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10 best credit cards for elite status travel benefits


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Having elite status with any given airline or hotel has its perks. Benefits that come with elite status can save you money on meals, checked bag fees, premium internet and much more. You can skip long lines at the airport, enjoy room upgrades at hotels and get freebies extended to your travel companions. Having elite status can pay off big, but getting it often isn’t so easy.

Luckily, you don’t have to fly thousands of miles or live out of hotels to enjoy elite status benefits. With the right travel credit card in your wallet, you could be well on your way to status faster. Some credit cards offer complimentary status as a benefit of being a card holder, while others help you fast-track to elite status through spending. Whichever airline or hotel chain you’re looking to earn status with, there’s likely a credit card available to help get you there faster.

Here’s a look at our best credit cards for airline and hotel elite status benefits.

Earning airline elite status can be challenging, with many frequent flyer programs imposing revenue requirements on top of miles flown. The good news is that early every major US airline allows you to meet some status requirements through credit card spending. If you want to spend your way to top-tier status or get access to elite benefits ahead of meeting the requirements to fly in the sky, here are our favorite credits cards to consider:

Best credit card for American Airlines AAdvantage elite status perks

underscored american airlines plane

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Elite status: No automatic elite status for holding the card, however, for every dollar that you spend on the card, you’ll earn 1 Loyalty Point — in other words, one point toward qualifying for American Airlines AAdvantage elite status.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening.

In 2022, American Airlines introduced an entirely new elite status metric: Loyalty Points. Instead of awarding elite status based on flights alone, American Airlines’ AAdvantage program now allows you to earn status on virtually everything — from spending on dining to online shopping, and even for each dollar spent on your American Airlines-branded credit card.

While welcome bonuses — such as the 50,000 miles available with the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Card — don’t count toward elite status, every dollar spent on purchases with the card equals 1 Loyalty Point toward elite status. In addition, you’ll earn 10,000 bonus Loyalty Points after spending $40,000 each year on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card. If you want to give your AAdvantage status goals a boost, this card is your best option. In fact, if you never want to step foot on a plane, you can still earn American’s top-tier Executive Platinum elite status just from spending on your credit card — the status requires 200,000 Loyalty Points in a membership year.

And, while you’re on the path toward earning elite status, you can enjoy a few additional elite-like benefits just for holding this card. Card holders get one checked bag free on domestic American flights, priority boarding, VIP airport screening (where available) and an Admirals Club airport lounge membership. The card carries a $450 annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Card.

Best credit card for Delta SkyMiles elite status perks

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Elite status: No automatic elite status, however, you’ll earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after meeting the minimum spending requirement. Additionally, earn up to 60,000 MQMs per year with Status Boost.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in the first six months.

If your goal is to get Delta SkyMiles Medallion status, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex is a solid choice. As part of its welcome bonus offer, you can earn 10,000 elite-qualifying MQMs. Plus, you can earn up to 60,000 additional MQMs on the card each year through spending — you’ll get 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000, up to four times per year.

This card is also a solid option because you can also get the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement waived through spending. With the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, if you spend at least $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, the MQD requirement is waived for Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion status. If you’re looking to use the card to waive the MQD requirement for the highest-tier Diamond Medallion status, you’ll need to spend a whopping $250,000 in a calendar year.

Ultimately, with the Delta Reserve Amex, you can earn both elite-qualifying MQMs and a waiver for the MQD requirement, putting Medallion status within reach in a shorter amount of time. The card comes with a $550 annual fee (see rates & fees), and you’ll also get benefits when flying with Delta, such as complimentary Sky Club access, Centurion Lounge access, an annual companion certificate, access to complimentary upgrades and more.

Click here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card.

Best credit card for United MileagePlus elite status perks

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Elite status: No automatic elite status, however, card holders can earn up to 8,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) per calendar year toward elite status.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. (Offer ends 1/25/2023.)

Few credit cards offer both airline and hotel elite benefits, but the United Club Infinite Card is one of them. In addition to a path toward United MileagePlus status, card holders also receive IHG One Rewards Platinum status and a $75 statement credit towards IHG bookings through 2023.

If you’re just in it for the United Airlines MileagePlus status, you can earn up to 8,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) per year. You’ll earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent, up to 8,000 PQP in a calendar year. In other words, you’ll need to spend $192,000 on the card in a calendar year in order to maximize the PQP earning. If you’re able to spend that much in a calendar year, the 8,000 PQP will get you to Premier Gold elite status if you also complete 16 Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) during the same period.

Even if you’re planning in advance to reach elite status, you can still enjoy elite-like United benefits just for holding this card. Card holders get Premier Access, which includes priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage handling. You’ll also get the first and second checked bag free for yourself and a companion, as well as 25% back on in-flight purchases and a United Club membership to the airline’s airport lounge network. The United Club Infinite card comes with a $525 annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the United Club Infinite Card.

