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Scrambling to achieve or maintain elite status isn’t just limited to airlines. Hotel elite status can be just as important to keep, so many people (myself included) are finding themselves trying to eke out enough stays, nights or spend to retain status. As with airline status, it is important to evaluate the cost of achieving status and whether those costs are justified by the benefits you will reap with status.
I have been on the road a lot this year spending nearly 180 nights in hotel rooms around the world. I am going to qualify for Starwood Preferred Guest’s uber-elite 100-night Platinum Status for next year without any trouble at all, and I’m looking forward to a year of earning 4 Starpoints per $1 spent at Starwood properties, the flexibility of YOUR24 check-in, 10 Suite Night Awards plus the 100-night added perk of my own personal Starwood Ambassador concierge service.
I have had Hyatt Diamond elite status for the past several years, and as the end of 2012 approaches I have just 20 stays under my belt and would need 5 more stays by the end of the year to requalify. I don’t have a lot more travel coming up where there are convenient Hyatts to stay at before the end of the year, so I’ve been considering all my options. The Hyatt Visa just added new elite status perks: 2 stays/5 nights with $20,000 in spend and an additional 3 stays/5 nights with $40,000 in spend. These thresholds are hardly as lucrative as the Hilton Citi Reserve and Surpass Amex which give Hilton Diamond top tier status with $40,000 in spend or the Starwood Amex and Business Starwood Amex that give 2 stays/5 nights with no spend, but the 5 stays would put me over the top by awarding me with credit for 5 stays as one of the card’s spending threshold perks. That’s a lot of cash to drop, though, so it will be cheaper and more effective to book some quick one-night stays wherever possible in the next few weeks.
The thing is, I traveled a lot this year and still struggled to retain Diamond easily, so I’m wondering whether requalifying is even worth it. Is it better for me to double down on Starwood and admit that it’s become my main hotel program, or to try to maintain Hyatt Diamond status and potentially drop to a lower tier of Starwood Platinum next year?
The drawbacks to Hyatt are that its properties that I like (for example Andaz Fifth Ave in NYC) tend to be expensive across the board and its promotions this year haven’t been very lucrative- heck there is no promotion at all this December! Hyatt also doesn’t give elite qualification credit on award stays, has no cash & points redemptions, and does not have as big a footprint as the other major chains (for instance no hotels in Spain where I travel several times a year). So am I just setting myself up for another mad dash for elite qualification again next year? Especially when I’m not sure I’ll travel quite as much next year the same way as I did this year, but rather intend to stay in places longer and perhaps even do some home swaps.
That being said, maintaining Diamond status might be a good idea because the Chase Ultimate Rewards points I earn with my cards like the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold transfer to Hyatt. That flexibility is one of my favorite ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for top-tier Hyatt properties like the Park Hyatt Istanbul and the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, so that also increases the value of maintaining Diamond since it’s another incentive to stay with the chain and I still get perks like free breakfast/club access on award stays.
If I do decide to go for Diamond status again, I think my best strategy to requalify would be to book 5 one-night stays at the cheapest Hyatt possible, which is looking like the Hyatt Regency in Miami, which is about 15 minutes from where I live. Rates this month are around $162 per night including taxes and fees, so my five stays would cost $810. I could try to drive further away to find cheaper properties, but I also value my time and I have a lot planned this weekend in Miami (Art Basel) before I go to NYC next week, then Ireland, then Christmas with family and then back to Miami for the new year. While it is only December 5, this is a busy time for me and trying to find cheap Hyatts in NYC is like trying to find cheap first class fares to Australia- not going to happen!
The Actual Cost of Retaining Diamond
Somewhat counterintuitively, I would actually use my Amex Starwood Business card since I would get a 3% rebate through the OPEN Savings program and 1 SPG point per dollar, so my cost would actually be $785.70. I would get 1,000 bonus Hyatt Gold Passport points per stay thanks to my current Diamond status, which I value at 2 cents each, so 5,000 bonus points is worth $100 off to me, bringing my cost down to $685.70 plus the 786 SPG points would be worth $17 at 2.2 cents each (my rough value for them). I would earn 5 Hyatt Gold Passport points per $1 as a base and a 30% bonus as a Diamond member for a total of 5,119 points. I value those at 2 cents each, giving me a value of $102. So from the $785 I’m spending, I take off $219 total for a cost of $568.
So in the end, what is that $668 worth? Here are the key benefits of Diamond status:
- Achieve rewards even faster with a 30% point bonus when choosing points: This means that I earn 6.5 points per dollar I spend plus using OPEN savings I get a 5% discount per year starting in 2013 plus 1 Starpoint per $1 when I use my Starwood Business Amex.
- Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites.
- Receive exclusive access to the Regency Club or Grand Club lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy daily complimentary full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge
- Treat yourself to a suite upgrade at the time of reservation four times annually on paid room nights
- Receive a special welcome point bonus or food and beverage amenity during each stay
- Receive a nightly room refresh
- Receive the confirmed bed type at check-in
- Stay connected with complimentary in-room Internet access
- Expedite check-in at a dedicated area for elite members
- Ensure a room is always available with our 48-hour guarantee
- Extend your stay until 4:00 p.m. with a late check out request
- Book reservations through an exclusive Diamond line
However, remember that since I have the Hyatt Visa, I automatically get Gold Passport Platinum status, which gives a 15% base point bonus, free internet, rooms upgrades, 2pm late checkout and extra bonus points after every third stay.
So if I spend the $686, the additional benefits I would receive end up being 15% bonus points on eligible spend, the four suite upgrades, access to Regency Club or free breakfast, 4pm late checkout and a 1,000-point welcome amenity on stays. Is this all worth $686?
Though hard to peg an exact value on them, the suite upgrades are nice to have. For me, the most concrete example of their value would be that I travel to LA a lot and stay at the Andaz West Hollywood where I can book a standard room for reasonable rates usually around $200 a night and get upgraded to a one-bedroom suite, which is a lot more spacious with a large living room, sitting area and separate bedroom. My LA stays average 2-3 nights each, so if you multiply that by four, I’m already looking at between $800-$1,200 in face value.
I also really enjoy the club access/free breakfast amenity. Club rooms can easily go for $100 more per night than standard rooms, and club-level guests can enjoy light meals throughout the day in the lounge, while at the Park Hyatts where I enjoy staying most but at which there aren’t club lounges, I get free breakfast every day (sometimes even via room service) of my stay that’s almost definitely worth over $30 per day.
After much consideration, I have decided that I am indeed going to to go for Diamond status again since I am so close and the potential value of all those perks can far outweigh the remaining cash layout that will be involved and I am going to continue to monitor rates in the hopes of bringing down the overall hotel rate I’ll have to pay. I think everyone should do the same and evaluate whether the perks of elite status outweigh the out-of-pocket costs just like we do with airline mileage.
What are your end-of-the-year nights/stays tallies? Are you gunning for the next level of status, or content to drop in status, and why? Share your thoughts below!