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

by on January 6, 2013 · 12 comments

in Hilton, Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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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.

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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  • Mileage Update

    I think that Hilton Gold is way better than SPG Gold. That said I like SPG properties and the SPG program better than Hilton.

  • RobM

    I’m Diamond with Hilton and Gold with Starwood, but I have been Gold with both at the same time as well. Domestically, I find that Hilton gives me better benefits – but as a Gold with Starwood, International benefits have yielded some GREAT upgrades.

    Nonetheless, breakfast in Europe can run 30 euros per person and up, so a 60 euro savings can sometimes be a tipping point towards a Hilton stay vs a Starwood stay in the same city because Hilton Gold gets breakfast and SPG Gold does not.

    A lot will depend on which country you are in. I originally ramped up my SPG status because of travel to Italy, where SPG beats Hilton hands down. It seems like Paris would also give a nod to SPG since Hilton is losing their presence there.

  • 976

    I already have Gold status at SPG with my Platinum Amex. I carry the SPG Amex as my go-to card when there are no bonuses available for the item I’m purchasing, basically to collect points since their points + cash option is so valuable sometimes. Should I be considering the Hilton Visa instead? Or maybe something else entirely? Love the perks of my platinum, but no need to use it daily. I have the Chase Saph Pfd for dining and travel (and non-Amex shops).

  • 976

    Slightly more background. I don’t travel for work, but I do leisurely travel more than the common person. Maybe 30 nights a year. So I’ll hardly be earning status that way. Just looking to collect points somewhere besides Chase.

  • Your Friend

    Gold at both. I am regularly disappointed at how little I get for being a Starwood Gold. If I had to choose only one, I’d go with Hilton.

  • Heather @ pass the dressing

    With the Hilton Citi Reserve, is there a list somewhere that shows what properties are participating in the 2 free weekend nights deal?

  • thepointsguy

    All properties that participate in HHonors. So if you can use points at the standard rate, you can use the credit card free night

  • Rebecca D.

    Question: I’m Hilton Gold ad currently staying at the Conrad Hong Kong. There were no Executive floor rooms available when I checke in yesterday. Should I be asking for the 1100 points and amenity bonus before I leave tomorrow? Nothing was offered. Thanks.

  • JenSLO

    The new Hilton status qualification levels are:
    DIAMOND: 30 stays • 60 nights • 120,000 Base Points
    GOLD: 20 stays • 40 nights • 75,000 Base Points
    SILVER: 4 stays • 10 nights

  • thepointsguy

    Whoops… thanks just changed!

  • Chris

    I was Plat with Marriott in 2011-12 but only qualified at Gold this year. I want to move over to Starwood since I can easily maintain Plat there. I called SPG and was only offered a Plat challenge to stay 18 nights in 3 months. I asked but they wouldn’t match at all, not even to Gold. I couldn’t even get a Gold challenge. I decided to pass as I don’t want my stays the next 3 months at the base SPG level. Should I call back and try a different rep? What are the magic words?

  • Bobdenny2

    Outside of just having status, the other key of course is redemption! I have had mid and top teir status with both programs, and the trade off for me comes down to this:
    Hilton appears to have far better penetration into international markets, so I’ve found more options when redeeming Hilton points than SPG when traveling abroad. However, I’ve had some better expereiences with SPG allowing last minute redemptions, even after I lost my top status with them, when Hilton had nothing for me. I also think SPG points tend to go farther than Hilton points in general, so they are just worth more. If you are redeeming primarily in north america Hiltons international presence may not be as important

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