The Hotel With the BEST, Easiest to Earn Elite Status:  Hilton, and It’s Not Even Close

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The Hotel With the BEST, Easiest to Earn Elite Status:  Hilton, and It’s Not Even Close

Joseph HostetlerThe Hotel With the BEST, Easiest to Earn Elite Status:  Hilton, and It’s Not Even CloseMillion Mile Secrets Team

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How much is free hotel breakfast worth to you while traveling?  Would you pay a flat fee of $70 for guaranteed free breakfast at hotels for an entire year?

Depending on the number of nights you stay and the caliber of hotels you book, the answer is probably a big yes.

What about room upgrades?  Would you pay a one-time fee of $20 for a year’s supply of certificates entitling you to an upgrade if EVER the hotel has a better room available?

I would.  I’ve bribed the hotel front desk with more than that.

Okay, what about bonus points?  Would you part with, say, $5 to earn 80% more points for your next 12 months of hotel stays?

DUH.

Those theoretical prices are effortless to achieve.  But you’ll have to purchase all those perks as a bundle.  Here’s how!

Breakfast at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui Costs ~$45 per Person Without Hilton Gold Elite Status!

Hilton Gold Elite Status – The BEST Mid-Level Elite Status in Existence

I like to play a little game with myself before opening a new credit card.  I look at the card’s annual fee and divide that dollar amount between all the card’s benefits.  If I think it will save me money (without adding hassle to my life), then the card is a no-brainer.

Cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card come with a $95 annual feeOne of the perks that come with the cards is Hilton Gold Elite Status, which means you’ll receive free breakfast at every Hilton hotel, room upgrades when available (up to an executive room with free hotel lounge access!), and 80% bonus points.

The cards also come with other perks, like 10 free airport lounge visits, a welcome bonus easily worth $600+, and other stuff.  We won’t get into that now.  You can read our review of the AMEX Hilton Ascend and review of the AMEX Hilton Small Business Card if you want to hear about those things.

With Hilton’s Gold Elite Status alone, you should be able to receive a value greater than $95 with just a couple of stays.  As long as you stick with Hilton hotels (they’re just about everywhere), you’ll make out like a grand larceny Bond villain with Gold Elite Status.

Actually, it’s hands-down the best mid-level elite status in existence.  You won’t find a better alternative for such a low price and minimal energy.  It’s why lots of folks have started switching their stays from Marriott / Starwood to Hilton after their merger.

The free breakfast thing is a particularly big deal.  Team member Jasmin saved ~$140 in one sitting with this perk when she took her family to the Conrad Tokyo a few months ago.

Jasmin and Her Kids Ate for FREE at the Conrad Tokyo With Her Hilton Gold Elite Status

Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt all offer mid-level status for having their cards.  NONE offer free breakfast with that status.  And all offer less generous points bonuses for stays:

  • Marriott’s Gold elite status gives you 25% bonus points (55% less than Hilton)
  • IHG Platinum elite status gives you 50% bonus points (30% less than Hilton)
  • Hyatt Explorist elite status gives you 20% bonus points (60% less than Hilton)

Simply by owning the right credit card, your hotel experience can shift dramatically upward!

Note:   You’ll also receive Hilton Gold status when you have either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express.  But the annual fees are MUCH higher ($450 or $550).  The overall benefits are much better than the AMEX Hilton cards, but only if you use them all.

If having super valuable hotel elite status and saving cash during your stay is your primary objective, the $95 annual fee AMEX Hilton cards are what you want.

Bottom Line

If you’re going to hold a hotel credit card, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with a Hilton card like the AMEX Hilton Ascend or the AMEX Hilton Small Business Card.  Even if the card didn’t have a welcome bonus worth potentially $600+, hundreds of dollars in free airport lounge passes, 1 weekend night after meeting spending requirements, etc., the card would be worth much more than its $95 annual fee.

That’s because it comes with Hilton Gold Elite Status, the best mid-level elite status you can possibly earn on a credit card.  Other hotel credit cards won’t give you NEAR the perks of the AMEX Hilton cards.  Upgrades all the way to an executive room with hotel lounge access when available?  80% bonus points?  Free breakfast at EVERY Hilton hotel??

Yeah, that’s the best elite status you can get with a $95 credit card.  And it’s not close.

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Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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What if you are a Diamond member?

Gold status claim is pretty bogus, it requires a big spend (either $20K or $40K per year).

Hi Chris – The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card come with complimentary Hilton Gold status.

Perhaps you’re thinking of the spending requirement to earn Diamond status with these cards?

Can I book a hotel through the chase rewards portal and still get the free breakfast as a gold member? I understand Hyatt has now taken that away

Hi Ryan – It depends on the hotel, and a lot of folks report more success overseas than in the US. I booked the Conrad Tokyo using Citi ThankYou points (considered a 3rd-party booking) and my Gold status was recognized without me even asking.

As Andy (thanks!) says below, it’s worth a call to the hotel before you pull the trigger on a 3rd-party booking.

Based on my own experience, the answer is no! The Hilton property I booked via Chase ultimate rewards points is booked through Expedia Travel, which is treated as 3rd party travel site. So no stay credit or status recognition! 🙁

My experience has been, yes and no. I call the hotel first to see if they would offer me the perks of my status despite booking third party. If they say yes, I book. If no, I look elsewhere.