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Mid Year Hotel Elite Status Check-in: How Have You Fared So Far?

by on July 12, 2011 · 31 comments

in Hilton, Hotel Industry, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood

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Yesterday’s airline elite status check-in post was a really interesting read, so I figured I’d start another on hotel status. I am currently working on requalifying for Hyatt Diamond, Starwood Platinum and  Priority Club Platinum/Intercontinental Royal Ambassador and I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I have a lot of travel coming up, but for the first half of the year I didn’t have many stays because I was working on a team that did not require extensive travel (which was a huge change for me).

Now that I’m doing TPG full-time, I can work from anywhere, so I plan to do a ton of travel this fall and I’ve heard I’ll be getting Hyatt Diamond for participating in the Star Mega Do 3 (ps: stay tuned for a special giveaway coming soon ;-) ). That would be nice to get my Hyatt qualification out of the way so I can re-up my Starwood and IHG.

However, am I missing the boat with not focusing on the others like Hilton or Marriott? Please share your thoughts below on what you find valuable in your hotel elite status. In traditional fashion, I’ll start! Also, expect an updated post with hotel status/challenge match information to come. I’m currently working with limited wi-fi here in Mauritius.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Anonymous

    Hyatt- I’ve focused the most on Hyatt and I have 11 stays. I’ve used my suite upgrade certs twice and got nice suites at the Andaz West Hollywood and Hyatt Regency Vancouver. Promos have been decent and I really like the Diamond breakfast amenity and the ability to confirm suites 4 times a year on paid stays. Overall my favorite program right now, though the lack of international properties does bother me

    Starwood: I had a string of bad suite upgrade experiences last fall that made me focus more on Hyatt. While I think Starwood points are more valuable and flexible, I really value being treated as a top customer and not having to argue for promised benefits like suite upgrades. That being said, I have been treated like royalty at some properties, like the Westin Palace Madrid and W Montreal, so I plan on requalifying. I liked their Resort Night promo and will try to earn a couple more nights before that ends July 31.

    Intercontinental- I’ve had three stays so far and I’ve been treated extremely well on each – upgraded to nice suites- even the Presidential Suite at the IC Mauritius where I type this post. I was nominated as a Royal Ambassador and I doubt I’ll stay enough times (25? 50?) at IC hotels to keep the status, though I’m enjoying it so much I’m just going to do my best and hope they keep me at this level. If there are any Royal Ambs at there who could give me a clue at how much it takes to requalify, that would be great.
    Big downside is that there is technically no Royal Amb treatment on award stays, but there are a lot of exceptions to that rule.

  • Dave

    Starwood Plat since end of last year. Overall very disappointed with upgrades (right now about 2/40 last stays). Most of my traveling is for business and I’m alone so I don’t need the suite but its frustrating when I’m supposed to “expect” them and it seems like many properties don’t want to give them up. I like the concept of the guaranteed upgrades with hyatt (would be perfect when traveling with family) but I’m concerned about maintaining status with them because of their smaller footprint.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree with your concerns about footprint. Luckily I travel to mostly big cities, but there are wide gaps.

    Are most of your upgrade failures in the US?

  • Dave

    All my SPG stays have been in the us. I’ve heard that internationally they’re much better, but work tends to keep me stateside. Although I like the chain of hotels assoc with SPG, it bothers me that many people have to call the gm/Plat concierge when they see availability online so they get upgraded. I complained once on a family trip (Plat friend got the suite who checked in later than us) but otherwise don’t have the patience or desire for it.

  • Thegasguru

    Marriott – Platinum. I get upgraded all the time, usually without having to ask, and the front desk usually notes my Plat status and “thanks” me for my business. In fairness, many of these are at one particular Marriott where I stay often and am well known. However, I am also very frequently upgraded to the lounge floor without asking everywhere else as well. Several times when my wife was travelling with me, I called ahead to the front desk (didn’t even ask to speak to the manager), and got actual suites…a couple of times the Presidential Suite (and I never book anything more than the lowest rate). Morning breakfast is nice. Also, there are Marriotts everywhere, and you can just about stone cold count on the consistency. I never have to worry about peeling paint or dirty sheets. Downside: 75 stays is a BOATload of stays to maintain Platinum. The stay two get one free promos are fairly generous too, I think.

