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

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This article looks at the different ways you can get elite status with hotel chains via UK credit and charge cards.

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.  There are no credit cards or other schemes which offer instant airline status.

Your best option if you want British Airways Silver status, which gets you lounge access and free seat selection at the time of booking, is to book yourself a Qatar Airways business class flight to Asia in their next sale.

If you start your trip in mainland Europe, you should be able to pick up a return flight to Asia for £1200 or less in a Qatar Airways sale.  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 British Airways 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.

How can you get 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:

SPG Amex

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

Key brands covered: AC Hotels, Aloft, Autograph, Courtyard, Delta Hotels, Design Hotels, Edition, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Marriott, Renaissance, St Regis, Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz-Carlton, W and Westin

Sign-up bonus:  30,000 Marriott points, which I would value at £150+, for spending £1,000 within three months

Marriott Bonvoy gives Silver Elite status to holders of its UK Starwood credit card.   This benefit is NOT advertised on the American Express website so you’ll need to trust us that it exists.

The benefits of Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite are not huge.  You can see the different Marriott tier levels here.

The key benefits of Silver Elite status, which usually requires 10 nights in a calendar year, are:

  • 10% bonus on base points earned
  • ‘Priority’ for late check-out requests

…. and that’s it, at least in terms of stuff you will find genuinely useful.  It isn’t a lot but it should stop you getting the room overlooking the bins.

Here’s one important point: you get Silver Elite status and not 10 elite status nights which automatically gets you Silver Elite status.  There is a big difference in this, because the latter puts you 15 nights closer to Gold, Platinum or Titanium Elite.

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

The 2pm 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 25% bonus points.

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

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card has a representative APR of 41.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

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

Sign-up bonus:  10,000 IHG points, which I would value at £40+, on the free card and 20,000 IHG points, which I would value at £80+, on the Premium card

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 welcome drink 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 Elite, 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 Elite 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 Elite 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 Elite members which is the key reason for having it.

You can see the full benefits of Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite 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.

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

Marriot Bonvoy (Sheraton, Renaissance, Moxy, Westin, W etc) hotels Gold status

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 Marriott Bonvoy Gold status already.  This is what the other Amex Platinum hotel cards get you:

Hilton Honors Gold offers you:

  • free breakfast (this is the best perk of any card on the list)
  • an upgrade to a ‘preferred’ room (may be a better view rather than a bigger room)
  • 80% bonus points
  • no resort fees on reward nights
  • late check-out if available

The inclusion of free breakfast as a Hilton Gold benefit makes it, for most people, the most attractive mid-tier hotel status.

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 Radisson Rewards Gold.  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
  • two 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 payment cards and, where necessary, putting a certain level of spend through them.

The most valuable is probably the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard.  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.

PS.  Whilst it isn’t a credit card benefit, you can get Gold status in Le Club AccorHotels by signing up to the ibis Business Card for £65 (£119 for two years).

(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.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    In order to “benefit” from the hotel status, do you have to book stays with the hotel directly?

    I recently got matched with the gold status with Hilton, but I booked my latest series of stays via a third party website.

    Thanks

    • Andrew M says:

      Typically yes. Occasionally you will find it is recognised. Sorry!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Some travel agents are ok like Emyr or Amex hotel collection / FH&R

    • I’ve found that some hotels will give benefits (but not points), e.g. the Hilton Manchester Airport always treats us really well and offers free breakfast and bottled water regardless of who the booking was made through. The Hilton Garden Inn Rome, where we are staying at Easter has also confirmed via email that 2 of us will get free breakfast. This booking was made via BA Holidays, though, there’s been a suggestion previously that such bookings attract status benefits but I haven’t seen it in writing anywhere.

      • Susan says:

        If it’s the HGI Claridge and it’s your first time don’t be put off by its seeming out of the way location. For the main sites get the no 3 tram heading for stza Trastevere ( going left as you exit the hotel) which stops at Colosseo for the Forum etc or the for the Vatican get the 19 going the other way.

