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How to Get a Hotel Room Upgrade 2022

How to Get a Hotel Room Upgrade 2022

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From earning hotel elite status to simply asking the concierge, savvy travelers know there are several ways to snag a hotel room upgrade and add a bit of extra comfort to your trip.

Quick tips:

  • Simply asking the hotel concierge can grant you a free hotel room upgrade
  • Joining a hotel loyalty program can win you an upgrade
  • Signing up for a co-branded credit card can earn you an upgrade
  • Increase your chances of an upgrade by traveling during the off-season
  • Book your room directly with the hotel for a potential upgrade

Do you love that feeling of walking into your hotel room to find a wall-sized window with a breathtaking view of the city skyline — or, depending on your destination, magnificent mountains or crashing ocean waves?

woman enjoying view from hotel room

Staying in a better hotel room with special perks can turn a normal trip into a luxury getaway that makes you feel like a VIP. A room upgrade can take you from a basic king or queen to a corner room or one on a higher floor. Or, if you snag the ultimate in upgrades, you may even get a suite with a cozy, stylish living area for hanging out and a separate sleeping area for privacy.

There are many different ways to get a free hotel room upgrade, and methods vary by hotel and brand. We'll give you an overview on how to get an upgrade, including some hotel room upgrade secrets that can get you into a better room even if you're not a seasoned traveler.

The basics: Getting free hotel upgrades

Getting a free upgrade is often a matter of luck. However, you'll want to put yourself in the best position possible for making it happen.

You may get an upgrade because the type of room you booked is unavailable or there's an issue with your room and the hotel staff want to go out of their way to make things right. If you don't luck into an upgrade, you may be able to sweet-talk your way into one.

You may have a better chance of getting an upgrade if:

  • You are staying at the hotel for a special occasion like a milestone birthday or anniversary and you call ahead to ask. Of course, there are no guarantees. Your success may depend on who you talk to, what their mood is like that day and how nicely you ask.
  • You're staying on a slower day rather than a busy one. Hotels sell rooms at rates based on tier levels and generally charge more for a nicer room. While hotels want to satisfy guests, they also want to make money. So, during busier times, corporate headquarters may issue rules restricting upgrades in order to maximize revenue.
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It's also a good idea to join all the major hotel rewards programs to up your chances of getting an upgrade. As a hotel rewards program member, you are more likely to get upgraded and can even purchase an upgrade using any points you earn from previous stays.

The easiest way to get a guaranteed room upgrade is to reach elite status with a hotel rewards program.

This may be easier said than done if you don't travel frequently. But there's a workaround: With some hotel brands, you can get elite status and room upgrades by getting a co-branded hotel credit card.

What is a hotel room upgrade?

A hotel room upgrade is a change from a basic or standard room to a room or suite with better amenities or qualities.

For example, many hotels charge significantly more for rooms with views of the city, a park, a lake or an ocean than for rooms with views of random streets or building rooftops. But if you book a basic room, you may be able to get switched to a room with a view at no extra cost when you check in.

Room upgrades vary widely depending on the brand of the hotel in which you are staying and the types of rooms available. Examples of upgrades include getting moved from:

  • A smaller room to a larger room or suite
  • A lower-floor room to a higher-floor room
  • A room with a poor view to a room with a great view
  • A middle-of-the-hall room to a corner room
  • A room with a queen bed to a room with a king bed

Keep in mind that the hotel staff know the hotel best, and many hotel rewards programs give them discretion to decide what constitutes an upgrade. So while you may be dreaming of a spacious suite, you could just end up getting a similar room on a slightly higher floor.

If you are a light sleeper, a room upgrade can get you a large corner room away from the elevator and ice machines. If you're traveling with your family, a room upgrade can move you from a standard room with two queens to a suite that offers a bonus room with an extra TV.

Getting a hotel room upgrade through a loyalty program

Joining and achieving elite status in a hotel rewards program is one of the best ways to snag an upgrade. Hotel programs offer multiple tiers of elite status that you can earn based on how frequently you stay and how much you spend. Most hotel programs require you to reach a middle level of elite status before you get free upgrades as a perk.

Don't travel enough to earn mid-level elite status?

You may be able to get elite status by paying to join a special program with the hotel or by getting and using a co-branded hotel credit card.

