You Can Qualify For Elite Status At Hotels Without Staying There A Million Nights First

The perks of being loyal to a hotel chain can make someone feel like George Clooney in Up In the Air – rolling in and out of locations with the greatest of ease and the least amount of hassle. But what if you’re not the kind of person who can rack up 75 or 100 nights per year at a hotel to qualify? There are ways around that hurdle.

The New York Times points out that although we can’t all be George, there are lower tiers of elite status programs that are within your reach without having to bed down for a bajillion nights on the road.

Staying only four times a year could bring you within reach of many loyalty programs. So no, you won’t get a personal assistant, but you can earn loyalty points and have access to upgrades or free Internet access.

Each program has its own set of requirements, some that include several nights at their locations or using a certain credit card. The first step is to pick a hotel that is everywhere, so that no matter where you travel, you’ll be building your elite status. Then it’s just down to a bit of research to find out which hotel is the best fit, and has the perks you want.

One example is the Hilton HHonors program, which only requires four nights per year, or 10 nights total and the option to earn Silver elite status just for using their American Express card of the same name. That will earn you early “check-in and late checkout; free use of the fitness center; a 15 percent point bonus for hotel stays; discounts on award nights; and two bottles of water per stay, depending on the hotel.”

For the rundown of a few more popular hotels, the perks they offer at their lowest elite status levels and how you can get there, check out the full NYT.com story.

*Thanks to Howard for the tip!

How to Attain Hotel Elite Status [New York Times]

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  1. Cor Aquilonis says:

    That will earn you early “check-in and late checkout; free use of the fitness center; a 15 percent point bonus for hotel stays; discounts on award nights; and two bottles of water per stay, depending on the hotel.”

    Wait, possibly TWO bottles of water!?! Why, that may have a retail value of as much as $2.00-$3.00!* This is so extravagant that I must sign up IMMEDIATELY!

    /s

    * Wholesale (from the tap) – nuthin’.

    • Bunnies Attack! says:

      At minibar prices, that’s like $10 worth of water!

      • Blueskylaw says:

        A 1,300 percent markup on Gummy Bears at the Omni Berkshire Place in New York may be the high point of hotel minibars mark ups, but unfortunately it’s not that outrageous. Markups of 300 percent to 400 percent are common at hotel minibars.

        Oyster.com found some crazy minibar charges in New York City, including $10 for a bottle of water and a $12 toothpaste kit.

    • gtrgrrl says:

      Wow – I feel so privileged. I’m not a Hilton member, but I just came back from a stay at a Hilton near Boston and got two free bottles of water. Not only that, they replenished my empty bottles with new ones at no additional charge! I feel like royalty…

    • xamarshahx says:

      I have the HH Honors CC, it is worth it because items such as water and the fitness club can add another 10-20 bucks a night to your bill. Hilton has many different hotels and it depends on each brand what they offer. Last time I was at a Doubletree, I got a free rollaway which saved me 20 per day. You also get point bonuses which let you rack up free rooms quicker.

  2. gman863 says:

    I think they’re some shady ones in Houston that offer perks if you check in for four one-hour stays.

  3. MaytagRepairman says:

    Does anybody have a recommendation for a hotel program? The wife and I have tried Holiday Inn Express. I like the quality of their hotels for the price but their program doesn’t do much for me. I think we don’t get much more than a bottle of water, a bag of chips, and a later check out time.

    I *think* the last time we stayed at a Hilton they wanted to charge us $10 / night to use the internet and a few other odd nickel and dime things that kept me away from booking with them again.

    • Rachacha says:

      I enjoy Hilton brands. Many of the hotels offer free internet access, but certain Hotels within the Hilton brand do not.

      I earn most of my points through my HHonors AMEX Card. I have used the points I earn through staying at Hilton as well as using my Credit card for daily purchases to stay at Waldorf Astoria properties in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Orlando free of charge…inexpensive family vacations.

    • huadpe says:

      I travel within Canada alot, and the Delta hotels* one is quite good (late checkout and free internet just for signup, $200 credit and 2 free upgrades with 5 stays). But if you are traveling to places other than Canada, it’s not very helpful.

      *Not in any way affiliated with delta airlines.

    • chopbrocoli says:

      SPG. I’ve been a gold member since 2007 and have never been disappointed.

    • Minneapolis says:

      Starwood/SPG. BEST hotels and best customer service. I love Aloft and W hotels.

    • ceriphim says:

      I’ve held Platinum status with Holiday Inn the past three years (because of work travel), honestly you can qualify for Gold fairly quickly. Most of the bonuses for different statuses are really oriented towards incentivizing additional stays. I do recall, however, that Gold status was fairly easy to achieve and gives you late checkout, preferred checkin, etc.

