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Maximizing your award travel goes beyond how you redeem for flights and hotel stays; you can also leverage your points, miles, and elite status to get other perks. Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen explains how you can get free or discounted breakfast from the top hotel brands.
It’s safe to say that if you’re reading this post, you value free things. Whether it’s a business class award ticket, a free night in a hotel, or bonus cash back for going through a shopping portal, points & miles enthusiasts try to maximize every purchase and trip. One simple (but coveted) benefit along these lines is free breakfast during a hotel stay. Today, I’ll take a look at the various ways to start each day of your award stays off right: with a good (and complimentary) meal!
The post will be organized by major hotel chains, with a section at the end devoted to “other” properties. While many of the strategies are similar (or identical) across the various brands, I’ll include the following sections for each one:
- Brands that offer free breakfast for all guests
- Rates that include breakfast
- Free breakfast with elite status (including reciprocal benefits)
- Credit cards
Free Breakfast: As of now, the only hotels within the Club Carlson portfolio to offer free breakfast to all guests are Country Inn & Suites locations. However, you may find that some properties within the other brands offer it as well. For example, the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport, where my wife and I stayed last December, actually includes a nice spread for all guests.
Rates with Breakfast: When you search for hotels on Club Carlson’s website, you’ll find an option to display all available rates & packages for a given location. I’ve found that most properties offer a “Bed & Breakfast” rate, which includes full breakfast for two plus 2,000 bonus Gold Points (worth $12 based on TPG’s November valuations). For example, here’s the rate at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago for next month:
In this case, the Bed & Breakfast rate is $20 more per night than the standard (free cancellation) rate. When you factor in the value of the bonus Gold Points, you’re getting two breakfasts for $8 per day. Not too shabby!
Elite Status: If you earn Concierge level in the program by completing 30 stays or 75 nights in a calendar year, you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast in participating hotel restaurants. Unfortunately, Club Carlson status matches (which I wrote about last week) only go up to Gold status, so there’s no way to leverage top-tier status in other programs to enjoy the free breakfast benefit.
Credit Cards: Unfortunately, the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature only comes with automatic Gold status. However, if you already have Gold status, the card does give you 15 qualifying nights toward Concierge status.
Free Breakfast: Numerous hotels in the Hilton portfolio (mostly lower-tier properties) provide free breakfast to all guests:
- Hampton Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites
- Embassy Suites
- Homewood Suites
- Home2 Suites
Rates with Breakfast: Like Club Carlson, there are rate options that will give you free breakfast. However, these vary depending on the hotel. When you search for hotels on Hilton HHonors website, check the box for “Packages and Promotions” at the left. For example, here are some rates at the Conrad Miami for next month:
The “Conrad Be Yourself” and “Bed and Breakfast” rates include full breakfast for two adults, and are $20 more per night than the standard rate. The breakfast buffet at this property normally costs $24, so you’re essentially getting $28 of “free” breakfast by booking one of those rates.
Elite Status: Hilton is relatively generous when it comes to free breakfast for elite members, offering it to both Gold and Diamond members at Conrad, Hilton, Doubletree, and Curio properties (and as a choice benefit at Hilton Garden Inns). Though the official policy at the first four is to offer free continental breakfast, I’ve found that the vast majority of properties offer their full breakfast option at no additional charge.
Credit Cards: There are a couple of credit cards with automatic Gold status that will get you free breakfast. My favorite is the Citi Hilton Reserve, but the Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express also comes with Gold status as long as you’re a cardmember. Gold status normally requires 20 stays, 40 nights, or 75,000 base points, so this is an easy way to get some of the best mid-tier status out there. For more info on these cards, see Which Hilton HHonors Card Is Best for You.
Hyatt Gold Passport
Free Breakfast: Hyatt also gives all guests complimentary breakfast at a number of properties:
- Hyatt Place
- Hyatt House
- Hyatt Zilara/Hyatt Ziva (all-inclusive)
Rates with Breakfast: Many Hyatt properties that normally charge for breakfast also have rates that include it, but just like Hilton, this varies by property. For example, the Andaz Wall Street has a “Good Morning Sunshine + Breakfast” rate that is $30 higher than the standard rate:
The nice thing is that these rates include breakfast for each “registered guest” in the room, so you aren’t limited to just two if you’re traveling with family or other friends. The terrific “Weekend in Downtown” breakfast at Wall & Water restaurant normally costs $28, so as long as you have at least two guests in the room, this is a nice way to get discounted breakfast.
