Which hotels count award stays toward elite status?

Feb 1, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Hotel elite status comes with many perks, ranging from upgrades to bonus points to free breakfast. These perks can make a massive difference, with high-tier elites getting significantly more perks than nonelites in most programs.

Earning elite status with many programs is relatively straightforward: Stay a minimum number of nights to hit each elite tier. Granted, some programs also have a dollar amount tied to their top-tier levels and some programs offer other pathways to elite status.

But, if you’re hoping to qualify for elite status based on nights stayed, you may wonder whether award nights count. While flights purchased with miles rarely count toward elite status, most major hotel programs do count award nights toward elite status. Here’s what you need to know about each hotel loyalty program’s policy.

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Choice Privileges

The Ridgeline Hotel-Estes Park, Ascend Hotel Collection
The Ridgeline Hotel-Estes Park, Ascend Hotel Collection. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Choice Privileges offers four status tiers. You’ll become a base member just by signing up for the program. Then, there are three elevated elite status tiers: Gold, Platinum and Diamond. Choice Privileges’ elite status is earned based on the number of point-eligible or reward nights stayed per calendar year. That includes your award nights (which can start as low as 6,000 points per night).

Hilton Honors

Hilton offers four tiers within its Hilton Honors loyalty program: Member, Silver, Gold and Diamond.

You earn elite status with Hilton based on stays, nights or hitting a set amount of base points in a calendar year. For instance, you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status after 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points accrued in a typical year. And according to Hilton’s terms and conditions, reward stays count toward earning elite status:

The number of Reward Stays and the number of nights during a Reward Stay will count toward the number of stays and/or nights required for Elite tier qualification.

Finally, remember that Hilton has reduced the status requirements for 2022.

Zemi Beach House Hilton LXR
Hilton’s Zemi Beach House. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

As Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, pricing is dynamic, and rates vary. Take the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, for instance. The cheapest room, a king garden villa, will set you back 90,000 Hilton points a night. But the priciest room? A two-bedroom estate that’ll cost you more than 600,000 points per night, with the exact award price depending on the time of year.

IHG Rewards

IHG Rewards also counts award stays toward elite status, according to its terms and conditions:

IHG Rewards Club Reward Nights consumed by Members will be counted as Qualifying Nights toward Elite membership qualifications.

IHG offers four membership levels within its IHG Rewards Club loyalty program and announced earlier this year that it would extend all elite levels through February 2023.

IHG’s InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
IHG’s InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Most of IHG’s properties have moved to dynamic pricing. That means the number of points required to book a reward night at a particular property can vary from night to night and may change at any point. If you use award stays, you might want to focus on IHG’s lower-tier hotels, like Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, where award nights can start as low as 5,000 points per night.

There is one IHG Rewards credit cards for UK residents and it comes with elite status. You can receive Rewards Club Gold status just for having the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card.

Marriott Bonvoy

You can earn the lowest-level Marriott Bonvoy elite status after staying just 10 nights in a year. And if you’re a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist, you’re in luck. According to Marriott’s terms and conditions, award stays count toward earning elite status.

Free Night Award stay(s) and night(s) will count toward earning Elite membership status. Free Night Awards are combinable and may be added to existing paid or Free Night Award stays.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott New York Manhattan/Central Park
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott New York Manhattan/Central Park. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Booking an award stay could be an easy way to get to the next tier. For instance, let’s say you were a Marriott Platinum Elite with 74 nights credited to your account. You’d be close to hitting Titanium Elite, which requires 75 nights. You could then book a Category 1 hotel for as low as 5,000 Bonvoy points a night for off-peak dates (or 4,000 points using PointsSavers). What these hotels might cost after 2023 (when Marriott completely removes its award chart) is still to be seen, though.

Of course, another easy way to earn status is through the Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Radisson Rewards

Points + Cash and award nights count toward Radisson Rewards’ elite status. And Radisson prices some award nights relatively inexpensively: Standard Category 1 hotels start at 15,000 points a night and Points + Cash awards start at just 5,000 points. Radisson might be the best program to use if you want to spend award nights to reach elite status.

Radisson Blu Anaheim room
Radisson Blu Anaheim. (Photo by Ariana Arghandewal/The Points Guy)

Related: How to earn double Radisson Rewards points on your next stay

World of Hyatt

Hyatt’s terms and conditions state:

A Tier-Qualifying Night is any night when the member stays at a Hyatt hotel or resort or an M life Rewards destination, pays an Eligible Rate or redeems a free night award, and associates his or her World of Hyatt membership number with the reservation.

I’ve primarily earned my World of Hyatt elite status through award stays, not cash bookings. Just before the pandemic, I hit Explorist status after completing a three-night award stay at the Hyatt Regency Mexico City. I’ve been able to earn so many points through a combination of credit card sign-up bonuses (more on that below) and Hyatt’s frequent promotions like Bonus Journeys.

Hyatt room
(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

If you’re redeeming award nights in pursuit of elite status, you’ll have much better luck with World of Hyatt than some other programs. After all, Hyatt has moved to peak and off-peak pricing for new award stays booked for travel from March 1, 2022, onward, and Category 1 properties will require as few as 3,500 points on off-peak nights.

Related: 5 easy ways to maximize Hyatt award redemptions

Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham Rewards has four status tiers that offer varying benefits: Blue, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. You’ll earn status after completing qualifying nights at Wyndham properties.

Wyndham refers to award nights as Go Free awards, which count toward Wyndham Rewards’ elite status. According to Wyndham, “Go Free award nights qualify as Qualifying Nights for the purpose of obtaining a Member Level but do not earn Wyndham Rewards points or Travel Partner Currency.”

Wyndham has three award night costs for Go Free awards: 7,500, 15,000 and 30,000 points. Luckily, Wyndham has many hotels under its umbrella on the low-end redemption side that cost just 7,500 points a night.

Wyndham sign on a hotel in Cologne Germany
(Photo by Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock.com)

Related: The 10 best Wyndham properties to book with points

Bottom line

If you’re redeeming points for award nights, you’ll earn nights toward elite status with all of the programs discussed above. Additionally, you’ll earn elite night credits on some hotel credit cards, like the Marriott Bonvoy Amex, just for having the card open. Some hotel credit cards will even give you elite status just for having the card in your wallet. If you redeem points often for hotel stays (and we hope you do), it’s a reasonably simple way to earn credit toward your preferred hotel’s elite status.

Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.

Featured photo of Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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