Hotel Elite Status Match and Challenge Plans for 2019
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card
Hotel elite status carries guaranteed benefits that can make every stay more comfortable, more rewarding and more affordable. Hopefully you already have a plan in place regarding elite status qualification (or requalification) for your favorite hotel chain(s). If not, it’s time to consider a status match or challenge. In 2019, we’ve covered the various programs currently offered by the major US airlines along these lines, so today let’s shift our attention to hotel programs to see if one of them makes sense for you.
Before getting into the specifics, though, a few quick disclaimers. First, be forewarned that hotels may try to verify that your request is legitimate (one TPG reader discovered this in 2016 when status matching to Alaska). Status that’s been granted or obtained through hotel credit cards rather than earned may not be enough. This also impacts any fraudulent requests. You may think that Photoshop and the resulting fake credentials will be enough to fool a new hotel program into thinking that you actually hold status. Not only is this dishonest; it’s also unlikely to work.
Second, be sure you understand the full terms of the requirements of the match or challenge. With some programs, you don’t even need to currently have status with another hotel chain, while others require proof. Some programs will give you temporary status as you work toward qualifying for more permanent status. Even the most legitimate requests for status can be waylaid by misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the rules.
In addition, take your time to consider the options and the timing before jumping in. Just about all programs impose a restriction on how frequently you can utilize a match or challenge. For some, it’s every five years, while others only allow it once per lifetime of the account. The timing is critical as well. You may be able to extend your status even longer by requesting it or completing it at the right time. You also, of course, want to make sure to put in the request before your current status expires.
Finally, remember that there are many ways to earn status without actually staying in hotels or going through a status match or challenge. A large number of these methods involve hotel credit cards. For each of the chains below, in addition to highlighting the current programs in place to match your status from a competitor, I’ll also list any available credit cards that include automatic status or shortcuts to elite status.
Now that all of that is out of the way, where do the major hotel programs currently stand on status matches or challenges? Unfortunately, only a few make this information publicly available, and many will grant a match or challenge on a case-by-case basis. A great site with user-submitted data is StatusMatcher.com, which will give you an idea of your options. You can also always check a specific hotel chain’s forum on FlyerTalk.
Here’s a rundown of what you’ll currently find (remembering that there are always exceptions):
Best Western Rewards
The chain with properties located worldwide can actually come in handy when heading off the well-beaten path. The chain has a rather well known ‘Status Match No Catch’ program where you fill out a single form with your information and competitor elite level (note that not even a screenshot seems to be required), and Best Western will match you to a requisite status without hesitation.
Of course, the program doesn’t have a plethora of high-end properties for award purposes, but if you’re thinking about a trip to smaller cities (like, say, Colmar, France), Best Western elite status could come in handy.
In June 2018, Hilton extended its status match/challenge program through March 2019, allowing elite members from other programs to potentially snag Hilton elite status through March 2020. To utilize the challenge, visit this link to enter your account details. You must provide both proof of your current status and proof of at least one stay with that chain during the past 12 months. Based on recent reports, it appears that most top-tier statuses (and even some mid-tier ones) will match to Hilton Diamond, including:
- Marriott Platinum
- IHG Platinum/Spire Elite
- Hyatt Explorist
- GHA Black
- Best Western Diamond
- Accor Gold
Your status will be upgraded to either Gold or Diamond for 90 days based on your competing hotel status. In order to extend the temporary status until March 2020, you have 90 days to complete either four stays to maintain Gold or eight stays to maintain Diamond. If matched to Gold, you cannot move up to Diamond even if you complete 8 stays.
I’ve previously participated in Hilton status matches and was still approved for this latest challenge request. That’s not guaranteed you will also be given another match, but there’s no harm in contacting Hilton Honors to see if it will extend this new offer to you.
Instead of a status match/challenge, you could always look to open a credit card. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (winner of the TPG Award for best hotel card and best new/refreshed card) provides automatic, top-tier Diamond status, while holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card will enjoy automatic Gold status in the program.
IHG Rewards Club
There is no publicly available match or challenge for the IHG family of properties. The chain has held its top-tier Spire Elite status fairly tight since its inception. You can buy Intercontinental Ambassador status for $200 and the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card includes automatic Platinum elite status.
