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Yesterday, I took a look at which of the major hotel loyalty programs offer members the chance to earn lifetime elite status and that information leads on to the question of how worthwhile lifetime status is, and if it’s something that travelers should be actively trying to earn? This post attempts to address those questions.
The Two Big Issues With Hotel Lifetime Elite Status
There are two things about lifetime elite status that you need to be aware of before we go any further:
- When it comes to lifetime elite status, the word “lifetime” refers to the lifetime of the loyalty program and not to the lifetime of the person holding the status. Generally speaking, loyalty programs can revoke lifetime elite status pretty much whenever the mood takes them.
- In most cases lifetime elite status takes a long time to earn and usually costs quite a bit of money too – with possibly one or two outlying exceptions that are unlikely to be replicated any time soon, hotel lifetime elite status takes years (possibly decades) to earn.
Is Lifetime Hotel Elite Status Worth Pursuing?
Firstly you’ll need to know the different requirements the various hotel rewards programs set for lifetime status so if you want a deeper look at those, this post should help out.
Asking if lifetime hotel status is worth pursuing is such a subjective question that’s it hard to provide a comprehensive answer that ends with a simple yes or no. The answer will always depend on how much a traveler will be able to use the status they’re chasing, how much value they’ll genuinely be able to get out of it, and how close to earning lifetime elite status they already are.
I’ll do my best to provide some guidance and I’ll offer my thoughts but don’t expect to read this and end up with a definitive answer at the end.
Thoughts On Status
Marriott Bonvoy is the only hotel loyalty program to offer lifetime status at the mid-tier level but by any objective measure, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status is not particularly impressive. These are the key Gold Elite benefits:
- 25% more Bonvoy points on Marriott stays
- Room upgrades (when available)
- 2 pm late checkout
- A welcome gift of between 250 and 500 points (worth between $1.50 & $3.00)
- Complimentary fast internet access at Marriott properties worldwide
It’s hard to justify making a special effort to earn 400 elite night credits and to hold Gold Elite status for a minimum of 7 years (the criteria for Lifetime Gold Elite status) just to get those benefits.
It’s even harder to justify when you consider that Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status can be enjoyed by anyone who holds the Platinum Card from American Express (in a number of nations – not just the US) and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card.
While these two cards come with significant annual fees (between $450 and $550 per year for US cardholders), they also come with a wide variety of benefits that help cardholders claw back some (or all) of the annual fee. For a lot of people, that makes them the most economical way of maintaining Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status…and by some distance.
In summary, there’s little point in making a special effort to earn Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Gold status. The benefits aren’t good enough to make a noticeable difference to most people’s stays and when the status can be had as part of a credit card’s benefits package, why would you make a special effort (and go to extra expense) to earn Lifetime Gold Elite status?
Hilton and Hyatt both offer members of their loyalty programs the chance to earn lifetime top-tier status while Marriott Bonvoy offers its members the chance to earn what is effectively its second-highest elite status.
Hyatt Lifetime Globalist Status
Hyatt Globalist status has long been a big favorite among frequent travelers because it offers some truly excellent benefits such as waived resort fees (on eligible rates and award nights), upgrades to standard suites at check-in (where available), 4 pm check-outs, access to Club Lounges and/or complimentary breakfasts, and free parking on award bookings, but lifetime Globalist status comes at an incredible cost.
Hyatt Lifetime Globalist status can only be earned by World of Hyatt members who accumulate a total of 1,000,000 base points from their Hyatt stays and as Hyatt offers 5 base points per dollar spent at its properties, that means that Lifetime Globalist status costs $200,000.
That’s a sum that hard to justify for the overwhelming majority of people (especially if their job isn’t paying for their trips), and even though Lifetime Globalist status also offers status holders four suite upgrade awards (the best upgrade perk in the industry) and a free night at a Category 1-7 property every year, $200,000 is a sum that puts Hyatt Lifetime Globalist status out of reach of all but a select group of travelers.
If you can earn the lifetime status, great…but who in their right mind would make a special effort to spend that much cash just for lifetime status?
Hilton Honors Diamond Status
Hilton Honors Lifetime Diamond elite status is earned when a guest has spent a minimum of 10 years at the Diamond status level (the years don’t have to be consecutive) and has either earned 1,000 elite night credits or 2,000,000 base points in the Hilton Honors program.
You’ll find all the benefits of Hilton Diamond status on this webpage but, in summary, these are the key benefits on offer:
- Upgrades to suites (based on availability)
- 100% bonus points on all stays
- Access to Executive Lounges
- Complimentary breakfast (also a perk at the Gold status level)
Overall, Hilton Diamond benefits are fine but they’re really not anything that I would call amazing, and it’s worth keeping in mind that how well you’re treated as a Hilton Diamond elite guest is well known to vary significantly depending on where in the world you’re staying.
In Asia, for example, Diamond Elites can feel like they’re being treated like royalty, in Europe the experience can be great, good, or indifferent, and in the United States it’s often disappointing.
The reason why the experience in the US can often be a bit of a let-down is that there’s a large population of Hilton Honors Diamond elites in the country thanks to the fact that the status is offered as one of the perks of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (which costs $450/year)….and therein lies the problem.
