The Easiest Way to Get the Best Mid-Tier Hotel Status, Right Away

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Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card

Marriott has the strongest mid-tier elite status. While I still think their top tier Platinum is weak, at least compared to Starwood and Hyatt top tiers which have real suite upgrade benefits, Marriott’s Gold is better than competitor levels.

Of course Marriott Gold status takes 50 nights to qualify for, something other chains usually consider to be enough for top tier. But Marriott Gold is easier to get than ever.

Battle House Renaissance, Mobile Alabama

I used to regard Hilton HHonors as having the best mid-tier status level, Gold, because it’s easy to get (just sign up for the Citi Hilton Reserve Card) and offers a breakfast benefit — which neither Hilton nor Starwood offer at their mid-tier levels (and IHG just doesn’t offer).

But Marriott’s Gold status is better than Hilton’s now because not only do you get club lounge access – and with Hilton club lounge access depends on getting upgraded to a club floor (otherwise you get continental breakfast at hotels where that’s a benefit):

If you are an HHonors guest with Gold status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will be granted complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge only if you receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor or an upgrade to a room type that confers Executive Floor Lounge access benefits.

Furthermore Marriott added guaranteed 4pm late checkout (except for the usual exclusion of conference and resort properties) which is something Hilton doesn’t guarantee.

Marriott’s tough with status qualification, since you need actual nights rather than a smaller number of stays to qualify. But there are (3) basic ways to get to Marriott’s Gold status more quickly.

  1. For the past three years United Gold elites and higher have gotten complimentary Marriott Gold.

  2. You get Gold status included your first year with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. Ritz-Carlton status effectively is Marriott status, you get treated reciprocally.

    After your first year you need to spend just $10,000 a year on the card to keep Gold. That’s $833.33 a month which most readers would be able to meet without difficulty. You could also just pay rent, mortgage or other bills with Plastiq. Fees are usually 2.5% of the amount paid, so $10,000 in bills costs $250 and earns Gold status in subsequent years.

    You can even earn Platinum status with $75,000 in spend on the card. That’s huge, especially with the Starwood merger, my bet is that Marriott introduces suite upgrades for Platinums as they combine programs.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Credit: Ritz-Carlton

If it’s your only status, Marriotts have an extremely broad reach, you can stay with Marriott most everywhere you go (and they’re getting bigger, with nicer hotels, and more international with the Starwood merger).

If you’re a Hyatt loyalist like I am, it’s a great second choice for when there’s no Hyatt option.

I’m a strong advocate of being loyal to the program that gives you the most, for me that’s Hyatt but even there I need a ‘backup’ program. And backup programs with mid-tier status are easier than ever to get since the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card comes with Gold status straight away, and so does the Citi Hilton Reserve Card.

Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m a Lifetime Plat Member with SPG. I’m not thrilled to hear that Marriott doesn’t give suite upgrades. Although I’m gold based on my UA status, I haven’t stayed at a Marriott in years. I’m very uncomfortable with them taking over STARWOOD.

  2. I think Hilton’s free Gold status with the reserve card is still the best mid-level hotel elite status one can get without having to invest much money and time.

    Marriott gold is actually not easy at all to get:
    1) Not many people have status with UA.
    2) There are ton of other cards that have way better returns for everyday spend than the Ritz-Carlton card, and not many people spend thousands of dollars on several different cards each month.
    3) Even with the Marriott visa card, you need 35 additional nights to reach gold level, and not many people can/will stay 35 nights at Marriott properties every year.

    But for Hilton gold status, all you need is holding onto a credit card.

  3. As we like to point out 😉 why not 1) skip flying 50K UA miles, 2) not pay $450 for the RC card, and 3) not have to do 35 add’l Marriott stays, and just get the $95 Hilton Gold card? Gets you most of the benefits you need.

    IMO it’s a marketing and strategic fail to basically give away your mid-tier and not offer a meaningful increase in benefits for top-tier…but good for the discerning consumer at least 🙂

  4. Hi Gary,

    There are more Marriott hotels and brands that don’t offer breakfast than do (It’s not just Ritz, Resorts and Courtyards that don’t offer breakfast, a lot more brands are on the no breakfast list, the majority infact. Similarly, thanks to the Courtyards, more absolute number of Marriott properties don’t provide breakfast than do since they form the bulk of the portfolio.)

    As such, I don’t think Marriott Gold can be considered better than Hilton Gold. Marriott’s “confirmed” late check out is a little bit less “confirmed” than Hyatt and SPG, though I’m sure it will get better as corporate clarifies that to the hotels and implements penalties (as Marriott Corporate usually does).

    Also getting to Gold for non US members is *harder* than getting to SPG/Hyatt Top Tier, so it makes it really hard to take Marriott status (of any level) seriously.

    I’d say the easy shortcuts to Marriott status are through their events planning program (10 nights credit for every meeting room rental even if for an hour).

  5. Oh, right. I forgot to add, that in the second in subsequent years on the RC card, in addition to that massive $450 annual fee, you also must spend $10,000 on the card annually to get Gold status and the accompanying breakfast benefit.

    With the Citi HH Reserve card, all you pay is $95 and you are Gold and get the breakfast benefit. If you spend an additional $10,000 on the card annually, you also get a free weekend night at most Hilton properties — you get nothing but the Gold elite breakfast benefit if you shell out that amount of dough on the RC card.

    Finally, thanks to a poster above, I completely left out the red-headed step child of the Marriott clan — Courtyard hotels, where Gold status, or Platinum status for that matter, get you NO BREAKFAST BENEFIT, AT ALL!

