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Hotel Elite Status Wrap-Up: Which Program Is Most Valuable?

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Hotel elite status comes in all shapes and sizes. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains which programs offer the best value overall.

Over the last several weeks, I analyzed the value of elite status with several major hotel loyalty programs: Hilton HHonorsMarriott RewardsHyatt Gold PassportStarwood Preferred Guest, and Club Carlson. Each tier within each program holds some value for travelers, but what if you’re thinking about switching chains, or are new to the game and having trouble deciding where to direct your loyalty? In this post I’ll wrap up my series on hotel elite status valuations, and compare my findings to answer the following question: which chain has the most valuable elite program?

Does Marriott Rewards offer you the most valuable elite status? Read on to find out!
Which program offers you the most valuable elite status?

The first way to compare chains is by looking at the absolute values of each level, comparing the low tiers, middle tiers (where applicable), and top tiers across the various programs. The following table shows all those values (taken from my previous posts).

 

Low Tier Middle Tier Top Tier

Hilton HHonors

$66 $751

$1,324

Marriott Rewards

$60 $948

$2,110

Hyatt Gold Passport

$109 n/a

$1,947

Starwood Preferred Guest

$319 n/a

$1,465

Club Carlson

$85 $456

$1,472

At first glance, you might conclude that Starwood Preferred Guest has the best low-tier status, while Marriott Rewards has the best middle and top-tier status. Remember though, that these numbers do not provide an apples-to apples-comparison. These are absolute values, not relative values. In order to truly compare status levels between programs, it’s necessary to convert these numbers into value per night and value per stay.

Hyatt's top-tier elite benefits at properties like the Andaz Maui are quite valuable
Hyatt’s top-tier elite benefits at properties like the Andaz Maui are highly valuable.

Top Tier Comparison

Let’s start with the top tier and work our way down. Here’s how I valued top-tier status at each property, broken down into per night and per stay estimates:

 

Value of Status Stays/Nights Value Per Stay Value Per Night

Hilton HHonors Diamond

$1,324 30 stays/45 nights $44.13

$29.42

Marriott Rewards Platinum

$2,110 38 stays/75 nights $55.53

$28.13

Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond

$1,947 26 stays/38 nights $74.88

$51.24

Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum

$1,465 25 stays/38 nights $58.60

$38.55

Starwood Preferred Guest 50-night Platinum $2,329 25 stays/50 nights ($93.16)

$46.58

Starwood Preferred Guest 75-night Platinum

$3,469 25 stays/75 nights ($138.76) $46.25

Starwood Preferred Guest 100-night Platinum

$4,399 25 stays/100 nights ($175.96)

$43.99

Club Carlson Concierge $1,472 30 stays/52 nights $49.07

$28.31

As you can see, there’s a clear winner: Hyatt Gold Passport. When you earn Hyatt Diamond status, the value you get out of each stay ($74.88) and night ($51.24) are significantly higher than for other programs. This makes a lot of sense; TPG has extolled the virtues of Hyatt’s top tier before, and I’ve had many positive experiences with Hyatt properties as well.

Some other interesting notes:

  • SPG Platinum is the clear runner-up, with per-stay and per-night values that are substantially higher than the other three chains.
  • The incremental benefits for the “enhanced” SPG Platinum tiers actually decrease as you spend more nights with Starwood. While I applaud the program for implementing these tiers to encourage guests to stay past the regular qualification threshold, it would be nice to see some additional (quantifiable) benefits.
Your Hilton HHonors Gold status includes free breakfast at luxurious properties (like the Hilton Bora Bora)
Your Hilton HHonors Gold status includes free breakfast at luxurious properties (like the Hilton Bora Bora).

Middle Tier Comparison

Not all of the programs have a middle tier, but for those that do, here’s how they stack up:

 

Value of Status Stays/Nights Value Per Stay

Value Per Night

Hilton HHonors Gold

$751 20 stays/30 nights $37.55

$25.03

Marriott Rewards Gold

$948 26 stays/50 nights $36.46

$18.96

Club Carlson Gold

$456 20 stays/28 nights $22.80

$16.29

As you can see, there’s a clear winner in this category as well: Hilton HHonors. Like the top-tier comparison, this too makes sense, as Hilton Gold status is typically viewed as the most valuable middle tier across hotel programs.

