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How to get hotel elite status from UK credit and charge cards

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EDIT:  with impeccable timing, the Hilton Honors Visa card was withdrawn from the market one day after this article was published!

If you are just getting started with miles and points, you have probably realised by now that your travel life could be improved if you had airline or hotel elite status.

If you want fast-track airline status, you’re out of luck.  Your best option if you want British Airways Silver status for lounge access is to book yourself a Qatar Airways business class flight to Asia in their next sale.  It should cost under £1000 and you will earn 560 tier points which is almost the full 600 needed for British Airways Executive Club Silver status – although you still need to fly four BA segments to be promoted.  And you get a great holiday out of it and you get to try the best business class product out there.

Hotel elite status is a lot easier to get.  It can also be more beneficial.  After all, if you are flying in Business Class or First Class anyway then status doesn’t get you much on top, except for free BA Club World seat selection and possibly a better choice of lounges.   Hotel status can get you an upgrade to a room you would never consider booking for cash.  It can also be valuable – getting free breakfast for two for seven nights can represent a chunky saving, for example.

Luckily there are ways of getting free hotel elite status from credit and charge cards.

Not all hotel statuses are equal.  The benefits vary but, importantly, so does the willingness of chains to deliver them.  In general, I value a benefit which is ‘guaranteed’ substantially higher than a benefit which is ‘subject to availability’ – especially as ‘subject to availability’ tends to mean ‘if we feel like it’ rather than ‘if it is physically possible’.

Let’s have a look at the different UK credit and charge cards which offer hotel elite status:

Hilton Honors Platinum Visa Card (free, click here for review)

Key brands covered: Canopy, Conrad, Curio, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Hilton, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, Waldorf Astoria

Hilton gives you Silver status in Hilton Honors for as long as you hold the card, which is itself free. Silver isn’t worth much, though – 15% bonus on base points is the key benefit. It does push you off the bottom of the list when the hotel is deciding who gets the room over the air conditioning unit.

If you spend £10,000 in a calendar year on the Hilton Honors Visa card, you are upgraded to Hilton Honors Gold.  Hilton Gold is generally regarded as the best mid-tier hotel status because you receive free continental breakfast – and usually full buffet breakfast.  Since the start of 2018, the Waldorf Astoria brand has started giving free breakfast to Hilton Gold members which was previously an annoying exclusion.

You should also receive some sort of room upgrade as a Hilton Gold although this is often just ‘best available room in category booked’.  It is worth noting that there is a big difference in how Hilton elite members are treated in the US (badly, because almost every guest has status via their credit card) and elsewhere (well, especially in Asia).

If you are looking for Hilton Gold status, you should remember that you can also get Hilton Gold for free with American Express Platinum just for holding the card.

You can see the full list of Hilton status benefits by tier on the Hilton website here.

Having status also means that you qualify for ‘5 night for the points of 4’ when booking reward nights.

The Hilton Honors Platinum Visa has a representative APR of 18.9% variable.

SPG Amex

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (£75 annual fee, click here for review)

Key brands covered: Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, St Regis, Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, St Regis, W, Westin

Starwood gives Preferred Guest Plus status to holders of its UK credit card.  This gives you guaranteed late check-out and an upgrade to a ‘preferred’ room (ie higher floor). It is debatable whether this makes it worth the £75 annual fee.

If you spend £15,000 per year on the card you will be upgraded to Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest.  You can see the full list of SPG Gold benefits here.

The 4pm late check-out is guaranteed except at resort and conference centre hotels.  This is the main benefit – the only other things offered will be an ‘enhanced’ room (in the category you booked) and a gift of either extra points, premium wi-fi or a free drink.

A key benefit if you fly Delta on a regular basis is that Gold members qualify for Delta Crossover Rewards, allowing you to earn a lot of Starwood points on qualifying Delta cash tickets.  There is a similar offer for anyone flying Emirates on cash tickets.

