Last week, Hyatt entered a partnership with MGM Resorts, opening up 12 properties in Las Vegas where Hyatt Gold Passport members can now earn and redeem points, as well as earning stay/night credit toward elite status qualification, so I thought I would take a look at how Hyatt Gold Passport members can maximize this new partnership to earn more points and rack up elite night/stay credits faster through inexpensive stays, group travel and more.
The Hyatt – MGM Resorts Partnership
As a reminder, here is what Hyatt Gold Passport members will receive when staying at MGM Resorts in Vegas (and remember, you must be a member of both Gold Passport and MLife to earn/redeem):
-Earn 5 base points on every eligible dollar spent at the 12 participating MGM Resorts in Las Vegas – on room rates and incidental charges up to $5,000 per stay. Casino spend doesn’t count.
-Platinum and Diamond members will also receive their point bonuses of 15% and 30% respectively.
-Eligible stays will count toward Hyatt Gold Passport elite status
-Gold Passport members can redeem points for award nights at the participating MGM Resorts
-In August, Gold Passport members will be eligible to opt in to reciprocal tier status in MGM Resorts’ M life and enjoy elite benefits at participating properties. Depending on the matched tier level, members may receive special rates, upgrades, pre-sale access to concerts and events, members-only events and access to M life Moments exclusive experiences. Hyatt Platinum and Diamond members will not receive in-hotel elite benefits at MGM Resorts, so that’s why a status match is significant.
-Although you can use your two free sign-up bonus nights at MGM Resorts, Hyatt credit cardholders will not earn 3 points per $1 on charges at MGM Resorts since they are not Hyatt-brand hotels.
I have had Hyatt Diamond elite status for the past several years, and as we near the middle of 2013 and my thoughts – like those of many frequent travelers- turn to 2014 elite status I am beginning to take stock of my hotel stays so far this year and how far I have to go to maintain my status with both Starwood and Hyatt – especially since I have a lot of travel coming up this summer and fall and need to think strategically about where to stay.For me personally, maintaining Diamond status is important 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 Paris Vendome and my stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney later this year, 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.
While it’s hard to place any exact values on the benefits I get as a Diamond, the suite upgrades are a nice amenity, and a 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 for each upgrade.
I also really enjoy the club access/free breakfast amenity. Club rooms usually go for $100 more per night than standard rooms, and club-level guests can enjoy light meals throughout the day in the lounge. At the Park Hyatts where I plan staying most there aren’t usually club lounges, but I still get free breakfast every day (sometimes even with room service) that’s usually worth somewhere over $50 per day.
Now, 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 because I have Hyatt Visa. So the only elite consideration I have is whether to make Diamond. The card helps somewhat since it offers spending threshold bonuses and awards cardholders with 2 stays/5 nights when they spend $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. So that’s a lot of cash to drop, and it’s often cheaper and more effective to book some quick one-night stays wherever possible.
In fact, when paying for Hyatt rooms, I actually use my Amex Starwood Business card since I get a 5% rebate through the OPEN Savings program and 1 SPG point per dollar in addition to the 6.5 Hyatt points per dollar I get as a Hyatt Diamond.
One of the interesting distinctions about Las Vegas is that it’s a big group travel destination – whether you’re there for a convention or just meeting up with a group of friends from all over the country, which means that there are some unparalleled opportunities to earn points on group travel, or meetings.
For small groups, you can earn points (but not elite stay credit) for up to 3 rooms under your name on a reservation. Per item 7 in the Gold Passport earning terms and conditions: “Hyatt Gold Passport members may receive Hyatt Gold Passport points for up to three rooms (member’s room and two additional rooms). Member must be a registered guest, occupy at least one of the rooms and pay for all three. Only the room occupied by the member will count toward tier status, current Hyatt Gold Passport promotions and receive program benefits and services. The occupant of the second or third room may not receive Hyatt Gold Passport points, airline miles or Amtrak Guest Rewards points, either at time of stay or retroactively.”
