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Starwood To Count Award Stays Towards Elite Status

by on September 28, 2011 · 27 comments

in Polls, Starwood

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Gary at View from the Wing recently broke the news that Starwood will start counting award stays (including my favorite: Cash & Points) towards elite status. This is pretty big news and brings Starwood in line with Hilton, who currently counts award stays towards elite status.

However, Starwood has slightly lower elite qualification for their coveted top tier: 25 stays or 50 nights vs. Hilton’s 28 stays/60 nights. I’ve never been a Hilton Diamond, but the big difference is that Starwood offers select standard suite upgrades for their top tier elites – even on award stays.

I personally think this is a great enhancement to the program, because I struggle maintaining top tier status with three chains. I feel like I always need some help and I always seem to make it all happen. Like this year, I re-qualified for Hyatt because I participated in the Star Mega Do 3 and Hyatt Diamond was given as a gift.

Now, I have less pressure to squeeze in Starwood paid stays, because I have several free resort night stays (from their summer promo) coming up and now they will count towards my Platinum requalification.

The people who won’t like this change are those who have no issues qualify the “hard” way. This program change will basically mean more Starwood Platinums and more competition for those suite upgrades. However, Starwood has a proprietary ranking system that orders upgrade priority, so I still feel like high value/top customers will still get treated better than those who squeak by and maintain status the cheap way.

Lately my domestic experience as a Starwood Platinum has been lackluster at best. I don’t remember the last time I got a suite on a stay within the US, though I get treated like a king in Europe (and my Starwood points save me a ton of money) so that’s why I continue to strive for Platinum. (See my last stay report at the Westin Palace Madrid for a recent experience).

Starwood also gives 2 stays/5 nights of elite status qualification for those who have the Starwood American Express card, so they are making elite status very attainable if you get that card and use the points for free nights.

What are your thoughts on Starwood's decision to include award stays toward elite status?

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  • Carl

    I do not like this, as it will inflate the Platinum ranks at the expense of those who qualify with paid stays. But a little confused regarding your comment about upgrade priority, as I thought it was first come, first serve at check-in, per the T&Cs?

  • The messenger

    Does this start immediately? Wonder how this is being traced as I never got my Platinum welcome points on award stays automatically.

  • Anonymous

    Starts October 1. Should happen automatically

  • Anonymous

    It has to be available at checkin, but often times they preblock suites for high ranking platinums. Apparently Starwood sends an updated list of who gets priority based on proprietary ranking factors (the hotels are not obligated to go by it and can make adjustments as they see fit)

  • Chris

    Not entirely related, but I love the poll in this post! Keep up the great work

  • Jon S

    Yup – if you look at upgrade rates for most loyal platinums, they are much much much higher. For example, I have been upgraded to standard suites for about 5 months in a row this year (~25 stays in a row with upgrades). And this is at busy US properties in cities such as Chicago, NYC, Washington DC, etc. It helps that I’ve given SPG all my business this year (to date, around 45 stays, 130 nights).

    Hotels get a sheet each week from SPG listing all the platinums staying there that week. It includes stats such as how many SPG stays/nights that year, how many stays/nights at that property that year, your current starpoints balance, etc. Most hotels have a process for pre-assigning upgrades for the week based on that list.

  • Phil

    Agreed. While I am not such a big timer I did my stay no 34 this week in NYC and when I checked in the agent picked up my card which was already in a “you’ve been upgraded” wrapper immediately. It was clear they had already upgraded me and allocated room and prep’d the key even. Was a nice touch frankly.

    I do hope they will match Hyatt’s free breakfast though. That will make a big difference for me on redemption stays. Getting stay/night credit AND free breakfast would be tres cool

  • Zzzzmd

    They definitely do honor super elites
    I am at 42 tays this year. As long as I email in advance I always get upgraded to the fantastic suite, occasional wow suite at W’s. Even when using free days in south beach
    probably the eqivilant of 20k worth of upgrades this year alone.

  • Jessica

    Yeah! I just started staying at Starwoods in the past year and this will help increase my status.

