Is Hotel Elite Status Worth Considering in 2021?

With reduced elite status qualifications, this might be a good year to earn status that's valid until '22 or '23.

Sally FrenchMar 17, 2021
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Hotel elite status used to be one of the hottest status symbols in travel pre-coronavirus. Upgrades to suites and access to club lounges were the stuff of Instagram influencers’ and business travelers’ dreams alike. That changed as travelers turned to vacation rentals like Airbnb and RV rentals as their preferred forms of COVID-era lodging.

But even if you have zero plans on staying in a hotel anytime soon, it can make sense for certain travelers to start making a plan now to attain hotel elite status in 2021. Getting hotel elite status now — even if you have no concrete travel plans — can pay off handsomely once you decide to take all those post-vaccine bucket list trips in late 2021 and beyond.

Many hotel loyalty programs gave existing elite members automatic extensions for 2021. That likely won’t be the case in 2022, as many anticipate the travel industry to be grander (and busier) once people feel safe to travel again.

For now, though, most hotels are promoting reduced earning requirements (that is, the chance to earn status without staying at hotels as often as before) to retain customer loyalty. Couple that promotion with the point bonuses you receive if you already held status in 2020, and now is shaping up to be one of the best times to earn — or re-earn — hotel elite status.

Why 2021 is a great year to earn hotel elite status

You likely won’t experience the phenomenon of automatic status extensions and boosted night credits again. So, take advantage of 2021, where some hotel elite status earned can run as far out as 2023 (Hilton is the winner, where status earned in 2021 lasts through March 2023).

Even if you plan to stay at home this spring break and summer, you might still get more value out of earning hotel elite status this year than any other. Here’s how:

Lessened requirements mean you earn status faster

With lower requirements, you’re less likely to be scrambling last-minute to cross the status threshold, and you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of status for a longer period of time. Plus, even with reduced travel in 2021, lowered requirements mean you might be able to snag some form of elite status with only one or two trips.

The longer you hold status, the more value you get from it

Status can be a huge money-saver. For example, you need the highest tier of Hyatt loyalty — Globalist — to get Club lounge access and complimentary breakfast. If you’d otherwise plunk down $30 a day, two weeks a year, for each member of your family of four to eat at the hotel breakfast buffet, that’s worth more than $1,500 annually right there. Why not get that $1,500 in value not just for 2022, but as early as possible in 2021 as well? A Hyatt free breakfast is just one example of an elite hotel benefit that you can reap the rewards of over and over again as a member.

Pair this offer with a hotel credit card for even higher status

Most of these hotel loyalty programs also offer other outlets to fast-track your way to elite status. For example, Marriott credit cards offer 15 elite night credits each calendar year toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status. Combine the elite status earned through a hotel credit card with these existing, 2021-only elite status benefits to supercharge your way into a higher status tier.

Status will be even more valuable in the coming years

Travel is expected to pick up in the second half of 2021 and into 2022 as people get vaccinated and gear up to take the trips they’ve missed in the last year. When that happens, expect a shortage of hotel rooms and more expensive room rates. Luckily, status is your saving grace.

Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott all have reservation guarantees for certain elite members. Plus, you’ll have early check-in and late checkout options available to you to help avoid the crowds even further.

Finally, having elite status with one hotel can often open a door to receiving a status match with another hotel loyalty program, giving you more options for booking a hotel in the area you want.

2021 elite status requirements, by hotel

Hilton elite status

Hilton Honors has become one of the most generous hotel loyalty programs both in terms of making it easier to earn status, and how long you get to keep your newfound cachet.

Reduced status qualification requirements

The requirements to earn Hilton elite status for the 2021 year have been slashed in half. Now, you have to stay only half as many nights or earn half as many points. Staying at a Hilton for 60 nights in a year might sound difficult in any year (and especially right now), but 30 nights could be a lot more attainable.

Usual qualification requirements

Qualification requirements to earn status in 2021

Silver

10 nights, 4 stays or 25,000 points

5 nights, 2 stays or 12,500 points

Gold

40 nights, 20 stays or 75,000 points

20 nights, 10 stays or 37,500 points

Diamond

60 nights, 30 stays or 120,000 points

30 nights, 15 stays or 60,000 points

2020 earnings roll over toward 2021

If you did happen to stay at a Hilton in 2020, you'll need to stay even fewer nights in 2021 to earn status. All nights earned in 2020 count toward earning status in 2021. So, if you already stayed at a Hilton 20 nights in 2020, you’d already have earned Gold status for 2021.