A few cards automatically grant you a level of elite status that comes with free upgrades while other cards offer status at a lower tier with the opportunity to move to a higher tier when you spend a certain amount per year on the card.

How to get an upgrade – Hilton

The Hilton Honors program is a rewards program offered by Hilton hotels that includes 18 brands and over 6,500 properties around the world. The Hilton Honors program offers three elite tiers. You need to reach Gold elite status — the mid-level tier — to begin getting free upgrades.

Non-elite Member

Silver Elite

Gold Elite

Diamond Elite

When you join the Hilton Honors rewards program, you become a non-elite member and you get the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed Hilton Honors Discount rate
  • Points toward free nights, travel partners and more
  • No resort fees on reward stays
  • Digital Check-in
  • Choose Your Room
  • Digital Key
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Access to Exclusive Hilton Honors Experiences
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Non-elite Member

When you join the Hilton Honors rewards program, you become a non-elite member and you get the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed Hilton Honors Discount rate
  • Points toward free nights, travel partners and more
  • No resort fees on reward stays
  • Digital Check-in
  • Choose Your Room
  • Digital Key
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Access to Exclusive Hilton Honors Experiences
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Silver Elite

Silver is the lowest elite tier of the program, and it does not come with automatic free upgrades. To become a Silver member, you need either two stays, five nights or 12,500 Hilton Honors base points per calendar year. As a Silver member, you get the standard member benefits plus:

  • Earn 20% bonus points on qualified stays
  • Fifth night free when booking a stay of five nights or longer using points
  • Two free bottles of water
  • Elite tier rollover nights
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Gold Elite

Gold is the mid-level elite tier for the program and the first level at which you can begin getting free upgrades. To become a Gold member, you will need either 10 stays, 20 nights or 37,500 Hilton Honors base points in a calendar year. As a Gold member, you will receive all of the lower tier benefits plus:

  • Earn 80% bonus points on qualified stays
  • Space-available room upgrade up to an executive room type
  • Daily Food & Beverage Credit (U.S. hotels only) or Continental Breakfast (non-U.S. hotels)
  • Milestone Bonuses

Diamond Elite

Diamond is the highest elite level of the Hilton Honors rewards program. To become a Diamond member, you will need at least 15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 Hilton Honors base points in a calendar year. As a Diamond member, you will receive all of the benefits of the lower tiers plus:

  • 100% Points earning Bonus on stays
  • Space-available room upgrades
  • Executive lounge access
  • Diamond status extension
  • Premium WiFi
  • 48-hour room guarantee
  • Elite status gifting

As you can see, you will need to earn Gold or Diamond elite status to qualify for free room upgrades with Hilton. If you don't stay in hotels frequently enough, you can achieve status by getting a credit card (see below).

You can also purchase room upgrades using your rewards points. When available, there are options to book premium rooms using your points rather than just the standard room type. When booking online, the Hilton rewards site shows you which options are available and the number of points required for the stay.

How to get an upgrade – Hyatt

World of Hyatt is the rewards program for Hyatt brand hotels. The World of Hyatt program offers three elite levels, all of which can get you free upgrades.

Member

Discoverist

Explorist

Globalist

Member is the standard non-elite level of the World of Hyatt membership, and perks include:

  • Free nights
  • Member rates
  • Resort fees waived on free night awards
  • Exhale benefits
  • M life Rewards Sapphire status tier match
  • Small Luxury Hotels of the World benefits
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Member

Member is the standard non-elite level of the World of Hyatt membership, and perks include:

  • Free nights
  • Member rates
  • Resort fees waived on free night awards
  • Exhale benefits
  • M life Rewards Sapphire status tier match
  • Small Luxury Hotels of the World benefits
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Discoverist

Discoverist is the first level of elite status for the World of Hyatt rewards program. To reach Discoverist level in 2022, you will need to stay 10 qualifying nights, earn 25,000 base points or hold three qualifying meetings or events in a calendar year. In addition to the benefits of the standard member level, you get:

  • 10% Bonus on eligible purchases
  • Premium internet
  • Bottled water
  • Room upgrade (as available at check-in)
  • Elite check-in
  • Late checkout (as available at some locations)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage bonus
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Explorist

