Hotel chains such as Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, Wyndham, and Radisson reward loyal members through their rewards programs. Each program has different tiers of status depending on how many nights you stay. Here are some of the benefits for having hotel status:
Upgraded Rooms (Always ask the front desk about available upgrades based on your status)
Early Check-In and Late Check-Out (Always call ahead for early check-in and ask for late-checkout when you arrive at the hotel. For some hotel brands, this perk is “guaranteed”)
Free Breakfast (A huge money saver!)
Lounge/Club Access (often comes with free breakfast, alcoholic drinks, and hors d'oeuvres)
Waived Resort Fees (Hyatt, Hilton, and Wyndham are the best for this…)
Welcome Gifts (Often a snack, chocolates, or even champagne)
Extra Bonus Points
Free High Speed Internet
Guaranteed Room Preferences/Availability (critical when you book during a peak time or are in a bind)
Dedicated Phone Lines for Customer Service
How do you get status for free:
Aside from staying numerous nights each year with one brand, there are a handful of credit cards that offer free status just for having the card. Click here for an article about cards that offer hotel status for free!
Take the next step: Match your status to other brands:
I recently matched my platinum status with Marriott to Wyndham Diamond, IHG Spire, Caesars Diamond, and a free trial with Hilton Diamond. This has enabled me to enjoy many of the perks listed above even without any previous stays! Usually, this takes a simple email to the hotel brand with a screenshot of your status with a competing brand. Within a few days, hotels will often match your status with their brand in hopes that you will shift your loyalty. At worse, they will offer you a status challenge, giving you an opportunity to earn status with the company after only a few stays. Keep in mind, that the one brand that rarely allows a status match is Hyatt. For more details on how you can match your status, go to www.statusmatcher.com
How I put my status to the most amazing use:
My platinum status with Marriott came in really handy this summer at the Domes Miramare Resort in Corfu, Greece. I booked this luxury resort using only 35,000 points for the first night and my "free award night" from my Marriott credit card for the second night. Lastly, I applied my "Suite Upgrade" (earned through my Platinum Status) for both nights. Five days before arrival, the hotel upgraded me to a water-front pavilion suite with a private pool. The room had a retractable roof, heated towel racks, and a personal cell phone to call my concierge at any time! In addition, the room also came with access to the Haute Living Room, a beautiful water-front lounge with complimentary alcohol, snacks, and free local food tastings. In addition to these perks, my platinum status got me free breakfast each day (a 50 dollar/day value), early check-in, a welcome gift of fruit and champagne, and a farewell bottle of local olive oil! I saved over $2,000 on the room rate for two nights and even got most of my meals for free during my stay thanks to the lounge and breakfast perk! My total bill at the end of the two nights was only $121 (which included a fancy tasting-menu dinner). Check out a few photos of my room below!
1. Each country has its own requirements for driving permits and insurance: For example, Italy requires visitors with a U.S. license to hold an International Driving Permit. You can get one at your local AAA office for about $30. Costa Rica requires drivers to buy liability insurance, and there isn’t a way to wiggle out of it! Do your research before traveling abroad!
2. Always take photos of prior damage, mileage, and fuel level at the start AND end of the rental. Take the extra two minutes to do this, it is worth the trouble if you get into a sticky situation.
3. Signup for each company’s rewards program. Even if you only rent occasionally, being enrolled will often allow you to skip the line (a huge time saving!), get upgrades, waiver second-driver fees, and choose whatever car you want in your category.
4. Know the difference between primary and secondary car rental insurance. Many credit cards come with car rental insurance, so you can reject the expensive insurance companies try to sell you. However, secondary coverage only kicks in after a claim first goes through your own car insurance company. Avoid any hikes in your insurance rates at home by paying with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which provides primary coverage. Also note that credit card insurance does not cover liability.
5. Never fill up gas right next to an airport. It will always be more expensive. Find a place about 10-20 miles away from your final destination to fill up gas before returning your vehicle.
6. How do you get free upgrades? Besides being very nice to the agent at the counter, certain credit cards give you free status with many of the major car rental programs. For example, the AMEX Platinum gives me Executive Status with National, where I can automatically select any car in the Executive area (usually a double upgrade from whatever I rent). The United Club Card offers free President's Circle status from Hertz! Last month in Michigan, I used this status when I rented a Toyota Corolla, and picked up the Jaguar XE from the PC area.
7. Take whatever status you earn with one company and match it to others! I took my Executive status with National and matched it with companies like Avis and Sixt. Then I saw a promotion online to match those statuses with Hertz President’s Circle! I have used my status with Hertz over 10 times to get amazing upgrades without paying a cent extra! Check out statusmatcher.com to see which companies will match to each other.
8. Negotiate your upgrade! Often, agents will try to upsell you into something nicer or faster! Make sure you negotiate the rate to get the best deal possible. I have used this tip many times when upgrading to a convertible.
9. Use your credit cards, AAA, or Costco memberships to get huge discounts on car rentals. Each car rental company is usually affiliated with one of them....
10. Use Autoslash.com for 90% of your car rentals (maybe not for exotics…). You won’t regret it and will get the best price!