    Priority Club: Plat. I got the Plat by status match. I chose them for 3 reasons. 1) they are probably the easiest to maintain top status, since you can keep status via stays OR points…and racking up points is pretty doable, since they let you sign up for multiple promos simultaneous when you make a stay. My last stay netted me 13,000 points! 2) Like Marriott, there are IHG hotels everywhere (think Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza). 3) Platinum override. There is a very nice, clean, new Holiday Inn at my daughters college town, that is ALWAYS sold out. First thing I did when I got my Plat status was to book a room there. The manager was a little put off, and warned me I’d have to pay the full rack rate, and I said…no problem (heck, it was WAY better than staying at the Motel 6 20 min outside of town). Since then I’ve booked several more times, established a relationship with her, and – no lie – sent her an Amex gift card, and more recently….wait for it….a gift wrapped roll of uncirculated freshly minted coins!! Ha! Downside to Priority Club: I find the consistency of quality clearly inferior to Marriott. Getting a nice room in a well maintained hotel with PC is a lot more hit and miss.

  • Matt

    My travel is to a mixture of urban and less-than-urban destinations. YTD 18 stays with Hilton, 12 with Starwood, 8 Hyatt. Footprint is a big issue with Hyatt, and to a lesser extent Starwood. Hilton is most everywhere, and in general I aim to stay at a Hilton property when the others aren’t available. Anticipate ending up with SPG Plat and HH Diamond qualification. Dipped my toe into the Hyatt pool, but don’t see a realistic route to Diamond, even if the benefits are attractive, absent some sort of promo.

  • travel656

    Similar to my steady-yet-lackluster airline post, I use IHG properties almost exclusively worldwide. I am a Platinum Ambassador, but really that just means Ambassador because I mostly stay at InterContinental hotels. Frankly I love so many of them. Beijing (near Olympic village) is one of the best I’ve stayed in; Yokohama is gorgeous; Tokyo Bay is a quiet, waterfront respite from the rest of busy Tokyo; Hamburg has a wonderful wellness area; Seoul is also first rate. There is just so much to like about the hotel and service experience, plus upgrades have been consistent, and there’s usually an IC wherever I need one. Breakfast at many non-U.S. locations is nothing short of exemplary. Club Rooms are typically beautiful. So for six years I have used IHG because of the properties instead of the rewards.

    But all that being said, I have many hotel-related travel frustrations that I don’t have with my steady Continental flight experience. Points at InterContinental properties are meager at 2000 per stay. Sure I can sign up for multiple promos (which really is the only way to get points to add up in any meaningful way), but that’s a pain, and I shouldn’t have to chase down ten different promos when I’m staying at IHG hotels every 2-3 weeks all over the world. I could bounce between properties to acquire multiple stays in a city, but that’s way too much trouble for me on a business trip, and it adds to the already complicated expense reports that come from three countries and four currencies in one week that I often have to deal with. So at the base points rate I need to hit 15 or 20 individual stays to earn one free night in an IC hotel? That’s crazy. And I get frustrated with the fact that InterContinental is the only premium brand in the chain outside the U.S. If I have to downgrade to a Holiday Inn because of price, then I’m often taking a big step down in service, comfort and convenience: the three things that prevent a business trip from dipping down into a depressing experience. So I’ve been thinking about switching even though the list of stellar properties that I mentioned above are absolutely great places to stay.

    Starwood: I am considering a switch to Starwood. There I have multiple options at the middle- to high-end: Sheraton, W, St. Regis and Westin. If there’s a Westin available at my destination, then I get essentially the same amazing bed in every city, which provides a comfortable platform for my evening Ambien fade-out. If the Westin is sold out then I can check the Le Meridien or other names. Points will hopefully add up more quickly than IHG and lead to more rewards nights.

    Hyatt: Unfortunately, Hyatt is mostly useless to me for non-U.S. travel on a reasonable budget. Many cities only have one Hyatt, and if it’s a Park Hyatt then you’re often looking at $500 per night to start. I’m flexible on price, but that’s too high a cost for me week after week. And many cities don’t even have a Hyatt option. I love Park Hyatts, and I always go for cocktails and jazz in Tokyo, but the cost is just consistently too high. In the U.S. it would be different, obviously.

