Two years ago, almost exactly to this day, I wrote a post titled “Don’t Abuse Bluebird, but…” in which I described how cheap it actually was to attain elite status in various programs. That post is quite dated now considering I talked about things like the Amex Prepaid cards (brings back memories) and Vanilla Reloads (remember those?).
In the two years that passed, we came to learn just how easy it was to utilize our Bluebird(s) to take dream vacations all over the world. Heck, at that time you could buy Vanilla Reloads at Office Depot for 5x Ultimate Rewards points. I took a look at just how lucrative it was to manufacture points by doing that in my Bluebird/Chase Ink Award Cost Charts. A First Class, round trip flight to Australia for $250? A guaranteed suite at the Park Hyatt Paris for $52? Ahhh, those were the days….
Times have changed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attain any value. It’s not as easy as it was for that brief period of time, but there are still definite uses. Here’s an update of what you can do and what it will cost you.
Manufacture Marriott/Ritz Carlton Platinum Status for $450
I didn’t even discuss this option two years ago. The Marriott program isn’t the strongest award program that exists so it’s not often discussed for manufactured spending. Still, it’s a huge hotel chain that I know many people stay at for various reasons. Having Platinum status with them might be helpful to some.
With the Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa, you’d need to spend $75K in a year to earn Platinum status (Marriott and Ritz Carlton basically have the same program so it’s recognized in both hotel chains). To spend $75K using the popular mall gift cards, you’d need to buy 150 of them for $503 including the $3 fee. Your total cost would come to 150 x $3 = $450. Yes, you can have top-tier status with Ritz Carlton/Marriott for $450.
You can read more details on this from Frequent Miler.
Manufacture SPG Platinum Status for $276
As it did two years ago, SPG still counts award nights towards elite status. And also like two years ago, there’s absolutely no requirement that you actually spend a penny at their hotels. That means you can achieve SPG Platinum status with 25 award nights.
The cheapest way to do this would be to get 25 non-consecutive nights at a Category 1 hotel. As you know from reading my Beginners Guide to SPG, a weekend night at a Category 1 hotel is only 2,000 SPG points. So in the best case scenario you need only 50,000 SPG points to earn Platinum status.
The easy way to do that would be to sign up for an SPG card and get the 30K bonus points for free, but I’ll assume everyone reading this already has that card.
Instead, let’s manufacture them using that card. The most popular method is to buy the mall gift cards: a $500 costs a fee of $3, for a total of $503. We need 2,000 points for a night so we’ll have to buy 4 of these gift cards for total fees of $12. Loading and unloading it is free using Bluebird as we all know.
But wait, there’s more. If you already have the credit card, which I’m assuming you do for this example, you get a 2 stay credit towards elite status. That means you only actually need 23 nights for Platinum status.
So then, it’s as simple as doing it another 22 times. It costs $12/night and we need 23 nights total, so $12 x 23 = $276. Yes, it’s possible to earn SPG Platinum status for just $276. If you’re already Gold or Platinum, you can do it even cheaper since you earn points for each check-in (even on award stays).
The hardest part in all this is finding a Category 1 hotel since there aren’t that many. I’ve known people that called certain hotels and asked about phantom check-ins, and some eventually get a positive response.
Manufacture Hilton Diamond Status for $240
It’s actually cheaper to manufacture Hilton Diamond status than it is to manufacture SPG status. A feature of both the Surpass and Reserve cards is that spending $40K annually on each gets you top-tier Diamond status. I discussed Manufacturing Hilton Points just yesterday in case you missed it.
Using either card, I would need to buy 80 gift cards from a mall for $503 each including the $3 fee. That would cost me a grand total of $3 x 80 = $240 to get to $40K in spend and Hilton Diamond status.
I did this myself, and plan to do it again in January when my status is due to reset.
Manufacturing Hyatt Status?
Two years ago it wasn’t possible to manufacture Hyatt status, but now it kind of is possible. While Hyatt still doesn’t count award stays towards elite status, they do count points + cash stays. It’ll be a lot more expensive than the two mentioned above, but let’s see what we get.
From my Beginner’s Guide to Hyatt, we know that a points + cash award for a Category 1 hotel is 2,500 points + $50. As you can already tell, it’s going to be pricey.
To get to 25 nights you need to spend at least $50 x 25 = $1,250 for just the cash portion, then another 2,500 x 25 = 62,500 points along with it. I’ll do the calculation for fun, but don’t recommend you doing this.
You’d need to buy 61 of the $200 gift cards at your office supply store for a fee of $6.95 using your Chase Ink card. Fees would total 61 x $6.95 = $423.95. That puts the total cost for Diamond status at $1,250 + $423.95 = $1,673.95. That’s a lot of money.
You’d be better off doing a Diamond Challenge for 12 nights if you really want status with Hyatt. Note that the Hyatt credit card gives you 2 stay/5 stay credits for spending $20K/$40K annually on the card, but that’s not a good card to manufacture spend on. You’ll earn points for checking in on award stays as well so the actual total will be less than $1,673, but it’ll still be a lot of money.
It’s quite easy and cheap to manufacture hotel elite status. The hardest piece of work mentioned in this post is finding SPG Category 1 hotels since the others can be achieved by just credit card spend. Whether or not it’s worth it to do this a completely separate discussion that I won’t even discuss here. This post was simply to show how cheaply it can be to manufacture hotel elite status.
I’ve done this myself for Hilton and I manufacture a lot of SPG points for other purposes, but occasionally need a mattress run that I use points for. I completed the Hyatt Diamond challenge and have status with them through that and have no intention of earning Marriott status at this time.
Have you manufactured hotel elite status?