Video Sunday Reader Question: Hilton Gold vs. Starwood Gold?

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TPG reader Lindsey is thinking about switching hotel loyalty programs and writes in:

“I’ve been a Hilton Honors Gold member for a number of years and am looking to change it up and get in with a new rewards program. I’ve heard some great things about Starwood Preferred Guest and I like their contemporary collection of hotels.  I travel on business 15-20 times a year (usually one-night stays) and like the ease of which I can earn points through Hilton HHonors, especially with my Hilton Amex.
 
I just signed up for a Starwood Amex, but am starting to question whether I should make the change considering all of the equity I’ve built up with Hilton.  Just wanted to get your thoughts if you had a strong inclination one way or the other.”

That’s a great question, and one I’ve been pondering myself since I’m a Starwood Platinum elite, and just made Hilton Diamond status for the first time, so I’m planning. The good news is – you can you get gold status with both chains without having to book a ton of hotel stays and just by carrying the right credit cards.

In my opinion, Hilton Gold is the best mid-tier hotel elite status with benefits that include a 25% points bonus, complimentary high-speed internet access and continental breakfast for two daily, and a a property-specific upgrade benefit which depends by brand but can include room upgrades (including executive floors which come with lounge access and if an Executive Floor room isn’t available, you can choose to get breakfast instead) or a 1,000-point welcome amenity, bottles of water, snack items, and GLON reduced-rate redemption opportunities. Hilton Gold Status is normally achieved after 20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 base points per year.

You already carry the Hilton Amex so you get complimentary silver status, but you can earn gold status without setting foot in a Hilton this year by spending $20,000 annually on the card. Alternatively, you could get the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature Card and receive Hilton HHonors Gold status automatically just for having the card (which has a $95 annual fee) – then if you spend $10,000 on it annually you get a free weekend night certificate (in addition to the sign-up bonus of two free weekend night certificates that are available with the current card offer. People who have the Amex Hilton Surpass card get gold status for the first year and then get complimentary silver status, though they can continue to hold gold status when they spend $20,000 on the card annually.

I love Starwood personally and stayed over 100 nights this past year, so I’m their very top-tier Platinum elite status. However, even when I was a Gold with Starwood I still enjoyed great perks like free internet and some fantastic room upgrades at the time. Gold status also comes with the enhanced earning opportunity to earn three Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent – a 50% bonus over base-level membership – as well as 4pm late checkout, and a welcome gift choice of bonus Starpoints, free in-room internet or a complimentary beverage.

In your situation where you’re thinking about switching your loyalty from Hilton to Starwood, you have a couple options. First, you can always just call Starwood Preferred Guest up and explain your status situation, say you’re considering switching your hotel stays to them instead and see if they’ll offer you a Gold status match. They might offer you a challenge where you have to stay a certain number of nights within a set time period, but that could also be a good way to get to Gold status with them fast. Gold status is normally achieved after 10 stays or 25 nights.

You could also get the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. Both the personal and business versions offer cardholders 2 stays / 5 nights credit toward elite status automatically per year, so if you had both, you’d be getting 4 stays or 10 nights credit toward Gold status (40% there!) right off the bat. Each card also awards cardholders with Gold status when they spend $30,000 on it within a calendar year. If you have the Platinum Card from American Express, you get SPG Gold status automatically as well.

There are plenty of ways to get status with both programs without having to spend your entire year in hotels. Just having the right credit card can mean automatic Gold status with Hilton, while the fact that you have a Starwood Amex means getting to Gold status is that much quicker and easier. Plus your background as a Hilton Gold might help you get a status match from Starwood and then you can spend this year enjoying elite status benefits at both and deciding which chain to give your loyalty to in the future.

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