Elite Status: Hyatt Gold Passport allows Diamond members to enjoy complimentary breakfast at all properties, and in my experience, this has always been the full breakfast option. I was even able to enjoy complimentary room service breakfast at the fantastic Park Hyatt Istanbul!
Credit Cards: Unfortunately, the Chase Hyatt Visa card only includes automatic Platinum status in Gold Passport . However, if you spend $20,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn 2 stays and 5 nights toward Diamond status, and if you hit $40,000, you’ll earn an additional 3 stays and 5 nights. If you hit both thresholds, you’re essentially 20% of the way to Diamond and all of its benefits, including free breakfast.
Free Breakfast: The IHG Rewards program is probably the stingiest when it comes to giving away breakfast. For starters, the group of hotels only has a couple of brands with complimentary breakfast as a standard amenity for all guests:
- Holiday Inn Express
- Staybridge Suites
Rates with Breakfast: At other properties you may find that certain special rates do include breakfast (along with other extras). However, you’ll also see the option to add breakfast ahead of time at a discounted rate. The cost of this “upgrade” tends to vary based on how much the breakfast would normally cost, but generally it’s $10 – $40, and includes breakfast for up to 2 guests.
Here’s an example of what that would look like at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C.:
The breakfast buffet at the property’s restaurant normally costs $25 per person, so by adding it at booking you save $10. Not exactly a steal, but better than nothing!
Elite Status and Credit Cards: Unfortunately, there’s no elite status in either the IHG Rewards program or the InterContinental Ambassador program that offers complimentary breakfast as a benefit. As a result, even though the IHG Rewards Club Select credit card comes with complimentary Platinum Elite status, that isn’t going to do you any good with breakfast!
Free Breakfast: Like Hilton, Marriott has several brands in its portfolio that give all guests complimentary breakfast:
- SpringHill Suites
- Fairfield Inn & Suites
- Residence Inn
- TownePlace Suites
Rates with Breakfast: Like the aforementioned hotel chains, the various properties in the Marriott portfolio also have several rate options that include breakfast. These should automatically pop up when you search on Marriott.com, and they vary depending on the property. Some might be listed under the “Standard Rates” tab, while others only appear when you click on the “Room Packages” tab.
The most common is the “Stay for Breakfast” rate, which includes breakfast for 2 adults and children under the age of 12. These rates are typically around $20 per night higher than the standard rate, though I have seen some for just a $5 premium.
Elite Status: Like Hilton, Marriott also offers free breakfast to their mid- and top-tier elites—Gold and Platinum, earned after 50 and 75 nights, respectively. The details of this benefit vary by property. For starters, it doesn’t apply to resorts, and breakfast may be in the club lounge or hotel restaurant. Some hotels may substitute 1,000 bonus points if the lounge is closed!
The other nice thing about Marriott Rewards when it comes to elite status is the RewardsPlus partnership with United launched back in 2013. If you hold Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, or Premier Gold status with United MileagePlus, you can sign up for complimentary Gold status in the Marriott Rewards program, which will give you free breakfast on Marriott stays.
Credit Card: The Marriott Premier Visa Signature card comes with automatic Silver status, but you also earn 15 credits toward elite status qualification after account approval (and each year when you renew the card). In addition, you earn an elite credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card. This actually allows you to spend your way to elite status (and free breakfast), though you’d need to spend a whopping $105,000 every year to hit Gold, and $180,000 to earn Platinum!
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards program is a bit unique, in that the brand has its own program that is also affiliated with Marriott Rewards. You’re only allowed to be a member of one program or the other, and any elite status you earn in one gives you reciprocal benefits across both brands. Unfortunately, Ritz-Carlton properties are excluded from the “free breakfast” benefit offered to both Gold and Platinum elites, regardless of whether you belong to Ritz-Carlton Rewards or Marriott Rewards.
Credit Card: That being said, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Signature card actually does come with some solid benefits that open up free breakfast at Marriott properties. For starters, the card comes with automatic Gold Elite status in the first year, and you can keep that status by spending $10,000 each account year thereafter. If you spend $75,000 in an account year, you’ll earn Platinum status. While this won’t help with breakfast at Ritz-Carlton properties, it will bring the free breakfast benefits referenced above at Marriott properties.