If you are looking for Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, you should remember that you can also get Starwood Gold for free with American Express Platinum just for holding the card.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card has a representative APR of 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

But note ….. Starwood Preferred Guest Gold now gets you a guaranteed match to Marriott Rewards Gold

Now that Marriott has acquired Starwood, you can match your Starwood Preferred Guest status online to Marriott Rewards via this page of the Marriott website.

This will benefit you at any The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Marriott, AC Hotels, Delta, Protea, Renaissance, MOXY or other hotel controlled by the group.

This is a good package at the right brand – not surprising, because Marriott Gold is usually very difficult to earn, requiring 50 nights per year in their hotels.  These are the benefits of Marriott Gold:

  • 4pm late check-out, except at resort and conference hotels
  • 25% bonus on base points
  • high-speed internet access
  • room upgrade, based on availability at check-in
  • Executive Lounge access at JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance and Marriott Hotels, Delta Hotels (resorts excluded) or, if there is no lounge at these brands, free continental breakfast in the restaurant

This can be a great package.  You are guaranteed a 4pm late check-out and Executive Lounge access at the brands listed above.   At a brand without the lounge benefit, or at resorts, it is less useful.

Marriott Gold is the only card discussed in this article to offer you GUARANTEED access to Executive Lounges assuming you are at a JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott or Delta branded property.

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard and IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard  (free and £99 respectively, click here and here for reviews)

Key brands covered:  Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, EVEN, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, HUALUXE, Indigo, InterContinental, Kimpton, Staybridge Suites

The free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards Club, the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza / InterContinental loyalty programme. This is not worth much, frankly, but hotels in Europe do give you a modest gift or some points as a welcome gift.

The £99 Premium version of the card gives you IHG Rewards Club Platinum status.  The guaranteed benefits are slim, apart from a 50% bonus on base points, but a lot of hotels do offer decent upgrades at this level, especially from the Crowne Plaza brand.  You will also receive bonus points at check-in or a free drink and snack on stays in Europe.

It is worth noting that the £99 Premium card also gives you a free night – in any IHG hotel – when you spend £10,000 in your card year.  This benefit repeats every year.  If you would not have a problem putting £10,000 through this Mastercard then the annual £99 fee is £99 well spent if you are getting Platinum status and a free night.

It is also possible to get IHG’s top-tier status, Spire, via their credit card.  You need to be a big spender, however.  This is because the IHG Rewards Club points you earn from the credit card count towards elite status – something only IHG offers to its credit card customers.  As Spire requires you to earn 75,000 base points annually, you can achieve this with £75,000 of spending on the free IHG credit card (1 point per £1) or £37,500 of spending on the Premium card (2 points per £1).

Unfortunately, Spire status also has very little in the way of guaranteed benefits.  (IHG Rewards Club is not the programme for you if guaranteed benefits are important.)  Many Crowne Plaza hotels are now offering club lounge upgrades to Spire members which is the key reason for having it.

You can see the full benefits of Gold, Platinum and Spire status in IHG Rewards Club on this page of the IHG website.

The representative APR on the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard is 18.9% variable.  The representative on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard is APR 41.5% variable including the £99 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

American Express Platinum (£450, click here for review)

This is the most complex and most debatable card here.

The Platinum card comes with a £450 annual fee.  Because you can get a very generous 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.

Note that, if you later cancel your Platinum card and get a fee refund, you will retain the hotel status cards until they naturally expire at the end of the year.  The definition of ‘year’ varies by programme – all Hilton status cards run until March, for example.

