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Should You Aim for Hotel Elite Status in 2020?

Jan. 7, 2020
Reward Optimization, Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
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Whether you already have elite status or hope to achieve it, this is a good time to evaluate your 2020 hotel elite status goals. Elite status benefits can be very useful for those who travel quite a bit. It can be a nice reward at the end of a travel-packed year as well as a huge money saver via perks like free breakfast, room upgrades and lounge access. If all of that sounds good to you, here’s what you should consider when deciding whether to aim for hotel elite status in 2020.

» Learn more: How to get top-tier elite status through credit card spending

Will you likely complete elite status requirements?

When deciding whether to aim for hotel elite status, the obvious first step is to review the elite status requirements of your chosen program. Even if you book all of your hotel stays with one program, it won’t matter if you’re not able to complete the elite status requirements. Next, you’ll want to assess whether you can realistically complete those requirements based on your 2020 travel plans.

Take a look at your 2020 travel list: Are you able to book most of your hotel stays with a single chain? If so, that’s a great start, and staying loyal to one chain might be worthwhile. If not, then can you reasonably adjust your bookings without incurring additional costs or compromising comfort?

If aiming for elite status doesn’t make sense under this criteria, then consider switching loyalty to Hotels.com instead. You’ll earn some useful perks as an elite member, plus a free night for every 10 paid nights.

Do you have a way to supplement elite night requirements (other than hotel stays)?

If you’re not able to complete elite status requirements through hotel stays alone, it might be worthwhile to pick up a hotel rewards credit card. These cards usually offer some level of elite status or elite night credits right out of the gate. A few of these cards even allow you to earn additional elite night credits or higher status through credit card spending alone.

For example, The World Of Hyatt Credit Card comes with automatic Discoverist status, plus five additional elite night credits. Cardholders can earn two additional qualifying nights for every $5,000 spent on the card. If you’re aiming for Hyatt elite status in 2020 and think you’ll be a few nights short, then consider applying for The World Of Hyatt Credit Card and planning out your spending in order to meet your status goals.

In some cases, earning elite status doesn’t require you to be loyal at all. For example, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express comes with top-tier Diamond status, in exchange for a $450 annual fee. Play your cards right and you could get your money’s worth after just one hotel stay. Terms apply.

» Learn more: World of Hyatt Card review: Lavish benefits, reasonable cost

Will you get value out of hotel elite benefits?

Hotel elite benefits like free breakfast and lounge access can save you a lot of money. It’s why some travel hackers go “mattress running” at the end of the year to ensure they don’t miss out on these perks.

When deciding whether to aim for hotel elite status in 2020, figure out whether earning status will save you money. A lot of people will say, “Oh yeah! Suite upgrades will make up for my investment.” Except that they may not. Think about the benefits you’re willing to pay for and then decide whether having elite status actually saves you money.

For example, if you’re in the habit of grabbing a bagel for breakfast in most cities you visit, then receiving a free buffet breakfast as a Hilton Diamond member may not be the money-saver you think it will.

Always compare the benefits you’re receiving to what you’re actually willing to pay for them. If you’re not regularly splurging on suite upgrades, then receiving them as an elite perk might not be as tangibly valuable as you imagine.

On the other hand, if you’re frequently traveling with a family and find it useful to have snacks and drinks around all the time, then the lounge access perk afforded to Hilton Diamond members could actually save you quite a bit of cash and hassle.

As a personal example, a few years ago I had to spend about $550 on a status challenge to earn top-tier Hyatt elite status. With that status, I ended up booking a three-week family vacation to Asia where I easily got 5x the return on my investment. I was able to book the cheapest room rates possible and still receive free breakfast for all five of us. The club lounges in Asia are basically full-blown restaurants, so we saved quite a bit of money by eating there a couple of times. In our case, that $550 was money well spent to secure hotel elite status ahead of our stay.

Will it cost you extra to stay loyal to one chain?

While hotel elite status can be incredibly valuable, earning it may hurt your bottom line. If you book hotels that are more expensive just to complete status requirements with a particular chain, then aiming for status may not be worth it.

As with all the considerations above, it’s important to weigh the cost of earning elite status against the gains.

All information about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express 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 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Best hotel credit cards
Why you should consider switching loyalty to Hotels.com
Your guide to earning bonus points with hotel promotions

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