Hyatt Program Changes – 20% Elite Discount and New Points and Cash Awards

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Among the changes to Hyatt’s Gold Passport program that went into effect on Tuesday were two positive ones, a discount for elites and a new set of Points + Cash awards that can help you stretch your points further by booking awards with a cash co-pay. I was curious about these benefits, so I poked around the Hyatt site to see just how good they actually are.

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20% Elite Discount Rates

Hyatt Platinum and Diamond members logged into their accounts now see a new “My Elite Rate” when searching for reservations that will be 20% off the daily rate on any standard room in 2014 (subject to availability).

Once you’re logged in to your Hyatt Gold Passport account on hyatt.com, look for the My Elite Rate or request it when you book a reservation through a Hyatt Worldwide Reservation Center. The My Elite Rate must be booked at the time of reservation. These rates will count towards elite status and points accrual.

Now, I was skeptical about these rates because the Daily Rate isn’t always the best one and sometimes the Advanced Purchase Rate is much lower, albeit more restrictive. These rates are also capacity controlled, so they are not offered all the time at all properties. However, in several of the examples that I was looking out, this discount amounted to significant savings and the terms of the reservation are  much more flexible since you must just cancel by 3pm the day before check-in for rooms, or 72 hours in advance for suites.

For example, I have to travel to LA later this month and was considering staying at the Category 5 Andaz West Hollywood. The Hyatt Daily Rate is $325, the Advanced Purchase rate is $292.50, but my Elite rate is just $260.

Screen shot 2014-01-08 at 3.29.43 PMThe Category 4 Grand Hyatt Berlin is offering elites rates as low as $228 in February, compared to $243 for Advanced Purchase or $276 for the Daily Rate.

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Or at the Category 6 Park Hyatt Maldives, my Elite rate would save me $250 off the Hyatt Daily Rate.

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Over a few days, that could add up to real savings! In fact, the savings from staying 4 nights at the elite rate would be $1,000, enough for another night at the elite rate – giving you a 20% bonus (this is obvious because the elite discount is 20% off, but just to put it in context).

As I mentioned, however, these rates are capacity controlled, and I had a very hard time finding any of the six newly-minted Category 7 properties (including Park Hyatt Paris, Sydney, Zurich and more) that were offering any rooms at discounted elite rates over the winter or spring, including the Park Hyatt Sydney where I’ll be staying next month.

Points + Cash Awards

The other major positive development that I see is that Hyatt introduced a new hybrid award scale where you pay a portion of your award night using points and the rest in cash. Here’s how it breaks down.

Hyatt Cash PointsCategory 1: 5,000 points or 2,500 points + $50 – valuation at 2 cents per point
Category 2: 8,000 points or 4,000 points + $55 – valuation at 1.375 cents per point
Category 3: 12,000 points or 6,000 points + $75 – valuation at 1.25 cents per point
Category 4: 15,000 points or 7,500 points + $100 – valuation at 1.33 cents per point
Category 5: 20,000 points or 10,000 points + $125 – valuation at 1.25 cents per point
Category 6: 25,000 points or 12,500 points + $150 – valuation at 1.2 cents per point
Category 7: 30,000 points or 15,000 points + $300 – valuation at 2 cents per point

So with Points + Cash awards, you’re paying half the normal award night in points and paying the rest in cash – which goes up in increments of about $25 per category, with a few notable exceptions like Category 2 and Category 7, and depending on the category you redeem for, you’re basically “buying back” your points (or paying a co-pay to keep them) at a rate of between 1.2 cents – 2 cents each.

Points + Cash awards will count towards elite status (though award stays still will not), so you can use your points and still keep earning your way towards status, and you will also still earn points on the cash portion of your co-pay. (By comparison, Hilton and Starwood count award stays toward elite qualification).

The downside is that you have to call Gold Passport to make these reservations at 1-800-228-3360 in the U.S. or Canada. Your points will be deducted immediately, and you’ll pay the cash portion when you check out – just like Starwood’s system works.

So I called in to see what was available in February, and found extensive availability on various dates throughout the month at the following properties that I tried to pick from across the Category spectrum – in fact, there weren’t many misses, so I think that the hotels might be feeling out the availability of these awards and their cost/price and perhaps we’ll see less availability in the future as Hyatt refines the reservations process:

Category 3

  • Hyatt Regency Montreal – open all month
  • Hyatt Regency Paris Charles de Gaulle – open most days February
  • Grand Hyatt Bali – open most days February

Category 4

  • Hyatt Regency Fisherman’s Wharf – only certain dates
  • Hyatt at Olive 8 in Seattle – plenty of availability
  • Grand Hyatt Hamburg – plenty of availability
  • Park Hyatt Seoul – spotty but lots of dates available

Category 5

  • Andaz West Hollywood – spotty but on several dates
  • Andaz Amsterdam – a lot throughout the month
  • Park Hyatt Shanghai – a lot throughout the month
  • Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau Buenos Aires – spotty but on various dates

Category 6

  • Park Hyatt Chicago – a lot throughout the month
  • Andaz Maui – after February 21 plenty of availability
  • Andaz Liverpool Street London – a lot throughout the month

Category 7

  • Park Hyatt Sydney – none in February, but a lot more availability starting mid-March

Of those I checked that did not have any availability in February and little or none showing in March were the Park Hyatt Aviara outside San Diego, the Park Hyatt Paris and the Hyatt Regency Maui.

So what I discovered is that checking for regular award availability is not a good indicator of whether Points + Cash awards will be available, so you definitely should call in as soon as you have your dates because these can be harder to nail down than regular award nights. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the Gold Passport representative to check a couple months at a time – they can see award availability in a calendar and let you know the next date Points + Cash availability opens up at a property.

Even better, if you’re a Hyatt Diamond, you can apply your suite upgrades to these stays and they are also eligible to accrue bonus points during promotions since there is a paid portion to them.

Have any of you booked Points + Cash awards through Hyatt yet? If so, report your success (or frustration!) below.

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