The review covers the full list of card benefits.  I just want to focus here on the hotel status cards offered:

Starwood Preferred Guest (Sheraton, Westin, W etc) hotels Gold status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Marriott Rewards Gold status via the Marriott website

Hilton Honors (Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria, Hampton) Gold status

Melia Rewards (Melia, INNSIDE, Tryp, ME) Gold status

Shangri-La Golden Circle (Shangri-La, Traders) Jade status, which allows you to instantly match yourself to Taj InnerCircle Gold status

Radisson Rewards (Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn) Gold status

We have looked at the benefits of Starwood and Hilton status already.  This is what the other Amex Platinum hotel cards get you:

Melia Rewards Gold offers the following benefits:

  • 30% bonus points
  • free breakfast for a companion (so basically 2-4-1)
  • free wi-fi
  • 3 x 20% off vouchers for room bookings
  • 4pm late check-out at city hotels, 2pm at resorts

Late check-out IS guaranteed as long as the hotel is not 100% full.  You will also receive free wi-fi.  There is no upgrade benefit.

Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status will get you:

  • 25% bonus base points
  • “Priority upgrade to the next available best room category, if the reserved room type is not available at check-in” (I have no idea what this is meant to mean – it appears to mean you are guaranteed not to be downgraded!)
  • 11am check-in and 4pm check-out (not guaranteed, and many hotels including London and Paris do not offer it at all)
  • choice of welcome amenity
  • free breakfast
  • partner stays free, in hotels which charge more for double occupancy

This could work out well for anyone planning to travel in Asia.  The 4pm check-out, if ‘available’ and as long as your hotel is not on the excluded list, is handy.  All you are guaranteed is the free breakfast and a welcome amenity but overall I think you could do quite well from the benefits above if your hotel was playing ball.

Radisson Rewards Gold status will get you:

  • 20% off food and drink
  • room upgrade “when available”
  • 35% bonus on base points
  • early check-in and late check-out “on request”
  • welcome gift

Nothing is guaranteed – there is no free breakfast.  However, in my experience, you can do well as a Club Carlson Gold.  I have been upgraded to a ‘Business Room’ a few times (the features are listed here) at a Radisson Blu and – whilst the hotel can refuse to honour this on upgrades – a ‘Business Room’ gets you free breakfast.  The bottom line is that, whilst Gold is not technically their top tier, hotels take it more seriously than they take, say, Hilton Honors Gold.

You can match your Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status to Taj InnerCircle Gold status via this websiteTaj InnerCircle Gold status is not hugely valuable.  The benefits are

  • Late Check Out
  • Early Check In
  • 2 Upgrade Vouchers
  • 15% discount on room redemption rate

Conclusion

It is very easy to add a couple of hotel elite status cards to your wallet purely by applying for the right credit cards and, where necessary, putting a certain level of spend through them.

The most valuable is probably the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard where you are effectively paying £99 to buy yourself mid-tier Platinum status at Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo etc properties, as well as getting yourself a free night each year if you can spend £10,000.

For bigger spenders, especially heavy travellers, American Express Platinum is worth a look. The generous sign-up bonus (30,000 Amex points is worth 30,000 Avios or other airline miles when transferred), airport lounge access via Priority Pass and the free hotel status cards mean that you don’t have much to lose by giving it a try.  Amex Platinum is also the easiest way to Marriott Gold which is the only card we discussed here which gets you automatic free Executive Lounge access.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

When your Starwood Preferred Guest points expire, and how to stop it
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Comments

  1. The One Thing I’ve never seen mentioned much on here is that you can Link Your Shangri la hotel Jade Membership which you get by enrolling through Amex Plat card to Krisflyer Miles for instant Silver status and even Gold if you take 3 qualifying flights within 4 months .

    • Very useful, thank you for that.

    • Can I get my Kris Flyer Silver status matched to another Star Alliance carrier such as Thai Airways and what exactly does silver get me on economy flights?

      • Pangolin says:

        Silver is worth diddly squat on just about every *A airline in terms of recognition by other carriers. Only United offers some meaningful recognition of *S obtained from other carriers.

        For *A my advice is… Go Gold or Go Home.
        That’s why the Infinite Journeys fast track to *G is such a fantastic deal.

    • Pangolin says:

      That’s mentioned and discussed on the previous page.

      I’ve mentioned the exact same thing at least three times on HFP but none of those comments ever got a reply so I figured there’s not much interest here – even though it’s the fastest shortcut to *G in existence.

