Starwood To Count Award Stays Towards Elite Status
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Gary at View from the Wing recently broke the news that Starwood will start counting award stays (including my favorite: Cash & Points) towards elite status. This is pretty big news and brings Starwood in line with Hilton, who currently counts award stays towards elite status.
However, Starwood has slightly lower elite qualification for their coveted top tier: 25 stays or 50 nights vs. Hilton's 28 stays/60 nights. I've never been a Hilton Diamond, but the big difference is that Starwood offers select standard suite upgrades for their top tier elites - even on award stays.
I personally think this is a great enhancement to the program, because I struggle maintaining top tier status with three chains. I feel like I always need some help and I always seem to make it all happen. Like this year, I re-qualified for Hyatt because I participated in the Star Mega Do 3 and Hyatt Diamond was given as a gift.
Now, I have less pressure to squeeze in Starwood paid stays, because I have several free resort night stays (from their summer promo) coming up and now they will count towards my Platinum requalification.
The people who won't like this change are those who have no issues qualify the "hard" way. This program change will basically mean more Starwood Platinums and more competition for those suite upgrades. However, Starwood has a proprietary ranking system that orders upgrade priority, so I still feel like high value/top customers will still get treated better than those who squeak by and maintain status the cheap way.
Lately my domestic experience as a Starwood Platinum has been lackluster at best. I don't remember the last time I got a suite on a stay within the US, though I get treated like a king in Europe (and my Starwood points save me a ton of money) so that's why I continue to strive for Platinum. (See my last stay report at the Westin Palace Madrid for a recent experience).
Starwood also gives 2 stays/5 nights of elite status qualification for those who have the Starwood American Express card, so they are making elite status very attainable if you get that card and use the points for free nights.