    Marriott and Hilton have slightly better mid/high range options than IHG, but maybe not enough for me. I’m not sure. Radisson has amazing properties outside the U.S., and I was Gold with them for a few years, but I got tired of having only 3-star options for rewards nights in the U.S. Then I look at Pullman and other non-U.S. options, but those seem too limiting over time.

    Any comments about my possible Starwood switch?

  • Nick E

    I am Diamond with Hilton and have been for the last three years. My business travel is entirely domestic and rarely involves large cities, plus I am required to stay under budget, so $200+ for a room is a rare luxury (my manager asks me to keep it under $129/night, which is increasingly harder to do these days!). I find myself in Hampton Inns most often, coupled with some Hilton Garden Inns and the occasional Hilton and Embassy Suites (my absolute FAVORITE in the Hilton portfolio). I like that I can be assured of a clean room and facilities with Hilton properties, and I find that their prices away from large cities are pretty good. I know that their redemption levels are higher than others, but they do throw in 500 points every stay for using an American Express plus a 50% elite bonus. I do get upgraded rooms and/or access to the Executive Floor at Hiltons, but that’s not incredibly important to me; I am in it for the free nights to use on personal trips with my wife.

    The number one thing I love about HHonors is the double-dipping. Every stay, I get Hilton points plus Southwest points (the best partner to use if staying in a lot of Hamptons…most airlines allow 500 miles for each stay but only 100 miles for Hamptons; Southwest is 600 points across the board). Since most of my stays are one-night (33 stays and 45 nights so far, with another 20 stays across 23 nights booked over the next 3 months), I can rack up both free nights and free flights, and this helped me get a companion pass on Southwest last year. With their current promotion, I will get 1200 points each stay, which should help me earn a companion pass again for next year.

    Even though this third quarter promotion will help with my Southwest account, I must say that I have been disappointed with Hilton promotions this year:

    Q1: double/triple/quadruple points for 2-/3-/4-night stays
    Q2: 1000 bonus points per night
    Q3: double points/miles

    What happened to the free certificates?? I spent two nights at Marriott properties in February and earning a free night certificate. I’m hoping they will bring out all the stops in the fourth quarter.

    I also help bolster my Hilton account with the HHonors Amex. I think this card offers some of the best benefits out there: no annual fee, 3 points for every dollar spent, plus 3 additional points for every dollar spent at Hilton properties, gas stations, drug stores, and supermarkets. I average between 8,000 and 10,000 points per month just on regular spending, helping me get to free nights even faster.

    Diamond status also allows me to book rooms with points at a discounted rate. In May, my wife and I went to Tahiti and stayed in the Hilton Moorea for 6 nights. At 50,000 points/night, it would have been 300,000 for Joe Schmo, but as a Diamond member, I got it for 225,000. We’ve also used points for some other local stays in Florida and have rooms booked in Adelaide (4 nights) and Cairns (2 nights) with plans to add the Hilton in Auckland (2 nights) for our Australia/NZ trip in November.

    I’m also Silver with Marriott, though I’ve never actually “earned” that status. I got it two years ago when I tried the Marriott Visa from Chase, and they renewed it this year after only 3 stays last year. I stay in Marriotts every once in a while if they’re having a good promo to beef up that account. My wife and I love staying at the Fairfield Inn at the Orlando Airport for 10,000 points/night before an early morning flight. I honestly don’t even know the specific benefits I get as a Silver (other than the sweet Elite Status keycard!); I’m much more in touch with the Diamond benefits with Hilton.

    All in all, very happy!

  • Nick E

    Wow, didn’t realize I wrote so much. Sorry!!

  • Mark

    Hilton: Half way to re-upping Diamond. I love the double-dip option w/ BMI where I earn 1,000 miles per NIGHT (max of 3 nights). In less than a year I’ve racked up 45K BMI via Hilton. My pet peeve with Hilton is the lack of Diamond recognition domestically. I have been treated very well internationally (Peru, Spain).

