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Nothing feels quite like getting something for free. It’s why most of us enter the world of rewards travel and spend a good portion of our time chasing points and miles: to land a room with a view and a comfortable seat at the front of the plane.
But collecting points and miles is only half the game. Earning elite status with a hotel chain or airline can make travel much more comfortable and rewarding. Elite members get special treatment, freebies, upgrades, discounts, and the ability to earn a lot more points.
The traditional route to elite hotel status usually requires a major investment of time and money to meet the minimum stay requirements. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that savvy travelers can get hotel elite status for free.
- World of Hyatt Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
- Hilton Hotel Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
- IHG Rewards Club Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
- Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
- Radisson Rewards Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
World of Hyatt Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
Currently, the The World of Hyatt Credit Card is one of two ways to fast-track your way to elite status without the required stays or points. New cardholders receive Discoverist Status with World of Hyatt. But that's not all. Cardholders get 5 elite nights each year just for being a cardholder plus you'll earn 2 elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 spent on the card each year.
Hyatt has cut the elite status requirements for 2021 in half. You can combine this with the option to earn double elite qualifying nights in early 2021 to get top-tier Hyatt Globalist for two years.
- Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent
- Enjoy complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status for as long as your account is open.
- Get 1 free night each year after your Cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort.
- Receive 5 tier qualifying night credits towards status after account opening, and each year after that for as long as your account is open
- Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 in a calendar year
- Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card
- Earn up to 9 points total for Hyatt stays - 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
- Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships
- Up to 9X points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4X points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5X points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
- 2X points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships
- 1X point per $1 everywhere else
Meetings and Events
An alternative to holding the The World of Hyatt Credit Card is to have your boss pay your way to elite status with Hyatt. With as few as three meetings booked at Hyatt, members can achieve the base Discoverist status. In a typical year, this requires 10 nights or 25K base points. At only 20 meetings for Globalist status, hosting meetings and events can be an achievable way to achieving top-tier elite status with Hyatt.
M life Partnership: World of Hyatt doesn't offer a general status match but it does offer a match to M life Rewards members. If you hold M life Sapphire, Pearl, Gold, or higher, you can match to World of Hyatt at the Membership levels detailed below. This program is reciprocal, so if you are looking to secure M life status, you can match your existing World of Hyatt status.
American Airlines Partnership: American Airlines AAdvantage and World of Hyatt have a unique partnership that allows elite members of each program to take advantage of some reciprocal benefits. For those with AAdvantage Concierge Key status, you can immediately receive Globalist status with World of Hyatt once you link your AAdvantage and World of Hyatt accounts.
For those who don't hold the highest levels of elite status with either program, all is not lost. This partnership offers periodic fast track opportunities for elite members to match between programs.
Hilton Hotel Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
Hilton Honors is the loyalty program for Hilton—one of the largest hotel companies worldwide. Hilton Honors includes 6,000+ properties across 118 countries, including iconic brands like Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Curio, and DoubleTree. There is a lot to love about the Hilton Honors program, and elite status comes with a host of perks.
Hilton currently offers four co-branded cards available that provide elite status to cardholders.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — Receives automatic Diamond Status
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card — Receives automatic Gold Status
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card — Receives automatic Gold Status
- Hilton Honors American Express Card — Receives automatic Silver Status
Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.
- 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio
- 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly through select rental companies, and at U.S. restaurants
- 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card
In addition to the Hilton co-branded cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardmembers receive Hilton Honors Gold status as one of the many benefits provided with each card.
That's a total of six credit cards that provide Hilton Honors elite status with no other activity required. The annual fees range from $0 on the Hilton Honors American Express Card card (Rates & Fees) to $695 for the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees). You need to take a close look at all of the benefits provided by each card before deciding how best to lock in your “free” status!
Elite Status Match
If you already have elite status with another hotel company, Hilton Honors offers an opportunity to match to Gold status and fast track to Diamond status. Simply visit statusmatch.hiltonhonors.com and complete the online request.
You'll need to provide information about your existing status with another hotel loyalty program, as well as proof of a stay within the last 12 months. So, if you only have elite status through a credit card, you'll want to make sure to complete a stay before requesting a match.
Note that the Hilton status match is granted for a “trial period” of 90 days. Once your application for a status match is approved, you have 90 days to stay 5 nights in order to maintain Gold status through March 31, 2023. And you can upgrade to top-tier Diamond status through March 31, 2023, if you can log 9 nights within that 90 day trial period.
Elite Status Gifting
Do you know a Diamond member? How kind have you been to them lately? Hilton Honors Diamond members who have stayed at least 60 nights in a calendar year are provided with a “gifting status benefit”. This member can gift Gold if they've completed 60 nights or Diamond if they've stayed more than 100 nights. This isn't the most accessible route to elite status—but it's a fast route if you know the right people!