        • Thanks Susan, that’s the one, I picked it because we could get a family sized suite for the price of a standard room in a more central hotel! It’s also handy for the Villa Borghese and gardens.

      • Some hotels also give points if you book through an OTA when you regularly stay on cash. Probably an under the table thing so not reliable.

  2. Frenske says:

    To be honest I find most room upgrades not worth the money. I’ve gold status at Radisson and I hardly see a diiference between the business room and a normal room. Perhaps in other Radisson hotels the differences are larger.

    • You should breakfast for free with a business room upgrade although some hotels try to exclude this based on reader feedback. I always got it.

      • the_real_a says:

        Not sure about free breakfast. In maybe 100 nights at Raddison across Europe i have NEVER received free breakfast, but always got a business room upgrade. (Some hotels in Scandinavia do offer free breakfast for all residents)

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I had one stay last year received business room upgrade and free breakfast, though this wasn’t mentioned until I asked.

    • Peter King says:

      Radisson Business rooms are usually just a standard room with a Nespresso machine and breakfast included, maybe a higher floor or a view.

      Also the food and drink discount doesn’t include alcohol or room service.

  3. Slightly O/T. Has anyone else seen a downgrade to their Marriott Bonvoy status this week (more specifically ones who inherited status through the Marriott/United Airlines relationship)? I was given Marriott Platinum through the United tie-up in August/Sept 2018 and subsequently shifted a number of stays to Marriott/Starwood (45 nights in the first 6 months) but have now been downgraded to Gold as of this week. Have requested them to reconsider but interested to know if anyone else is in the same boat.

    • Have AMEX plat and have been downgraded. Have recently taken out SPG card so don’t know if it has somehow overrided my status from the plat.

      • RussellH says:

        I suspect that you are right to suggest that the SPG card has somehow overriden your status. I got SPG+ (not worth a lot, but still useful) with my first SPG card a couple of years ago. The plus disappeared when the merger with Marriott started, but I got it back by forwarding the original e-mail welcoming me to plus to CS.

    • Few reports here of downgrades from Gold to Silver for Amex Plat holders. Seems like it’s for partner-earned status.

      • @Mike – im exactly the same – for me I think it is the SPG card over riding it. However I went onto the Amex Plat and upgraded again – back up to Gold.

        • @Ben did you do it online or through Amex CS? I have a stay in less than 2 weeks time and they are now saying it might take longer.

    • AndyW says:

      Interestingly still Gold even though Plat is cancelled. Hoping that I can hold onto this through a holiday in June, even if the benefits are minimal.

    • Still showing as Gold (status through Amex Plat)

  4. Nick Burch says:

    Taj have always given me (Gold via Amex Plat + Shangri-La) decent room upgrades in India.

    Hilton Gold goes a lot further in Asia than it does in Europe, and sadly doesn’t go very far at all in the USA as pretty much everyone and their dog has it via a credit card…

    • Jonny says:

      Yep. Didn’t get any upgrade at the Hilton Bankside recently, but when I stayed in the Conrad Istanbul last year, I was boosted to a high level room with executive lounge access. Really impressed.

      • DavidA says:

        I’ve stayed at Hilton’s Bankside quite a few times and as Hilton Diamond have never been upgraded.

        Not that it’s a big deal – as I can use the lounge and standard rooms are very good anyway.

        I’d be keen to know if anyone else has ever had a status related upgrade from there?

  5. Nigel the pensioner says:

    An alternative to flying Qatar to get Silver in the BAEC is to do a tier point run with BA ex EU. This will also give you the 4 BA flights at the same time.
    AmEx Centurion gives you Virgin Atlantic Gold status.

    • Shoestring says:

      How do the on-promotion costs compare? (ignoring the positional flight & hotel)

    • Ex EU with BA you’re only going to get 40 or 80 points for the EU to London leg so it would need to be 3 leg journey to get close to silver (maybe south America via Miami).