    Starwood: 6 nights YTD and have little interest in their program, properties, and measily Gold status. I really don’t see the allure that everyone else does ?? To me, their low-end properties are sub-par and rates are usually higher than Hyatt/Hilton. Sure they have some nice high-end properties but the resort fees are tacky. I do like their presence in Africa but it takes FOREVER to earn points!

    Hyatt: A newcomer this year and have been thoroughly impressed with their properties (mostly HP) and GP program. My first stay wasn’t until April but I’m planning on making a late charge at Diamond. Just convinced my SO to get the Hyatt card by preaching the value of 2 nights at PH Vendome! Already have 45K in 6 months and am gunning for the 145K passport escape award at PH Maldives.

    Delta: Just reached Plat via fast track promo. DTW based so no other realistic option for me. I’m kicking myself for enrolling in the fast track promo because I will lose my rollover (above Gold) and will struggle to maintain Gold next year. Currently working on my first SkyMiles redemption for next Spring to CDG/ATH but finding the LOW availability has proved challenging thus far.

  • Bradley “Carberrie”

    I am SPG Plat and Hyatt Diamond. With 20 stays under my belt for SPG, I expect to re-qualify for Plat with no problem. I love their properties in Asia although the benefits I’ve received within the USA have left me wondering what the point is with staying Plat!

    I’ve only had 2 Hyatt stays this year and would really like to keep my Diamond status. I love the 4 confirmed suite upgrades as well as the free breakfasts! Any suggestions on how to accumulate a bunch of stays for someone living in NYC… Unfortunately I have no cheap Hyatts nearby for mattress runs! Damn pricey NYC!!! But I do love living here! Yes, I have a high class problem. lol

  • Cgriffiths

    Hi Nick, I’m also a Hilton Diamond and recently used my points for a week in the Seychelles and had lovely upgraded rooms. I have a quick question for you. I would say my status was probably earned for using the Hilton Amex card more than for actual hotel stays as I didn’t travel all that much last year. I have not been able to figure out what I need to get Diamond again for next year. Hilton Amex says I need a certain amount of spending, but I also have some stays this year, but can’t figure out how to combine these and check if I will qualify again for Diamond. Do you happen to know how this works, when you combine Hilton Amex spending with regular hotel stays? Many thanks.

  • tivoboy

    I’m currently Fairmont Plat (lifetime :-) ) IHG Plat Ambassador (will trigger my final RA cert later this year prior to some serious RTW travel) and Hilton Gold, going for Plat with the stay three promo from earlier this summer. Looking for some simple local Hiton deals to get it running

  • Anonymous

    I’m Hilton Diamond, got that by not even knowing about it. Signed up for a promo (I sign up for all promos no matter how far fetched they are), I had two nights in Rome and got home with an email welcoming me to diamond. Way Cool!! Currently Marriott Gold, have been gold for 3 years. I missed minimum night quota for renewing gold by 5 nights, but Marriott still renewed me as gold without asking. Platinum IHG, Gold SPG. I have to say the beds, breakfast and service I get from Marriott has been one of the best in the USA. For sure my preferred hotel in the USA. But going to try and reach for the stars with SPG, since I get more options in Europe where I stay. Use to use a lot of Radisson (Platinum)n and Best Western (diamond), but that gravy train is looooong gone.

  • Eric Boromisa

    SPG Platinum – I like most of their properties save for some aging sheratons and four points converted from other brands. In fact, many of them are quite new (Elements in particular are a very innovative hotel concept). I plan on racking up 10 resort nights on the current promo and heading to a beach in southeast asia.

    To the folks that felt they were stiffed with upgrades, you do know that each day SPG sends a list to each hotel ranking all of the platinums by stays/nights and the upgrades are (usually) distributed based on that? It’s an incentive for me to not switch immediately upon qualifying for platinum because if I rack up 35-40 stays, it’ll put me that much higher on the upgrade list for the coming year than someone who hit 25 stays and jumped ship.

