Credit Cards Elite Status

The Pain Of Qualifying For Free Status

National Car
Written by Charlie

Elite status is quite important to many travelers. It is the special little recognition that allows for upgrades within their preferred program, priority treatment, different phone numbers to access representatives quicker, and the little sense of relief that you have something to show for all the travel it took to earn that status. 🙂

Qualifying For Elite Status

Of course, if you never use the status, it does nothing for you but to give you one more luggage tag to put on your bag. Elite status is meant to be used so if you are not using it then you should probably not chase it! The funny thing about elite status is that it is actually easier to get elite status today than it was several years ago. In fact, it is completely possible to “earn” high elite status on Delta without ever stepping on an airplane! (see Frequent Miler’s post about that here). Between credit cards that give you status, credit cards that allow you to spend for status, status that can be gifted, and status that can be matched, it is really easy to get status across a variety of programs.

Earning Elite Status

The tough part is for travelers that really do earn the elite status by, you know, traveling! The pain of it is when that status is a status level that the program has seen fit to just dole out for free to people that hold a credit card. One such status is SPG’s Gold tier. It requires 10 stays or 25 nights to hit that level. While holding an American Express SPG gives 2 stays and 5 nights towards status (available on both the personal and business edition) that can combine for 4 stays and 10 nights, it still requires staying an additional 6 stays or 15 nights to hit the Gold status. Since award stays count for status, it can be easy to hit that level. You can also hit that status by doing $30,000 in spend on the Amex SPG card in a year.

Free Elite Status

BUT, you can get that status for free by simply holding the American Express Platinum card! That is one of the perks of the card and you do not have to do any spend to receive it! So, for the people doing the stays to hit SPG Gold status, they are doing some work for a status that is, essentially, free.

The same holds true for the Hyatt Platinum level. That requires 5 stays or 15 nights (which award nights do not count for), but the majority of Hyatt Platinum members, that status had been picked up by holding the Chase Hyatt card (which offers it as a feature of the card). And that is also true for Hilton Gold and IHG Platinum. Both of those status are easily accessible by holding the co-branded credit cards.

So, when it comes to hotel status, it would have to be pretty painful to actually qualify for the elite status that is given to people who simply hold a co-branded credit card. In fact, imagine the poor person who qualified for Hilton Gold status (20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 base points) when Hilton practically throws it all travelers! Earning that status when it is available for free is really painful. 🙂

To see more about getting free elite status at hotels, check out this post.

Earning My Elite Status That Was Free

Well, this happened to me for the first time! I will end the year with either 50 or 53 rental days with National Rental Car. It takes 40 days to earn the Executive status and 85 days to earn Executive Elite status, so I will have cleared Executive status by about 10 days. I will definitely not make Executive Elite status (and there is no reason for me to hit it), so that was not even a thought.

The problem with that is that I already have National Emerald Executive status for free! I received that status by holding an American Express Platinum card. So, I did not actually have to work to earn it, but my rental habits just happened to have me meet a status that I already had. It was certainly enjoyable to get the perks of the status without having to work for it initially, but it was a bit of a pain to not actually get anything extra with status for my 50 rental days!

To see the different ways that you can get that status, check this post. A method not mentioned in that post is that World Elite Mastercards also gives National Executive status (two such cards are the Executive AAdvantage card from Citi and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus*).

But, It Is Ok!

Even though you may receive status for free, it is not a reason to avoid a program if you do a lot of travel with the company! Remember, that status is meant to be used, so don’t forsake a company to go to another just because you already have the status. That status gives you perks that are meant to be used, so you should definitely take advantage of them.

Another thing to do is you can match that free status to another program and you can finish the qualifications for that other program with your planned travel. That way, you will still earn a status that was not already free but also take advantages of the status. One such instance is when I matched my (free) Hilton Gold status to Hyatt for the Hyatt Diamond challenge. That way, I did 12 nights at Hyatt that I could have done at Hilton (which would not have given me anything extra with Hilton) and picked up Hyatt Diamond which was not available with a credit card.

Still, it is kind of a pain to earn a status that you already had for free! At least it was a great “ride.” 🙂

What status do you have that you earned but was available for free?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.