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. Tom H says:

    Slightly OT. Do reward stays count for Hilton Status Challenge?

  2. Can an Amex platinum supplementary card holder get/ apply for any of the benefits for hotel status?

    • Bonglim says:

      yes – the first (platinum) supplementary card gets all the hotel status benefits as the main card holder!

      • Thanks for the reply. I can find where I enroll for all of them, is there a similar page for supplementary card holders?

        • AndyGWP says:

          Yes – they need to do it through their own Membership Rewards account

  3. NIGEL B WILLIAMS says:

    The irony si that the status shown in the article thumbnail (HH Diamond) is one you cant get through cards!

  4. Robert says:

    If I get the AmEx Platinum card can I add free breakfasts to an existing booking? Also, can I gain access to a lounge in Singapore when flying with Air China? (The downside of chasing free F flights on BA metal!)

  5. Gtellez says:

    I’m traveling tomorrow with a short connection in DFW and I could miss the second flight, so today I was looking for the different insurances I have for my credit cards ( Platinum card, SPG, BA Premium and a Green Corporate card). Does anyone know which one apply? The one with I purchase the flight (Green Corporate), the best of them or all?
    I can’t find it anywhere and the T&Cs are not very clear… thanks!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If it’s on one ticket then the airline will put you on the next available flight

      If it’s not I’m not sure any of those will cover you

      • Shoestring says:

        not a lot of insurance policies cover you for missing a short connection

        • Shoestring says:

          Typical advice: quote ‘Tight connections don’t count!
          Your travel insurance provider will want to know that you scheduled your connection with a comfortable amount of time in between flights. If you schedule a tight connection and a short delay caused you to miss the next flight, you might not be able to make a claim.’

          Even if you buy/ add on specific ‘missed connection’ insurance, the insurers will give themselves some parameter to stop making it easy for you to claim, eg a typical clause might be that your incoming flight has to be over 3hrs late for you to be able to claim.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          If it’s within the MCT of the airport and offered by the airline then it’s not a short connection?

          The reality is the airline will look after you and if your incoming flight is delayed they have a duty of care.

          If you are on separate tickets then always allow for as much time as possible.

        • Gtellez says:

          It’s in the same booking and with the same airline (American Airlines), but the connection is just 48 minutos in DFW and I need to change from terminal C to terminal B, so a small delay would make me loose my following flight. I know the airline would put me in the next flight, but it would be the next day, so for that reason I was asking if I could try to get the insurance benefits (to have a better dinner for example) from any of the credit cards, or just from the one used to pay for the ticket.

  6. Guesswho2000 says:

    No fast track airline elite status isn’t 100% accurate, if the Shangri-la/Krisflyer tie up is still runnng…the Amex Platinum Shangri La Jade can be matched to Krisflyer Silver (pretty worthless) but then gets you a fast track to SQ Gold, which is Star Alliance Gold, after (I think) 3 flights with SQ…

  7. Aceman says:

    What’s annoying is apart from the useless ihg status you can’t get top tier on Hilton or Marriott from credit cards like you can in the US. Their amex $450 cards offer either instant Hilton diamond, or the Marriott one gives platinum after $75k spend but also gives credit of 15 (?) elite nights towards the 50 night threshold.

  8. Are there any points (BA or Amex etc.)that can convert to Golden Circle (Shangri-la)?

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