How to Earn Hotel Elite Status for Life

Sep 28, 2017

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There’s no sweeter feeling than checking in to your hotel after a long flight and having the receptionist recognize your elite status, thank you for your loyalty and offer you an upgrade to a suite with a view. But if you don’t meet the strict requalification thresholds for hotel status each year, you’ll lose it as fast as you got it!

However, there is a way to earn hotel elite status for life, and unlike lifetime airline status, it doesn’t require traveling a million miles. The major hotel chains — Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood — all offer their own lifetime status programs to reward customers who are loyal for more than just a year at a time.

Hyatt Lifetime Status

This past March, Hyatt launched its rebranded “World of Hyatt” loyalty program. While the changes make it harder to qualify for top-tier Globalist status on a yearly basis, Hyatt’s lifetime status is the simplest and most straightforward of them all. Globalist is the only level you can earn, and there’s only one requirement:

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Earn a million points over the course of the program, and you’ll enjoy top-tier Globalist status for life. No lifetime nights or years with elite status to keep track of; just one metric and one tier it can unlock. Globalists earn some pretty nice benefits, including a 30% points bonus, suite upgrades and Club access and/or free breakfast. Points earned from the Hyatt Credit Card don’t count toward lifetime status.

park hyatt maldives
Free breakfast is especially useful when there aren’t any other options to choose from on your island paradise. Pictured: Park Hyatt Maldives.

Hilton Lifetime Status

Like World of Hyatt, the Hilton Honors program only offers the ability to earn its top-tier Diamond status for life. Unfortunately, the threshold for doing so is much steeper. Lifetime Diamond requires a total of 10 years of Diamond status (non-consecutive) and:

  • 1,000 lifetime nights (including both paid and award stays)

or

  • 2 million lifetime points

If you manage to meet those requirements, you’ll get a lifetime of suite upgrades, 50% points bonuses, Diamond welcome amenities and other cool perks like a fifth night free on award bookings. Only base points are eligible toward lifetime status so you can’t qualify through co-branded credit card spending, though if you have the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express and spend $40,000 a year on it, you’ll automatically get Hilton Diamond status, and only need 9 more years of Diamond to earn lifetime status.

Marriott Lifetime Status

After the Marriott-Starwood merger is complete and the two chains are fully integrated, Marriott will be the largest hotel company with over 1 million rooms worldwide. That means more options for earning and redeeming points, and more properties where elites can enjoy their benefits. Marriott Rewards members earn status after reaching the following thresholds:

  • Lifetime Silver Elite: 250 nights and 1.2 million points
  • Lifetime Gold Elite: 500 nights and 1.6 million points
  • Lifetime Platinum Elite: 750 nights and 2 million points

While a million of anything sounds like a lot, you don’t need all these points in your account to earn lifetime status; you just need to have earned that many over the course of your membership in the program. Points from hotel stays, credit card spending and transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards count toward the total, but unfortunately transfers from SPG don’t.

Silver elites can look forward to a lifetime of 20% bonus points on all Marriott and Ritz-Carlton stays, while Gold and Platinum members earn 25% and 50% bonuses, respectively. Gold and Platinum elites also are eligible for space available upgrades (including suites!), and thanks to the RewardsPlus program Platinum elites get complimentary United Premier Silver status, which TPG values at $920.

Thankfully, award nights also count toward lifetime status. While transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott usually represents a poor value, transferring enough for a seven-night Hotel+ Air Package would earn you a nice chunk of lifetime points and lifetime nights all in one go.

If you want some extra help, considering the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card from Chase. Each is offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, as well as 15 elite night credits every year, both of which count toward your lifetime status.

SPG Lifetime Status

From the day Marriott announced its takeover of SPG, the brand’s taken steps to unify the programs, offering instant point transfers and status matches. While we don’t have an exact date on when the single combined loyalty program will be announced, it’s pretty clear that the SPG program has an expiration date. If you’re close to meeting the requirements for SPG lifetime status (i.e., within the next year) it might be worth pursuing, but if you’re just getting started, you’ll have better luck long-term focusing on Marriott. Instead of counting total points, SPG members can lock in their status with a combination of lifetime nights and number of years with elite status:

  • Lifetime SPG Gold: 250 nights and 5 years of elite status
  • Lifetime SPG Platinum: 500 nights and 10 years of Platinum status

SPG Gold members get room upgrades at check-in (excluding suites) and a 50% points bonus, while Platinum members get the same points bonus plus suite upgrades, depending on availability.

Since SPG counts lifetime years instead of points, unless you’re 1-2 years away from earning lifetime status you probably won’t get there before the program disappears. Note that while the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express each offer 5 night credits annually to cardholders these credits don’t count toward the requirements for lifetime status.

Bottom Line

While the requirements vary by brand, lifetime status isn’t easy to achieve with any program. And it isn’t supposed to be; the goal is to reward customers who’ve been loyal to a brand for years or even decades, but there are things you can do to chip away. This obviously isn’t for everyone, as it requires a long-term commitment, but it sure would be nice to never worry about chasing status again.

Are you working toward lifetime hotel elite status?

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