      • It is simply the impracticality for the average person of doing 4 SQ sectors ….

        • Pangolin says:

          I don’t think it’s impractical. All it takes is a flight via SIN to any of their destinations (BKK, Chiang Mai, Krabi and just about anywhere in Asia) or a direct flight to SIN with a short haul hop (KUL is one hour away) while you’re over there. You have four months from the date of the registration so if you wait until you’re planning a trip before registering then it will work.

          Of course if you never ever want to go to Singapore or even transit through it to somewhere else in the region then it may seem more impractical but in that case you might not find KrisFlyer Gold to be that alluring either. People on HFP are used to the concept of positioning ex-DUB, ex-EU, etc. so there’s nothing that strikes me as really impractical in doing this. Maybe your Average Joe that just wants an ULCC trip to Alicante would find it a waste of time I guess.

        • 4 quarters should be easy if you are visiting asia .
          singapore to kuala lumpur or langakwi on Silkair is about £100 return if you dont this twice you would have them .

        • What are the benefits of Krisflyer gold?

        • Register to enjoy accelerated membership status of KrisFlyer
          Infinite Journeys matches your Golden Circle membership tier with KrisFlyer Elite Status, so you can start enjoying a higher level of recognition and rewards when you fly with Singapore Airlines.

          “Register now and you will automatically enjoy KrisFlyer Elite Silver status.

          Additionally, fly three eligible Singapore Airlines or Silk Air flights within four months after your registration, and you’ll be upgraded to KrisFlyer Elite Gold status.

          I have read and agree to the Infinite Journey Terms and Conditions.”

      • But neither is it practical to make it worth while Pangolin when the airline’s hub is the other side of the earth. Closest cheapo SQ route off the top of my head is probably Stockholm-Moscow run requiring prior positioning flights and probably hotel stays if residing in the UK. Dublin is easy,we’ve gone there for lunch and back same day.

        • Gold Krisflyer gives you

          Your Star Alliance Gold status entitles you to these travel benefits when you fly with our Star Alliance partner or Star Alliance Connecting Partner* airlines:

          – Priority airport check-in
          – Extra baggage allowance
          – Gold Track (Priority Security & Immigration)^
          – Airport lounge access
          – Priority boarding
          – Priority baggage handling
          – Priority reservations waitlist
          – Priority airport stand-by
          – Complimentary upgrade to Business First Class on the Heathrow Express~

          ^ To see where Gold Track (Priority Security & Immigration) is available, visit travel agent

          ~ Subject to seat availability. For more information, please click here.

          *Only applicable if your itinerary includes a transfer to/from a Star Alliance Connecting Partner and Star Alliance airlines, and if the benefit is offered by the Star Alliance Connecting Partner.

        • Pangolin says:

          If you never visit Asia or never intend to then I agree. If you do plan on visiting Asia at any time then qualifying is no big deal and can easily be done in a single trip (flights originate from LHR, FRA, ZUR, CDG). Any class of flight will work and you can get a promotional deal to keep the cost down.

          You only have to do it once and then you have Gold in Star Alliance. From that point on there’s no need to fly SQ or fly to SIN – you can take any *A airline to any destination and you will have the benefit of Gold status across the whole alliance.

          For HFP readers I don’t think it’s a moonshot. Most people here are either frequent flyers or willing to be flexible to jump on a deal that offers a fast track to status or a premium cabin flight at a reasonable cost, for instance. Of course, if you have no interest in Star Alliance or are only bothered about TATL flights then that’s’ a different story and you can submit yourself to the tender mercies of BA. Anyone who wants to try a genuine five star airline should consider Singapore Airlines though.

        • In short some of the benefits you receive if you were to pay full fare for a business of first class seat.

        • Pangolin says:

          If you can afford to pay full fare F or J then, yes, you will get all the benefits; if you have the money to pay for suites at hotels each time you say, then you don’t need status either. The point is that most of us don’t have the money to do that, so we play the game of travel hacking to try to get shortcuts to status (airline or hotel) or build up decent points balances.

