There was a time when most of us thought top-tier hotel elite status was out of reach. After all, who stays 25-50 nights at hotels every year? Mostly business travelers. Thanks to rewards credit cards, that’s no longer the case. Most hotel credit cards offer low or mid-tier status with the option to earn top-tier status through credit card spending. It’s not going to be cheap, but for folks who manage to put a lot of manufactured spending on the card, it can be manageable and rewarding. Short of mattress running, this can be an easy and cheap way to earn top-tier hotel elite status with the rewards program of your choice. Here’s an overview of hotel credit card spending requirements for top-tier elite status:
Hilton HHonors Diamond Status ($40,000)
Hilton’s Diamond elite membership normally requires the completion of 30 stays/60 nights or earning120,000 base points. While Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve cardholders get free Gold status just for having the card, they also have the option to earn top-tier Diamond status by spending $40,000 on the card per calendar year. The Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express offers the same path to Diamond status. That translates to $3,333 per month, which becomes more feasible if you’re one of those people who puts every dollar of household spend (groceries, utilities, cable/phone/internet, rent, student loan payments, etc.) on one credit card. Whether the rewards are worth channeling all that spend towards a Hilton credit card depends on you and your travel needs, but I think its well worth it.
Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond Status/World of Hyatt Globalist
Last year, Hyatt announced a new World of Hyatt rewards program that will be implemented on March 1, 2017. In addition to stricter elite status requirements, they eliminated the ability to earn elite credits via the Chase Hyatt Credit Card. Going forward, earning top-tier Globalist status will require 60 nights or 100,000 base points. Even if Hyatt brought back the ability to earn 2 stays/5 nights towards elite status via credit card spending, that would barely put a dent in the new top-tier elite status requirements. Barring frequent business travelers, top-tier World of Hyatt elite status is pretty much off the table for most of us.
Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Status
Top-tier Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum status requires completing 25 stays/50 nights annually. Members can earn 2 stays/5 nights towards status with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. Getting both cards would result in 4 stays/10 nights. Again, it’s easier to hit top-tier status by focusing on stays rather than nights.
While it’s not possible to earn top-tier SPG Platinum status through credit card spending alone, there is a work-around: Use the sign-up bonus from both cards to mattress run at Category 1 hotels for 21 nights, since SPG counts award stays towards status. It would take a total of 42,000 – 63,000 points, depending on whether the stays were completed on weekdays or weekends. This will sound like a terrible waste of miles to some people, but for those who anticipate getting good use out of SPG Platinum benefits, this method makes perfect sense. Thanks to the SPG-Marriott merger, it is also possible to earn top-tier SPG Platinum status purely based on spending on the co-branded Marriott and Ritz Carlton credit cards…
Marriott Rewards Platinum Status ($180,000)
Earning top-tier Marriott Rewards Platinum status takes 75 nights, which is higher than what the other major hotel rewards programs require. Marriott rewards credit cardholders get to bypass these pesky requirements altogether by racking up spend on a co-branded credit card. Every $3,000 spent earns Marriott Rewards Premier cardholders one night towards status. Factor in 15 credits awarded annually and it takes a total of $180,000 to hit Platinum. For those who want an easier option, there’s yet another way….
Ritz Carlton Rewards Platinum Status ($75,000)
We’ve seen some positive changes during the Marriott/Ritz Carlton merger with Starwood. In this case, the ability to match elite status across all three programs means earning top-tier elite status requires just $75,000 worth of credit card spending on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. At $450, the annual fee on the Ritz Carlton credit card is higher than that of the Marriott and Starwood credit cards, but it enables you to earn top-tier elite status with not one but three rewards programs. It also helps that the spending requirement is a lot lower.
When it comes to earning top-tier elite status via credit card spending, the best options are offered by the Hilton and Ritz Carlton credit cards. Hilton is a safe bet for those who want meaningful benefits before meeting spending requirements (the card comes with Hilton HHonors Gold status), as well as a lower spending requirement for top-tier elites. However, if you can manage $75,000 worth of credit card spending in a calendar year, it’s pretty tough to beat Ritz Carlton’s value proposition.
The card not only offers more attractive benefits, but you can match your Ritz Carlton Platinum status to SPG Platinum, which has one of the most highly regarded top-tier elite benefits out there. Especially now that the new Hyatt rewards program is un-hackable, SPG Platinum is a great alternative because unlike the remaining hotels rewards programs, it still offers confirmed suite upgrades to top-tier elite members.
That’s my take on the best options for earning top-tier hotel status via credit card spending. I’d love your take in the comment section.