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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 Executive Club Silver status, which gets you lounge access and free seat selection at the time of booking, is probably 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 flight to Asia for a decent price in a Qatar Airways sale.  You will earn 560 tier points for this (140 x 4 legs) which is just 40 short of the 600 tier points needed for British Airways Executive Club Silver status – although you still need to fly four BA segments to be promoted.  You get a great holiday and you get to try the best business class product out there.

Another option is the double tier points offer from BA Holidays which we cover here. You would earn 320 tier points under this offer for a business class trip to, say, Athens or Malta. Do two of those and a Silver card is yours.

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:

How to get free hotel elite status from UK credit cards

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

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: £95

Representative 54.8% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £95 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% 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.

You need a minimum personal income of £20,000 to apply for the card.

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 many business travellers.

You can apply for the card here.

How to get free hotel elite status from UK credit cards

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 40,000 points + £400 of travel credit
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,400 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: £650

Representative 704.6% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £650 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% APR variable.

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 Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within three months of signing up.

Until 27th August, you will also receive £400 to spend at Amex Travel if you spend £6,000 within three months 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.

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.

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 1,400 airport lounges

Elite status in four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Premium), 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

You need a minimum personal income of £35,000 to apply for the card.

This is a more complex card.

The Platinum Card comes with a £650 annual fee.  Because you can get a generous 40,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus (converts into 40,000 Avios or 40,000 Virgin Points 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 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 replaced with a fixed value food and beverage credit which rarely covers the cost)
  • 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 Premium status will get you:

  • 10% off food and drink
  • one category room upgrade “when available”
  • 27 points per $1 vs 8 points per $1 for a base level member
  • early check-in and late check-out “on request”
  • access to ‘Discount Booster’ – extra savings if you agree to receive fewer points for your stays

Nothing is guaranteed – there is no free breakfast.  However, in my experience, you can do well as a Radisson Rewards Premium member.  Whilst Premium 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.

You can apply for the card 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.

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 (40,000 Amex points is worth 40,000 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.

Even if you decide to cancel your Amex Platinum card at some point, the hotel status cards should continue until they naturally expire – usually the following March.


best hotel loyalty promotions

Hotel offers update – July 2024:

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Want to buy hotel points?

  • Hilton Honors is offering a 100% bonus when you buy points by 23rd July 2024. Click here.
  • Marriott Bonvoy is offering a 25% to 50% mystery bonus when you buy points by 24th July 2024. Click here.

Comments (28)

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

  • Bloxorus says:

    Actually there is a credit card which gives instant airline status. The Centurion card gives Virgin Atlantic and Emirates gold status.

    • 1ATL says:

      Emirates Gold is being discontinued as a benefit after 31JUL

      • Jonathan says:

        Look like Amex might have to get their finger out and get some more perks together to encourage people to remain interested in the card, although it costing over £280 per month just to be able to use, the market for the card is very limited…

    • Paul says:

      Not available other than by invitation

  • Paul T says:

    It’s not a status perk, but a reminder that 64 shares in Whitbread (£1,906) gives free breakfast for two adults per room up to two rooms in Premier Inn. When my wife and I stay with my two young kids in one room we can get the rooms as cheap as £49. If the four of us go to a cafe for breakfast it can cost £30+

    • Sundar says:

      Which platform allows to claim this benefit ? A Lot of platforms do a beneficiary shareholding and it gets difficult to claim the benefit.

      • David says:

        I know from personal experience that Hargreaves Lansdowne and Interactive Investor both suppprt this, other platforms may do to but I haven’t used them myself

      • Paul T says:

        I’ve got mine held in HL and the process for receiving the annual shareholder benefits card is very easy.

  • Nick G says:

    Good article but the Hilton should read free breakfast for two……I know this from the tight arses at Hilton Reading who immediately said which card do I want to pay for our 10 yr old’s breakfast on knowing myself and wife have it free. First time I’ve ever had that which I know is strictly true by the rules but still being Gold counts for bugger all at some places!

