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How to get free hotel elite status from UK credit 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.

get free hotel elite status from UK credit cards

This article was updated on 2nd November 2020, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

There is no easy route to airline 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, history shows that 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 for this. This year, you only need 450 tier points for British Airways Executive Club Silver status – although you still need to fly four BA segments to be promoted – so you are sorted.  You get a great holiday out of it and you get to try the best business class product out there.

Free hotel status is a lot easier to get

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. British Airways gives Silver and Gold members free seat selection, and a Gold can access better lounges, but that’s about it.

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:

Marriott Bonvoy American Express:

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • 15 elite night credits per year which gets Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
  • Free night, up to 25,000 points, when you spend £25,000 per year.
  • Upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend £15,000 in a card year
  • Annual fee: £75

Representative 38.8% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the 15 elite night credits per year, the free night (up to 25,000 points) for spending £25,000 and Gold Elite status for spending £15,000.

Learn more about the card benefits +

You will receive 15 elite night credits per year in Marriott Bonvoy.  The first batch will arrive within 60 days on applying and then in Spring in each subsequent year.

15 elite nights will automatically get you Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy and put you nearer to Gold Elite and higher tiers.

If you spend £15,000 per card year, you will be upgraded to Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.

If you spend £25,000 per card year, you will receive a free night voucher, valid at any hotel where reward nights cost up to 25,000 points.

Marriott Bonvoy covers 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.

Marriott Bonvoy gives you 15 elite status nights each year when you hold the American Express card.  This is enough to give you Silver Elite status and also puts you nearer to Gold Elite.

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.

If you spend £15,000 per year on the card you will be upgraded to Gold Elite 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.

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard:

IHG Rewards Club credit card free

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club
  • Points from spend count towards elite status
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 22.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 10,000 points sign-up bonus +

You receive 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points as a sign-up bonus when you spend £200 within 90 days.

There are no restrictions on receiving the bonus if you have previously held this card or the (no longer available) IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All IHG Rewards Club cardholders receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club for as long as they hold the card.

This is the only UK travel card where the points you earn from spending count towards elite status.  The 10,000 points you receive as a sign-up bonus do not count towards elite status, however.

IHG Rewards Club covers Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, EVEN, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, HUALUXE, Indigo, InterContinental, Kimpton, Regent, Six Senses and 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 welcome drink or some points as a welcome gift.

It is also possible to get IHG’s top-tier statuses, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite, via the 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. No other UK hotel credit card lets the points you earn from card spend count towards status.

As Spire Elite requires you to earn 75,000 base points annually, you can achieve this with £75,000 of spending on the IHG credit card at 1 point per £1.

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 Platinum Card from American Express:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in five major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £575

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £575.

See if you qualify for the 30,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £4,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes The Platinum Card and Preferred Rewards Gold.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card, including the British Airways, Marriott and Nectar cards.  Holding a British Airways American Express card does not disqualify from the Platinum bonus.

If you cancel The Platinum Card at any point, you will receive a pro-rata refund of your membership fee.  You will not lose your sign-up bonus.

For clarity, you can still apply for The Platinum Card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the long list of other benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in five major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold Elite), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold Elite), Shangri-La Golden Circle (Jade), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Access to Eurostar lounges, irrespective of travel class

£10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit

This is the most complex and most debatable card here.

The Platinum card comes with a £575 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 comprehensive 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 Elite status

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

MeliaRewards (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 Elite 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.

MeliaRewards 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.

For bigger spenders, especially heavy travellers, American Express Platinum is well 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.

You can learn more about the cards mentioned above in our reviews:

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

IHG Rewards Club credit card free

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard

Free, and comes with free IHG Rewards Club Gold Elite status Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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

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.

Comments (27)

  • mradey says:

    Amex Centurion gives you Virgin Gold.

  • Gary Sharp says:

    Does anyone else find that applying for hotel status through Amex platinum is a bit rubbish? I usually have to apply a couple of times, and often have to call and chase. Still waiting for my Taj gold that I requested in January. My India trip was in Feb.

    • memesweeper says:

      Conversely the withdrawal of benefits when you cease your Platinum status is pretty hit-and-miss.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Any trade whispers on a new Hilton credit card in the UK?

  • Harry T says:

    Marriott Bonvoy Gold doesn’t give you a guaranteed 2pm checkout – it’s at the discretion of the hotel. The 4pm checkout for Platinum and above is guaranteed, except at resort hotels.

