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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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – Receives automatic Diamond Status
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card – Receives automatic Gold Status
- Hilton Honors American Express Card – Receives automatic Silver Status
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card – Receives automatic Gold Status
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – Amongst its seemingly endless benefits, the Amex Platinum counts Hilton Honors Gold as one of two hotel elite statuses supplied with the card (Terms Apply).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express – The business version of the Amex Platinum also grants Hilton Honors Gold status as one of its benefits.
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.
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:
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card – Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year and collect Silver Elite status
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card – Guaranteed Silver Elite status, plus receive Gold Elite status when you spend $35,000 in an account year. Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card – Guaranteed Silver Elite status, plus receive Gold Elite status when you spend $35,000 in an account year. Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card – Guaranteed Gold Elite status, plus receive Platinum Elite status when you spend $75,000 in an account year. Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year
- Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card – Guaranteed Silver Elite status, plus receive Gold Elite status when you spend $35,000 in an account year. Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card – Guaranteed Silver Elite status, plus receive Gold Elite status when you spend $35,000 in an account year. Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card – Guaranteed Gold Elite status, plus receive Platinum Elite status when you spend $75,000 in an account year. Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – Amongst its seemingly endless benefits, the Amex Platinum counts Marriott Gold Elite as one of two hotel elite statuses supplied with the card. $550 annual fee (Terms Apply).
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.
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 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.
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