After comparing the four major U.S. airlines earlier this week, I’m now back to review six major hotel chains side-by-side. My objective is to compare each loyalty program to the others using common measures and help you choose one (or two?) most deserving of your business. I got a good response to the airline update and hope you’ll find this one equally helpful.
In the four years that I’ve performed this project I can tell you that the hotel comparison is much more contentious than comparing airlines. There are more differences between them, and all have found their own way of standing apart. This is despite the fact that airlines have only recently migrated toward a revenue-based model; hotels have been doing that for decades.
Mergers and acquisitions have affected the hotel industry just as they have airlines. I dropped Kimpton from the hotel chart last year. I suspect this year will be the last time we see Starwood. You can see the past charts that I created in January 2014, and March 2015. (I’m not sure I did one in 2012 when I first started comparing airlines.)
Organization and History of These Tables
It is not necessarily my goal to say one hotel is better than another, although I provide some opinion in the bottom of each table. People put a premium on convenience, so much so that I would argue consolidation is the greatest threat to elite benefits. When you can compete with size, why offer anything more?
Yet the customer experience continues to matter: all airlines are pretty much the same in coach, while hotels within the same brand can vary significantly due to franchise ownership. Later today I’ll write a separate post on which tier in each program provides a “sweet spot” — the most return for your loyalty.
There are few changes to the tables this year vs. the last version published in March 2015. I tried to reduce some of my personal bias that seeped into the chart, renaming a few categories. For example, “Confirmed Upgrades Available” is now described as “Advance Upgrade Available” to more accurately reflect the fact that such upgrades remain subject to availability — it’s just the timing that sets them apart. I’ve also added a caveat about the breakfast benefit at Waldorf-Astoria hotels that was previously missing and identified which chains include the fifth award night for free.
One last thing to keep in mind: I include the points earned with a credit card in some cases and not others. This is because some credit cards include status with them, and that status may be higher than the one I’m describing. I don’t see how you could earn points with an IHG credit card and only have Silver status when the card automatically confers Platinum status.
Please let me know if I’ve missed anything; I’ll update the tables as soon as possible. You can click on these charts to enlarge them or download all three tables in a PDF. Readers are also welcome to share or repost them with proper attribution, including a link to this post.
Comparison of Lower Elite Tiers
This comparison includes Hyatt Platinum, Starwood Gold, Hilton Silver, Marriott Silver, IHG Gold, and Club Carlson Silver status. There are no significant changes to this table except in my comments at the bottom. (Similar edits are at the bottom of the other two tables, with some details modified as they relate to the specific tiers being compared.)
Comparison of Middle Elite Tiers
This comparison includes Hilton Gold, Marriott Gold, IHG Platinum, and Club Carlson Gold status. Hyatt Platinum and Starwood Gold are provided for comparison, but these programs do not have a middle tier. The most significant change is the addition of the IHG Platinum tier to this table after removing it from the top tier comparison.
Comparison of Top Elite Tiers
This comparison includes Hyatt Diamond, Starwood Platinum, Hilton Diamond, Marriott Platinum, IHG Spire, and Club Carlson Concierge status. The most significant change is the addition of IHG Spire to this table, which was introduced during 2015.