Best credit card for Southwest Rapid Rewards elite status perks

southwest plane from underneath cloudy sky

Southwest Airlines

Elite status: No automatic elite status, however, you can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) toward A-List status for every $10,000 spent annually.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months.

Southwest Airlines is a fan favorite. Not only do all travelers get two checked bags for free, but the Rapid Rewards loyalty scheme makes it easy to understand elite status requirements. The airline has two levels of elite status: A-List and A-List Preferred. (Plus, of course, there’s the coveted Companion Pass.) While the Southwest Premier Card won’t earn you automatic elite status, it allows you to earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 spent toward A-List status with no limit on the TQPs you can earn. A-List status typically requires 35,000 TQPs in a calendar year or 25 qualifying one-way flights.

That’s a lot of money to spend on your card in order to earn status, so if you’re planning on flying with Southwest, it’ll be easier — and likely less expensive — to achieve status that way. Once you reach A-List status, you’re entitled to priority boarding, priority check-in, 25% bonus earning, same-day confirmed changes, same-day standby and more.

In addition to the path toward A-List status, the card also offers 6,000 bonus anniversary points, two EarlyBird check-ins annually, 25% back on in-flight purchases and more. The Southwest Premier Card comes with a $99 annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card.

Best credit card for JetBlue TrueBlue elite status perks

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Elite status: No automatic elite status, however, card holders can earn Mosaic status benefits after spending $50,000 or more in purchases within a calendar year.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases and paying the annual fee in full within the first 90 days.

The JetBlue Plus Card offers top-tier TrueBlue Mosaic elite status for a relatively reasonable spending requirement: $50,000 in a calendar year.

Once you’ve reached Mosaic status, you’ll enjoy perks like 3x bonus points on JetBlue flights, two checked bags for free, upgrades to Even More Space seats, free same-day changes, early boarding, complimentary onboard drinks and reciprocal benefits when flying American Airlines. In spring 2023, JetBlue is revamping the TrueBlue program to create different tiers of Mosaic elite status.

Card holders of the JetBlue Plus can also enjoy a few perks usually reserved for elites, such as a first checked bag for free and 6x bonus points on JetBlue flights. Card holders also receive an annual $100 JetBlue Vacations statement credit, 50% savings on in-flight food and drink purchases and 5,000 bonus points every account anniversary. The JetBlue Plus Card comes with a $99 annual fee.

All information about the JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by CNN. The JetBlue Plus Card is not currently available through CNN.

Many hotel credit cards tend to offer automatic elite status — and some even offer the ability to earn your way to higher status through spending. Here’s a look at our favorite hotel credit cards if you’re looking for elite status quickly just by holding a card:

Best overall card for hotel elite benefits across multiple programs

The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of six Amex cards that provide access to Centurion Lounges.

Elite status offered: Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status and Hilton Honors Gold elite status (enrollment required).

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first six months.

If you’re looking for a card that offers status across multiple programs, the Amex Platinum is a surefire way to ensure you get elite benefits in different chains — namely with Marriott and Hilton, two of the largest in the world. The card provides Gold elite status with both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.

With Marriott Bonvoy Gold, you’ll get a welcome gift of points, late checkout, 25% bonus points and an enhanced room upgrade. On the other hand, Hilton Honors Gold includes 80% bonus points, complimentary upgrades at check-in, fifth-night free benefits, waived resort fees on award stays and a choice of food and beverage credit, club lounge access or complimentary breakfast. With both Hilton and Marriott Gold status, your upcoming hotel stays will be more comfortable.

Additionally, even if you’re not staying at a Hilton or Marriott property, you can get elite-style benefits by booking your stay with Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection. Booking through these services, which is included as a perk of the Amex Platinum, means you’re eligible for room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check-in, late checkout and resort credits, among other perks. The card also comes with a $200 statement credit each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings.

The elite perks with the Amex Platinum go beyond hotels, too. You can also enjoy elite status perks on car rentals with Avis Preferred, Hertz President’s Circle status and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status (enrollment required). The Amex Platinum is one of our favorite overall credit cards for travelers because of the benefits that it offers. Not only will you get complimentary elite status, but you’ll also get airport lounge access, $200 in statement credits to use with an airline of your choice, Uber statement credits and much more — you can read our full review of the Amex Platinum here. The card charges a $695 annual fee (see rates & fees).

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum.

The best credit card for Marriott Bonvoy elite status perks

St. Regis Maldives

Elite status: Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status just for holding the card.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex Card is an excellent choice for elite benefits at Marriott hotels. The card offers instant Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status, which usually requires 50 nights per year. With the status, you can enjoy perks like 50% bonus points, enhanced room upgrades (including Select Suites), 4 p.m. late checkout, a welcome gift of points, breakfast or other amenity and lounge access. The card also provides 25 elite night credits per year if you want to level up to higher status — that gets you about one-third of the way to Titanium elite status.

