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TPG reader Vito tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy—”Why does SPG count a night in a $100 room in Duluth the same as a $1,000 villa at the St. Regis Bali?

First off, they don’t count it exactly the same, since you’ll earn a lot more Starpoints for staying in the more expensive room. Hotels are typically revenue-based, and the more you spend, the more value you get. However, I think Vito is referring to earning credit toward elite status. Starwood measures elite status qualification in stays or nights, and you get the same number of stays and nights regardless of the cost of your room. The point is, the elite status programs are “frequent” guest programs, meaning they want guests who are coming back.

Why do all hotel stays count the same towards elite status, even if they are priced differently? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Why do hotel stays at different prices count the same toward elite status? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Just because you spend more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more profitable to the hotel. A $100 night at a less expensive property (say, the Sheraton Duluth) could be more profitable to Starwood than a $500 night in Paris. Additionally, the guest staying for $100 in Duluth might have the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which gives you five nights and two stays of elite credit each year, and the $95 annual fee is obviously much cheaper than paying for five nights. So how is that fair? It’s fair because those SPG Amex customers are making Starwood a lot of money!

Elite status is never going to be totally fair across the board, and I actually like that hotel programs give you the same amount of elite credit regardless of whether you are stay at a more expensive property.

A lot of hotel chains will even allow you to get top tier elite status strictly by spending on one of their co-branded credit cards. For example, you can get Hilton Diamond status for spending $40,000 or more on the Hilton HHonor Surpass Card from Amex or the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (which I just got) offers Ritz-Carlton Platinum status after you spend $75,000 in a year. So you can earn elite status without spending a single night in a hotel. That’s pretty crazy, or pretty lucrativeif you can spend that kind of money, of course.

So while elite status isn’t always fair, the programs do allow customers to earn it in a variety of ways, and not just by staying at the most expensive properties.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

This card’s sign-up bonus of two free nights can be worth as much as 190,000 points if you redeem them at top-tier properties like the Conrad Maldives, and it also confers automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Diamond status through spending.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening*
  • Earn 10 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Portfolio*
  • Earn 5 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases*
  • Earn 3 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other purchases*
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases*
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit card
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
3.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.