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Hyatt vs Starwood and Battle of the Fall Promos

Aug. 25, 2010
5 min read
Hyatt vs Starwood and Battle of the Fall Promos
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In the frequent guest world, Hyatt has been working hard to oust Starwood as the top loyalty program (in my humble opinion). For years, Starwood was voted and respected as the best program and for good reason: it has a long list of well respected partners, valuable points and a ton of redemption options for hotels and flights - oh, and pretty solid customer service to boot. However, lately they've been resting on their laurels a bit too much, especially with their promotions, and Hyatt has been quick to pick up the frequent guest who craves a program with real value.

Now, the Hyatt Gold Passport program isn't without faults, either. In my eyes, the biggest are:
1) Lack of properties (424 vs 1000 Starwood)
2) Poor transfer ratio of points to miles (50,000 = 25,000 airline)
3) Awful IT- you almost always have to call after a stay to get proper points credited

But the legions of Hyatt loyalists (myself included) have brushed those details aside, since Hyatt offers Faster Free Nights- a blockbuster promotion, unparalleled in the hotel guest program. With these promotions, usually run for a couple months once or twice a year, you can earn one free night at ANY Hyatt property for every two stays. So two stays at a $60 airport Hyatt Place, gets you a free night at a $500 Park Hyatt. Plus, you get regular points for your stay and free breakfast (for Diamonds).

For the past couple of years, Hyatt has run a FFN promo during the fall. So, as you can expect any Pavlovian trained dog to do, Hyatt loyalty program members were salivating this week, waiting for the FFN announcement to come.

But to much surprise, the promo announcement was leaked on the Facebook page of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe:
"COMING SOON!!! - Hyatt Gold Passport proudly introduces, "The Great 10K" promotion, which will run Sept. 15 thru Dec. 15, 2010. Members can earn 10,000 Hyatt Gold Passport bonus points after every 5 eligible nights."

With this announcement, I immediately embarked on the typical stages of grief:
Denial- This can't be it. I'm sure they will announce a FFN component soon.
Anger- I'm shifting my 50 nights to Starwood!
Bargaining- If they give me double elite stays, I'll stay with them this quarter.
Depression- This is the end of Faster Free Nights FOREVER
Acceptance- You know what? Hyatt has been running blockbuster promotions for a while. While, I wish they had one this quarter, I'll be thankful for what they've done (and those amazing free nights I had this summer at the Park Hyatt Vendome) and be happy with banking some points this fall.

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Lets take a rational approach to evaluating Hyatt and Starwood's fall promotions:

For simplicity sake, lets say I have five, two night stays at $150/night.

With Hyatt, as a Diamond, I'll earn roughly
10 nights * $150= $1,500 * 5 points/ dollar = 7,500 base, plus 30% Diamond bonus= 9,750 points
Plus 5 x 1,000 for Diamond amenity= 5,000
Plus 10 * 2,000 points per night= 20,000 quarterly promotion points
Plus 5 * 1,500 G Bonuses (random bonuses Hyatt gives out for certain properties listed here) = 7,500
Total haul= 42,250, which is enough for almost two nights at a top tier (22,000, ~$400) Park Hyatt so roughly $700 in return for $1,500 in spend, a whopping 47% return.
Note: You can also bank base points to airline miles AND earn the promotion bonus miles to Hyatt- a nice double dip option. As I reported here, you can get some decent bonuses, including 3,000 American miles per style until October 15.
With Starwood, as a Platinum, I'll earn roughly
10 nights * $150= $1,500 * 2 points/ dollar = 3,000 base, plus 50% elite bonus= 4,500 points
Plus 5 x 500 for Platinum amenity= 2,500
Plus an additional 4 points/dollar for the triple base (6 total/dollar) promotion= 6,000
Total haul= 13,000, which is enough for one night at category 5 (of 7) property, such as the W Hollywood, roughly $300 in value for $1,500 in spend, a decent 20% return.
Note: Starwood points are often best redeemed for cash and points awards, so the value received will depend per person. Also, Starwood has great transfer ratios to airlines, so if you need to top up miles to get a premium international award, you can extract more value that way as well.

Caveat: 15% of Starwood hotels (listed here) are NOT participating in the Starwood promotion. However, even if you take out those hotels, Starwood still has twice as many participating hotels than Hyatt.

Overall, after some clear thought I think both of them are decent promotions that allow members to rack up points, which can be used whenever. Remember- free night awards expire, so they aren't perfect for everyone.

Each program has its strengths and weaknesses and can give great value when leveraged appropriately. Getting the most value, means deciding what's best for you- and I can tell you from experience, making that clear-headed decision is much easier to do when you've finished the grieving process!

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