Marriott and Starwood are under one roof in the new Marriott Rewards program (perhaps called ‘Bonvoy’ shortly), and a phone agent told me the new status challenge program for 2019 launched on January 4. To initiate, simply call Marriott Rewards customer service at 801-468-4000 and select whether you’d like to challenge for Gold or Platinum (which must be done at the time of registration). You then have 90 days to complete:
- 8 nights for Gold
- 16 nights for Platinum
There is no cost to undertake the challenge, and you will not receive status until your challenge is complete. Only paid nights count, and you do not require any competing status to qualify to undertake the challenge. The agent could not tell me if I’d previously done a challenge, nor could she tell me whether or not I’d be eligible for this new version. I am still Platinum from last year but did not re-qualify for 2019 status, and she offered to enroll me in the Platinum challenge. My guess is with the merger madness, you’d probably be able to register. Just make sure you ask for some kind of documentation confirming your enrollment.
Like some of the programs above, Marriott also allows you to earn status via credit cards, including automatic Gold status on the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card and automatic Silver status on the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card; both of these cards also award 15 elite-qualifying nights to cardholders each year, though each member can only get a maximum of 15 nights from cobranded cards, even if you have more than one.
The Radisson Rewards program allows current elite members from other programs to request a status match by emailing their current credentials to email@example.com. Unfortunately, the program’s top tier (Platinum) isn’t applicable and must be earned the hard way. Even if you hold top-tier status with another chain, the best you can hope for is Radisson Rewards Gold. Generally speaking, top-tier elites will be matched to Gold, while middle-tier elites will be matched to Silver. However, this isn’t always the case.
Recent reports on status matcher indicate even airline status can be sent in and matched. Radisson Rewards will only match your status once per lifetime of the account, and reports indicate that this rule is enforced.
The rewards program of Caesar’s properties in Vegas and elsewhere has announced beginning February 1, 2019 you’ll be able to go in-person to a Total Rewards desk and match a competitor’s status to Diamond tier. Depending on which Total Rewards property you visit, there is a published list of eligible competing programs and required status level. Most notable, it looks like Mlife Gold (obtained from Hyatt Explorist or Globalist status) will match to Total Rewards Diamond in Las Vegas casinos. Once you have Total Rewards Diamond you can match to both Wyndham Rewards Diamond and La Quinta Returns Elite.
World of Hyatt
Hyatt has always been rather stingy about status matches and challenges compared to other chains and has no publicly available matches or challenges at this time. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to shortcut your way to status. First, certain companies’ employees have been offered challenges for a fast track to immediate Explorist status or even Globalist status with 10 stays in 90 days. Check with your company’s travel office to see if your company qualifies.
If you aren’t lucky enough to work for one of those companies, The World Of Hyatt Credit Card offers Discoverist status as long as your account is open, five elite qualifying nights per year and the ability to earn two additional elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend on your card. This can be a great option to spend your way to status outright or combine credit card spending with semi-frequent hotel stays to boost your status accordingly.
That being said, it still may be worth submitting a request for a status match or challenge, especially if you have a significant amount of travel coming up at Hyatt properties. To initiate the request, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with proof of your current status and politely inquire about any status match or challenge options. Don’t forget that once you have Hyatt status you can match it to MGM Gold or Pearl status for benefits at any MGM property.
Last fall, Wyndham announced a rather interesting status match/challenge offer including up to their top-tier Diamond status. Head to the dedicated landing page and log in to your Wyndham Rewards account. You can then fill out the form and you’ll receive a match to the corresponding Wyndham status based on a chart published on the landing page. You will be matched to Wyndham Gold, Platinum or Diamond status. If matched to Gold you’ll keep the status until the end of 2020. If you are matched to Platinum, you’ll have 90 days to stay 7 qualifying nights in order to extend the status until the end of 2020. If you are matched to Diamond, you’ll have 90 days to complete 14 qualifying nights to extend the status until the end of 2020.
Remember once you have Wyndham Rewards status you can also instantly match to Caesar’s Total Rewards status and La Quinta Hotels status. Wyndham Diamond status equates to Total Rewards Diamond status which waives resort fees at all Caesar’s properties.
A status match or challenge can be a great way to leverage current status with a hotel chain and turn it into status with another. This gives you a great opportunity to “test drive” another program before fully committing, and it can also unlock valuable rewards like suite upgrade certificates. Just remember that these programs all do come with various restrictions, so be sure to do your homework before initiating the request.
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