    • Paul says:

      It’s a very strange and grasping hotel.
      When I was using Hilton I was treated well both as a gold and very well indeed when a diamond. But I moved to the IHG dark side when my spire converted to diamond. If you want a hotel programme to disappoint its IHG. It’s very good at IC and CPs but no good elsewhere

      • Paul T says:

        But at IHG you get a free kitkat (sometimes)

      • Nick G says:

        Been loads to the hotel and never had that until earlier this year when they said pay up, oh and parking is now £10/night unless you’re Gold so at least I didn’t pay for that.

        What they don’t realise/care about is that a bowl of cereal and some fruit for a child means I won’t ever go back there!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Or look at it as £3.33 each .. literally it’s £10. Was the rate much more expensive than previous trips? Or was it the same as 2019?

      • LittleNick says:

        Diamond at IHG gets you free breakfast for two at the Holiday Inns which is useful, sometimes an upgrade to a better room too

        • mhughes says:

          Diamond at IHG gets you free breakfast at all their brands. But you can’t get diamond via a credit card.

  • Ian says:

    On Rob’s comment about Qatar being the best business class out there, I don’t fly enough long-haul to be able to make a judgement on other airlines but has anyone else noticed how QR food and service has deteriorated compared to a few years ago? We flew with them earlier this year and it’s the first time we’ve got off the aircraft feeling a bit hungry, especially after the meagre offering they describe as breakfast.

    • shilly says:

      I agree, the last return flight I had to Bangkok with Qatar the food was not good at all and the service was so so. Completely different to the food at the Qatar business class lounge in Singapore where the service and food was excellent. I still think Singapore airlines are much better overall.

      • LittleNick says:

        This is what happens when they replace Al Baker with the new guy who wants to cut costs I suspect?

    • JDB says:

      @Ian – perhaps you were unlucky but I’m pretty surprised you didn’t feel you were offered enough to eat.

      From my perspective, over the past seven years, the food on board, in terms of quality, choice and presentation has improved a little, but the wine quality has improved significantly and service has neither improved nor declined and remains at the top vs other airlines.

      The food, drink and service in the Al Mourjan lounge (which I prefer to Al Safwa) have improved out of all recognition.

      I think that in many ways all the praise QR gets creates unrealistic expectations, like the excess eulogising over T3 lounges.

      Even whatever one thinks is the very best airline doesn’t serve restaurant quality food (and I don’t count opening a jar of caviar) and over the years, the quality of airline food has declined markedly when one thinks back to Swissair, Air France, Singapore or even US airlines.

  • Paulw says:

    I have been upgraded at melia hotels many times with my gold status. Not a listed perk but often done. Good discount vouchers too to use x3 per year which are stackable with her deals.

  • Ol24 says:

    I want to upgrade to Amex Plat but to wait until there is a bonus for doing so. What time of year is this usually?

    • Rob says:

      The Bonvoy Amex offer ends 2nd July and the Gold offer ends 16th July – once those are done something may change.

  • Aston100 says:

    Should free WiFi still be listed as a perk?

    • Rob says:

      I delete it sometimes – this time I didn’t. I agree its stupid.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Not always. Enhanced WiFi is good for streaming etc where the free one is usually rubbish.

  • anom says:

    Platinum member here. I’ve been upgraded by Hilton every single time, and I use them a lot (40 nights a year or more)… the free breakfast for 2 is a great perk, plus i love the 5 nights for the price of 4.

    I’ve never been upgraded or received any benefits from Marriot despite staying with them on avergae 5 times a year

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Hilton doesn’t have platinum.

      5 times a year is hardly frequent but even with gold status way back when I was upgraded here and there

      • Lauren says:

        Amex platinum I meant, gold at Hilton.. which means I am gold at Marriott and Hilton

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