Which Hotel Elite Status Should You Pursue in 2021?

We've rounded up the modified policies for earning elite status this year to help you decide.

Ramsey QubeinFeb 8, 2021
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If you’re an elite member of a hotel loyalty program — or if you’d like to be — the recent slowdown in travel has a silver lining. Loyalty programs are offering ways to help travelers make up for lost time by offering elite status extensions, eased points expiration dates and lower qualification thresholds.

That means it’s a good time to take stock of your current elite status and your options for keeping it, as well as take a peek at what competing programs are offering.

To help you decide which hotel elite status to pursue (or maintain) in 2021 and enjoy all through 2022, here is a closer look at what some major programs are offering.

Accor Live Limitless (ALL)

If you already have elite status

ALL members who already have status will enjoy an extension of the same (or any higher earned from last year) status through Dec. 31, 2021. Also, Silver tier and higher members without recent activity will have their points validity extended through April 30, 2021. If you’ve stayed with Accor in 2020, don’t abandon the brand in 2021, since status points and nights earned during the second half of 2020 are included toward elite qualification for the new year. That’s a head start on elite status.

Platinum and Diamond members are getting an extension on any unused suite upgrade awards through the end of 2021, so it could pay off to remain loyal in the new year if these upgrades are in your account.

If you hope to earn status

If you’re starting from scratch without any previous stays, there are no shortcuts to status. Also, Accor has yet to roll out its co-branded credit card, which means the only way to qualify for status right now is through hotel stays.

Why choose Accor Live Limitless?

Fairmont, Sofitel, Banyan Tree and MGallery are just some of the brands that participate in Accor Live Limitless, with lots of great hotels in Europe, Africa, Asia and other international vacation destinations. Budget-conscious ALL members find value at brands like hotelF1, while luxury-seekers earn ALL rewards at world-famous Raffles resorts. ALL loyalists who travel mostly in the USA don’t have as many hotels to choose from.

Unlike hotel loyalty programs where you redeem points for a free night based on a redemption chart, ALL points are redeemed for a cash discount off the paid rate. That means you don’t have to search for award availability. If rooms are available for cash, it means rooms are available where you can use your points.

The bottom line: ALL makes sense if you’re looking to travel internationally, but not so much for the U.S. road tripper.

Best Western Rewards

If you already have elite status

If you’re already an elite in Best Western Rewards, you’re good for another year because Best Western has extended status through Jan. 31, 2022.

If you hope to earn status

Do you currently have status in another hotel loyalty program? Best Western is very generous with status matches. Simply complete this online form proving you have elite status with another hotel brand, and Best Western Rewards will give you equivalent status.

Why choose Best Western Rewards?

Best Western is a great program for road trips across the U.S., with lots of convenient, affordable hotels in its Best Western, SureStay and other value brands. You’ll find participating hotels in over 100 countries and territories worldwide. You can earn Best Western Rewards points through hotel stays or by using a Best Western co-branded credit card.

The bottom line: If you like to save money on hotel stays, Best Western Rewards offers great value. The ability for a fast status match sweetens the pot.

Choice Privileges

If you already have elite status

If you have Diamond status in the Choice Privileges program, you’re in luck: Your status has been extended through the end of 2021. Gold and Platinum members received a status bump to a higher tier in 2020 and can keep that higher status for 2021 if they stayed at least five nights in 2020. If not, they revert back to their original status, which they can keep through 2021.

If you hope to earn status

Choice Privileges will match your status in another program to the equivalent tier. You can rocket to top Diamond status if you have elite status with another hotel brand and stay once at any Cambria hotel. That’s a pretty good deal.

The program has lowered elite-tier thresholds for 2022 status qualification. This means you can score status more quickly in the coming year. Members can earn Gold status by staying seven qualifying nights instead of 10, Platinum status with 15 nights instead of 20 and Diamond status with 25 nights instead of 40.

Why choose Choice Privileges?

With hotels that appeal to both business and value-focused leisure travelers (including road trippers), Choice Privileges brands give you plenty of options, including upscale stays at Ascend Hotel Collection and Cambria Hotels. Its co-branded credit card makes it easy to rack up points through everyday spending for your next travel redemption.

If you like to devote a bigger portion of your travel budget to meals and activities rather than expensive hotel stays, Choice Privileges’ more affordable brands will easily fit into your plans. But you can make that occasional splurge thanks to redemption partnerships with Preferred Hotels & Resorts and the all-inclusive AMResorts collection.

The bottom line: Choice elite status is worth having, with perks like bonus points on paid stays and early check-in and late checkout. But the benefits for Choice elite members are not as advantageous as you’ll get with other programs — no club lounge or free breakfast benefits, for example.

Hilton Honors

If you already have elite status

Hilton has extended existing elite status through March 31, 2022, giving you more time to enjoy it. You can also share elite status with a friend or loved one faster than usual. For a limited time, qualifying Diamond members (those who earned enough qualifying nights in 2020) can give Gold status to a friend (lifetime Diamond members can give Diamond status).

That’s in addition to the lowered qualifications for gifting status next year. Diamond members who stay at least 30 nights (normally 60 nights) in 2021 can give Gold status to someone. If you stay 60 nights (normally 100 nights) in 2021, you can give Diamond status.

