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Hotel elite status can be both vastly overrated and extremely useful depending on which status level and which hotel program we’re discussing, and people’s opinions can vary quite significantly. But, as a rule, having status is better than not having status at all so people will go to varying degrees of effort to maintain their hotel status from year to year.
But wouldn’t it be nice not to have to renew your status year in, year out?
A number of hotel rewards programs offer a “lifetime status” option and guests meeting the criteria for lifetime status don’t have to worry about qualifying for their perks from one year to the next. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t always come easily.
What Is Lifetime Status?
You may be forgiven for thinking that the phrase “lifetime status” is self-explanatory but it actually isn’t. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that once you earn lifetime status you hold on to it till the day you leave this mortal coil, but that’s not how it works.
Lifetime Status in a rewards program refers to the lifetime of the program and not the individual.
It’s actually hard to find specific wording referring to this in the terms and conditions of the individual hotel rewards programs but, if you take a look in the FAQ’s of the American Airlines Million Miler page, this is what you’ll find (emphasis is mine):
What does lifetime AAdvantage® Platinum and lifetime AAdvantage® Gold status mean for me?
For the life of the AAdvantage® Platinum and Gold programs, you will continue to enjoy the rewards and recognition of that elite level regardless of your annual elite-qualifying activity.
It’s not just American Airlines that has this policy – all major rewards programs that offer lifetime status of one sort or another give themselves an “out”. Lifetime status can be taken away from you whenever a rewards program feels like it – that’s very important to remember.
Hilton puts this succinctly:
Lifetime Diamond Status is granted at the discretion of Hilton Honors Worldwide, LLC and may be ended, or amended with or without notice or compensation, at Hilton Honors’ sole discretion.
Essentially there are no guarantees so keep this in mind when deciding if hotel lifetime elite status is something worth pursuing.
Which Hotel Programs Offer Lifetime Elite Status?
The following major hotel rewards programs offer lifetime status:
- Hilton Honors
- World of Hyatt
- Marriott Bonvoy
At the time of writing the following major hotel rewards programs do not offer lifetime status:
- ALL (Accor)
- IHG Rewards
- Radisson Rewards
Hilton Honors Lifetime Status
Hilton Honors only offers lifetime status at its top-level – Diamond – but, as you can maintain Hilton Gold status simply by holding the $95/year Hilton Honors Surpass Card (review) or the $550/year Platinum Card from American Express, the absence of a Lifetime Gold status isn’t exactly a big loss.
Requirements for Hilton Lifetime Diamond Status:
- 10 years of status at the Diamond Level (the years do not have to be consecutive) and either:
- 1,000 nights at Hilton properties worldwide, or
- 2,000,000 base points in the Hilton Honors program
It’s important to note that award nights will count towards the Hilton Lifetime Diamond status target of 1,000 nights (at one time they did not) but, a little annoyingly, it’s currently impossible to view your progress towards that target online (Hilton has been promising to do something about this for over a year) so you’ll have to put a call in to Hilton’s agents to see where you stand.
Note: If you have access to US credit cards, you can enjoy Hilton Diamond status just by holding the $450/year Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. As long as you hold the card you have Hilton Diamond Status so, in a way, that’s a type of lifetime status too.
You’ll find very brief details of Hilton’s Lifetime Diamond status on this webpage.
World Of Hyatt Lifetime Status
Requirement for Hyatt Lifetime Globalist Status (there’s only one):
- 1,000,000 Base World of Hyatt points earned over the course of your history with Hyatt.
In the days of the Hyatt Gold Passport program, anyone aspiring to Lifetime Status also had to have had a minimum of 10 years of membership of the program before they were eligible, but this requirement was removed when the World of Hyatt program came into existence.
The fact that only base points qualify for Hyatt Lifetime Globalist status makes this an expensive proposition. Guests typically earn 5 points for every dollar spent at World of Hyatt properties, so that sees the cost of Lifetime Status set at a painful $200,000. That may not be an issue if you have a job that pays for most of your travels, but it’s a price point that’s probably out of reach for most of us.
At the time of writing, Hyatt doesn’t offer guests the option to view their Lifetime base points online, but the monthly account summary that the World of Hyatt sends out has this information at the top…
…and a call to the World of Hyatt will usually get you a friendly agent who will be happy to help.
You’ll find full details of Hyatt’s Lifetime Globalist Status on this webpage.
Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Status
Unlike Hilton and Hyatt, Marriott offers lifetime status at the first three levels of its loyalty program but, that being said, the benefits that guests get at the lower levels aren’t particularly noteworthy.
Requirements for Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Status
Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Silver status:
- 250 nights at Marriott properties worldwide and
- 5 years of elite status at any level
Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Gold status:
- 400 nights at Marriott properties worldwide and
- 5 years of elite status at the Gold level or higher
Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Platinum status:
- 600 nights at Marriott properties worldwide and
- 10 years of elite status at the Platinum level or higher
There is no scope to earn Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime Titanium status (there was a short window of opportunity in which Lifetime Titanium Status was available, but that window opened and closed in 2018).
Marriott’s Bonvoy program doesn’t make it particularly tough to earn Lifetime elite status as nights earned from credit card spending (with some of the legacy credit cards), elite night credits handed out yearly by credit cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card, and nights earned from booking meetings at Marriott properties all count towards the Lifetime status requirements just like the nights from regular hotel stays.
Before you head off to check the merits of Marriott Bonvoy status (you’ll find all the details here) and start deciding whether you should target Marriott Bonvoy Lifetime status, keep in mind that the Platinum Card from American Express and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card both give cardholders Marriott Bonvoy Gold status as part of their benefits packages so if you have access to those cards, they may offer the more economic path to long-term mid-tier status with Marriott.
As things stand, only three of the major hotel loyalty programs offer their members a path to Lifetime elite status and only one hotel loyalty program offers a path to anything other than top-tier lifetime status but, that’s better than nothing.
When considering whether you should try to aim for Lifetime status in a hotel loyalty program you should first consider the cost of doing so, the merits of the status you’re targeting and if you actually spend enough nights with a hotel chain to make that Lifetime status worthwhile.
As importantly, you should also consider if there is a more economical path to long-term hotel status than the one offered by the hotel programs – for most people it would probably be considerably cheaper to hold a credit card that gives them elite status than to chase Lifetime status through nights spent away in hotels.
Lifetime hotel elite status may appear alluring but considering what it can cost, travelers should make very sure that they’ll get significant benefits from that status before they set of on their quest.