How to Get Hotel Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)

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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.

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

World of Hyatt Elite Status for Free (or Almost Free)

Credit Cards

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. 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.

World of Hyatt Credit Card
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 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
  • Get 1 free night each year after your Cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort
  • Enjoy complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status for as long as your account is open.
  • 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 everytime 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 airlines 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 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.

Earn Hyatt elite status for free by hosting meetings

Status Match

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.

Earn Hyatt elite status by matching M life Rewards - or visa versa!

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.

Credit Cards

Hilton currently offers four co-branded cards available that provide elite status to cardholders.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Annual Fee$450
Welcome Bonus Earn 150,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • 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 $595 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.

IHG also has one of the best value co-branded hotel cards available today. The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card grants cardholders Platinum Elite status. That status typically requires at least 40 nights or 40,000 qualifying points.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Annual Fee$89
Welcome Bonus Earn 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Enjoy a Reward Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Earn up to 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®
  • Earn 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • 2X points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • 1X point 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 Club Premier Credit Cardmember
  • Earn 5X 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. After a bumpy start, things seem to be settling down.

Marriott's Bonvoy program offers 5 elite tiers in addition to a basic member level. And you can get up to the first three elite levels through credit cards.

Credit Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
AmexBonvoyBiz
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms apply)
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Annual Fee$125
Welcome Bonus Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 5/12/21.
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 5/12/21.
  • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, 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 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. 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 a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status with your Card. Plus, earn Gold Elite status after making $35,000 in eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Terms apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, 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 purchases

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 elite night credits from credit cards if you only hold personal Marriott cards.

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 called 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.

Credit Cards

Members can leverage one credit card for Radisson Rewards elite status:

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 statusmatch@radissonhotels.com 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.

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 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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Comments

  • Avatar

    IHG status may not be the most “valuable” of the big chains, but it’s the only chain that allows you to earn points for up to 9 rooms booked under your name concurrently (in North America) versus the max of 3 rooms for Marriott or 2 rooms for Hilton. It’s an interesting perk of the program.

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    Very useful information .. just discovered the blogs and they’re quite informative … thanks

    • Avatar

      It certainly is. If AW hasn’t thought of it already, a nice addition to their right sidebar, perhaps under “Page Contents” would be an up-to-date list of their most popular/valuable posts. You could measure popularity by visitors, # of comments, etc. But, it would be a great way to quickly show the potential value of many articles.

  • Avatar

    I agree that IHG isn’t the most awesome status but you can use points to “buy” Ambassador status which can be very valuable at IC hotels.

  • Avatar

    For the first time in 30+ years, I had zero air/hotel activity this year. I have both personal and business Marriott cards and lifetime gold status. Since the meeting backdoor is closed, what is the best way to quickly regain my Titanium status in 2021?

    • Avatar

      We’ve all been waiting to hear how Marriott is going to make earning elite status easier in 2021, but nothing has been shared yet. By having a personal and business card, you should be starting the year with 30 Elite Night Credits. That puts (at least) Platinum Elite in reach. And hopefully Marriott will do some sort of double elite night promotion or something to help us (me included!) get back to our typical status!

  • Avatar
    Michael DiNovi says:

    This is a good resource for keeping track of who and how in the status match arena. I have used a temporary status match to Hilton Diamond to piggyback onto other matches, et cetera, et cetera. Thank you for making this so convenient.

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    Agree that it’s really a great idea to get Hilton Diamond via Amex.

  • Avatar
    ngelo fonseca says:

    status match has been very common in hotel programs, but rare in airlines …

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    Great. but the free nights start at 5,000 points.

  • Avatar

    I have a question… New cardholders receive Discoverist Status with World of Hyatt. What happens if i have a Hyatt rewards program account? Can i use my account?

    • Avatar

      You sure can! Just list your World of Hyatt number when applying for the card and Chase/Hyatt will connect the new card with your existing World of Hyatt account.

  • Avatar

    Marriott Silver Elite status isn’t very high, but nonetheless, Marriott automatically granted it to AAA members upon request before the switchover to Bonvoy. Does Bonvoy have a similar program?

    • Avatar

      I looked into this for a bit, but I couldn’t find anything current. So, it seems that the program is no longer offered.

  • Avatar

    Very insightful, Thanks I’ve been meaning to give World of Hyatt a try this post definitely helps

  • Avatar

    The Hilton Honors Gold status is valuable and not to difficult to obtain.
    Otherwise as I have Priority Pass I am not actively searching a status with some airlines. You need a minimum of organisation to obtain this and so not too easy to receive with little notice after a flight booking.
    Another possibility I’m exploring is apply for some credit card which give me some benefits.

  • Avatar

    I’ve been more than happy with the status that comes from various hotel cards – bonus points, occasional upgrades and free breakfast. But I would suggest detailing how through reciprocal matching between World of Hyatt and M Life, you can get Explorist, not just Discoverist, status for free.

  • Avatar

    I remember around 5 years ago when Hilton gave me Gold status just for being a new member even though I had never even stayed with them before. And I didn’t have status with other hotels at the time either.

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    Gilberto Souza de Morais says:

    Those tricks are that helpful. Thanks for letting us know.

  • Avatar
    Jessica Arbai says:

    This was incredibly helpful and informative for such travelers/frequent flyers. Thank you so very much for this update!

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    Hotel elite status can really make for an extraordinary stay. Thanks for compiling all of this info in one place.

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    Great to use these status matches right before a stay or a vacation!

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    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?

    • Avatar

      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.

      • Avatar

        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.

  • Avatar

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

  • Avatar

    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.

  • Avatar

    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.

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    Great thread and really helpful post. Thanks

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    I see, seems get credit card can get points faster.

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

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    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.

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    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.

    • Avatar

      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.

  • Avatar

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

  • Avatar

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

  • Avatar

    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.