Comparing Hotel Elite Status in 2014

I’ve finally found time to finish creating my comparison tables of hotel elite status in 2014. These things always get ripped to shreds in the first draft, so I won’t do much analysis in this post; I’ll wait until later this week. But do feel free to comment. I will try to get a corrected version uploaded as soon as possible. When I post my analysis, I’ll also include a downloadable PDF.

The purpose of these comparison tables is to show how status differs between and within loyalty programs. Tables are organized primarily to compare between programs with the assumption that the reader will complete a certain number of hotel nights each year and wants to know the most rewarding chain.

However, there are lots of other considerations. By comparing tiers within the same program you might find that, for the benefits you care about, it is acceptable to settle for elite status in the lower or middle elite tier. You might even find that you can obtain this elite status as easily as by applying for a credit card with a $50-100 annual fee. With this knowledge you might decide that your 10, 50, or 100 nights a year are better spent at another chain where you can obtain benefits that aren’t replicable with a credit card. You can then apply for the credit card as a fallback for those times when the second chain is not an option.

It would be smart to provide some explanation of what these tables mean since I don’t always get as much space as I would like. Here are answers to common questions/complaints:

  • No, Marriott does not provide guaranteed suite upgrades to its Platinum members. This row in the “Upgrades” section refers to programs that promise a basic suite upgrade if available. Marriott Rewards only promises that its guests will receive an upgrade, which may or may not include a suite.
  • No, Marriott does not provide guaranteed late check-out. This row in the “Reservations” section refers to programs that guarantee a specific late check-out time. Marriott Rewards only promises priority consideration.
  • I debated whether to consider the value of credit card bonus points when calculated the estimated revenue per award night. There is an opportunity cost from not using some other generic card. However, I suspect that when I do my analysis these numbers could be useful.
  • If you have a Club Carlson credit card, I think the math from the last night free is easy enough to do in your head. I’m not going to cut my numbers by 50%. Not everyone breaks up their stays so they can check in and out every 48 hours.
  • The added benefits for SPG Platinum members at 75 and 100 nights require exceptional loyalty and are not greatly different from those for 25 stays and 50 nights. For that reason, I’ve resigned them to a footnote.

Any other questions, concerns, or complaints will be appreciated. I know I am not likely to get this right the first time. Be sure to click on the tables for larger versions.

HotelStatus_UpperTiers2014_v6

HotelStatus_MiddleTiers2014_v1

HotelStatus_LowerTiers2014_v6

US Airways Devalues Award Chart & A Sweet Spot Is Lost
Using My Alaska Airlines Companion Fare for Hawaii

Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
Email // Twitter // Facebook // Google+ // Subscribe by RSS

  • Danny

    I think your diamond qualifying nights required for Hyatt is off (think you’ve got the Platinum numbers plugged in there).

    • Scottrick

      Big oops. Let me have my coffee, and it will be first on my list.

    • Scottrick

      Fixed.

      • Ben

        the late check out for Hyatt Diamond is 4pm. Also the Hyatt credit card bonus is 3 points not 2.

        • Scottrick

          I’m just screwing up on my favorite program today, aren’t I? Heading out for lunch now, but I’ll fix this as soon as I get back.

  • Darth Chocolate

    The lower tier table is not linked to a readable page. Otherwise, Thanks.

    • Scottrick

      Fixed.

  • Nick

    No free breakfast at Courtyards or Resorts for Marriott, which seems to be at least half the time for me.

    • Scottrick

      It didn’t make it into this morning’s first revision, but I’ll take a look later today.

  • BoomBoom

    Believe your SPG Platinum Bonus points earning is off by a bit over there.. you most likely have the Gold bonus points in the SPG earnings.

    • Scottrick

      SPG Gold and Platinum members both receive a 50% bonus (3 points total). A higher bonus of 100% (4 points total) is provided only to Platinum members who stay 75 nights or more, as indicated in the footnote.