    In addition, Marriott’s new entry in the millennial market — AC hotels and Moxy hotels — provide no breakfast benefit for Gold or higher elite members. So, in addition to all resorts, all RC hotels, all Edition hotels, all Courtyard hotels, add AC hotels and Moxy hotels to the exception to the breakfast benefit.

    Therefore, there are many exceptions to getting breakfast as a Gold elite at Marriott family hotels, whereas the only exception that I am aware of with Hilton is the Waldorf Astoria properties — all Doubletree, Hilton and other such Hilton brands do convey such benefits, even if they happen to be RESORT properties.

  6. Yeah I can’t consider Marriott Gold better when breakfast isn’t given at Courtyards and resorts. Hilton excludes virtually no properties

  7. @James – that’s one of the gaping holes I’m pretty confident the post-merger company will address. We shall see.

  8. All the major loyalty programs offer a free second-tier status, and yet the consensus is that HHonors Gold is best. That speaks volumes about what program is hands down the best in the business. Well run, vibrant, highly rewarding and the most exclusive top-tier status that they seldom status-match to (unlike HGP that’s given theirs away repeatedly). SPG went belly up, and MR is, well, MR.

    The evidence is clear. Dispense with the popcorn because there is no longer any debate to be had. Those who believe HH Gold is as good as Diamond are right: it is as good as HGP Diamond, with free breakfast and about only 4 suite upgrades a year.

    G’day (^o^)

  9. Gary this is quite a flip. If you are saying Marriott Gold > Hilton Gold, this is clearly because they bought your respect. Calling you out on being venal and gross.

  10. Height of intellectual dishonesty is somehow making the leap that a good mid-level almost given away for free = whole program is absolutely tremendous fantastic best in class

  11. It must be killing this moron that the more he tries to denigrate HHonors, the better the program looks compared to SPG (his favorite, r.i.p) or HGP.

    BTW, “intellectual dishonesty” is NOT what you seem to think it means so avoid using things you are clueless about.

    Lastly, you might consider going out for some fresh air before you pop a vein…


  12. As a frequent reader of this blog, I first thought there might be an error or I probably read the headline wrong. However, when I read the content, I was surprised with some of the logic given here. I still think Hilton > Marriott when it comes to how easy it is to attain and maintain status year after year. Also, alluding to what some of the other commenters posted, their free breakfast is pretty consistent and much better than what Marriott offers to Gold members.

  13. @SRT sez: ” I was surprised with some of the logic given here.”

    That is exactly it. There is no logic whatsoever in this attempt by the host to redefine his concept of “better” or “best” simply to con people into signing up for very mediocre loyalty cards.

    A simple cost-to-benefit ratio analysis would show that it is a no-brainer: the HHonors Gold is hands down the best second-tier status in the business. To do the suggested gymnastics and incur the expenses required just to get and maintain the MR Gold status is simply, well, out there coming from someone who claims himself to be a “thought leader in travel.”

    This is the second post within a week that he touts MR — a program much maligned by this site in the past — as having the best second-tier status. Glad to see the push back by readers against what is clearly a flawed, misguided and, primarily, self-serving claim

  14. @DCS

    Hilton does not give away mid tier status!@? Common on my entire family has Hilton Diamond simply because we have Hyatt Platinum from the Hyatt card (Vendome was nice). Also have been offered free breakfast for 2 at a Waldorf as Diamond status with Hiktin which was nice- but not required

  15. For me, these two questions will answer which mid-level status is better.

    1. Does anyone know how many total Marriott branded properties are excluded?

    2. As a Hilton Gold, what % of the time do you get an upgrade which qualifies you for breakfast?

  16. @ David Sugar

    1. Many

    2. As a HHonors Gold you are always qualified for breakfast, except at Waldorf Astoria properties.

    As a HHonors Gold you may be upgraded to access the lounge, but you are always qualified for breakfast, except at the enumerated brand listed above.

  17. I don’t think you automatically get lounge access as a gold and I don’t think you get breakfast as a gold unless you are on the executive floor.

    Does anyone else know the answer to this?

    Per Hilton:

    Executive Floor Lounge Access Policy: The following policy applies at all Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and DoubleTree by Hilton™ hotels with Executive Floor Lounges. Executive Floor Lounges are available only at select properties.

    If you are an HHonors guest with Gold status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will be granted complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge only if you receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor or an upgrade to a room type that confers Executive Floor Lounge access benefits.

  18. You get breakfast with HH Gold. Breakfast doesn’t depend on whether you are on the club floor. It is the club lounge access for Golds that depends on being on the club floor, depending on how strict the individual hotel is about that.

  19. @David Sugar

    “1. Does anyone know how many total Marriott branded properties are excluded?”


    Scroll to Marriott section, that’s the total footprint sorted by brand and region, remove all except the 4-5 brands serving breakfast and you see that the bulk of the portfolio does not offer breakfast even if we assume resorts do (Which they don’t) for simplicity’s sake (because it is even harder to compile a list of resorts overlapping with breakfast serving brands).

  20. @Marriott Marty — You misunderstood something. I never claimed that Hilton does not give away their mid-tier status. Au contraire, what I said was that Hilton gives away a mid-tier status that also happens to be the best in the business, considering the great benefits-to-cost ratio..

    Hope you got it now, and glad that you got free breakfast at Waldorf Astoria, because I did too (WA Shanghai x 2, and WA Beijing).

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