The card also provides some other pathways to free breakfast:
- 3 upgrades each year to the Ritz-Carlton club level on eligible paid stays of up to 7 nights
- $100 hotel credit on eligible paid stays of 2 nights or longer
There’s a limited-time sign-up bonus of 140,000 points on this card right now, which I’ll write about more tomorrow.
Starwood Preferred Guest
Free Breakfast: Unfortunately, only one brand in the SPG portfolio provides free breakfast to all guests: Element by Westin. There are currently 11 locations in the U.S. and Canada, but there are 28 additional hotels scheduled to open between now and 2018, including locations in China, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Oman. I have stayed at the Element Omaha Midtown Crossing and Element Miami Airport, and really enjoyed both!
Rates with Breakfast: Starwood has two different rates that include complimentary breakfast: Breakfast Package and Breakfast Plus. You’ll see both of these options when you search for rooms on SPG.com. I’ve generally found that SPG Plus is the same as the Flexible Rate, though it typically only includes continental breakfast. The breakfast package is typically more expensive, but includes full breakfast. Be sure to check the details of each rate so you won’t be surprised when you arrive.
Another option is to book through AAA. Starwood, like most other chains, offers AAA discounts that can sometimes be significantly cheaper than the standard rates. In addition, I’ve often found hotels that include a “AAA Breakfast Package” for a small premium over the regular AAA rate, and this may still be cheaper than the standard rates.
Elite Status: As it currently stands, top-tier Platinum members of Starwood Preferred Guest receive complimentary continental breakfast at all properties. However, I’ve found that many do offer full breakfast, which is above and beyond the policy.
Credit Cards: While Starwood doesn’t provide a credit card with complimentary elite status, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (and the business version, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express) do offer 2 stays and 5 nights toward elite qualification. Holding both cards will get you about 20% of the way to Platinum status.
Free Breakfast: The Wyndham Rewards portfolio includes several brands that offer complimentary breakfast for all guest:
- Hawthorn Suites
- Microtel Inn & Suites
- Baymont Inn & Suites
- Days Inn
- Super 8
- Howard Johnson
Rates with Breakfast: For the other brands that don’t offer free breakfast, you’ll again find rates that include this benefit. For example, here’s the “Bed and Breakfast” rate at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa in Puerto Rico:
This is just $20 per night more than the “Best Rate Plus,” and just $10 per night more than the Best Available Rate, so it’s definitely a nice option.
Elite Status and Credit Cards: Unfortunately, the Wyndham Rewards program is significantly lacking when it comes to elite status and their credit card offerings. I find it difficult to even call their “Gold Status” an elite program, as it only helps with free night redemptions, and neither one of their credit cards comes with elite benefits. In other words, if you want breakfast at Wyndham properties that don’t include it, expect to pay!
Aside from these “traditional” chains, there are other avenues that allow you to enjoy free breakfast when visiting hotels around the world:
1. American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts: This program is a benefit for holders of The Platinum Card from American Express, and includes a variety of benefits at over 700 luxury properties around the world:
- Early check-in
- Room upgrade
- Daily breakfast
- Guaranteed late check-out
- Additional amenity (e.g., food & beverage credit, massage, etc.)
TPG wrote about this benefit last week, as he used it for his recent trip to Bali.
2. Visa Signature Hotels: Similar to American Express FHR, this program is offered for holders of Visa Signature cards, including the British Airways Visa, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, along with many others. You’ll receive many of the same benefits as FHR:
- Room upgrade
- Free internet
- Complimentary continental breakfast
- Late check-out
- $25 food or beverage voucher
With both of these options, you’ll want to compare the rates with those you would get by booking directly with the hotel. While the added benefits can definitely result in some higher rates, there are also times where you can find rooms for the same price.
For example, the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York City is part of Visa Signature Hotels, and if you search for a one-night stay on Saturday January 17, 2015, you’ll see the same $285 rate that you’ll find on Hyatt.com:
Just keep in mind that booking through FHR and Visa Signature will often remove the possibility of receiving elite member benefits on property, so you’ll want to weigh that when deciding which way to book. Of course, if you don’t have elite status with the given chain (or are booking an “independent” hotel), this is a great way to get free breakfast for little to no premium.
Getting free breakfast at a hotel can be a very nice perk, and at some properties, quite a valuable one! Hopefully this post has helped you strategize how to get your morning meal comped during your next stay.
Any other suggestions for getting free breakfast during a hotel stay?