      • B

        I was talking about the bonus points option (at the check-in) 125 – 250. I’ve consistently been receiving 500 bonus points for each check-in (also depends on the hotel chain, some give out 250).

        • Scottrick

          Ah, yes. I’ll fix that in the next round.

  • ATLTraveler

    Would you mind posting the spreadsheet with each workbook to download? Copying the images isn’t as clean. Thanks!

    • Scottrick

      They should print pretty legibly in a landscape format, and I’ll see what I can do to clean them up further when I create a PDF of the final versions. However, I’ve had issues with people republishing my content without permission and hope you understand why I wouldn’t want to make it easier by providing the original spreadsheet.

  • Ping

    Nice table – you could also mention that SPG partners with Caesars, since you listed MGM and Hyatt..

    • Scottrick

      I overlooked that. Ceasars goes in on the next round.

    • Scottrick

      Fixed.

  • Neil

    Very useful and well presented. I don’t know if IHG Ambassador status is worth a footnote or mention somewhere. It can be purchased for $150-$200 and has a few benefits including guaranteed late checkout. Not sure if that benefit carries over to other Priority Club hotels – I was under the impression it did.

  • Dmitry

    Scott, i believe you underestimate IHG program. For example:
    Reward nights are counted towards elite status
    Point+Cash are counted towards elite as well
    You get welcome amenities for platinum – bonus points (depending on hotel category like 500 for HI, 600 for Crowne Plaza…) or welcome drink for 2
    Late check out is present for all levels
    Another good feature is that nights over platinum requirement rollover to next year

    • Scottrick

      There are no attempts at underestimation here; just organizing the facts. As I said, I may have overlooked a few things since there is so much to look for. Analysis comes later.

      –You’re correct that the award nights count toward elite status, and I’ll need to update that (we’re already on v3 today).

      –You’re incorrect that late check-out is a guaranteed benefit for elite members. As with Marriott (the specific case I mentioned above) elite members only receive consideration subject to availability.

      –Elite qualification rollover is not something I examined, but it’s a benefit also offered by Club Carlson. Maybe I’ll add it to the chart next year.

  • SFOPhD

    Kimpton Inner Circle requires 15 stays or 45 nights.

    • Scottrick

      Clearly something happened when I copied and pasted stuff from the lower tiers to the top. I’ll fix it now.

  • Dad

    A feature not listed that is VERY important to me (as I hate planning ahead) is late cancellation. Marriott lets me cancel until 6 PM the day of arrival. Hyatt charges me if I cancel after 3 PM the day before arrival. (I have an example with a 3:11 PM cancellation that quietly hit my credit card. Hyatt did reverse it when I asked.)

    • Scottrick

      That depends much more on the rate than the benefits of the program. Hyatt and other chains have corporate rates with 6 PM cancellation times.

  • Juno

    I love this post (and your airline comparison post as well). Side by side comparison is so helpful as I contemplate which brand to pursue.Keep up the great work.

  • Marek

    Scott: thank you for great comparison. I have a few comments about Club Carlson based on about twenty stays in Park Inn, Radisson, Radisson Suites, Radisson Blue and Country Inn and Suites over the past year. CC is inconsistent and often delivers more than they promise what makes it a tricky program to describe neatly. I have Gold status obtained via credit card:

    – upgrade to suit: happened in about 1/3 cases
    – free bottled water: received two bottles in ALL cases (including Country Inn and Suites)
    – free breakfast: some of their hotels offer free breakfast, in some cases it was part of an upgrade; in general, obtained in more than 50% of cases
    – late checkout: in almost all cases they confirmed 6:00 pm (!) checkout

    Nice extra bonuses for food: CC gives you 20 points/$ if you charge to room; in some places they give 15% discount on food (happened in Lima, applied automatically).

    Cheers,
    Marek

  • Christina Marinakis

    This is awesome! Thanks so much; I (for better or for worse) live 2/3 of the year in hotels, and I always wondered if I had picked the right loyalty program. Thanks for putting in so much work to help out folks like me!