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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 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 £1,500 or so in a Qatar Airways sale.  You will earn 560 tier points for this. Until 31st December 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.  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 UK credit 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 two UK credit 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 review

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 42.9% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £75 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 25.7% 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.

The Platinum Card from American Express:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 60,000 points + £200
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full review

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
  • £300 per year of restaurant credit
  • £100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols
  • Annual fee: £575

Representative 437.9% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £575 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 25.7% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 60,000 points + £200 sign-up bonus +

You will receive 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points and a £200 Amex Travel credit 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 which runs to 25th October 2022.

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 your supplementary cardholder, 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

£150 per year to spend in over 160 UK restaurants

£150 per year to spend in over 1,200 international restaurants

£100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols, instore or online (no minimum spend required)

£300 per year of dining credit – £150 to be spent at 150+ UK restaurants and £150 to be spent at 1,200+ restaurants outside the UK

£10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit

This is a more complex card.

The Platinum Card comes with a £575 annual fee.  Because you can get a 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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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, although in the USA this is currently replaced with a fixed value food and beverage credit)
  • 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. You can see the benefits list on the Hilton website here.

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. You can see the benefits list on the Melia website here.

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 see the benefits list on the Radisson website here.

Got a small business?

If you have your own small business, you can get the same hotel benefits with the American Express Business Platinum card:

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full review

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: £595

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £595.

See if you qualify for the 40,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Business Platinum card if you spend £6,000 within 90 days.

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 13 months, have held any other American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes Business or personal Gold, Business or personal Platinum and the personal American Express Rewards credit card.

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

You are OK if the only American Express card you have had in the previous 13 months was a British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Harrods American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Business Platinum card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from all of the other card features.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Business Platinum 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)

£150 of Dell statement credit per year – you receive £75 credit on Dell purchases betweeen January and June and £75 credit on purchases between July and December

Digital subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times, worth over £300

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 (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 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 responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – August 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% on business travel for four months) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (23)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Rob H not Rob says:

    Anyone definitively know what IIHG status the old IHG Black premium credit card gives you these days??

  • ClaireF says:

    Melia status has worked really well for us for a booking for next year. Using the 20% off I was able to save £1300 (2 swim up connecting rooms all inclusive) at Melia Bali. Hoping its a good choice for Bali as it ticked all the boxes for us. Didn’t select “the level” as we couldn’t book that room type for our dates.

    • Erico1875 says:

      Very g ood.
      Saving double the annual cost of the Platinum card on one booking alone is a great result.

  • Gavin says:

    IHG Mastercard?? Gives you Platinum Elite

  • thehornets says:

    As a family of four, I’ve found the free breakfast with Hilton Gold to be a really valuable perk. Most hotels in my experience allow all four free breakfast.

    I have just returned from two Hilton stays in the US and also think that the F&B credit works quite well. It doesn’t save you as much but is a lot more flexible especially if you are not a breakfast person!

    • Nigel Hamilton says:

      On one Hilton one night stay in London, we got 5 free breakfasts (family of five in one room) and 10 free drinks(normally, it’s one per person!) We definitely got our moneys worth on that one when you count the points earned too….

  • Michael says:

    O/T guys I’m trying to find Delta award seats using virgin miles. I’ve seen Delta SEA – CDG on delta for 120,000 plus $6 (the lowest amount of points) when searching on Virgin I’m finding nothing using all west coast to Europe (ex U.K.) routes.
    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Lev441 says:

      It needs to be in the lowest bucket of miles.. not sure what this is but as soon as it moves on to the dynamic pricing ( which by the sounds of it 120,000 is not the base price), you won’t see it anymore on the Virgin website.

      • Rob says:

        120k is the equivalent of a Hilton ‘Premium Room Redemption’ – you need one at standard price (60k?).

  • Ryan says:

    O/T, but I was surprised to be offered points, a drink or breakfast as the amenity upon check in at the IC O2 on Friday. I’m Platinum amb and choosing breakfast saved c£100 for the weekend reward stay. The 600 points were given too. I think the guy said that ihg one rewards now give breakfast to diamonds. I don’t know why he thought I was.

    • Rob says:

      That’s the new system – breakfast is technically an amenity choice, but their crappy IT means in 90% of cases you get the points anyway.

      I had this at St Regis New York last week – offered 1,000 Bonvoy points or $270 of free breakfast credit (over 3 nights). Guess which I took ….

  • Gordon says:

    If booking through a Privé agent. IE (I use the services of Emyr Thomas).You can achieve an upgrade,(Subject to availability).
    Also early check in late check out (Subject to availability). Free breakfast pp
    (Guaranteed). Also $100 credit to use for FB etc.There are a few more benefits like best flexible rates,Cancellation but I guess the majority of hfp readers will know these,This is a better option for me as I am not really chasing hotel status.(You still receive the points as the booking is in your name) I actually received a free amenity gift on arrival an upgrade and late check out at 2 out of 3 properties last month in Indonesia so it does work,If you are a frequent business flyer then obviously the cards will be a no brainer….I tend to put all my spending through avios cards.

  • krys_k says:

    When is the next Qatar sale as mentioned in article?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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