So you’re still only earning elite stay credit for one room and the other rooms in your party won’t enjoy any elite benefits if you’re already Platinum or Diamond, but this is still a great way to double or triple the points you earn if you’re traveling with a small group and don’t mind putting all the rooms on your bill.
If you’re even more ambitious, you might try to get your trip qualified as a meeting and take advantage of Hyatt’s earning possibilities that way. That’s because sometimes all it takes to qualify as a meeting is reserving a room block that can be anything from a family group all staying together, to a corporate function, so make sure you check out all your options, even if you’re just planning a getaway for you and a group of friends.
In terms of qualifying for meeting status, Hyatt requires a room block consisting of “10 or more actualized guest rooms,” but it’s unclear whether or not all 10 have to be on the same night, and this is subject to interpretation by a sales manager, so you might be able to talk yourself into meeting status if you have 10 room nights or more booked (such as 4 rooms for 3 nights). Just note that while Hyatt might still award points for meetings that don’t qualify under their 10-room terms, they are unlikely to award elite status, so this would really just be a way to rack up a bunch of extra points yourself.
Each hotel chain calculates the points you earn on meetings differently, but with Hyatt, you earn 1 point per $1 (in addition to the 5 points per $1 you earn on regular spending at Hyatt, and any elite bonuses).
If you do register and qualify as a “meeting planner” with Hyatt, the chain actually awards you Platinum status for planning 3 meetings per year, and Diamond status for 10 meetings in a year – so start planning all those bachelor and bachelorette parties there! For more information on qualifying for elite status through meetings check out this post.
Redeeming Points – Worth It?
The participating MGM Resorts in Las Vegas will include the following properties in the following Gold Passport categories:
Category 2 – 5,000 points
Category 3 – 8,000 points
Category 4 – 15,000 points
New York-New York
Category 5 - 18,000 points
The Signature at MGM Grand
Category 6 - 22,000 points
THEhotel at Mandalay Bay
In general, I like to get at least 2 cents per point with my Hyatt redemptions, and given the generous category award requirements, I often get much, much higher values at top-tier properties. In Las Vegas, pulling some great values from your points for redemptions might be a bit difficult since room rates are often low and fluctuate quite a bit.
Even during high-occupancy times like 4th of July or Labor Day, it can be hard to find compelling points redemptions anywhere on the spectrum.
For instance, in those examples above where a night at Excalibur was going for about $50 a night including taxes and fees, you’d need 8,000 Gold Passport points for an award night since it’s a Category 2 property – meaning you’d only be getting 0.625 cents per point in value. Not good.
Even at peak times, like 4th of July when rooms are going for $152 a night that actually works out to about $185 a night with taxes and resort fees (a rate which few people would be thrilled to pay for this hotel) you’d be getting a much better value of 2.3 cents per point…but you’d be staying at Excalibur.
On the high end of the spectrum, let’s say you wanted to spend a night at the THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. They go for as low as about $100 per night when the city is pretty much empty, but on busy weekends like 4th of July, room rates skyrocket to $330 per night – really $395 per night with taxes and fees.
Because this is now rated a Hyatt Category 6 hotel – the top category in Gold Passport – a free night (which is available the same nights) would require 22,000 points, a value of only 1.8 cents per point. Again, not terribly impressive.
Compare that to getting 5-6 cents per point at other top-tier Hyatt hotels like the one Park Hyatt in Paris or the one in Sydney, and it looks like a bit of a waste, especially because the rates at which you’re getting a decent return on your points are highly inflated compared to rates at other times of year anyway. As with all points redemptions, do the math and make sure you’re getting a value for your points that makes sense for you.
The one silver lining is that because the partnership just went into effect and due to the sheer number of hotel rooms in Vegas, award availability (at least so far) is pretty fantastic, so if you’re points rich and cash poor (hopefully not if you’re headed to Vegas!), you can definitely score some easy awards using your Gold Passport points now.
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