The Bonvoy Brilliant has a $650 annual fee (see rates & fees). In turn, you get premium travel perks like an annual free night certificate valid at Marriott hotels less than 85,000 points per night. You also receive a Priority Pass Select membership to enjoy complimentary airport lounge access and a $100 annual luxury property credit to use on qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties. These perks can help you enjoy a more comfortable experience on your next Marriott vacation.

Click here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

If you’re looking to spend your way to top-tier status, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, which not only gives you automatic Silver elite status, but it also awards 1 night toward status for every $5,000 you spend. When you spend $35,000 on the card annually, you’ll earn automatic Gold status.

The best credit card for World of Hyatt elite status perks

Alila Villas Uluwatu

Elite status: Complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status as long as your account is open.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 points by earning 2 bonus points total per dollar spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 point, on up to $15,000 spent.

The World of Hyatt Card offers automatic Hyatt Discoverist status, which is the lowest level of Hyatt elite status available. With Disoverist status, you’re entitled to 10% bonus points, MQM Pearl status, premium internet, bottled water, a preferred room upgrade based on availability, 2 p.m. late checkout and more.

What’s most appealing about this card is that you can spend your way up to a higher status. You’ll earn five elite night credits every year for holding the card, plus two additional elite nights for every $5,000 spent. If you manage to complete $140,000 worth of spending in a calendar year, you’ll earn top-tier Globalist status.

The World of Hyatt Card has a reasonable annual fee of $95. If you stay at Hyatt properties more than a couple of times per year, you can easily earn the annual fee back in benefits that you get from holding the card. That’s because in addition to the automatic Discoverist status, you’ll also get one free night at any Category 1-4 property every year and you can earn an extra free night if you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Click here to learn more about the World of Hyatt Card.

The best credit card for IHG One Rewards elite status perks

An Overwater Pool Villa at the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort

Elite status: Complimentary Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a card holder.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

With more than 6,000 hotels worldwide, IHG has one of the largest footprints in the hotel industry. Chances are, you’ll stay at an IHG property at some point in your travels. When you do, status can provide a better experience.

IHG One has four elite status tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. You can bypass the stay requirement for Platinum status by getting the IHG Rewards Premier Card. That’s because the card offers instant Platinum status, which includes practical perks like discounted award nights, welcome amenities, early check-in, late checkout, complimentary upgrades and bonus points on paid stays.

The IHG Premier Card has a $99 annual fee and offers plenty of recurring perks to make your IHG stays as an elite member more rewarding. Card holders earn up to a combined 26 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels, the fourth night free on consecutive nights of award bookings and an annual free night.

Click here to learn more about the IHG Rewards Premier Card.

The best credit card for Hilton Honors elite status perks

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

Elite status: Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond elite status.

Welcome bonus offer: Earn 150,000 bonus Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is an extremely lucrative card for travelers who often stay at Hilton hotels. That’s because card holders receive automatic top-tier Hilton Diamond status, which usually requires 42 nights, 21 stays or 84,000 base points in a calendar year. Considering the savings and perks, the card’s $450 annual fee can be well worth it if you stay at Hilton hotels enough (see rates & fees).

Hilton Diamond members get complimentary food and beverage credits at US hotels and complimentary breakfast at international hotels. Diamond members are also entitled to lounge access, which can be a big saver since lounges often provide at least one meal a day. Add the 100% point bonus on paid stays, space-available room upgrades and premium Wi-Fi, and Honors Diamond status becomes even more appealing.

Click here to learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire Amex.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by CNN. This card is not currently available through CNN.

If you travel frequently enough, elite status can be worth it. Here are some common questions about getting a credit card for the benefit of elite status.

Earning elite status can be challenging if you’re not a frequent traveler. So, getting a head start by the way of a credit card can be beneficial in some cases. You don’t have to wait months before gaining access to elite status benefits. Instead, by picking up a credit card and getting some status level outright or very close to it, you can often take advantage of status perks faster. If you’re willing to pay the annual fee associated with the card, credit cards can be a great way to earn airline and hotel elite status outright or expedite how you can achieve it.

Ultimately, whether it’s worth it or not depends entirely on your travel and spending habits. If you stay at a certain brand’s hotels or fly exclusively with one airline enough, status can make the stay or journey much more enjoyable. If you’re close to achieving elite status, a credit card’s bonus elite-status credits can often put you over the edge to earn the coveted perks.

The annual fee associated with any given credit card differs. However, most credit cards that offer elite status as a benefit often charge an annual fee. Check the terms and conditions of the card before applying to see if you’ll be required to pay an annual fee.

Click here for rates and fees of the Delta Reserve American Express card.
Click here for rates and fees of the American Express Platinum card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards currently available.

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