          Having *G means I can book the cheapest flight available (HBO fare) but still get all the benefits of business class, apart from the fact that when I board the plane I have to turn right instead of left.

          I take lots of short trips in the EU (around 40 segments a year). Business class on short haul EU flights is basically pointless and not worth paying for. *G means I get access to a lounge where I can sip champers or whatever, even though I’m travelling on bucket class fares each time, and I can use Fast Track, Priority Boarding and Business Class check-in to make the whole experience at the airport far more pleasant than it would be otherwise. For me it’s definitely worth it.

        • @Pangolin, it would be a big deal for me for the simple reason that thd delays on my last two SQ flights each exceeded the cumulative delay on all the AirAsia flights I have ever taken.

      • If there were a market for it you’d read about it in the comments.

        • Pangolin says:

          By that logic there’s basically no market for anything that doesn’t involve BA, Avios or 2-4-1s.

          HFP is dominated by discussion on those topics. I understand why that is and don’t have a problem with it, given the UK-based nature of the site, but that doesn’t mean there’s nobody who has slightly different patterns or who might be interested in options other than BA/OW.

          I think this site is big enough to contain room for such discussion, and people are free to skip over it in search of advice on 2-4-1s and BAPP if that’s the only reason they came here.

          Honestly, I think there are people here who think that anything not related to BA should be flagged as OT, even if the main article is about hotels.

      • Lady London says:

        Got a feeling that’s not working anymore? think it was overblogged.

  2. i see Andrew S beat me to it above with comment on this this morning earlier

  3. The hotel status renewals alongside Amex Plat churning never seem to work with me.

    As an example my Club Carlson Gold is due to expire in March. I cancelled my Amex plat 2 weeks ago. For several weeks before that I had been trying to get my Club Carlson Gold extended, to no avail.

    • Interesting. I last renewed CC Gold a few years ago via Plat and never stay there but logged in this morning to check status as have a stay in a Radisson in Marseille next month. It notes “Gold Elite — Expires Feb 2018 Gold Elite — Effective Mar 2018”.

    • I cancelled my Amex Plat 2 years ago and am still gold with Club Carlson. I’ve stayed in one Park Inn, in Sofia 18 months ago – on a 442 deal. As long as I stay gold, I’ll consider them when I’m anywhere they’re a decent price.

  4. Another good and informative article.
    Re the Hilton Honours Platinum card, we were thinking of taking a card each, spending £750 each and using the free weekend night as a weekend 2 night break (within the 6 months etc). Not being a Hilton status member, in readers’ experience are there plenty of rooms available when they want to redeem? We are thinking of heading to west coast USA (SF, Seattle etc) and hoping to stay in a nice hotel as part of the journey.
    Thanks.

    • It uses standard reward availability so you can see online what is available. It is very rarely an issue with a few months notice unless there is a special event on.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Specifically for your destination (West Coast USA) there are so many properties, often multiple per city, I’d be astounded if you ran into problems.

    • I would recommend against Hilton Seattle; very disappointing.

  5. Having to book direct with a hotel often kills any value in these statuses. A family holiday for a week or two is almost always cheaper to book via an agent (BA hols, Best at travel etc etc). You then dont get any benefits. But are still much better off than booking direct….. I think the value is a few days stay somewhere as a single or couple travelling……

    • Pangolin says:

      Marriott hotels give full bennies on third party bookings to those with status.
      Hilton will often give benefits (like free breakfast) if you get your HH number added to the reservation before the stay.

      SPG will give no benefits but has a fairly lucrative BRG scheme which can be used to price match OTA bookings and then get 25% off the *cheaper* price. Doesn’t always get accepted but worth trying.

      Hilton’s own BRG scheme seems to have been resurrected in recent weeks so as to actually be useful.

  6. OT: anybody else seeing problems with erewards this afternoon not crediting surveys? There not even showing in my account survey history..