Other interesting notes:

  • Marriott Rewards is a close second in value per stay, but the value per night is a far cry from Hilton HHonors. This reflects the greatest drawback of the Marriott Rewards program: you have to stay at least 50 nights in order to earn Gold status.
  • Club Carlson is a distant third, and this too shouldn’t surprise you. The benefit most lacking from Club Carlson Gold status is free breakfast, which is included for both Hilton and Marriott Gold members. If Club Carlson were to add this benefit, the values would be much closer.
As a Gold member with SPG, you can enjoy a free drink at the St. Regis Bali
As a Gold member with SPG, you can enjoy a free drink at the St. Regis Bali.

Low Tier Comparison

Finally, here’s a comparison of the lowest tiers of each program:

 

Value of Status Stays/Nights Value Per Stay

Value Per Night

Hilton HHonors Silver

$66 4 stays/7 nights $16.50

$9.43

Marriott Rewards Silver

$60 6 stays/10 nights $10.00

$6.00

Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum

$109 6 stays/10 nights $18.17

$10.90

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold

$319 10 stays/18 nights $31.90

$17.72

Club Carlson Silver

$85 10 stays/12 nights $8.50

$7.08

Yet again, there’s a clear winner: Starwood Preferred Guest. This too makes sense, as earning SPG Gold requires you to complete 10 stays or 25 nights, which is much higher than any other low-level status. It makes sense that the perks being offered are more generous.

Upgrades, breakfast, and bonus points at hotels like the Park Hyatt Tokyo help make Hyatt Diamond the most valuable top-tier hotel status.
Upgrades, breakfast, and bonus points at hotels like the Park Hyatt Tokyo help make Hyatt Diamond the most valuable top-tier hotel status.

Overall Conclusions

The apples-to-apples comparison allows us to compare these different programs on a consistent per-stay or per-night basis, and the results are as follows:

  • Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond is the most valuable top-tier status
  • Hilton HHonors Gold is the most valuable mid-tier status
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold is the most valuable low-tier status

The good news is that two of these three status levels are available simply by holding co-branded credit cards. Hilton HHonors Gold status is automatically granted with the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card and the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express, while SPG Gold status is included for holders of The Platinum Card from American Express. Unfortunately, the only way to earn Hyatt Diamond status is the hard way: 25 stays or 50 nights!

There are a few other trends that you may find interesting. For starters, notice that the values per stay/night decrease as you move from top tier to low tier status. The only outlier is SPG Gold, with numbers that are much closer to those you see for middle-tier status. Again, this makes sense given the (relatively) high qualification thresholds.

It’s also interesting that despite Club Carlson’s push to compete with the other chains over the last few years, the brand finishes dead last in each of the three categories (with the possible exception of top-tier Concierge status if you tend to qualify on one-night stays). As I mention above, adding free breakfast for Gold members would be a welcome improvement, but this analysis clearly shows that the program has a ways to go.

Gold status with Marriott comes with great benefits but only if you amass 50 nights in a year!
Gold status with Marriott comes with great benefits, but only if you amass 50 nights in a year!

Finally, Marriott really suffers from its policy of “nights-only” qualification. Though the absolute value of Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum status outshine the competition, that conclusion doesn’t hold up when analyzing the value you receive for each stay and/or night. Some of you may favor this restriction, as it prevents those tiers from being overwhelmed with travelers who typically stay for only one night. Either way, it does hurt Marriott in the valuation.

Final thoughts

Everyone has their own criteria for selecting a hotel chain, but hopefully these posts have given you some food for thought when it comes to elite status in the various programs. Remember that there are many shortcuts to elite status, including credit cards and status matching. At the end of the day, any status is better than no status, so take advantage of those strategies to make the most of your hotel stays.

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