Score Elite Status Automatically at Top Hotels With These Credit Cards

You can fast-track your way to elite status at Hilton, Kimpton, and Marriott hotels (and more) simply by being a cardmember.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Hilton Honors Gold Status offers major perks at properties like the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi.

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

AFAR partners with and may receive a commission from card issuers. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Compensation may impact how an offer is presented. Our coverage is independent and objective, and has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of the AFAR editorial team.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit to learn more.

Travelers nowadays are looking to get as much from their vacations as possible. Some great possibilities for enhancing a hotel stay include complimentary room upgrades and late checkouts, as well as food and beverage credits. At top hotel chains, such perks are typically reserved for those with high-level elite status. However, attaining such status no longer requires the loyalty it once did. All that’s needed is holding the right credit card.

Fortunately, several of our favorite travel credit cards grant elite status high enough to score some serious benefits. Here are the ones you should consider getting before booking your next hotel stay and why.

Hilton Honors Gold Status: Its value and the credit cards that come with it

The Hilton hotels and resorts portfolio spans 22 brands from Waldorf Astoria to Curio Collection to Hampton by Hilton, with over 7,295 properties across 123 countries. Hilton’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors, has four tiers of membership: Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond.

The perks of elite status start to get really good upon reaching Hilton Honors Gold Status. At this level, benefits include but are not limited to: space-available room upgrades, complimentary Wi-Fi, and on-property food and beverage credits daily. (The amount of that credit varies by brand, but luxury brands like Waldorf Astoria offer an impressive $50 per room per day, assuming two guests per room.) Travelers earn 18 points per dollar spent on property (except at Tru and Home2 properties) and get their fifth night free when booking a standard room stay with points.

Achieving Gold Status typically requires staying 28 nights, 14 stays, or earning 52,500 base points within the greater Hilton portfolio. Alternatively, you can bypass these requirements and get Gold Status simply by having one of the following credit cards (enrollment required):

Marriott Bonvoy Gold Status: Its value and the credit cards that come with it

Marriott International’s portfolio is the largest of any hotel chain in the world. It includes more than 30 brands—like W Hotels Worldwide, the Ritz-Carlton, and Courtyard by Marriott—with more than 7,000 properties in 131 countries. Marriott’s reward program, Marriott Bonvoy, has a whopping six tiers, starting with Member, followed by Silver Elite, and climbing as high as Ambassador Elite.

Gold Elite is the program’s third tier and is typically earned by staying 25 qualifying nights annually. Primary benefits include space-available room upgrades, free premium internet, 2 p.m. late checkout, and 25 percent bonus points for hotel stays/qualifying purchases. Instead of banking 25 nights, travelers can bump their status to Gold Elite simply by being a cardholder of the following credit card (enrollment required):

Platinum Elite is the program’s fourth tier and is typically earned by staying 50 qualifying nights annually. Primary benefits include enhanced room upgrades (including Select Suites), free premium internet, 4 p.m. late checkout, and 50 percent bonus points for hotel stays/qualifying purchases. Instead of banking 50 nights, travelers can bump their status to Platinum Elite simply by being a cardholder of the following credit card (enrollment required):

IHG Platinum Elite Status: Its value and the credit card that comes with it

IHG Hotels and Resorts has grown to include 6,000 properties across 17 brands, including Kimpton, Intercontinental Hotels, and Holiday Inn. The IHG One Rewards program has five levels: Club, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, and Diamond Elite. Of note is Platinum Elite status, which requires either 40 nights each year or earning 60,000 qualifying points. However, this status is automatically bestowed on those with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee). Top benefits of Platinum Elite status include late checkout, complimentary room upgrades (space available), complimentary Wi-Fi, and 60 percent bonus points on hotel purchases.

Which card to get for hotel elite status

The Platinum Card from American Express is hands-down the best credit card for getting elite status. Card membership gets you Gold Status with both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy simply by following the prompts under the Benefits page (under your Amex login) or calling the number on the back of your card. While this card does have a large annual fee, annual travel credits can easily offset this annual fee. The card also offers the best airport lounge access globally. Another plus: Additional cardmembers can also get the benefits of Gold Status.

Those who simply can’t swallow the idea of paying a large annual fee can still get status with the low-fee IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Status benefits received from just one stay can offset the annual fee.

Suffice to say, you no longer need to be a brand loyalist and stay dozens of nights to get the perks of an upper-tier elite status and maximize your hotel experiences. All it takes is having the right credit card.

This article was originally published in 2022; it was updated with new information on October 20, 2023. While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in AFAR, Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More from AFAR