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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader John, who missed out on rewards entirely during an extended hotel stay. Here’s what he had to say:

Our home was flooded during Hurricane Harvey, so my family and I stayed at the Magnolia Hotel in Houston until we could move back. We got a fantastic long-term rate of $109 per night for a one-bedroom suite with a kitchen. Taxes were waived after the first 30 days, and the hotel gave us free breakfast on the go each morning as we ran out to work and school. The staff was super helpful and became like a second family — seriously, I can’t say enough good things about the hotel.

Throughout our time there, we made it clear we were excited about earning points and status with the hotel. I’ve been SPG 75-night Platinum for the last two years, and I was looking forward to reaching Ambassador status. We also knew we’d earn a lot of points from room and other ancillary charges. Upon checkout, we were awarded a sizable amount of Make a Green Choice points, but nothing else showed up in my account.

I reached out to SPG to see why my points hadn’t posted, and they cited in their terms and conditions that stays over 90 days don’t earn points. Not only do you not earn points for any nights beyond 90 days, but staying longer than that nullifies any points and elite credits you earned from the first 90 days. I was shocked, and pretty upset that I hadn’t done my homework. Had I known this was the rule, I would have simply “checked out” for a night and put our room under my wife’s name and SPG number, and then switched back to my account for the remainder of our stay.

Even the hotel staff seemed surprised. At the very least, I’m happy to share this as a lesson learned: check the terms and conditions for long-term stays!

Starwood’s terms and conditions do specify that stays in excess of 90 days are ineligible to earn rewards (see section 13.7). It’s a peculiar rule, and while checking out for a night is a good workaround, checking out for several nights may be even better. When you cross an SPG elite threshold during a stay, your new status kicks in about 48 hours from when you check out; by inserting a break between “stays,” John could have activated any new benefits he earned. That said, checking out may have jeopardized the long-term rate he negotiated with the hotel. If you find yourself in a similar situation, let the front desk know your plans so you don’t pay extra or end up without a room.

Hotel hopping may have exacerbated a stressful situation for John and his family, but if you don’t mind changing locations periodically, you can maximize long-term stays by spreading your business around and taking advantage of special offers. Start by looking for opportunities to complete a status challenge or status match, which drastically lower the qualification requirements — on an extended trip, you could string together several challenges to earn high-level status with multiple programs. Similarly, you could earn points quickly by maxing out promotional bonuses like Marriott MegaBonus or IHG Accelerate. So long as you receive comparable rates and service from each property, you’ll come out way ahead.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank John for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Feature image courtesy of the Magnolia Hotel Houston.

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