The Best Hotel Elite Status for 2024

We analyzed the value of elite status perks to find out which hotel offers the best value for its elite members.
Sam Kemmis
By Sam Kemmis 
Updated
Edited by Meghan Coyle
The Best Hotel Elite Status Programs

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Hotel elite status can be confusing. Some hotel programs offer lavish perks like free breakfast and suite upgrades on their VIPs. Other programs hand elites a bottle of water at check-in and call it a day. And, unlike airline status, some hotel elite status can be earned simply by holding a co-branded credit card.

To make sense of this confusion and offer insight into which hotel elite status is worth attaining and which is best avoided, we performed an ultra-nerdy analysis of the pros and cons of seven hotel brand loyalty programs.

Factors we considered

We focused on those perks of hotel elite status that offer tangible value, such as bonus points and free food, and ignored softer benefits like priority check-in.

We made many assumptions when compiling these rankings. See the full methodology below for a breakdown. Some assumptions, like the value of suite upgrades or lounge visits, significantly impacted these rankings. We tried to remain objective, but our results do reward programs that offer these bigger perks.

Importantly, we assumed that the number of nights stayed in a given year equals the minimum nights needed to earn each status tier. Status earned through credit cards will only be worth the same amount if you stay the same number of nights as someone who earns it normally. That is, perks are more valuable the more they’re used, and vice versa.

We rated hotel elite programs by comparing their “elite earning rate,” which represents the expected value one can expect to receive as a percentage of the cost of earning a given elite status. If you get $100 in value from Nerdy Hotels Gold Status, and it costs $1,000 to earn, it would offer a 10% elite earning rate. The higher the elite earning rate, the better.

Best overall hotel elite status program

Winner: Hyatt

For the fourth year in a row, World of Hyatt’s elite status program takes the top spot because of its consistently high-value perks across its elite tiers. The top two programs — Hyatt and Hilton — offer similarly valuable programs, with Hyatt taking the edge thanks to considerably better value for its high-end Globalist tier.

The next tranche of Choice, Marriott and IHG are also effectively tied at roughly half the value-to-cost ratios of the top three programs, while Best Western and Wyndham fall to the rear.

To determine the overall winner, we averaged the elite earning rates of each program’s entry-level, mid-level, and high-level status tiers. This gives a good snapshot of the cost-to-benefit ratio of these programs, but it does not mean that the winner, Hyatt, is the right choice for everyone.

Best entry-level status

Winner: Choice Gold

This category comes with a big caveat: None of these low-status tiers offer much value, period. Choice Hotels’ Gold elite status appears head and shoulders over the competition with a 3.4% earning rate, but keep in mind that the winner of the lowest tier among airline elite status offers a much higher earning rate. We calculate Choice Gold’s raw value at a mere $50 — hardly worth getting out of bed for.

The most striking aspect of these entry-level hotel elite status tiers is how consistently underwhelming they are. Most offer a 10% earning bonus on reward points and hand-wavy benefits like priority check-in lines. In general, it’s safe to largely ignore all hotel programs’ entry-level benefits.

Best mid-level status

Winner: Hilton Gold

Hilton takes the top spot in this category, thanks to a generous 80% point bonus and free breakfast offering. The fact that this tier is available to Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card holders makes it especially attractive. Though again, the benefits of any card-earned status are only proportional to the amount you stay at Hilton properties. If you have status but never use it, then there is no value.

Hyatt Explorist status ranks closely behind with a 14% earning rate, followed at some distance by the other mid-tier offerings.

Best high-level status

Winner: Hyatt Globalist

The earning rates jump considerably at this upper echelon, with Hyatt Globalist beating out Hilton Diamond and Marriott Platinum.

The top three programs offer suite upgrades, lounge access and free breakfast at this level, dramatically increasing the benefit-per-dollar-spent value over lower tiers. Marriott only offers a 50% bonus on points for Platinum elites, and we estimate that this tier is slightly cheaper to earn than Hilton or Hyatt’s offerings.

Hyatt’s “milestone rewards,” which offer perks on top of the usual elite status benefits, made the difference here. We estimate that a Globalist member who makes the most of it will earn 60% of their spending back in the form of rewards and perks.

Best ultra-level status

Winner: Marriott Titanium

Only Best Western, IHG and Marriott offer more than three status tiers. IHG introduced its ultra-high Diamond level last year, finally giving Marriott some competition at this level. Yet Bonvoy’s Titanium elite status still beats it, with an impressive 49% earning rate. 

Value of each elite tier

Our “elite earning rate” allows comparison between different programs, as it reveals the value you can expect to earn from each tier based on the cost it takes to reach that tier. But if you’re considering earning status from a credit card, or are otherwise interested in the raw values of each tier, here they are, broken out by program:

Best Western

Gold

Platinum

Diamond

Diamond Select

$7.

$16.

$63.

$175.

Hilton

Silver

Gold

Diamond

$20.

$904.

$4,168.

Hyatt

Discoverist

Explorist

Globalist

$22.

$627.

$5,296.

IHG

Silver

Gold

Platinum

Diamond

$16.

$173.

$1,765.

$3,959.

Marriott

Silver

Gold

Platinum

Titanium

Ambassador

$12.

$136.

$3,350.

$5,315.

$7,317.

Choice

Gold

Platinum

Diamond

$50.

$153.

$2,239.

Wyndham

Gold

Platinum

Diamond

$5.

$24.

$844.

Methodology

To determine the value of each elite status tier, we identified six perks that carry clear value:

  • Welcome amenity (such as bottled water).

  • Bonus rewards points.

  • Suite upgrades.

  • Fee waivers (such as Hyatt’s resort fee waivers for Globalists).

  • Lounge access.

  • Free breakfast.

To determine the cost of earning each tier, we calculated the lowest estimated spend based on the earning criteria. That is, if a given elite status tier required 10,000 points or 100 nights, we used the lowest estimated value, per the assumptions below.

To determine the elite earning rate, we simply divided the total benefits for each tier by the cost of earning that tier.

Assumptions

For the value of suite upgrades, lounge access and free breakfast, we canvassed estimates from our in-house travel experts, and averaged the results. The point valuations and average nightly rate were drawn from data collected from our valuations analysis.

  • Reward points: We used our current hotel point valuations as of September 2021.

  • Suite upgrades: $58 per night per upgrade, occurring at 50% of nights stayed.

  • Lounge access: $28 per stay.

  • Free breakfast: $15 per night.

  • Average nightly rate: $146.

Best hotel status, recapped

When it’s all said and done, don’t spend too much time chasing entry-level status at any hotel chain. If you’re a semi-serious traveler with your eyes on mid-level status, you’ll get the most back out of Hilton and Hyatt. And if you want top-tier status, you’ll be in good hands as a Hyatt Globalist — but don’t overlook Marriott’s ulta-premium Titanium and Ambassador 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 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.