    • The whole e-rewards system has been very slow lately.

      • Adam Parsons says:

        It was working fine for me this morning, all surveys credited immediately but then I noticed valued opinions didn’t credit me then erewards as part of the same company stopped registering completed surveys as well?

      • I spent ages last month updating all my profiles on e-rewards. I’ve had a load of survey emails since, but they want me to update my profiles again before allowing me to do any surveys. I really CBA!

        • Adam Parsons says:

          I done that on Rewardsforthoughts and not received one survey since?

        • I keep getting the emails but when I click on them it says sorry no surveys. Really annoying as I am trying to get some AA miles to reset my 18 mth clock.

  7. My 2 cents.
    As we have slightly higher disposable income now and Rob has led us into the world of status and rewards (just a regular worker, 4 flights a year) I’ve looked at the hotel schemes more closely. I’ve accumulated a lot of points from IHG, largely from HI/HIX stays, but when you look at the more aspirational IC properties i can’t get excited. NO free breakfast, NO lounge access, even for a Spire Ambassador. We are ex-eu OTP to PHX (thank you FT TP thread) so we thought we would spend 2 days in Bucharest, IC wanted 50e per person per day for lounge access (this makes the 140e rate 240 with lounge access, dream on), so we are staying at the Hilton.

    Marriott is my new favourite scheme. Free gold match from SPG via amex plat. My wife and i have churned the SPG amex (4 in total) transferred the points to Marriott and booked 5 for 4 nights in Singapore at the JW Marriott, saving over £1000 + tax and we get Lounge Access and Breakfast. This I’m sure will change next year when SPG/Marriott combine, but I’m enjoying it for now!

  8. Now Diamond Status with Hilton – generally get a great upgrade to a bigger room, junior suite and recently a penthouse. Free drinks, complimentary breakfast- use points to have weekend breaks
    Doubletree are the best for this ????
    Now hooked on Hilton!

    Thanks Rob

    • Pangolin says:

      Good to hear! Just signed up for the Diamond challenge and I have my first stay coming up this weekend. I love SPG but Marriott will probably ruin it so I hope that Hilton will be a good alternative.

      • Im voting behind Pangolins previous comments about cute status matching with Singapore and its seemingly unpopular airline to HFP regulars
        .
        HFP needs a fresh article on “Status Matching” arguibly for the loyal longer term readers for discourse.

  9. Nigel Williams says:

    I run in the Hilton program whilst the partner enjoys platinum Accor status through work (we are almost always upgraded on personal stay, and on occasion when I have stayed with her on work trips, I havent been charged for breakfast).

    The only annoyance is both programs not allowing supplement cards (or another method that allows either member of a couple to book / pay for the room!)

  10. To get the four segments on SQ Could try Singapore airlines on their Manchester Houston route if visiting the US

  11. T B Hall says:

    Does anyone know how long it takes to get the SPG (and then MR) status set-up with the Amex Platinum?
    I have a week in Shanghai in mid-April, and the MR benefits at the Ritz Carlton + 30000 points make the card almost pay for itself. It that status was not applied by April though- it would not!
    Views much appreciated.

  12. Hulk Hogan says:

    Is it just me, or can we no longer apply to the Hilton Honour Platinum Visa Card? The links pertaining to this card all navigate you to the Barclays credit card page, in which the Hilton Honour Platinum Visa Card cannot be found. I called up Barclays just now (28th Feb) just to be told they stopped issuing the card to new customers almost a year ago… which doesn’t make much sense, as this is the card that gets promoted the most on this site…

    • Was pulled this morning.

      • Oh dear ????

      • Hulk Hogan says:

        I look forward to reading the article on this one. I believe Barclays are letting existing holders of the card to continue with the benefits as long as they keep it active.

        For now, anyone got any solutions for redeeming free nights in Hilton, if you are UK bound? I’m thinking AMEX sign up promos (as explained above) is the best option left.

  13. Oh dear ????

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