    “ iii. 2 p.m. Late Checkout. This benefit is based on availability. Member should call the front desk the morning of checkout and request a late checkout up until 2 p.m. This benefit is available at all Participating Brands except at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, and Vistana properties.”

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I found in Europe, Middle East and Asia it was pretty much guaranteed but you’re right the wording doesn’t say that so you can’t fall back on it if you’re turned down.

      • memesweeper says:

        +1 — I have never been turned down.

      • Harry T says:

        Yes, I’ve had good experiences recently. Only a resort in Algarve declined to give me a proper late checkout – Pine Cliffs, who told me 12 noon was a late checkout because the Ocean Suites were allotted a 10.30 checkout by default. This was utter bollocks but I was too tired to care too much. Went to a better hotel the next day.

  • TripRep says:

    Anyway to find out how long my Hilton Gold is valid for?

  • Paul74 says:

    Marriott Gold is worth very little. The benefits list implies an upgrade but in reality you don’t get much. Last October I stayed at a Marriott in Sofia. I’d paid more for a room with a balcony but was allocated a room without a balcony. I went back to reception and pointed this out, so then they allocated me what I’d paid for. I’d have been disappointed with that experience even without status.
    I certainly don’t think it’s worth going to the trouble of spending £15k on their credit card for the sake of their ‘Gold’ status.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I was upgraded to a lake view Junior Suite at Ritz Carlton Geneva and given 4pm checkout.

      I was also given an upgrade at London Edition and my 2pm checkout was “guaranteed”

      Both as a gold at the time

      Yet Edition Times Square gave me a room without the view I’d booked and with an accessible bathroom that took up most of the room, I also didn’t need it. I was moved the next day to a much better view/better laid out room for me. They also honoured 2pm checkout on two rooms.

      Imperial palace gave me a room that was falling apart to then rectify it with an upgrade to a freshly refurbished one and gave me 4pm checkout.

      Sometimes it’s just how the property treats your status / you than saying a status is useless.

      Generally with gold you’ll get atleast a 2pm checkout and a pretty decent room. I wouldn’t go out of my way to spend £15k on the card but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it if I was going to spend that anyway.

      • Paul74 says:

        Yes. I’ve quoted the the most disappointing example but there’ve been other stays where, whilst there’s been nothing actually wrong, there’s been no room upgrade, so nothing tangible for Gold status. Furthermore, if I’ve actually paid more for a better room category, I don’t think it’s acceptable for that not to be delivered (I count delivered as being allocated the room I paid for first time on arrival, not having to go back to reception or wait a day).
        I agree that Marriott Gold is probably better than nothing (good to have as a legacy benefit on my cancelled AMEX Platinum) but once it lapses it’s unlikely to be worth any effort regaining/retaining.

      • meta says:

        My experience is the same. I have 100% success of an upgrade. I have also been given lounge access on many occasions too as a Gold. However, I have less success with late checkout. At most they have given me until 1pm, maybe because of the upgrades.

      • Harry T says:

        Langley gave me a 4pm checkout as Gold and a decent upgrade to a deluxe room in the main house. W Amsterdam gave me 3pm checkout but no upgrade. Augustine upgrades me from Classic to Deluxe room, and a 3pm checkout. These are a couple of my experiences as Gold during covid. I just ask nicely about check out. Upgrades given without prompting.

        • Paul74 says:

          What is the Langley like these days? When Rob reviewed it in June 2019 dinner and particularly breakfast were wide of the mark. I think the advice was to walk to a local breakfast venue. That doesn’t sound acceptable for somewhere marketing itself as a luxury hotel. Has it improved?

          • Harry T says:

            I only stayed for a night but I enjoyed it. This was in March 2020. Food and cocktails at the bar were good quality. The spa is excellent. The gym also looked very high class but I didn’t get a chance to use it. The hard product is exceptional throughout the hotel.

    • Jay H says:

      I think 5 out of 6 stays in Marriott hotels last year as a lowly gold were upgraded. Including suite upgrades at places like the JW Marriott Venice and the Marriott Budapest. All from the cheapest pre paid cash rates

  • a9504477 says:

    Except for IHG Gold (which isn’t worth much) none of these are free as you pay for it with the fees of the card…

  • chabuddy geezy says:

    Arguably Krisflyer Gold is the easiest status to obtain via Amex Platinum and flying 4 economy segments on Singapore Airlines.