      Qatar to Asia or Australia seems less hassle and a nicer experience (get 2 legs flying to the departure point and then it’s a return flight somewhere on BA for the other 2 legs – making sure you’ve got the 40 extra tier points required from those 4 flights)

      • Doug M says:

        Depends on attitude to flights and time. Stockholm frequently a low cost option for OW (including BA) flights to USA. With planning it’s possible to do Stockholm to Helsinki for no extra cost, so you’ve ticked up 120TP by the time you arrive back at Heathrow. Finnair also use long haul planes on the HEL-LHR route at certain times. Combine this with willingness to stop on way and the USA west coast can be 880TP from a single return for about £1200 if you wait for the right time to book. If you just want silver you can still use the Helsinki shuffle to easily achieve 600TP and the 4 BA flights from one east coast USA trip. ARN-HEL-LHR-PHL/BOS/JFK/IAD-destination and reverse. My go to is position on Avios to Arlanda in the AM, start journey to HEL in the late afternoon, then onto London in the evening. Go home for the night, turn up next day for transatlantic as if starting, and only check luggage if needed at this point. In May I have a San Francsico trip earning 600 which is easier yet, INV-LHR-JFK-SFO home SFO-PHL-LHR instant silver. I’m not suggesting this is a great idea with kids, but if you have time and are relaxed about connections and airport waiting, it’s not a bad way to travel. One thing to mention with any Ex-EU is that connections are not protected across tickets, if you plan your positioning flight to arrive a couple of hours before your Ex-EU starts you’re taking a big risk. Many recommend positioning the day before, but this adds hotel costs and more time, it’s about making your own risk assessments and being prepared to suffer the consequences.

    • Camille55 says:

      UK Centurion also gives Emirates Gold (whatever that is worth!). It gave Cathay Diamond a few years ago, which was/is the equivalent of BA Gold.

      With hotels – Hilton Diamond, Jumeirah Gold, Radisson Gold and Shangri-La Diamond.

      c55

      • How do you get centurion?

        • Alex D says:

          as far as i know; you need to have a very very high annual spend with your current Amex cards and you will be invited to join – You cannot apply directly for it

        • Correct. You need to be looking at £250k+ I think. Frankly, it isn’t worth it given the stupid fee.

          What IS worth it is finding a friend who has it and paying them £500 (the Amex supp fee) to issue you a Centurion supplementary card. You can give them the card back or cut it up if the friend is worried. You then get Hilton Diamond etc etc.

          Similarly, paying a mate £170 to give you a Platinum supp on their Platinum card is an excellent deal given the benefits, including the full Priority Pass.

        • Alex D says:

          I am surprised you don’t have one Rob? Even without potentially a high enough spend, you must be on AMEX radar as a potential? And I’m sure plenty of HFP readers would be more than willing to give you the £500 for a card! I know I would without doubt!

        • I was offered the ICC version once, turned it down. Not worth the fee under any scenario.

      • mradey says:

        You also get Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold.

        The fee is supernumerary – however, in my case, it just about pays for it self. If the freebies (e.g. gift tokens – often hundreds of pounds discount, Amex offers – see recent 400GBP off travel) are useable then I definitely get my money’s worth.

        mradey

        • Alex D says:

          You’re the only person I’ve ever met with one 😂 and this ins online!

  6. Jonny says:

    Slightly o/t. Just used Marriott points for a night at the London EDITION. With Gold Elite status was upgraded from standard room (which would have been very small) to a Loft Suite. Cost 60k points which is heavy but the upgrade (not guaranteed) certainly made it worth while. Great overall service from the hotel as well. Thanks Rob for all the travel tips

    • Is their club in the basement still open?

      Many a messy night in that basement and lobby…!