Explorist is the mid-level tier for elite membership. To become an Explorist in 2022, you will need to stay a minimum of 30 qualifying nights, earn 50,000 base points or hold 10 qualifying meetings or events in a calendar year. In addition to the benefits of the lower tiers, you get these perks:

  • Earn 20% bonus points on qualifying purchases
  • Upgraded Room excluding Suites and Rooms with Club lounge access
  • 72-hour guaranteed availability

Globalist

Globalist is the highest level of elite membership. To make it to Globalist status in 2022, you will have to stay 60 qualifying nights, earn 100,000 base points or hold 20 qualifying meetings or events in a calendar year. You get all of the perks of the lower tiers along with these benefits:

  • Earn 30% bonus points on qualifying purchases
  • Room upgrades, up to standard suites
  • Club lounge access or breakfast
  • Late checkout at 4 p.m. when available
  • Free parking on Free Night Awards
  • Priority access to rooms
  • 48 hour guaranteed availability
  • Guest of Honor

One of the nice things about the World of Hyatt program is that elite members of all levels can get free upgrades when rooms are available. The higher your membership level, the nicer the upgrade.

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With World of Hyatt, you can also use points to upgrade your room in one of two ways:

  1. You can book a suite or premium suite at a higher cost when using your rewards points for a free night. Standard rooms cost at least 5,000 points while standard suites cost at least 8,000 points at booking. A premium suite will cost you at least 10,000 points.
  2. You can also purchase upgrades at Hyatt hotels with points for paid nights:
Upgrade
Points needed per night
Regency Club or Grand Club upgrade3,000
Suite upgrade6,000
Premium suite upgrade9,000

How to get an upgrade – IHG

IHG offers the IHG Rewards Club loyalty program and has 6,031 properties in more than 100 countries. The program has three elite status tiers. You need to reach the middle-level tier of IHG elite status, Platinum elite status, to begin getting free upgrades. If you don't want to wait, you can pay $200 a year to buy into the InterContinental Ambassador program, which comes with automatic Platinum status and a one-category room upgrade.

Club level

Gold Elite

Platinum Elite

Spire Elite

InterContinental Ambassador

You automatically become a non-elite Club level member when you join the program, and you get the following benefits:

  • Collect points or miles/credits
  • Exclusive rates (member rate)
  • Dedicated customer service phone assistance
  • No blackout dates for Reward Nights
  • Reward Nights count towards elite status
  • Free internet
  • (No room upgrades at this level)

Club level

You automatically become a non-elite Club level member when you join the program, and you get the following benefits:

  • Collect points or miles/credits
  • Exclusive rates (member rate)
  • Dedicated customer service phone assistance
  • No blackout dates for Reward Nights
  • Reward Nights count towards elite status
  • Free internet
  • (No room upgrades at this level)

Gold Elite

Gold is the lowest elite tier in the IHG rewards program. To reach this level, you will need to stay seven qualifying nights or earn 7,000 qualifying points. In addition to all of the benefits of Club level, you get the following benefits:
  • Extended checkout
  • Points don't expire
  • Priority check-in
  • Earn 10% bonus points on top of base points
  • Welcome amenity / Raid the Bar at Kimpton hotels / Wellness Platter at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
  • (No room upgrades at this level)

Platinum Elite

Platinum Elite is the middle tier of elite status, and it requires a minimum of 30 qualifying night stays or 30,000 qualifying points. In addition to all of the benefits of lower tiers, you get:

  • A 50% bonus on points (instead of 10%)
  • Complimentary room upgrades
  • Guaranteed room availability
  • Elite rollover nights, meaning you can roll unused points into the next calendar year

Spire Elite

Spire Elite is the highest tier of elite status, and it requires a minimum of 55 qualifying nights in an IHG hotel or 55,000 qualifying points. In addition to all of the benefits of lower tiers, Spire offers:

  • A 100% bonus earning on points (instead of 50%)
  • Complimentary room upgrades
  • Exclusive Choice Benefit upon receiving status
  • Early check-in (10 a.m. when selected as a stay preference)
  • Exclusive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® Five Star® Upgrade upon receiving status

InterContinental Ambassador

InterContinental Ambassador is a special program that you can buy into for $200 per year. You get Platinum Elite status in the IHG rewards club plus:

  • A guaranteed one-category room upgrade
  • Late 4 p.m. check-out
  • Free weekend night when you pay for one weekend night
  • Restaurants and bars credit of up to $20 for every stay
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Premium internet
  • Dedicated check-in area

You can also get a room upgrade with IHG by choosing an upgraded room when booking rewards nights with points. The more luxurious the hotel and the nicer the room, the more it will cost you in points.