If you hope to earn status

Hilton has lowered the thresholds to attain status in 2021, reducing the nights, stays or base point requirements by half. It has also lowered the requirements for “milestone bonuses” that offer extra points for staying a certain number of nights. This makes it easier for both new members to attain status and for existing members to retain status for the coming year. Nights earned in 2020 will rollover to 2021 to count toward status, too.

Why choose Hilton Honors?

Hilton properties are found all over the world and at every price point, from affordable Hampton Inns to luxury Waldorf and Conrad resorts. It’s easy to earn Hilton Honors points through co-branded credit card spending, too. But because Hilton Honors doesn't have award charts, you can’t know how many points you need for a stay without searching for reservations for your dates.

Hilton Honors credit cardholders get extra perks and a fast track to elite status. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with instant Diamond status, the top tier in Hilton Honors. Free weekend night certificates earned in 2021 with Hilton’s co-branded credit cards can be used through the end of 2022 on any night of the week. Plus, points earned from co-branded credit cards in 2021 will count toward base points, making it easier to get to elite status even without frequent travel. Terms apply.

The bottom line: Instant Diamond status through the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the perfect perk for the traveler who wants instant top-tier recognition at a global portfolio of hotels and resorts. Terms apply.

IHG Rewards Club

If you already have elite status

IHG has extended status through January 2022, which means you have more time to take advantage of your benefits.

If you hope to earn status

IHG offers brands for every budget, making it easy to earn points toward status. If it’s instant Platinum Elite status you’re after, sign up for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Why choose IHG Rewards Club?

IHG Rewards Club has a solid array of familiar brands like Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and InterContinental, so there are lots of places where you can enjoy your elite status while earning or redeeming points. You can also earn points on everyday spending through a co-branded credit card like the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which provides bonus points on spending (25x points per dollar at IHG properties and 2x at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants), a fourth-night-free benefit when redeeming points and a free redemption night on your card’s anniversary date.

Another positive for IHG Rewards Club members is that unused 2019 anniversary night certificates from co-branded credit cards (that would've expired in 2020) have been extended through Aug. 31, 2021. Also, any 2020 certificates that are set to expire in 2021 now have an extra 18 months from the date of issue to use them.

The bottom line: IHG Rewards Club’s elite status is not as rewarding as other loyalty programs, but there is still value to be had. If it’s bonus points you’re after, IHG Rewards Club excels. But don’t expect room upgrades and free breakfast as part of your top-tier elite status.

Marriott Bonvoy

If you already have elite status

Your existing status is good until Feb. 1, 2022. What's more, suite night awards with expiration dates of Dec. 31, 2020, are being extended for another year to give members more time to use them.

If you hope to earn status

Marriott has an enormous portfolio of brands where you can earn points toward status. But you can also take a shortcut to status by carrying a Bonvoy credit card. You can get Silver Elite status just by carrying the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, while the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card gets you Platinum Elite status.

Why choose Marriott Bonvoy?

With so many brands and properties around the world, this program covers an incredible variety of hotels and destinations. Holding elite status with Marriott Bonvoy can unlock a lot of benefits including potential suite upgrades, lounge access and welcome gifts.

The bottom line: The size of the Marriott Bonvoy program alone means there are many places to earn and redeem points while enjoying the perks of elite status. Marriott Bonvoy also maintains an award chart, offering transparency on the cost of redemptions.

World of Hyatt

If you already have elite status

World of Hyatt has extended your existing status through February 2022. Also, any unused free night, suite upgrade or club lounge access awards with expiration dates between March 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021, are being extended until Dec. 31, 2021. Unused free night awards earned in 2020 with 2021 expiration dates are getting a similar extension.

If you hope to earn status

World of Hyatt is making it easier to earn or maintain status in 2021. The base point and tier-qualifying night requirements are cut in half, which means it only takes five tier-qualifying nights or 12,500 base points to achieve Discoverist status. For Explorist, it takes 15 nights or 25,000 base points, and for top-tier Globalist status, it takes 30 nights or 50,000 base points.

Why choose World of Hyatt?

Though it doesn’t have as many properties as huge programs like Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt is very rewarding in its elite status perks, especially for Globalist members. This tier offers little extras like the Guest of Honor benefit, where you can share status with someone for a stay. They also offer an award chart for points collectors, which is useful for mapping out your points redemptions.

The range of brands in the Hyatt portfolio has something for every traveler. There are extended stay options like Hyatt House, business traveler-friendly options like Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place, all-inclusive vacation brands like Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara, and luxury brands like Park Hyatt and Andaz. You can also earn and redeem World of Hyatt points with Small Luxury Hotels of the World if you prefer smaller boutique properties, or on Lindblad Expeditions, if you’re an adventure cruiser.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card can help you earn points through everyday spending and comes with instant Discoverist status. Qualifying cardmembers get a free award night each year plus five elite qualifying nights that get you closer to achieving elite status. You can also earn two additional qualifying nights for spending $5,000 within a calendar year.

The bottom line: Elite status in the World of Hyatt program works well for travelers who like Hyatt’s brands and won’t mind having a relatively smaller pool of properties to choose from. Little perks like the Guest of Honor benefit can make elite status in the Hyatt program more beneficial.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.


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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