  7. Forgive the possibly naive question, but if you have, say Amex Platinum card, do you qualify for the hotel status benefits just by booking with the said credit card, or do you need to have signed up to the hotel loyalty scheme, and then book? Tks

    • marcw says:

      To qualify for benefits, you need to book at hotel/chain website directly. Sometimes, but very very very rarely, they may recognise benefits if booked through a third party.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You need to have signed up for the scheme and if it’s via Platinum card applied to have your status upgraded

  8. Susan says:

    Also not a CC but GHA Platinum is available with a Business Traveller subscription – around £30- I’ve had some very nice upgrades at Kempinskis and Corinthias with this including suites.

  9. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Go on then, I’ll ask, any Hilton CC whispers?

    • Nope …

      • Froggee says:

        I stopped using my Hilton Barclaycard given the email they sent me a year ago saying that I would remain Hilton Gold as long as I am a “cardmember”. But it’s still nice to have! I’m intrigued to see how long it lasts for. When they do get round to downgrading me it will be Amex Platinum to the rescue.

        • Hilton’s our back up card to. They’re like tigers on erroneous hotel charges put through the account 🙂

  10. Matt B says:

    Would Marriott recognise my status for an upcoming stay if booked through Amex travel?

  11. Does Fastrack to Hilton still works?

    • To HH Gold yes, in 4 stays within 90 days I think. There are also status matches available.

    • Yes I’m on one now to actually upgrade existing HH Gold due to expire this month to Diamond. Needs 20 nights or 10 stays in 3 months to hit target.

  12. Victor says:

    I find maintaining hotel status whilst churning Amex Plat to be troublesome.

    I usually find I have to let my status get downgraded before I can ‘re-apply’ for status with a new Plat account.

    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Louise says:

      My Starwood – now Marriot and Jade status seems to have stayed fine with Amex Plat churns, just the Club Carlson (Radisson) that lapsed for me

    • It depends on partner. Sometimes, some years, some of them fall away and need reapplying. Sometimes they don’t. There seems no logic behind it to be honest.

  13. Dave Barron says:

    I currently have Hilton Gold status which will expire March 2020. Im imminently going to upgrade to Platinum Amex from PRGC (charge card) and will also qualify for Hilton Gold via that. More than likely I will then be cancelling the Platinum Amex after 2 or 3 months. Via Amex when would my Hilton Gold status expire? Would it simply run to March 2020 matching what I already have or would it extend this date into the following year??? Thanks in advance.

    • I have a very similar question, so any insight into this would be appreciated.

      Currently planning on applying for an Amex Plat in August this year (we’ve done a spreadsheet of what we’re applying for when so that we can run the numbers and fees!). This would give me Hilton Gold status. Would it only run until March 2020, or would it be March 2021? It’s a little unclear from various things I’ve read.

    • It’s best to contact Hilton via their online help form and they will email you confirming the expiry date. You then have something in writing should anything go wrong.

      • This is good advice, but not foolproof. I have a Diamond Card to Mar’19 and a Hilton e-mail confirming Diamond to Mar’20. Despite this Honors IT says I’m Silver and my evidence supplied to the contary has moved nothing in six weeks.
        The waves from Honors’ IT issues are still impacting the program and support.
        This article very timely as I assess alternative Hotel programs 🙂

  14. oscarchase says:

    “If you want fast-track airline status, you’re out of luck. There are no credit cards or other schemes which offer instant airline status.”

    Unless you happen to have access to French cards like the Iberia Premium card that offers Silver status (Oneworld ruby) as a standard perk. 🙂

  15. Scottydogg says:

    If you book a Marriott stay (on Points) whilst you have no status , and then take out a Amex Platinum , upgrade to Gold , does this still work ?
    Or is it registerd as ‘no status’ because you had no status when you booked ?

    Also ,can the hotel staff see that you have no stays to get that gold status, as appose to earning it the proper way . I always feel that hotel stay would not be as kind to someone who has just taken out the right credit card to get the status ?

    • You’ll get the benefits on the stay.

      Hotel staff can see your points and I think your stays in the year to date. I don’t think they see how you got the status.

    • Hilton don’t seem to treat you any differently according to how you earned your status – so very good in the UK and Europe and pretty much “meh” in the US!

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