Complete guide to hotel elite status during the coronavirus outbreak
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
As the world continues to react to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, several hotels programs have begun announcing modifications to their elite status schemes. Many of these offers were initially specific to those residing in the Asia-Pacific region and provided peace of mind to travelers who suddenly saw a drop-off in their overnight business travel and would thus struggle to maintain any status they had earned.
However, some hotels are now offering status extensions to customers outside of these regions, and others have offered to waive points expiration. In the article below, we’ll show you what all of the major hotel loyalty programs are doing for their elite members — though check back frequently, as this is sure to change over the weeks and months to come.
Here’s a roundup of all participating companies thus far.
Accor has announced that all Accor Live Limitless (ALL) tiers of status — Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond — will be extended an additional year for all members residing in Greater China, including the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. These statuses will now expire Dec. 31, 2021, regardless of how many eligible nights a member completes in 2020.
Members outside of these countries are not yet eligible for the status extension.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts
One of the most generous policies to date, Best Western Hotels & Resorts is allowing all members of the Best Western Rewards members around the globe to maintain their current status through Jan. 31, 2022, regardless of their future stays. This change will be automatically reflected in all eligible Best Western accounts. Even better, Best Western members who were downgraded to a lower status tier at the end of 2019 will have their previous status reinstated through this date.
The Choice Privileges program hasn’t made any announcements regarding member elite status, though a statement posted online notes that it’s continually evaluating elite status in light of the coronavirus and will update members on any changes.
Here are the other changes the program is making:
- You can make free changes or cancellations for existing reservations as well as new reservations booked between March 17, 2020 and April 30, 2020. In all cases, the change or cancellation must be made at least 24 hours before a guest’s scheduled arrival date.
- Point expiration has been paused until May 31, 2020.
On March 25, 2020, Hilton became the first of the major hotel loyalty programs to announce elite status extensions for all elite members. According to Hilton’s coronavirus page, the hotel group has extended elite status validity for members with status expiring on March 31, 2020, to March 31, 2021. Likewise, Hilton Honors members who have status expiring on March 31, 2021, will have their status extended through March 31, 2022.
This is by far the most generous extension we’ve seen thus far and hopefully will be replicated by other programs.
The hotel group made a handful of other changes across its portfolio including:
- Points expiration is paused for all Hilton Honors points until December 31, 2020.
- All existing reservations that are scheduled for arrival on or before June 30, 2020, can be canceled at no charge up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled arrival day.
- All new reservations booked between today and June 30, 2020, for any future travel date can be canceled at no charge up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled arrival day.
- Outstanding Weekend Night Reward certificates earned with select Hilton American Express cards will be extended. All Weekend Night Rewards that were unexpired as of March 11, 2020, and all new certificates issued through August 30, 2020, will have their validity extended until August 31, 2021.
Last month, IHG announced via its official WeChat account that members with accounts in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as of Feb. 17, 2020 will have their current membership extended until Dec. 31, 2021. Similar to Hilton, those IHG points that would otherwise expire will be extended until Dec. 31. These adjustments will be made automatically and members should see the updated dates in their accounts.
Then, on March 11, IHG announced that it would update its elite status criteria in light of recent travel concerns. The new qualification requirements reduces the required points or nights by 25% or more through the end of the year. You can see the specific requirements for all status tiers in the graphic below.
In addition, those who purchased Ambassador status in the first six months of 2019 will have their status extended by six months to accommodate for the interruption. This even includes an updated “complimentary weekend night” voucher, which will reflect the new date of expiration for IHG Ambassadors.
Here are other updates related to the IHG Rewards Club program:
- The program is waiving cancellation fees for new and existing bookings worldwide, effective March 11 through April 30, 2020.
Marriott Bonvoy initially announced that it will also extend the elite membership status for all its tiers from February 2020 to 2021 for eligible members with addresses in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as of Feb. 1, 2020.
However, in an email from CEO Arne Sorenson on March 13, the program announced further updates for its guests. Marriott members whose annual choice benefit included Suite Night Awards will see the expiration date moved to Dec. 31, 2021. This is valid even for those who have redeemed their awards but haven’t yet finished the stay associated with the award. Mr. Sorenson also stated that it’s “too early” for Marriott to make changes to earning Marriott Bonvoy elite status for 2021.
We recently reached out to Marriott to see if there was any update on status extensions for Marriott Bonvoy members outside of Greater China, and a spokesperson told TPG that it does have anything specific to share yet and that the statement its CEO made has the most up-to-date information for customers.
Here are the other updates Marriott is making in light of the coronavirus outbreak:
- All existing Marriott stays — including more restrictive prepaid reservations — can now be changed or canceled free of charge until April 30, 2020. All changes and cancellations must be made 24 hours prior to the guest’s scheduled arrival date.