      I like the Rewards program because you can cash out for almost anything. You can choose specific retail items, hotel stays, “experiences” (like flying a jet or in a hot air balloon), or gift cards to a slew of retailers. Last year, I cashed out enough points to get me around $1400 in Amazon GCs for Christmas presents and a week of free hotel stays when a friend came into town.

      The bad news is: 1- I travel one to two weeks out of every month, and 2- I believe all IHG hotels (the Holiday Inn Group) just raised their points prices for hotel stays

  4. Jack T Ripper says:

    This is true. I was traveling a lot for my last job and was just a couple stays away from the top of the food chain with Hilton last year. I wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t gotten the boost to Gold status by getting their credit card. That was a huge little boost.

  5. tooluser says:

    Join ‘em all and let God sort them out.

  6. Coelacanth says:

    You could also sign up for Chase’s Hyatt rewards credit card.

    There’s an annual fee, but it grants instant Platinum status and two free award nights.

  7. xyzzyman says:

    I unfortunately use priceline & hotwire too often, or call around and ask what they can do for me on pricing so I never know who I’m going to get, especially when I do blind bidding… When I’m not bidding, I’ve found that getting the price & hotwire price, and then calling directly and asking what they can do on pricing usually nets even more savings, as they aren’t paying the commission.

  8. NCB says:

    Made it to Platinum with Choice Hotels (Sleep Inn, Comfort Suites and my favorite brand, Cambria) with just 20 stays. Rooms are nice, internet is free and not pricey. The best perk is the free stays. Just a few weekends I stayed at the RDU Cambria using points near the hockey arena-my reason for the visit.

  9. TBGBoodler says:

    Don’t Hilton points expire after a year or so? Not only expire, but they delete your account when they do. I’ve had this happen a couple of times, so Hilton isn’t one of my top choices.

    It’s worth it to register for every hotel rewards program for the benefits, not just the points.

    • humphrmi says:

      Yup. I re-signed after the first time they deleted my account. The second time I bid them farewell.

      Holiday Inns are comparable and my stays with them translate immediately into AA miles, no accruing and no expiration.

    • mramos says:

      HHonors points never expire however if you don’t earn or use any points for a year they close your account. Your oldest points could be over 10 years old.

  10. bben says:

    Holiday inn – points never expire, You don’t have to use your points just for rooms. yjey have several things, including merchandise that they can be used for. Several special promotions a year. I was platinum for years, but since partial retirement I’m down to gold. I still get special treatment at all Holiday inn, Holiday Inn express and their other brands. At a full service hotel that usually means a free beer or two, free breakfast in the main restaurant, quick check in. late checkout, A better rate, Free room upgrades and some other perks depending on the property. Of course Holiday Inn Express gives you less, they have less they can give No bar, no full restaurant, maybe a room upgrade if they have higher level rooms, still get a better rate. And a special 800 reservations number that will get me a live operator immediately.

    Hilton is another good choice, but not quite as good, and not quite as many properties to choose from.

  11. PSUSkier says:

    It really depends on your travel schedule and capabilities what works best. I have been able to keep Hilton diamond status for the last 4 years (with a little bit of admitted deal hacking last year) and that gets me executive suite upgrades on most of my stays at Hilton proper and Double Tree hotels. Quite nice. However, if you’re unable to meet the requirements, I feel there are quite a few other hotel chains that offer a little better benefits at the lower levels.

    By the way, if you’re going to be close to the next tier based on your travel schedule, the lowest requirement for getting up the ladder at Hilton is the number of stays (individual visits). Last year I was closest in stays so when I’d travel during the last few trips, I’d stay at a different Hilton hotel each night. This was just enough to push me up over the top.

  12. thomwithanh says:

    US Airways had an overly complicated promotion a few years ago called “Hop, Skip, and a Jump,” billed as a fast track to Preferred (Elite) Status.

    Flying new routes earned points towards the promotion (jumps), and you also got a point for flying on the USAir Shuttle (skip) and for each region on the airline’s network you visited during the promotion (hops). If I remember correctly you could become Silver Preferred (or would move up one level if you were already Preferred) with a four hops, skips, and/or jumps. 8 points would move you up two levels, 12 would move you up three, and with 16 you’d move up four.

    Essentially you could become elite with as little as four flights, and a VIP top tier Chairman’s Preferred with sixteen flights.

    I think it was a one time thing, the following year US Airways did a “grand slam” promotion instead – huge mileage bonuses for completing partner offers, some of these miles were elite qualifying.

    (and elites who earned their status the hard way really complained – it made upgrades much more difficult)