    One clarification though. As a Hilton Diamond, I’ve frequently been upgraded on award stays. As one of their “My Way” benefit, you can choose to either get bonus points or an upgraded room with breakfast at Hilton, Conrad, and Doubletree hotels. This is regardless of the rate you are staying at. Although the T&C technically says suites are excluded from upgrades, the ocean front suites I’ve had on a few occasions on award stays goes against this.

  • Andrew10412

    SPG offers suite upgrades? I am a gold and was told at check-in that I would only be upgraded one category…

  • Anonymous

    Only for Platinum

  • Zzzzmd

    another tip, build a relationship with the managers and “hosts” at W’s
    Always be generous towards them, if suite not available (rare) be gratious and thankful for whatever you get.
    They have connections around the world
    you will never regret it, they really will go out of their way for you, hook you up at other properties, etc.

  • Coralbeachred

    Is the current SPG American Express card offer typically available? Do they often have even better promotions/points?

  • Anonymous

    Usually once a year they run a 30k signup bonus (like they did this July). The year before it was also run in July.. it may come again, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

    They just reduced the spend of the 25k offer from $15k in 6 months to $5k so I think the current offer is a pretty good deal.

  • Zzzzmd

    34 is plenty!
    thats once a week!

  • Kris

    will my spending on AX starwood card also upgrade from Gold to platinum or I have to stay 25 times to get platinum status? I spent abt $50k this month on my SPG AX card , will I get some credit for that ? Thanks

  • Anonymous

    “I get treated like a king”

    For the many not yet into this, on a slow blog day,
    maybe dumb it down:
    (or add to Beginner’s Guide)
    How to Pay ??% Less to get Treated like a King…

    a brief explanation why some are so eager to achieve top tiers,
    diamond, platinum, elite, uber plus, etc.,
    & typical time & $$ spent to get there,
    & once there, for how much less $$ they are getting “treated like a king”?

    IMO, if 50-65% off, why not just search for extreme discounts;
    66-79% off, OK if it fits in with all else one is doing;
    above 80% off starts to get interesting…
    (but how much $$ spent that wasn’t 80% off to get there?)

    (self-employed point of view; salarymen-salarywomen may differ)

  • Jon S

    No – can only get gold via amex

  • Walt K

    Doesn’t this also incentivize people to use their points at Starwood rather than transferring out to miles which I would think has value to SPG so they don’t have to purchase the miles and so that you spend some money at the hotel when you stay there.

  • LarShar

    I have been a Hilton Diamond for many years now and get treated 1st class on my award stays, the most recent being the Hilton NYC, the Casa Marina in Key West and the Hilton BayFront in San Diego. All of these stays I was upgraded to hospitality suites. I am old fashioned and write the manager an e-mail prior to my stay expressing how excited we are about our upcoming trip. They have treated my like gold and the newly announced Hilton Q4 promo is what I have been waiting a year for!

  • Brendan

    Any word on whether this applies to platinum challenges? If so, …

  • Matt

    It really depends on travel frequency, what you want/expect, and sometimes how often someone else is footing the bill.

    My thought is that you’re looking at it the “wrong way”, or in a way that does not add up (at least without the full story). Expecting an 80+% “discount” from some undefined price point is not necessarily realistic, nor a meaningful measure.

    How much do you normally travel, and to where? What is your normal standard for paid transportation/accomodation, and what would you consider reasonable to pay for something “better”? If you normally travel enough that you typically have 25+ hotel stays in a year, in markets served by Starwood by properties normally in your price range, the time investment and monetary investment is minimal. If you normally stay 1-2 weekends a year, then the investment would be huge. You’ve got to look at dollar amounts rather than percentages.

    Also, you’re typically only getting a “discount” from the perspective of paid premium travel. Absent redeeming of points/miles/etc. you are still paying the same base rate. How much you value the “discount” received depends on whether you would pay for the more expensive, or alternatively how much you would pay for it. Many of the benefits are difficult to attach a monetary value to, as well, particularly for airline status.

    You’re only spending less if you would otherwise pay for what you get.

  • Brendan

    Question redacted. I went straight to the source, and computer (flyertalk) says ‘no’.

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