You’ve done it – after clocking up plenty of Virgin Australia flights a shiny new Velocity Gold card is yours.
However, unlike the higher-tier status levels offered to Velocity Platinum members, there’s quite a disparity between HHonors and IHG Rewards Club at the Gold level.
While both programs offer free internet and late check-out as selling points, here’s how Velocity Gold’s hotel status freebies stack up.
HHonors Gold Elite
- Room upgrades at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Waldorf Astoria (subject to availability)
- The choice of free continental breakfast at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn or 1,000 bonus points per stay
- Access to the Executive Lounge at Hilton, Conrad and DoubleTree by Hilton properties if upgraded to an eligible room on the Executive floors
- Earning both HHonors points and airline miles/points on eligible stays
- 25% bonus on all ‘base points’ earned
- Every fifth night free when redeeming HHonors points for a Standard Room Reward of 5 nights or more (up to 20 nights per stay)
- ‘Spouse stays free’ – allowing the member’s partner to accompany them on their travels at no additional charge (in most cases)
- Various speedy check-in options including priority HHonors desks and queues, the Executive Lounge (if accessible without a room key), and Digital Check-in – where members can select a specific room number online prior to arrival
- Access to any available fitness centre or health club, if owned and operated by the hotel
- Two bottles of water per stay at most properties
IHG Rewards Club Gold Elite
- Access to the priority check-in desk
- A choice to earn either IHG points or airline miles/points on eligible stays
- A free newspaper on weekdays
- 10% points bonus
In addition to the above, both programs provide a toll-free contact number for their elite guests and have no blackout dates on reward stays – which also count towards status retention in both cases.
As you may have noticed, IHG doesn’t offer breakfast or room upgrades to its Gold-level elites. Nor does IHG provide access to its Club Lounges, unless you've booked a designated Club room.
HHonors ticks all those boxes, however, so all else being equal Hilton is the one we'd recommend.
Maintaining your free Hilton or IHG status
While free hotel status is a great complement to your frequent flyer status, you’ll only get the invite the first time you hit Velocity Gold – not when you simply retain that level after clocking up enough flights.
Of course, if your flying patterns take you to Velocity Platinum status, you’ll again be given a choice of hotel status – either HHonors Diamond or IHG Platinum Elite.
(Naturally, if you drop from Velocity Gold to Silver but later climb back up the ladder, you’ll get a second shot at this free Gold-level status with either Hilton or IHG.)
Although your new status is valid for 12 months in either hotel program, it’s easier to retain IHG Gold Elite than HHonors Gold in terms of calendar nights per year after the grace period.
IHG requires either 10 nights, whereas Hilton needs 40 nights.
It’s worth noting that you can also qualify for HHonors Gold status after 20 stays – that’s 20 check-ins, regardless of the length of your stay – which is a sneaky way to maintain that status if you only ever stay for a single night.
With HHonors, if you satisfy either the ‘nights’ or ‘stays’ requirement, your status is safe – there’s no need to reach for both.
And let’s not forget elite status earned by spend! Members of both programs earn 10 ‘base points’ or ‘elite qualifying points’ per US dollar (as applicable) on their hotel expenditure.
Given that IHG Gold Elite can be earned or retained with 20,000 ‘elite qualifying points’ and HHonors Gold with 75,000 ‘base points’ in a calendar year, this translates to an annual spend requirement of US$2,000 and US$7,500 respectively.
While not the most efficient way to maintain your status, if you’re dropping that kind of coin you’d rightly expect a little recognition.
Our call: HHonors Gold Elite
Unless there are particular aspects of IHG Rewards Club that really appeal to you, our pick of the Gold-level tiers is HHonors Gold Elite – the room upgrades and breakfast inclusions make this a no-brainer!
That said, if your company’s travel policy already has you bound to a particular hotel chain, then it does make sense to choose your complimentary hotel status accordingly.
If you truly can’t decide, you could always accept the IHG Gold Elite offer while applying for the Hilton HHonors Macquarie Platinum card (purely for the Gold/Diamond HHonors status) – that way, you’ll have elite recognition at over 8,500 properties worldwide!
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