Travel Tuesday Top 10: Hotel Loyalty Program Perks
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For our second post in the Travel Tuesday Top 10 List series, we've rounded up a list of the top 10 benefits conferred upon members of various hotel loyalty programs, including several available not just to top-tier members but to mid- and intro-level members as well.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts and whether I missed any good ones (also chime in with future lists you'd like to see us do).
1. Free WiFi: Egregiously priced WiFi will hopefully be a thing of the past one day, but until then it's important to get it for free or else your wallet will take a major hit. More and more hotels have gotten wise lately that offering free WiFi is not only a great way to build loyalty, but also to keep their elite members happy. While many chains offer it to elite members Fairmont and Wyndham win in our book for giving it to all loyalty program members, as do Omni and Kimpton.
2. Suite Upgrades: Many chains offer room upgrades to higher floors and club levels, but Hyatt goes a step beyond and offers Diamond members 4 suite upgrade certificates a year. These certificates are good on stays of up to 7 nights and they are confirmed at time of booking. The only downside is that they aren't eligible on award stays.
3. Guaranteed Room Availability: There's nothing more frustrating than needing a hotel room when a city is completely sold out. Good thing many chains will force rooms to become available for elite members, though you usually have to give at least 2-3 days notice. However Intercontinental Royal Ambassador status requires just 24 hour advance notice. Reservations must be made before 12:00 midday (local hotel time) 24 hours prior to intended arrival for room availability to be guaranteed. Only in exceptional circumstances where the hotel has been completely reserved by the government and with explicit Priority Club Rewards approval, may a reservation be declined.Rate paid is Best Available.
4. Bonus Points On Spending: Lots of hotels incentivize elite members to spend more money on rooms and experiences by offering bonus points per dollar spent, as well as giving them bonus points bundles as a sort of welcome amenity. Starwood is the clear winner here since even regular SPG members get 2 points per dollar spent (that’s a 100% bonus!), Gold status members earn 3 points per dollar spent, and Platinum members who stay 75 nights or more get 4 points per dollar spent. Tag that along with the Starwood Amex which gives an addition 2 points per dollar and you'll be swimming in Starwood points!
5. Early/Flexible Room Check-In: It's always a drag to wait until 3 or 4pm to check into a hotel room, so most chains try to accommodate their elite members for early check-in. However, Intercontinental offers 8:00 am guaranteed check-in and Starwood offers YOUR24, which allows you to check-in at any time during the day. The only catch is, you have to check out 24 hours later. For example, if your flight arrives at 1:00 am, you can confirm that arrival time and check out at 1:00 am the next day, as long as you confirm it within 48 hours. The real benefit is if you check in anytime 9am and after, you still get 4pm late checkout.
6. Award Stays Counting Towards Elite Status: Maintaining elite status can be challenging- especially if you aren't a business travel road warrior. However, some chains make it easier by counting award nights towards elite status. Starwood recently made this change and they even included their Cash & Points option, which is one of my all-time favorite hotel point redemption options.
7. Rollover Elite Nights: Achieving and maintaining elite status from scratch every year can be a pain, but Marriott and Club Carlson let members rollover nights earned past elite levels.
8. Free Breakfast: Though most of the major programs at least give their elite members continental breakfast, Hyatt wins this category handily because Diamond members are given a full free breakfast in the hotel restaurant- and some properties even allow room service. No cutting corners here.
9. Lifetime Status: Many airlines offer lifetime elite status to members who fly a certain amount of miles (usually 1 million, 2 million and so on). Hotels have introduced this benefit as well for their members who have shown commitment over a number of years and stays. Starwood recently introduced lifetime elite status as part of it new benefits package. Gold status requires 5 years of elite status (at any level) and 250 nights, while lifetime Platinum status requires 500 nights and 10 years of Platinum status (not consecutive).
10. Free Minibar: This isn’t a huge one, but everyone who’s gotten in late to a hotel room and wanted a soda or bottle of water has had to think twice before taking a $10 pint-size bottle out of the minibar. This little benefit for Priority Club Royal Ambassadors means you can drink as much as you like (responsibly!) for free.