    Hilton Gold – more as an insurance policy if I have to travel somewhere for business that doesn’t have starwood. I do like that hilton has ton of brands at the value level if I need to spend points and it’s hard to beat that embassy suites breakfast and hh :)

  • Steven S

    SPG makes it easier to requalify but that’s where it ends. SPG is great for air transfers, nice hotels and Cash and Points, but that’s across the board and not Platinum specific. I just requalified but there is no question that it pales in comparison to the treatment we receive as a Hyatt Diamond. I’ll take the sure benefits of Hyatt over the often promised and seldom received Platinum SPG benefits.

    But sadly, unless Hyatt has a Double Stay promotion before the end of the year, it’s not looking very good. But for a family trip already scheduled for the first week in September, there is no question I would have done the StarDO and Hyatt Diamond was only one reason!

  • Steven

    My current business assignment has dictated staying at either Hilton (Hilton Garden Inn) or Marriott (Courtyard or Spring Hill).
    As a new business traveller this year I utilized an MVP promo to get to Gold status with Hilton after 4 stays or 9 nights and just qualified for Diamond last week as I am now up to 28 stays and 51 nights. During Q2 I signed up for the Virgin Atlantic triple miles promo and ended up with 51,800 miles which I can either use for a RT to London or more likely will convert to Hilton points 1:1. I signed up for BMI just recently and plan to ride them during Q3 with the double miles promo netting me 6,000 miles per my usual weekly 3 night stay. I feel like I am a little all over the place (especially signing up for these random airline programs) but I am going for value and figure it adds a little spice to mix as long as I can accumulate enough points to make them worthwhile – ie 75,000 on BMI get me a Business Class ticket from USA to anywhere in Europe). As a new Diamond member I got upgrade to the Executive Suite at the HGI which isn’t anything crazy but still is nice to have. I have no clue if this will continue so more to come on that.
    As for Marriott I used the Chinese promo at the beginning of the year to gain Gold status and kept it for the year by staying 12 nights in 90 days. I also signed up for the Marriott CC and now have 35 nights this year (15 from the CC, 2 for spend on the CC – 1 night credit per $3,000 spent, and 18 from actual nights in the hotels). With Marriott saying that they will carry over nights again for 2012 my goal is to have 49 nights at the end of the year (50 are required to maintain my gold status). This would allow me to carry over 39 nights (49 nights – 10 required for Silver) and with the 15 nights from the CC I should start the year with 54 nights and immediately regain my Gold status and more importantly only be 21 nights from having Platinum status the next 23 months (if I can stay those 21 nights early in the year). I am curious though if my nights will roll over as I believe and hope they will if Marriott decides to keep me at Gold rather than let me fall to Silver. Any comments or experience based on this would be great to hear. My experience at Marriott so far this year has been decent and I really like the promo of having 2 stays = 1 free night as I can secure them with little effort and they are nice to have around.
    I love hearing all the experiences of fellow readers…I would really like to go after Hyatt but location hasn’t really allowed that for me this year. Next year the assignment will change and I guess I will have to re-evaluate the promos and dream trips that I want to build up points for.

  • Mike

    SPG Platinum and Hilton Honors Gold. (Well, almost for the latter.)

    Not traveling a lot and all I really expected for the 2011 qualification year was SPG Gold and HH Silver. When SPG announced their Platinum Challenge I signed up and I completed the 15 night stay requirement 83 days later, only one night paid out of pocket. A couple of weeks ago I discovered the Hilton Honors/Visa Signature promo and am on my second stay, will have my third stay completed when I check out of a HH property in Charlotte this Thursday morning, with all three nights being out of pocket.

    Seems that all of the stars have lined up just right for me to have unexpected status levels until early 2013!

  • Subbu

    Brian, how was your suite (and stay) at the HR Vancouver? Am staying there for 4 nights in July and upgraded to a suite using the suite upgrade cert – hope it is worth it. Not the first time to Vancouver, and this hotel has the most convenient location for a conference so we will be staying put here – hoping the hotel itself is nice. My favorite SPG property in Vancouver is the Bayshore but unfortunately the location works better for leisure stays

  • Jon

    Just SPG for me here… I sort of sadly requalified for Platinum by the end of February… I’m at 90 nights to date in 2011. But I love SPG, it’s the best properties, the most valuable points (2.2 cents per point is as good as it gets), and with my ultra-platinum status, I am treated like royalty. I have gotten a suite upgrade 10 stays in a row…

  • http://twitter.com/retailgeek retailgeek

    HH Gold. Never paid any attention to hotel points before this year. Thanks to advice here, I signed up for a HH Gold challenge and got gold after 4 stays in 1 month period. So now I’m focused on HH status and am at 12 stays / 20 nights / 21K Base points at the moment.