How long does Hilton elite status earned in 2021 last?

Hilton elite status earned in the 2021 calendar year will last through March 31, 2023.

Hyatt elite status

The World of Hyatt program has cut the requirements needed to earn status in half, while extending how long you’ll hold that status.

Reduced status qualification requirements

NerdWallet considers the World of Hyatt program to be the best hotel rewards program for frequent travelers. Even if you’re not traveling as much as usual in 2021, it’s easier than ever this year to earn Hyatt elite status, so you can access the revered club once you’re back and busy on the road in 2022.

Usual qualification requirements

Qualification requirements to earn status in 2021

Discoverist

10 tier-qualifying nights or 25,000 base points.

5 tier-qualifying nights or 12,500 base points.

Explorist

30 tier-qualifying nights or 50,000 base points.

15 tier-qualifying nights or 25,000 base points.

Globalist

60 tier-qualifying nights or 100,000 base points.

30 tier-qualifying nights or 50,000 base points.

How long does Hyatt elite status earned in 2021 last?

Hyatt elite status earned in 2021 will last through Feb. 28, 2023.

And, if you already hold status (or held status as of March 31, 2020), Hyatt has also automatically extended the expiration date to Feb. 28, 2022.

IHG elite status

The IHG Rewards Club takes the crown as NerdWallet’s top hotel rewards program overall thanks to its low fees, good rewards-earning rate and fair dynamic reward pricing. If you want to get in on the program — with elite status, no less — 2021 is your year.

Reduced status qualification requirements

IHG reduced status qualification requirements for 2021, though not quite as dramatically as the 50% slash from Hyatt or Hilton. Most requirements to earn IHG elite status in 2021 have been cut by about 25%.

Usual qualification requirements

Qualification requirements to earn status in 2021

Gold Elite

10,000 qualifying points or 10 qualifying nights

7,000 qualifying points or 7 qualifying nights

Platinum Elite

40,000 qualifying points or 40 qualifying nights

30,000 qualifying points or 30 qualifying nights

Spire Elite

75,000 qualifying points or 75 qualifying nights

55,000 qualifying points or 55 qualifying nights

2020 earnings rollover toward 2021

If you were already a Gold, Platinum or Spire Elite member in 2020, then all qualifying nights stayed in 2020 will roll over into 2021, counting toward status earned in 2021.

How long does IHG elite status earned in 2021 last?

Status earned in 2021 is good through Dec. 31, 2022.

Marriott elite status

Unlike most hotel loyalty programs, the Marriott Bonvoy program did not reduce 2021 elite qualification requirements to attain status. Instead, Bonvoy’s method of retaining loyal customers focused on its existing elite status members. Under the Bonvoy program, members who held elite status in 2020 received a one-time booster deposit of 50% of their tier's annual Elite Night Credit requirement.

Boost toward qualification requirements

The level of Marriott Bonvoy elite status you held in 2020 determined how many “nights” you automatically received toward the next status tier, allowing you to retain status (or level up) the following year:

Usual qualification requirements

Qualification requirements to earn status in 2021

Silver Elite

5 elite night credits (so you need to stay 20 more nights to reach the next tier)

Stay 10 nights/year

Gold Elite

13 elite night credits (so you need to stay 37 more nights to reach the next tier)

Stay 25 nights/year

Platinum Elite

25 elite night credits (so you need to stay 50 more nights to reach the next tier)

Stay 50 nights/year

Titanium Elite

38 elite night credits (so you need to stay 62 more nights to reach the next tier)

Stay 75 nights/year

Ambassador Elite

50 elite night credits (so you need to stay 50 more nights to re-achieve Ambassador Status)

Stay 100 nights/year + $14,000 in qualifying spend in 2021 only (becomes $20,000 in 2022)

How long does Marriott elite status held in 2020 last?

Marriott extended the level of elite status that you held in 2019 all the way through Feb. 1, 2022.

The bottom line

You’ve got a lot of options for chasing or requalifying for hotel elite status in 2021 that could fuel your travel plans for multiple calendar years. If you’re planning travel in 2021, highly consider targeting your stays with whatever brand gives you the best chance of achieving elite status.


How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

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