IHG Rewards Club Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
When compared to other major hotel rewards programs, IHG Rewards Club doesn't hold quite the same value for rewards travelers who chase premium status. While the brand portfolio does include InterContinental, Kimpton, and Mr & Mrs Smith properties, IHG is a more popular program for budget-conscious travelers who want the simplicity of sticking with one loyalty program.
- Earn 26 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
- 5X points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, gas stations, and restaurants
- 3X points per $1 spent on all other purchases
The earning for spending at IHG hotels breaks down as follows:
- Earn 10X points for being a IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card member
- Earn 6X points from IHG® with Platinum Elite Status, a benefit of having this card
- Earn 10X points from IHG® for being an IHG® Rewards Club Member (Being a cardholder is not required to earn this bonus for participating in the IHG® loyalty program)
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
With 30 brands and over 7,000 properties in more than 130 countries and territories, Marriott International has a huge footprint in the US and around the world. Its loyalty program was rebranded and relaunched in 2019.
Marriott's Bonvoy program offers 5 elite tiers in addition to a basic member level. And you can get up to the first four elite levels through credit cards.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card — Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year and collect Silver Elite status.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card — Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year and collect Silver Elite status. Spend your way to Gold Elite status by making $35,000 in purchases in an account year, or earn 1 Elite Night Credit towards Elite Status for every $5,000 you spend.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card — Gold Elite status and receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year toward higher elite status.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ Card — Gold Elite status and receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year toward higher elite status.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — Platinum Elite status and receive 25 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card — Gold Elite status and receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year toward higher elite status.
- Amex Platinum + Business Platinum Card — Receive Marriott Gold Elite as one of two hotel elite statuses supplied with the card.
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card — Gold Elite status and receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year toward higher elite status.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
- 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
- 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
- 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
- Terms apply.
- Rates & Fees
- 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program
- 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping
- 2x points on all other eligible purchases
If you hold both a business and personal Marriott co-brand card, you will receive up to 40 elite night credits each year.
Elite Status Match
Marriott Bonvoy offers a status match with terms and conditions similar to Hilton's program. Applicants must show proof of elite status in Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club, or Accor Live Limitless, and a stay within the last 12 months to have the status matched with Marriott Bonvoy for 90 days. Within those 90 days, applicants must stay the required number of nights to keep the new status active until February 2022.
RewardsPlus: United MileagePlus Partnership
Marriott Bonvoy has a partnership with United MileagePlus that allows for reciprocal earning and shared elite benefits. Titanium and Ambassador Elite members can receive United MileagePlus Premier Silver elite status. And those with United Premier Gold status or higher can register to secure Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. All that is required to take advantage of this program is to register!
Radisson Rewards Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)
Radisson Rewards is the loyalty program for Radisson hotel brands, Country Inns & Suites, and Park Plaza. It doesn’t have the best coverage inside the U.S. However, Radisson has a substantial footprint overseas, particularly throughout Northern Europe and the Middle East.
Members can leverage one credit card for Radisson Rewards elite status:
- Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Card — Receive automatic Gold Status after your first use of the card, or 15 elite night credits if you already hold Radisson Gold or Platinum status. The card has a $75 annual fee.
Elite Status Match
Radisson Rewards does not currently offer an official status match program. However, it seems that travelers who send a polite request to firstname.lastname@example.org have matched their existing elite status with Radisson Silver or Gold status.
Also, a reminder that Radisson Rewards announced back in March that all elite tier memberships will be extended by a year through February 2022.
Gaining elite status with your favorite hotel chain is an easy way of making your hotel stays more enjoyable. You can receive early check-in/late check-out, upgraded rooms, complimentary food and drinks, and more. Earning status without staying the required number of nights and stays can make these benefits feel even sweeter.
Almost all of the credit cards mentioned above have some form of annual fee, so they are not technically ‘free’. However, if you take full advantage of the airline, travel, and TSA PreCheck credits; lounge access, free anniversary nights, and other benefits, these cards can more than pay for themselves.
Finally, there are two websites worth checking periodically:
- StatusMatcher.com — Not all status matches are publicly advertised, but Status Matcher uses reports submitted by other rewards club members and includes success and failure rates, in addition to methods of applying for status matches and an email address to send applications to.
- CardMatch — This site will ask for some personal information and run a quick check to see what special credit card offers you may be qualified for.
Most hotel brands are making it easier this year to secure and hold on to elite status. We hope some of the tips here help you to secure that status without having to spend any money as well!
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Hilton Honors American Express Card (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (Rates & Fees)
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