JW Marriott Cancun

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If you’ve always thought hotel elite status was a benefit for those who spend dozens of nights in hotels each year, we have a surprise for you: It’s not. In fact, hotel elite status can be earned without ever stepping foot in a hotel lobby, and that’s thanks to credit cards.

Most of the major hotel chains — think Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott — offer some kind of elite status through their credit cards. All you need to do is apply, get approved and hold the card. For Marriott’s Bonvoy program specifically, earning elite status couldn’t be easier.

That’s because Marriott offers status as a complimentary benefit on four of its credit cards. Additionally, you can earn complimentary Marriott elite status from a fifth credit card that isn’t even technically a Marriott card:

As you can see, Marriott elite status is easy to attain, though in the past the highest level of elite status that you could earn purely from a Marriott credit card came from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, which offers complimentary Gold status with the option to upgrade to Platinum status if you spend $75,000 on the card in a calendar year.

That card also currently comes with a welcome offer of 150,000 bonus points, which you’ll get after spending $5,000 in the first three months after opening the account. You’ll also get up to $300 in statement credits ($25 per month) to use at restaurants worldwide as well as a Free Night Award each year. However, the card charges an annual fee of $650 (see rates and fees), making it the most expensive Marriott card on the market by far.

A new way to earn higher Marriott status

Fortunately, there’s a brand-new feature on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card that allows you to earn elite status that’s even higher than Platinum, and the card itself only charges a $95 annual fee. But, be warned, you’ll have to spend a lot on the card in order to take advantage.

As before, you’ll get 15 Elite Night Credits just by having the Marriott Boundless card, which is enough for Silver elite status every year, and you can earn Gold status after spending $35,000 on the card in a calendar year. However, you can now also pick up even more Elite Night Credits with the card. For every $5,000 you spend on the card, you’ll earn an additional Elite Night Credit toward the next level of elite status.

The Marriott Miami Edition

There’s no limit to the number of Elite Night Credits you can earn as part of this new benefit, so if you spend $35,000 to reach Gold status, which typically requires 25 Elite Night Credits, you’ll then need to spend an additional $125,000 in a calendar year in order to reach Platinum status — $160,000 on the card in a year in total. Beyond that, if you want to target Titanium elite status, you’ll need to spend a whopping total of $285,000 on the card in a calendar year.

While this is an unconventional (and extremely expensive) way to earn elite status, it is possible to do. Keep in mind, too, that this doesn’t account for any nights you’re planning to actually stay in a Marriott hotel, earning Elite Night Credits the “traditional” way.

For most people, this new ability to earn one Elite Night Credit for every $5,000 you spend will likely come in handy if you’re only a couple of nights away from achieving status the “traditional” way. The ability to spend on your credit card to put you over the top to the next level of elite status could be essential to ensuring you don’t have to spend more nights in a hotel room than necessary.

Finally, for a limited time, the Marriott Boundless card is offering a sign-up bonus of three free nights (up to 50,000 Bonvoy points each night), which you’ll get after spending $3,000 in the first three months after opening the account. The card comes with a Free Night Award every year on your account anniversary starting with the second year you have the card as well as the ability to earn 3 points per dollar on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year at gas stations, grocery stores and dining.

What does Marriott Bonvoy elite status get you?

If you’re looking for a way to make your next hotel stay more comfortable, elite status is the best route. With it, you can take advantage of perks such as complimentary upgrades, late checkout and early check-in, bonus points and more.

Of course, what you get depends on the level of elite status you have. The higher the level of status, the more benefits. Here are the benefits you can expect to receive at each tier of Marriott elite status:

  • Member status: This most basic level of elite status is automatic when you enroll in the Marriott Bonvoy program and stay between zero and nine nights each year. You’ll get benefits such as free in-room Wi-Fi, member rates and mobile check-in.
  • Silver elite status: Typically earned after spending 10 nights each year. Along with the benefits from the basic member status, you’ll get perks such as 10% more points on stays and late checkout (when available).
  • Gold elite status: Typically earned after spending 25 nights each year. You’ll get 25% bonus points on stays, room upgrades (when available), 2 p.m. late checkout (when available), a welcome gift of 250 or 500 points and enhanced in-room internet access along with the benefits you’ll get with Silver status.
  • Platinum elite status: Typically earned after spending 50 nights each year. You’ll get 50% bonus points on stays, room upgrades (including suites, when available), a welcome gift choice on arrival, an annual gift choice, lounge access and guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout along with the benefits you’ll get with Gold status.
  • Titanium elite status: Earned after spending 75 nights each year. You’ll get 75% bonus points on stays, enhanced room upgrades (including suites, when available), a welcome gift choice, an enhanced annual gift choice and 48-hour room guarantee along with the benefits you’ll get with Platinum status.
  • Ambassador Elite status: Earned after spending 100 nights and $20,000 in qualifying spend each year. You’ll get dedicated Ambassador service and the ability to check in or check out at any time in a 24-hour period as well as all the benefits you’ll get with Titanium status.

Overall, if you’re going to be staying in a hotel regularly, it can only benefit you to have elite status. From free breakfast to lounge access and even suite upgrades, Marriott elite status can often make a stay more comfortable.

While it’s been possible to earn Marriott elite status through the chain’s credit cards in the past, this new option for Marriott Boundless card holders is a positive development, as it opens up a way for travelers to obtain an even higher level of elite status — similar to the way American Airlines now allows its own AAdvantage members to earn elite status by spending on its credit cards — without having to spend a ton of nights on the road.

Click here for rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.