Reader success story: Getting a suite upgrade with Hotels.com elite status
Today I want to share a story from my friend, Riley Shelby, who successfully leveraged his Hotels.com status to land a suite upgrade at a five-star hotel in Guatemala.
When Riley and I travel together, I'm always eager to "convert" him to one of the major points programs with the abundant benefits I've grown to love from my Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite, World of Hyatt Globalist and Hilton Honors Diamond statuses. But instead, he's remained loyal to his trusty Hotels.com status.
But after his recent upgrade experience in Guatemala, I'm quite impressed. For reference, Hotels.com has two status tiers:
- Silver: 10 nights per year required.
- Gold: 30 nights per year required.
Having been a Gold member myself since 2017, with roughly 140 lifetime hotel nights booked worldwide, allow me to let you in on a secret of Hotels.com status — it's nearly worthless.
Although they may advertise room upgrades, early & late check-in, priority customer service and more, in practice, you'll rarely ever see those benefits. When a hotel receives your reservation, it will come in as a travel agent booking listed as "EXPEDIA - VIP PREMIUM." Typically, this won't mean anything to the hotel, but occasionally, they'll roll out the red carpet.
In my experience, prospects are better when booking boutique hotels that aren't otherwise associated with a loyalty program. This is generally the only reason I'll book with Hotels.com over one of the major hotel brands.
I recently had one such red carpet experience with a Hotels.com booking at Hotel & Museo Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala, a beautiful 5-star property built in an old Convent tucked in the Old City of Antigua. The whole place feels like a museum, with Spanish art and antiquities scattered throughout every inch.
While I had booked a standard room, I was upgraded to a suite at check-in. Not expecting much, I was shocked to find a ~1,400 sq ft suite awaiting me, complete with a working fireplace, massive jacuzzi and an expansive living room.
After staying for a week, I was thrilled with the service and food. When it came time to check out, I delightfully met another apparent property-specific benefit of Hotels.com Gold status; a flat 20% discount on all my food and beverage charges.
Although these kinds of discounts and benefits at properties booked with Hotels.com status are often advertised, I rarely, if ever, see them delivered. It was nice to see the opposite for a change.
While Riley acknowledges that his experience in Guatemala was not the norm for booking stays on Hotels.com, his Hotels.com Gold status certainly delivered on this stay.
The main value proposition of Hotels.com is that the program is extremely easy to understand: Stay 10 nights and earn Silver and stay 30 nights to earn Gold.
Also, when you book 10 nights through the website or app (you must be logged in to your account), you'll earn one free night with a value equivalent to the average cost of your 10 paid nights (excluding taxes and fees). This effectively gives you a 10% return on hotel stays booked with Hotels.com, and you're not limited to staying in hotels within one chain.
On paper, the benefits of Hotels.com Gold status are:
- Priority customer service.
- Price Guarantee Plus.
- VIP room upgrades.
- Breakfast, airport transfers and spa vouchers at select hotels.
In practice, however, if you're looking for an easy-to-understand loyalty program, Hotels.com should be on your radar. But if you're after property benefits like suite upgrades and breakfast, don't expect much from Hotels.com, although once in a while, you may be pleasantly surprised.