How I Earn Elite Hotel Status, Without Ever Buying a Ticket With Cash

By learning how easy it is to earn elite status, and by choosing the right credit card to get you there, you’ll never be just another guest when you stay at a hotel.

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There’s nothing like the fun of checking into a hotel when you have elite status. First, you get to skip the line and go straight to the front desk, where you’ll likely receive a room upgrade. Then you’ll be told about all the free amenities you’ll have access to, possibly including free breakfasts, late checkouts and perhaps even free parking. And don’t forget that you’ll either be earning extra points on paid stays, or possibly spending fewer points on award stays.

But you don’t have to pay for dozens of nights a year to earn elite status with your favorite hotel programs, as status is routinely offered through credit card use, award stays or a combination of both.

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Unlike airline frequent flyer programs, you actually earn credit towards elite status when you redeem your points to stay at a hotel for free. (Yes, I said “free” as the vast majority of hotel award stays don’t require you to pay any taxes or fees.)

How I Earn Top-Tier Globalist Elite Status With the World of Hyatt Program

Despite its somewhat awkward name, my favorite hotel loyalty program is the World of Hyatt, where I have achieved Globalist, the highest status in their program. This status normally requires 60 night stay credits per year; although they have reduced it to 30 night stays for 2020, in light of the pandemic.

But even 60 night stays is within my reach, as I enjoy their Hyatt Place and Hyatt House brands. Award nights at these properties tend to cost me just 5,000, 8,000 or 12,000 points per night.

But I stay nowhere near 60 nights a year. Instead, I have the World of Hyatt credit card from Chase, which offers me 5 night-stay credits each year, and another 2 night-stay credits for every $5,000 spent. So by fall, when I have an idea of how many night-stays I’ll earn  at hotels that year, I can dedicate some additional spending to that card to fill the gap, if necessary.

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And boy is it worth it! Beyond room upgrades, Globalists always receive free breakfasts, as well as waived resort fees and parking fees. These expenses can otherwise add up to hundreds of dollars on a longer stay.

I also receive 4 p.m. late checkouts and access to a Hyatt Concierge who assists me in my sometimes complicated travel plans. But even if you don’t achieve Globalist status, the credit card will still grant you entry-level Explorist status, which is a lot better than nothing.

Earning Status in Other Hotel Programs

I also hold top-tier Wyndham status, which I received by having the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Business Card. This status includes late checkouts, suite upgrades and a welcome amenity kit at check-in.

I enjoy mid-tier Gold status with both Marriott and Hilton, by virtue of holding the American Express Platinum card. Hilton Gold comes with late checkouts and a daily food and beverage credit at US hotels, and continental breakfast at non-US hotels. Both come with room upgrades and additional points earnings.

Credit Cards That Earn Marriott Status

You can earn Marriott Status with these credit cards from both Chase and American Express.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card 

This card also comes with 15 elite night credits, which is good for automatic Silver elite status, There’s no annual fee for this card. Our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Bold has complete details about this popular hotel credit card.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card 

This card comes with automatic Silver elite status, 15 elite night credits and automatic Gold status when you spend $35,000 on purchases within a calendar year. There is a $95 annual fee for this card. Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

Other Marriott Credit Cards

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: This hotel credit card comes with 15 nights of elite stay credits. This is enough for Silver elite status and puts you on your way towards higher levels. There is a $450 annual fee for this card.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ Card: This credit card also offers you 15 nights of elite stay credits and has a $125 annual fee.

Credit Cards That Earn Hilton Status

  • Hilton Honors Card: This card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status, and Gold status when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year. There’s no annual fee for this card.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: This card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, and when you use it to spend $40,000 in a calendar year, you can earn top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status.There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card: This Hilton Amex credit card offers complimentary Diamond status to all cardmembers, and has a $450 annual fee.
  • Hilton Honors Business Card: This Hilton business credit card offers Gold status and has a $95 annual fee.

Earning Status With Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

This IHG hotel credit card from Chase offers you Platinum elite status, which includes room upgrades, late checkouts and even free items from the room’s minibar. There’s an $89 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year. Read our full review of the IHG Premier Rewards Club Card.

Bottom Line

If you travel more than just a few times a year, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t hold some level of elite status with your favorite hotel program. By learning how easy it is to earn elite status, and by choosing the right credit card to get you there, you’ll never be just another guest when you stay at a hotel.


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While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Jason Steele

Jason Steele is a journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel and other areas of personal finance. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the credit card industry, Jason’s work has been featured at mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and Business Insider.

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