If you have access to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card, why would you make any extra effort to earn lifetime Diamond status? The Aspire card will give you Diamond status every year for $450 (as well as a host of other good benefits) and that will almost certainly be a lot more economical than trying to maintain Hilton Diamond status for 10 years and earning 1,000 elite night credits (or 2,000,000 base points).
Even for those who don’t have access to the Aspire Card, I can’t in all good conscience suggest that they make a special effort to earn Diamond status because if you’re not already on your way to earning it organically, are you really going to get enough benefit out of the lifetime status to justify the cost of earning it? Probably not.
Sure, if you’re close to earning lifetime status, your job pays for your travels, and you can see retirement on the horizon, it may be worth making a special push to get yourself over the line so you have the status to fall back on when it comes time to start paying for all of your own hotel stays but, for most other scenarios, it’s hard to justify a special effort to earn lifetime Diamond status.
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Status
Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Status is, effectively, Marriott’s second-highest elite status level and Lifetime Platinum Elite status requires a Bonvoy member to have earned 600 elite night credits and to have held 10 years of elite status at the Platinum level or higher.
The key benefits that come with Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum Elite status are these:
- 50% bonus points on stays
- Upgrades to entry-level suites (when available)
- Complimentary breakfast at select Marriott brands (find out more)
- Executive lounge access
- 4 pm late checkout
- Complimentary fast internet access at Marriott properties worldwide
If you’re familiar with the Bonvoy program you may have noticed that the list above doesn’t include the “Annual Choice Benefit” that Bonvoy members earn when they earn 50 elite night credits in a calendar year and lock in regular Platinum Elite status. There’s a very good reason for this – Lifetime Platinum Elites do not get given this benefit as it’s a benefit that has to be earned every year.
Put simply, a Bonvoy member who does not earn a minimum of 50 elite night credits in a year will not be given the Annual Choice Benefit (the best of which is the option of 5 Suite Night upgrades) even if they hold Lifetime Status.
That devalues Platinum Elite Lifetime Status somewhat…and that’s not the only issue.
Marriott Bonvoy elite benefits are honored unevenly around the world (at some properties they will be offered in full, while at others you’ll have to push to get the most basic of benefits) and even when properties play fair and offer all the benefits they should, Marriott gives some brands and some properties the leeway to choose not to offer some of the better benefits around (e.g. complimentary breakfasts, suite upgrades, etc…).
This makes it difficult to say just how valuable Bonvoy status really is and how worthwhile it is to make a big push for Lifetime status.
There aren’t any credit cards that offer Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status (so that makes it a little more “exclusive” than a few of the other elite status levels around) but that doesn’t make it any more rewarding or more worthwhile.
As I sit here typing this and trying to think of why or when Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum Elite status may be worth aspiring to, I find myself coming up with some of the same thoughts I had for Hilton Lifetime Diamond status – if you’re not on your way to earning Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum Elite status organically (i.e stying frequently with Marriott), I have to question whether you’ll really get enough benefit out of the lifetime status (once you’ve made a special effort to earn it) to justify the cost.
Once again, it may make sense to make a special effort to lock in Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum Elite status if you’re close to earning it, your employer pays for most of your stays, and you can see retirement on the horizon, but for most other scenarios it’s hard to justify a special effort.
Using Me As An Example
I was extremely fortunate in that I was close(ish) to earning top-tier Marriott Lifetime status when Marriott announced that, for a very short period of time (in 2018), it would offer Bonvoy members a chance to earn Lifetime Titanium Elite status (a level above Platinum Elite). This is a status that I now hold but while I’m happy I have it (I’d be silly not to be happy), it hasn’t stopped me from looking elsewhere.
Yes, I like knowing that I’ll probably get an upgrade at most of the Marriott properties I visit, I like that I get Executive Lounge access on most of my stays, and I like that as long as I choose the right property I’ll get complimentary breakfast too. But the truth is that none of that is really enough to persuade me not to enjoy the joys of non-Marriott properties too.
For me, my lifetime status is a fallback position and not one that determines where I’ll stay (it’s why I’ve just earned Hyatt Globalist status through 2023) and I suspect that a lot of Bonvoy Lifetime Elites find themselves in a similar position (Marriott doesn’t do very much to encourage loyalty from their Lifetime Elites). Lifetime status can look very appealing from afar and it certainly has its benefits, but if it turns out to be a fallback option and not something that you use on every hotel stay you make, is it really something that’s worth going the extra mile to earn?
Personally, I don’t think that it is, but others may disagree.
Overall, I think most travelers should probably put lifetime status out of their minds until they’re close enough to touch it because, for the vast majority of people, there’s no rational reason to go out of the way to earn any of the lifetime elite statuses faster than they already are.
If retirement is looming or if there’s another event on the horizon that’s going to see someone’s travels lessen dramatically and they can see a lifetime status marker on the horizon, that may be a reasonable time for them to make a bit of an extra effort to cross the line to lifetime status but, other than in a scenario such as that one, I’m struggling to think of any truly valid reason to make an extra effort to earn lifetime status.
Most travelers should probably just enjoy the statuses they earn organically and treat any lifetime statuses that come their way as a very nice bonus.
What do you think of Lifetime Elite status? Do you have it? Did you make an effort to earn it? Or are you still wondering whether to go for it?