How to Get Hotel Elite Status for Free

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There's nothing quite like getting something for free. It’s why most of us enter the cat and mouse 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 seat up the pointy end of the plane.

But rewards currencies are only half the game. Earning elite status with a hotel chain or airline can make travel infinitely more comfortable and rewarding. We get special treatment, freebies, upgrades, discounts, and the ability to earn a lot more points.

Unfortunately, it can also be expensive to acquire.

The traditional route to elite status, earning the base number of points or night credits needed for each elite tier within a hotel chain, requires a substantial investment of time and money. Thankfully, we have a number of options that will allow us to get hotel elite status for free.

Elite status welcome gift
Welcome gifts are just one of the perks you can expect when you achieve hotel elite status

How to Earn Hotel Elite Status for Free

Carlson Rezidor – Club Carlson

Club Carlson, the loyalty program for Radisson, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, and Quorvus Collection, doesn’t have the best coverage inside the U.S. but has a substantial footprint overseas, particularly throughout Northern Europe and the Middle East.

Members have the option of three co-branded credit cards that offer elite status with Club Carlson:

  • Club Carlson℠ Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card – Earn up to 85,000 bonus Gold points on signup; 50,000 after your first purchase, and an additional 35,000 after you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. $75 annual fee – Receives automatic Gold Status.
  • Club Carlson℠ Business Rewards Visa® Card – Earn up to 85,000 bonus Gold points on signup; 50,000 after your first purchase, and an additional 35,000 after you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. $60 annual fee – Receives automatic Gold Status.
  • Club Carlson℠ Rewards Visa Signature® Card – Earn up to 60,000 bonus Gold points on signup; 50,000 after your first purchase, and an additional 10,000 after you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. $50 annual fee – Receives automatic Silver Status.

Club Carlson also runs a formalized status match program. As per the Club Carlson website.

Here's what we'll need from you to process this request:

  • Send us your full name
  • Club Carlson membership number
  • Name of other frequent guest program
  • Membership number and tier level of the other frequent guest program
  • Copy of your membership card from the other frequent guest program (PDF or JPG files only)

Submit by email to (please include “Status Match” in the subject line)

Enjoy an exceptional experience with Club Carlson Elite status.

Note that they don't ask for any form of account activity. Presumably, you could match from an elite status granted as one of a credit card’s benefits, like Marriott Gold Elite earned via The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Hilton Hotels and Resorts – Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors is the loyalty program for Hilton Hotels, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, DoubleTree, and many more, and has the most credit card options offering complimentary elite status.

Hyatt Hotels – World of Hyatt

Currently, 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. In addition to earning up to 50,000 bonus points, cardholders receive Discoverist Status with World of Hyatt. You can also spend your way to Explorist or Globalist Status using the new Hyatt co-brand card; for every $5,000 you spend, you'll receive 2x elite qualifying nights towards your next elite tier. The The World Of Hyatt Credit Card has a $95 annual fee.

An alternative to holding the The World Of Hyatt Credit Card is to have your boss pay your way to elite status with Hyatt. One item covered in October's World of Hyatt press release detailed a path to elite status through hosting business meetings. From as few as three meetings booked at Hyatt, members can achieve the base Discoverist status, which would typically require 10 nights or 25K base points. At only 20 meetings for Globalist status, it is one of the fastest paths to achieving top-tier elite status with Hyatt.

  • Discoverist – 3 meetings
  • Explorist – 10 meetings
  • Globalist – 20 meetings

InterContinental Hotels Group – IHG® Rewards Club

When compared to other major hotel rewards programs, IHG Rewards Club doesn't hold quite the same value for rewards travelers who chase premium travel experiences, however, is a very popular program for budget-conscious travelers who want the simplicity of sticking with one loyalty program.

IHG also has one of the best value co-branded hotel cards available today. The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card – Receives Platinum Elite status.

Marriott Hotels & Resorts – Marriott Bonvoy

As part of the merger with SPG, Marriott Bonvoy has expanded to include 5 elite tiers in addition to a basic member level. The combined rewards program for the entire Marriott portfolio now includes:

  • Silver Elite: 10-24 nights/year
  • Gold Elite: 25-49 nights/year
  • Platinum Elite: 50-74 nights/year
  • Titanium Elite: 75-99 nights/year
  • Ambassador Elite: 100+ Nights + $20K qualifying spend

Alongside new elite tiers, Marriott revamped the co-brand credit card lineup which all now include complimentary elite status.

You can achieve elite status for free with Marriott Bonvoy via these credit cards:

If you hold both a business and personal Marriott co-brand card, you will receive 30 elite night credits each year (15 from each card), however, you are capped at 15 nights if you only hold personal Marriott cards.

Through RewardsPlus®, Marriott has a partnership with United MileagePlus which allows for reciprocal earning and shared elite benefits. If you are Premier Gold or above, you can register to receive complimentary Gold Elite status with Marriott.