- Any new reservation made between March 17 and April 30 can also be changed or canceled at no charge, though again, you must make the change or cancellation at least 24 hours prior to your arrival date.
- Point expiration has been paused through August 31, 2020.
- Members with outstanding free-night certificates offered by select Marriott credit cards that were set to expire in 2020 will be able to use them through Jan. 31, 2021.
Note that the extended expiration dates on Suite Night Awards and free-night certificates haven’t been implemented yet, though it should happen at some point in April.
Preferred Hotels & Resorts
The I Prefer rewards program — covering over 700 global resorts across 85 countries — sent an email to members on March 16, 2020, announcing that all elite members will retain their status through June 30, 2021, regardless of the number of nights they complete this year. It’s also extending points expiration for all members through Aug. 31, 2020.
Radisson Rewards has extended elite status through February 2022 for members who would have expired in February 2021. In addition, the program has suspended its points expiration for six months, starting March 1, 2020. Travelers with e-certs that are set to expire through June 30, 2020 will now be able to redeem them for stays through June 30, 2021.
You can cancel or change reservations for stays through April 30, 2020 with no penalty (with changes, you’ll have to pay the difference in rate if applicable). This applies only to bookings made directly with Radisson and not through third-party sites.
Though it’s a smaller program, Shangri-La is being especially generous, with the company deciding to extend all Golden Circle tier status members (Diamond and Jade) around the world through Dec. 31, 2021.
World of Hyatt
On Feb. 19, the World of Hyatt program announced that it would be extending elite statuses and benefits for all those in the Asia-Pacific region. Those whose status would have originally expired in 2020 will now see an extension to 2021, and those whose status would have expired in 2021 will have until 2022. This goes for both elite status and benefits associated with the status, such as Suite Upgrade Awards.
We recently reached out to Hyatt to inquire if there were any plans to adjust the elite status program for World of Hyatt members outside of the Asia-Pacific region. The company reiterated its previous stance and told TPG that “it is simply too early to suggest revised elite tier qualifications and award expiration beyond members in Asia-Pacific.”
Thankfully, though, a Hyatt spokesperson also noted the following:
“We know that adjustments will need to be made, and we are committed to communicating these updates as we can.”
This provides an indication that Hyatt will launch some kind of status extension or reduced requirements for earning status in 2020. We’ll update this article when we hear more.
Note that Hyatt has also announced other changes to its loyalty program in light of the coronavirus:
- Hyatt will postpone upcoming changes to its award chart and introduction of peak and off-peak pricing until 2021. Note, however, that five hotels will still shift categories on March 22. Four hotels — the Hyatt Centric Park City, Park Hyatt Shenzhen, Alila Yangshuo and Park Hyatt Ningbo — will move up a category, while the Park Hyatt Mallorca will drop from Category 6 to Category 5.
- Any existing reservation booked before March 13 for travel between March 14 and April 30 can be canceled or changed without penalty, as long as you do so at least 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
- New reservations made between March 13, 2020 and April 30, 2020 for any future arrival date can also be canceled or changed with no charge.
- Existing nonrefundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8 for travel through June 30 can still be canceled in exchange for 10,000 World of Hyatt points if the member so desires. However, no refund will be offered on these stays.
- Point expiration is suspended through May 31, 2020.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has extended Wyndham Rewards elite status for all members in the Greater China and Southeast Asia Pacific regions through the end of 2021.
Thankfully, elite members in other regions may be eligible for similar benefits soon. The hotel released the following statement in an email to Wyndham Rewards members on March 20, 2020: “We are actively exploring additional steps that we can take to help all Wyndham Rewards members globally, including relaxed Member Level earning requirements, among other options.”
Other changes to Wyndham Rewards include:
- Points expiration is paused for points scheduled to expire between now and May 31, 2020.
- New or existing direct bookings through April 30, 2020, can be changed or canceled free of charge within 24 hours prior to arrival.
While COVID-19 spreads, we’ve seen a massive impact on the travel industry — with travel bans, canceled flights and plunging hotel occupancy. It’s nice to see that hotels are working to make the lives of travelers — both frequent and infrequent — easier during this time of uncertainty. If you’re wondering what will happen with your hotel elite status for the rest of the year and into 2021, be sure to bookmark this page and check back regularly, as we’re certain to see updates in the weeks and months to come.
For the latest news around the COVID-19 virus, check out our dedicated coronavirus news page.
Featured photo by Dace Kundrate/Shutterstock.
Victoria Walker and Jasmin Baron contributed to this post.
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