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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

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 £1,200 or less in a Qatar Airways sale.  You will earn 560 tier points for this. Until June 2022, 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

Bonus: 20,000 points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • 15 elite night credits per year to help you towards higher 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 41.6% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 24.5% 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 ‘based on availability’ so not guaranteed. The only other benefits 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 sweet spot with Marriott Bonvoy is Platinum Elite status. This gets you ugprades, free executive lounge access, free breakfast at most brands and guaranteed 4pm late check-out. You normally need 50 nights per year to get Platinum Elite, but the 15 elite night credits you receive via the credit card take this down to 35 nights. This is achievable for most business travellers.

IHG Rewards Mastercard:

Sainsbury's Nectar credit card

IHG Rewards Mastercard

Bonus: 10,000 points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards
  • 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 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 Premium Mastercard.

Learn more about the card benefits +

All IHG Rewards cardholders receive Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards 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 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 Mastercard gives you Gold status in IHG Rewards, 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 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 – even if you never spend a single night in an IHG hotel. For 2021, this has been reduced to 55,000 points.

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

The Platinum Card from American Express:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 60,000 points
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four 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 60,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within six months of signing up.

This is a special offer for anyone who applies by 2nd November 2021.

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.

This is the ONLY personal American Express card where you still qualify for the bonus if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.

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.

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 four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), 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 60,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 60,000 Avios or 60,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things) it may be worth giving the card a try to see if it works for you.

The 60,000 points offer is a special promotion to 2nd November 2021. It will drop to 30,000 points from 3rd November 2021.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 on offer until 2nd November 2021 (60,000 Amex points is worth 60,000 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

Sainsbury's Nectar credit card

IHG Rewards Mastercard

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 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 (38)

  • AFKAE says:

    How does the status work with the Amex Platinum sign ups? I’ve registered for them all and only have any info on Hilton Honours because you have to register as a basic member to get the Gold upgrade from Amex. But for the others I have nothing at all. I signed up about 3 weeks ago.

    • Steven says:

      Did you not register with each loyalty group before completing the AMEX plat status requests? From memory, you had to set these up first and then provide AMEX with your membership numbers for each one.

      • AFKAE says:

        No, only the Hilton one as mentioned above. There is a dedicated section on Amex website/app for registering for the programmes. I assumed (dangerous I know) that this would do everything.

        • Justin says:

          Once you sign up for the hotel programs, use this AmEx link and click “Manage Your Benefits”…. it’ll tell your status enrollments:
          https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/benefits/the-platinum-card/

          For anything you haven’t enrolled, just click the “Enrol” button. Once successfully enrolled, you’ll get a green tick.

          In my experience the Avis and Hertz enrollment trackers don’t work. Therefore, it may only show you’ve enrolled on only 5/7 Optional card benefits.

          • AFKAE says:

            Great, thanks I’ll check that out.
            I didn’t bother with Hertz and Avis as their offerings are usually pretty unattractive.

          • AFKAE says:

            Righty-ho, sorted it out now. Behind the green tick is your membership number and benefits. Thanks Justin.

          • Justin says:

            @AFKAE – No problem. I’m happy to hear you’ve got it sorted now.

  • Gareth Morgan says:

    “There are no credit cards or other schemes which offer instant airline status.”
    I get Virgin Gold, and Emirates gold with Amex Centurion

  • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

    Not a credit card status but you can also get Accor gold by paying for their IBIS business card (cost c.£65 pa). Accor gold status gives early check in OR late check-out, upgrade subject to availability, welcome drinks & guaranteed room 3 days out.

    The card doesn’t really get you anything else except a 10% discount at IBIS hotels but pre-COVID I got some value in terms of Accor upgrades on trips, higher points earn etc. Cost is certainly less than the Amex Platinum route so worth a look if you use Accor hotels a bit (https://ibis.accor.com/business/ibis-business-card/index.en.shtml).

    • Grant says:

      AFAIK you also get Accord Gold for being a share holder. Taken literally, a share can be had for ~ 28Euro currently.

      • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

        That is correct but it only works for one membership period (well, the year you apply and to the end of the following year) and after that you lose the status unless you hit the required nights / spend target. Add to that the fact that many people may not have a brokerage account that can easily be used to buy the one share and the IBIS card may still make sense. That being said, if Accor don’t extend my current card membership then I’ll wait ’til January 1st, 2022 and buy one share into my Interactive Investor account 🙂 . That’ll be Accor status sorted until end of 2023 then so thanks for reminding me about that option!

  • Harry T says:

    “ The 2pm late check-out is guaranteed except at resort and conference centre hotels.”

    It’s actually subject to availability for Bonvoy Gold members at all hotels. Pedantic but true…

  • aceman says:

    I’ve mentioned it before, but worth a mention again. I have amex plat, and my marriott status has been downgraded to silver. Platinum concierge, after speaking to marriott, could only offer to totally close my account and reopen it (loss of points and historic status etc).
    Amex’s system shows the promotion to gold has happened so see nothing wrong their end.

    • Rob says:

      That’s nonsense. I would go to Marriott directly and see what they can do.

      You can merge duplicate Bonvoy accounts (a hangover from the Starwood merger process) but not sure about lifetime numbers.

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