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

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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?


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

With Hilton Gold status you could enjoy free breakfast all over the world, including beautiful Bali. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

Hilton Gold 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 Surpass® Card (See Rates & Fees) and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (See Rates & Fees) come with a $95 annual fee. One of the perks that come with the cards is Hilton Gold 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 information for the Hilton Surpass card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The cards also come with other perks, like 10 complimentary airport lounge visits, a welcome offer easily worth $600+, and other stuff. We won’t get into that now.

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 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.

Jasmin and Her Kids Ate for FREE at the Conrad Tokyo With Her Hilton Gold Elite Status. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)

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 (enrollment required). The overall benefits are much better than the Hilton credit 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 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 Hilton Surpass or the Hilton Business card. Even if the cards didn’t have limited-time increased welcome offers worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars (check out this article for more details on the current Hilton card offers) 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 these 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.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business card, click here.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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