points

Which cards award IHG Platinum Elite as a benefit?

Club Carlson Gold Elite

Club Carlson doesn’t receive the same press in the US as its counterparts but is an active program overseas, particularly if you’re traveling to Europe or the Middle East. With the Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, which grants you Gold status with Club Carlson, you can earn more than 30 points/$1 spent at Carlton Rezidor properties, and that is before any of Club Carlson’s regular promotions.


  • 35% Point Bonus
  • Complimentary Room Upgrade
  • Early Check-In and Late Checkout
  • Elite Rollover Nights
  • In-Room Welcome Gift
  • 15% Discount on Food & Beverages

Do award stays count towards elite status? Yes

How many nights/stays required? 20 Stays or 35 Nights

Which cards award Club Carlson Gold Elite as a benefit?

Final Thoughts

When you add up the benefits of mid-tier elite status with each program, if it's easy to attain and how easy it is to use (does the hotel chain have a big enough footprint that you can use it anywhere), first prize goes to Hilton Honors Gold as the best mid-tier elite status for hotel chains in the US, closely followed by Marriott Bonvoy Gold.

Free breakfast and the 5th night free add tangible value to Hilton Honors Gold, which will save you money over the long term. And with six different rewards cards all offering Hilton Gold or an easy fast-track to Gold as a benefit, it's one of the most accessible elite tiers on the market.

As far as rewards cards go, if you are looking to get mid-tier elite status across the most programs, the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum Card are hands-down winners. Offering Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Gold as a benefit.

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