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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
Once you have kids, the prism through which you view life changes. That extends to travel: While everyone enjoys being pampered, families have different requirements and priorities from their hotel loyalty programs than single business travelers.
To help those who travel with a crew, TPG is breaking down top-tier hotel loyalty programs through the lens of the benefits that appeal most to families. The four programs that most families will probably utilize with the greatest frequency are: IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and the World Of Hyatt.
World Of Hyatt Globalist
The top tier in the World Of Hyatt program is Globalist status, which is earned after 60 eligible nights or 100,000 base points earned in the program. If that sounds out of range, keep in mind that The World Of Hyatt Credit Card comes with five night credits — and you can earn an additional two elite-qualifying nights with each $5,000 you spend on the card. Technically, it is possible, though pricy, to spend your way all the way to Globalist status.
Hyatt Globalist is the most clear-cut upgrade from mid-tier status in the four programs we’re looking at today. Hyatt loyalists tend to be #hyatt4ever because once you’re a Globalist, it’s hard to go back.
Pros: Unlimited lounge access, upgrades (including four confirmable suite upgrades each good for up to a seven-night stay), waived resort fees on both award and paid stays and waived parking on award stays. Hyatt also has partnerships with M life and American Airlines, allowing you to earn points and potentially leverage status.
Cons: Hyatt is growing pretty rapidly, but has a more limited footprint than some other programs. If you only stay at Hyatts, you are going to miss some swaths of the globe. Another quibble with Hyatt Globalist is that many of the Hyatt properties that families utilize will be either Hyatt Place or Hyatt House — hotels where status almost doesn’t matter. (Both brands offer free breakfast to WOH members who book direct.)
Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite
The top elite status tiers in Marriott’s Bonvoy program are technically Titanium Elite that is earned after 75 nights and Titanium Elite with Ambassador, earned after 100 nights. However, many of the day-to-day perks, such as space-available upgrades and free breakfast, are unlocked at the Platinum status achievable after 50 nights.
You can earn 15 night credits toward status with one of the Bonvoy family of cards, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which puts Platinum status just 35 nights away. (Sadly, having multiple Marriott credit cards still results in just one 15 night jump closer to status.)
The breakfast benefit that starts at Platinum status is a mixed bag at Marriott properties: With 29 chains, each seems to have its own breakfast policy, and some, notably Ritz-Carlton and Edition, have no breakfast benefit at all.
Pros: Many (though not all) Marriott brands make free breakfast a Platinum option at check-in. Space available upgrades to suites can technically happen at check-in and Platinums and above also get club lounge access. At some Marriott properties, Titaniums will get better treatment. The distinction between Platinum and Titanium status is somewhat nebulous and could vary widely, depending on which property you visit. For instance, at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista I got free parking and a waived resort fee as a Titanium member, even though neither is an official Bonvoy-listed benefit.
One big pro in the Bonvoy Titanium column has little to do with Marriott. The RewardsPlus partnership lives on with the Marriott Bonvoy program, so as a Titanium or Ambassador traveler, you’ll be able to link your Marriott account with your United MileagePlus account and enjoy automatic United Premier Silver status. Silver status comes with Economy Plus seats at check-in and the ability to see more award space.
Cons: Suite Night Awards (SNA) are available as options starting at the Platinum level. That sounds great as you could theoretically confirm a suite in advance. However, in practice they can be difficult to redeem. Additionally, Bonvoy IT problems continue post-SPG merger and could ruin your vacation if not noticed and addressed in time.
The top-tier status in the Hilton Honors program is Diamond status, which is typically earned after 30 stays, 60 nights or by earning 120,000 Hilton base points in a calendar year (which equates to $12,000 in spending). You’ll also be upgraded to Diamond status by spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the Hilton Amex Ascend or Hilton Amex Business cards. But really, those are all the hard ways to earn status since Diamond status is included as an automatic benefit on the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. I have the Aspire card for this reason.
Pros: Hilton Diamond is the only truly meaningful top-tier hotel status given automatically with a credit card sign-up. While both Hilton Gold and Diamond offer breakfast, only Diamond status guarantees lounge access. Both Gold and Diamond are also eligible for room upgrades, but my experience is that many Hilton properties roll out the red carpet for Diamond in a way they don’t for Gold.
Cons: Hilton Gold Status comes with other cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. Considering it is just a mid-tier status, Hilton Gold is robust, offering free breakfast and upgrades on its own, and may be sufficient for many families.
IHG Spire Elite
The top tier in the IHG Rewards Club is Spire Elite status, which is earned after 75 qualifying nights or 75,000 elite-qualifying points. With IHG’s earning rates at 10x per dollar at most chains, you will likely earn 75,000 points before 75 nights.
The bottom line with IHG Spire Elite: It’s probably the least valuable of the top-tier programs, especially for families. The minimal difference between Spire Elite and Platinum status, which comes with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, make earning Spire Elite mostly useless.
Pros: The 100% bonus on points means you can earn points at a very quick rate, especially when you factor in promotions. Spire Elites also might have a better shot at upgrades, although this is more anecdotal than spelled out. Hertz Five Star Status comes as an IHG Spire perk, which could score you some upgrades if you don’t already have car rental status through a premium credit card.
Cons: IHG lacks a basic breakfast benefit, even at the Spire Elite level. Other benefits, such as potential upgrades and late checkout, don’t differ substantially from Platinum and Spire Elite.
If you are already planning family trips in areas where full-service Hyatts make sense, Hyatt Globalist status truly can’t be beat. But that’s a big if. Hilton Diamond status has the unique ability to be earned solely through simply possessing a credit card and my experience with the program has been nothing but positive. To be transparent, there is a $450 annual fee, but the card really is worth it for families if you use the perks. Diamond status aside, there’s also a $250 annual resort credit (applicable even to room charges) and a $250 airline fee credit. If the annual credits aren’t enough, the Hilton Aspire also offers a free weekend night annually, arriving around your card anniversary, that can be used at any Hilton hotel with standard room reward availability.
Marriott Bonvoy’s top elite status tiers have to be dinged because of the program’s continued integration issues that hit those using the program most loyally more than the occasional user. Once this is all eventually resolved, Marriott Titanium will regain some if its lost shine. IHG Spire Elite really offers very little in the way of added benefits for most families.
In the end, the program that makes the most sense for your family will be the one that most closely matches your travel patterns. I don’t recommend picking your destination because of your hotel status — choose where you want to go and work backward from there.
For more elite status inspiration:
- What Is Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status Worth in 2019?
- What Is World of Hyatt Elite Status Worth in 2019?
- What Is Hilton Honors Elite Status Worth in 2019?
- What Is IHG Rewards Elite Status Worth in 2019?
Featured photo of St. Regis Hong Kong by Zach Honig/The Points Guy
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This card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
- Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
- Earn 7X Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
- Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
- Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
- Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
- $450 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees