In a calendar year I don’t spend enough nights in a hotel room to earn elite status with any particular company. However, there are a couple of easy ways to earn status with hotel chains, such as Hilton, SPG or Marriott, without actually ever staying the night! The reason I like to have a status is so that when I do stay the night, I can hopefully get a free upgrade.

Hilton Oahu Village Waikiki

Carrying a Hilton co-branded credit card can give you Gold elite status. The next time you stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Oahu, you could score a free room upgrade!


You can apply for either the Citi Hilton Reserve or the Amex Hilton Surpass card and receive complimentary Gold status as long as you have the card. If you’re not sure which card to choose, read my comparison here. I actually carry both cards now, but the Amex card gives you more points.

With Hilton Gold status you’ll receive:

  • 25% bonus on all base points you earn.
  • Every 5th night is free on standard rooms.
  • Free wifi and breakfast.
  • Free room upgrades (when available).
  • +More


SPG hotels are not as widespread as Hilton hotels, but I do still have Gold status with them through my American Express Platinum charge card. The annual fee on this bad boy is $450 a year. I would not recommend applying for this card just to receive SPG Gold status. It does have some great benefits like lounge access and $200 airline credit per year, so you may want to take a look at the Platinum card if these benefits sound interesting to you. An easier way to get Gold status with SPG is to carry The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card by American Express. The annual fee is only $65, but there is one catch. A minimum of $30,000 has to be spent on the card per year in order to qualify for Gold status. You’ll have to look at the pros and cons of collecting points through the SPG card, but I know this is a very popular card among my fellow bloggers because you can transfer your points to participating airlines at a 1:1 ratio.

Here are the terms and conditions direct from Amex’s website:

SPG – 30K Gold Status
If during any calendar year, Eligible Purchases on your Card account are $30,000 or more, you (the Basic Card Member) will be enrolled for at least twelve months in the Gold Preferred level of the Starwood Preferred Guest® loyalty program (unless you are already enrolled in an equivalent or higher level). Starwood associates excluded. Please allow 12-16 weeks after your Eligible Purchases equal or exceed such amount for the applicable year for enrollment to become effective. Eligible Purchases means purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply.

With SPG Gold status you’ll receive:

  • 50% bonus on all base points you earn.
  • 4 pm late checkout.
  • Free room upgrade (when available).
  • Special elite customer service phone number.
  • +More


When I decided to get my first hotel credit card, I had originally planned to get the Marriott Rewards Premier card by Chase over Hilton. I then realized how much I would have to charge to the card in order to qualify for Gold elite status with Marriott. $105,000! Just by carrying the card you get Silver elite status, but I’d rather have Gold.

Here’s how Marriott’s elite status breaks down:

  • By applying for the Marriott Chase card, you receive 15 elite credits every year you renew. Per Marriott’s terms and conditions, you need 10 – 49 nights to obtain Silver status. Gold status requires 50 – 74 nights. Platinum is 75 or more nights.
  • Since you receive 15 elite credits annually, this means you would need 35 additional elite credits to bump you up to 50 nights to earn Gold status. Per Marriott’s website, you earn 1 elite credit for every $3,000 spent on the card. Take $3,000 x 35 = $105,000! No thank you! I like Marriott hotels, but not that much. Hilton got my loyalty because of this factor.

With Marriott Gold status you’ll receive:

  • 25% bonus on all  base points you earn.
  • Free room upgrade (when available).
  • Elite reservation phone number.
  • Free breakfast.
  • +More

You’ll have to decide which hotel chain is best for your needs. Since I travel within the U.S. and internationally, I decided to go with Hilton over SPG since they have a bigger footprint globally. If you don’t care about elite status, then it may not even benefit you to have a co-branded hotel credit card. Let me know what you think in the comments below!