How to get an upgrade – Marriott

The Marriott Bonvoy rewards program offers guests the opportunity to earn points by staying at one of the 7,000+ Marriott properties across the world. There are five elite membership tiers. You need to reach the third elite Marriott Bonvoy tier, Gold Elite, in order to start getting free room upgrades.

Member

Silver Elite

Gold Elite

Platinum Elite

Titanium Elite

Ambassador Elite

Simply sign up for the program to become a non-elite member. Benefits include:

  • Free in-room internet
  • Exclusive member rates
  • Access to mobile check-in services
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Member

Simply sign up for the program to become a non-elite member. Benefits include:

  • Free in-room internet
  • Exclusive member rates
  • Access to mobile check-in services
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Silver Elite

Silver Elite is the lowest elite level membership tier. To reach this status, you will need to stay 10 nights in a calendar year. On top of standard member benefits, this level includes:

  • Earn 10% bonus points on stays
  • Priority late checkout when available
  • Ultimate reservation guarantee: If there isn't a room available, they will pay for you to stay in a room nearby
  • (No upgrades at this level)

Gold Elite

Gold Elite is the lower middle level of elite status, and you will need to stay a minimum of 25 nights in a calendar year to reach this status. It provides all of the benefits of lower tiers plus:

  • Earn 25% bonus points on stays (rather than 10%)
  • Late checkout at 2 p.m.
  • Welcome gift of 250 to 500 bonus points

Platinum Elite

Platinum Elite is the higher middle level of elite status and requires a minimum of 50 nights in a calendar year. You get all the benefits of lower tiers plus:

  • Earn 50% bonus points on stays (rather than 25%)
  • Dedicated Elite Support
  • Enhanced room upgrade including suites, based on availability
  • Welcome gift choice of points, breakfast or amenity, based on brand
  • Lounge access
  • Guaranteed room type
  • Late checkout at 4 p.m.
  • Annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards™ or gift options), Awarded with 50 qualifying nights

Titanium Elite

Titanium Elite is the upper-level elite status and requires a minimum of 75 nights in a calendar year. It offers all of the benefits of the lower levels plus:

  • Earn 75% bonus points on stays
  • Free room upgrade, including suites, when available
  • Room guarantee when you book your room by 3 p.m., 48 hours in advance
  • Annual Choice Benefit (five Suite Night Awards™ or gift options), awarded with 75 qualifying nights
  • Complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver Status

Ambassador Elite

Ambassador Elite is the highest level elite status tier and requires a minimum of 100 nights in a calendar year, plus $14,000 annual qualifying spending. In addition to the majority of the benefits offered by the lower-level tiers, you will also receive the following benefits:

  • Ambassador service
  • Free room upgrade, including suites, when available
  • The flexibility to choose your 24-hour check-in and check-out times with Your24
  • Earn 75% bonus points (rather than 50%)

You can also purchase room upgrades using your rewards points. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Point upgrade award: If you have enough extra points and don't want to pay cash, you can book a better room by redeeming more points when you make your reservation. The number of points will vary by hotel and room type.
  2. Paid upgrade award: You can get a higher level room upgrade when booking using a cash copay, an option that allows you to pay for a room upgrade when you are booking a reward night using points.

Getting hotel room upgrades with credit cards

Getting a co-branded hotel credit card can get you to elite status quickly and may even automatically grant you a high enough status to begin getting free upgrades immediately. Another plus is that hotel credit cards often come with welcome bonuses.

If you want more flexibility than a co-branded card offers, you can also transfer points into hotel programs from transferable credit card programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Amex Membership Rewards. You can then use your points to get upgrades.