Final Thoughts

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 the general recognition of being a valued guest. Being able to earn that status without staying the required number of nights and stays makes it all the sweeter.

Almost all of the credit cards mentioned above have some form of annual fee, so while not technically ‘free,’ if you are taking full advantage of airline, travel, and TSA credits, lounge access, free anniversary nights, and other benefits, then these cards are not just free but can be spinning a tidy profit.

Another website worth checking periodically is, 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.

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  • Ying Zhang says:

    The address given above for submission of Carlson Radisson status match request doesn’t work. It only results in a mail delivery failure.

  • Severine Arnaud says:

    Are they any such card for people living outside of the US?

    I thank you very much in advance.

    Best regards,


  • You’ve omitted another route to Starwood Gold status (and, via link to Marriott account, to Marriott Gold): If you spend $30K in a calendar year on either the SPG AmEx personal or business card, you receive Gold status until February of the second year following (i.e., if you qualify based on spend in 2018, Gold is good until Feb 2020).

  • Q: Do these status tiers last forever once you get them and keep the card? Or do you have to hit a minimum spend each year to maintain/renew?

    • As long as you’re a cardmember you can re-up your status each year. If a status requires a spend, such as 75k on the Ritz Card for Platinum, then you’d need to do that each year.

      • To add to Howie’s response:

        Some credit cards confer a certain automatic status as a permanent perq (e.g., IHG Select and IHG Premier MasterCard cardholders automatically receive Platinum status, with no stay or spend requirements). In contrast, upgraded status achieved through meeting requirements for stays, spending, challenges, and/or acquired via status-tier matching, is only applicable for a specified, limited timespan, and keeping that upgraded status means meeting the requirements again by a certain deadline.

  • Combining credit card status and matches seems like a powerful one-two punch.

  • On a recent trip to Japan the perks associated with Hilton and Marriott gold status gained through the Amex Platinum card were easily worth the card’s entire annual fee. These included upgrades to top floor suites in Tokyo and Nagoya, free breakfast buffets, free wifi, lounge access with open bars and snacks, and fast check-ins at the concierge desks.

  • I have diamond status with Hilton and have used that to match status with other chains whenever it it turns out that I must spend the night in a hotel other than a HIlton. I don’t always get a status match, but it often happens, and it is free to ask and worthwhile if you succeed.

  • Carlson club does not seem to include their top Concierge status for matching which gets you the free breakfast. Hilton offers match to Diamond status which seems better.

  • Great thread and really helpful post. Thanks

  • Good stuff! Super useful. That Carlson one I wasn’t even aware of but will most likely pursue it. Thanks!

  • Nice to see all these options in one succinct post. Thanks for the info.

  • It is good that there are so many ways to get hotel status, but just a pity that there are no real short cuts to airline status.

  • To get Elite status with IGH (priority Club), just get the basic credit card with an annual fee of $49. You also get one free night at any IHG one you renew.

  • I wish we traveled enough to automatically earn this status. But that is not us. We avoid credit cards with fees so that option is out as well. Maybe in the future we’ll travel more and make these levels.

    • I’d recommend revisiting your stance on credit cards with fees. Some of the most rewarding and best value credit cards come with a yearly fee – like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve. The benefits significantly outweigh the cost.

  • Same Question, different Sub-Forum: How might Elite Status be had for free, if one is not living in the US and can’t access the CC’s?

    • Sebastian, living in the US and accessing US-based CCs is our sweet spot for knowledge. I wish we could provide some significant insight into leveraging international programs, but other than the occasional deal ( it is near impossible to fully understand all the programs/opportunities and foreign financial systems.

    • Stephen Wing says:

      There are plenty of similar offers in other countries. In the UK, for example, you’ll find similar hotel credit cards which offer elite status, plus there is equally Amex Platinum too. The exact status offer and promotions vary though.

      I would start by checking the local country hotel group websites as they will often advertise their credit cards.

  • With so many choices, which one is the easiest and best way to start up for this chain of status match?

  • I’ve been confused about the number of different hotel rewards, their partnerships with airlines or other programs, etc so have only used Chase for reward points. Now I’m really excited to figure out the programs. I’m especially interested in SPG and Delta. Thanks!

  • For room upgrade, etc., it’s definitely been worth it to me to continually hold a few of these cards.

  • I think Amex Platinum is the best for hotel status overall. Wish there were some airline status along with it too though.

    • Even if you have SPG Gold status through the Amex Plat, you’ll should be able to at least get some of the Delta and Emirates crossover rewards like seat upgrades and such. So while it’s not truly status within an airline, they’re giving you some status perks based on your hotel loyalty and their deal with SPG.

  • Is there another way without the credit cards?

  • Wow! The veil has been pulled back. I never knew you could do a status match, much less that there was a website that helped you to see which programs you could possibly match to. Thanks for this. Gonna save a lot more money this year.