    It doesn’t seem like I get enough stays to spread them around to more than one program, it doesn’t seem likely I’ll make Diamond, unless I find a non-stays way to earn some extra base points.

  • Antonio

    Thanks to AMEX-Qatar I’m Hilton Diamond and Marriot Gold. As mentioned by RDMWorldTravel, to me Marriot is the best option in US since I get confirmed upgrades, lounge access and breakfast. But for a next trip to Florida, I’m planning to use my HH Diamong status to stay at the Hilton Conrad in Miami, and then I could compare properly both Marriot and HH.

    I’m IHG Ambassador/Platinum and planning to keep this status for the upgrades and footprint, specially for Middle East and Asia (my preferable holiday destinations).

  • Lauren

    If you are short on Starwood stays they have a pretty good promotion right now for “Stay One Night and the next is 40% off” for Thurs-Sun stays through 9/5/11:

    http://www.starwoodpromos.com/nycsummerleisure/index.php?EM=JUL_11_ES_C25

  • toomanybooks

    Can’t combine spending and nights to get to HH Diamond.

    It’s any one of the following:

    28 stays
    60 nights
    100K base points
    $40K calendar-year spend on Surpass card

    Or possibly a match or a challenge.

  • HFreeman

    Nearly all of my business travel is domestic so I’m SPG Platinum and should easily requalify – I’m back down to HHonors Gold due to cutting back on travel to crappy locations (hospitals are everywhere!) – I used Hilton mainly for Hampton inns as a safe bet whe there were no starwood properties. I’m also Mariott Elite at some level through the Ritz rather than the Ritz only program. I think Mariott is terrible outside of the Ritz. Some international travel to the UK and Brussels coming up for work – would love some pointers – want to come meet up?

  • Larry

    Nick,

    I am a long standing Hilton Diamond myself and I put them in the penalty box this past quarter due to their lousy promotions you described above. It really all started Q4 from last year with their “Stay a Sunday, Get Quadrupole Points” which stunk. Nobody I know spends a Sunday night out. From there is has been what you just described. I took advantage of Starwood’s stay 3 nights get 1 night free at one of their 200 resorts and utilized 3 nights free over the 4th of July weekend.

    Larry

  • Bellagio121

    HH Gold. Also a Marriott Rewards member. Thanks to the posts here, both my wife and I applied for and got Amex and Citi HH 4oK each card. We have stayed at Hilton four times and achieved Gold status. Marriott by Chase is now making an offer of 5oK points for its Premiere Credit Card… one free night stay upon approval, no foriegn transaction fees and annual fee of $85 waived the first year. My wife already has the Marriott Visa card. I am thinking about applying for this 5oK offer.

  • Scott

    Long time Hilton Diamond and SPG Platinum. Both offer good customer service and helpful reservation agents. Pretty consistent upgrades…especially with SPG. I’ve already met the requirements for SPG Platinum this year and about 2/3 there for Hilton Diamond.
    Quick question….is SPG now rolling over stays/nights over and above the Platinum qualifying thresholds? Seems like SPG might have done that at the end of 2010…but is it a new feature of the SPG program?
    THANKS!!

  • Scott

    Jon…big SPG fan here too. Has SPG started rolling-over stays or nights that are in excess of the Platinum qualifications…or was it just during a special promotions period last year? I started 2011 with some stays and/or nights that were carried over from 2010 activity. THANKS!!

  • Alex

    I just hit Gold HH until March 2013 :) Now I can work on SPG maybe next year and see how it goes :)

  • Alex

    What’s interesting is I still use the MVP rate for any stays I do even though I’m working my way to Diamond. Some properties do not allow it but it doesn’t hurt to try. I believe it can be close to the AAA rate some times less. Hope that will help you stay under budget :) A lot of my stays have been around $99 – $120 even at nice locations :)

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