Best cards for hotel upgrades

If you're getting a credit card specifically to get hotel upgrades, you'll want to consider applying for a card that grants you automatic elite status at a tier high enough to start getting complimentary upgrades immediately. With most hotels, that means you want status at the middle elite tier or higher.

Some cards that grant automatic high-level status also charge hefty annual fees, so you'll have to weigh the cost against the value of the upgrades, the other perks and your ability to earn status in another less costly way.

If you spend enough, getting a card that offers a higher level of elite status could be your most economical path to free upgrades.

We looked at cards on ValuePenguin and top issuer sites to come up with the following list of recommended cards for hotel upgrades:

Card
Annual fee
Elite status benefits
Hilton Honors American Express Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website
$0 Automatic Hilton Honors Silver elite status and the ability to earn Gold status, which comes with free room upgrades
Show All Rows

Can you tip the front desk staff to get an upgrade?

What if you're working on elite status but you want upgrades now? Could a tip get you a better room? It's always helpful to tip the front desk receptionist when you're seeking special treatment, but it's best to do it to be nice and not to view it as a scenario where you're "owed" an upgrade.

Tipping may not even be necessary.

Simply asking for an upgrade in a friendly manner can go a long way toward getting you elite treatment at a hotel. But keep in mind that hotel staff often are bound by the rules of their supervisors, and an upgrade may not be available.

Hotel upgrade tricks and tips

Now you've got the details on all the guaranteed ways to score a complimentary room upgrade at various hotel brands. However, it can take time to become an elite member at a hotel, and you may not travel enough to reach or maintain that status. Even if you don't have status, here are five tips that may help you snag a free upgrade to a more luxurious room:

  1. Join one or more hotel loyalty programs. Even if you aren't an elite member, you will be recognized as a reward member and that may be enough to get you upgraded.
  2. Avoid travel sites and book directly with the hotel. Many times hotels cannot modify reservations booked on third-party sites. They can, however, make changes to reservations booked directly.
  3. Ask staff for a hotel room upgrade. Not sure how to ask for a hotel room upgrade? Be friendly, ask politely and directly, and definitely mention if you're celebrating a special occasion.
  4. Let staff know if you have an issue. Don't make up a problem just to get an upgrade. But if you do find ants marching across your bathroom or notice an odor of fried food or cigarettes, don't hesitate to go down in person and nicely (and discretely!) let the front desk staff know what happened.
  5. Plan your stay during the off-season. You may be much more likely to get an upgrade to a room with an ocean view in a beach resort town in October, for example, than you are in May.
  6. Book at newer hotels. Newer hotels often won't have all their rooms filled, so will likely have more availability should you request an upgrade.

Becoming an elite member grants you automatic upgrades when you reach a certain level, but just getting a hotel credit card can provide a great shortcut. Otherwise, be nice to the hotel staff and simply ask. Now that you know how to maximize your chances of a hotel room upgrade, you can rest easy knowing you may be enjoying great views or a sweet suite on your next vacation.

How to get free hotel upgrades FAQs

When is the best time to get a hotel room?

The best time to book a hotel room to increase your chances of being upgraded is during the off-season in your destination. When a hotel is booked at a lesser capacity, there are more rooms available for an upgrade.

Can you get a hotel room before check-in time?

Early check-in depends on availability, so it's best to call the hotel in advance to see if you'll be able to access your room before your check-in time.

How to get free honeymoon upgrades?

If you don't have elite status with a hotel, the best way to get honeymoon upgrades, or upgrades for any special occasion for that matter, is simply to ask the concierge and mention you're celebrating your honeymoon or another special occasion. Upgrades are often based on availability, so don't assume you'll automatically be upgraded simply because it's your honeymoon — but it can't hurt.

How to ask for an upgrade?

Be sure to ask for an upgrade politely and discretely. Go in with no assumptions, and be happily surprised if they are able to upgrade you.

How to extend your stay at a hotel?

If you wish to extend your stay at a hotel, simply go online and see if you can modify your reservation. If you're already staying at the hotel, ask the front desk staff if they can extend your stay.

How to book a hotel room via email?

If you wish to book your hotel room online, the best way to do it is typically through the hotel's website or another third-party site. If you'd rather reserve your hotel room via email, however, contact the hotel's concierge via email to see if they can book your room for you.

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Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).