How to Attain Hotel Elite Status

illustration: Randen Pederson

By Michelle Higgins
The New York Times

Hotel chains have been loading on the perks for their most loyal customers recently.

Earlier this month Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced new benefits that go into effect March 1, including rolling 24-hour check-in for those who stay at least 75 nights a year and personal travel assistants, called Ambassadors, for guests who stay 100 nights. Hilton Worldwide recently began allowing its top-tier guests who stay at least 36 nights to get automatic room upgrades, free breakfasts and other perks. And Global Hotel Alliance, a collection of 14 luxury brands with over 300 hotels, rewards its top customers with access to insider experiences like a private tour of the stables and stud farm of the Sheikh of Ajman, in the United Arab Emirates.

But let’s face it: Unless you are practically living in hotels, you are not going to see any of those benefits. Just 2 percent of travelers drive 30 percent of Starwood’s profits, Frits van Paasschen, chief executive of the company, pointed out when announcing its new loyalty perks.

Still, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. Travelers who stay at a hotel chain only four times a year still have a shot at the lowest level of elite status, which doesn’t include lavish benefits like personal travel assistants and insider tours, but still allows you to earn loyalty points and offers valuable perks like upgrades or complimentary Internet access.

So how do you get there? Each hotel program has a slightly different threshold for attaining elite loyalty status; which program is best for you depends largely on your travel patterns and preferences. While there is no minimum-night-stay requirement for the non-elite entry-level tier of most hotel loyalty programs, elite status does require that you either spend several nights at the chain or get the right credit card.

One thing to consider is the size of the hotel company. “If you want to get to elite,” said Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the Web site JoeSentMe.com, which focuses on business travelers, “having a hotel anywhere you go makes it easier.”

With that in mind, here is a rundown on how to attain elite loyalty status at several hotel chains, and the perks that come with it.

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