Thanks for all your comments on my first draft comparing top tier hotel status. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve updated the top-tier tables with some corrections and added Club Carlson to the mix. Go back to the original post to find them. The present post contains tables I created for lower and middle tier status, which was a little easier. (When there are fewer benefits, there are no terms and conditions to decipher to figure out what exactly is being promised.)
You can download a PDF with all of the tables here, and I’ve added a link to the Resources tab, as well. Downloading the images might give you a better resolution because these tables are all different sizes.
Many of the lower tiers of elite status can be easily obtained just with a credit card, which I’ve discussed earlier in the context of free hotel Internet access. I think these tables are most useful not for comparing between brands but for comparing to the benefits you’d receive at the same hotel with higher status. For example, Marriott and InterContinental both have pretty high thresholds for their top tier. Do you really need it? Maybe you can get by with something less. The upgrade benefit at Marriott is exactly the same for Gold and Platinum members — Platinum members just have higher priority (as you would expect).
Just going by the qualification requirements, I think Hyatt has one of the best payouts for the investment required. Only 15 nights or 5 stays for Platinum status, which gets you free Internet and a 2 PM checkout. Marriott and Hilton have a similar requirement, with only 10 nights, but Silver status in either program does not come with free Internet and late check-out is by request only. Gold status requires a big jump to 40-50 nights.
But who really qualifies by stays for these lower tiers? The Hyatt Credit Card offers free Platinum status, two free nights for signing up, and another free night each year. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers free Gold status and two free nights for signing up.
Kimpton is unique in that their lowest tier isn’t really a tier at all. All general members of InTouch, a free program, get a range of benefits that include Internet. (If you forgot to sign up before arriving, the hotel encourages you to join when you first access the network.) Contrast this with InterContinental’s Ambassador status, which costs $150 each year to renew. It has many of the same benefits promised to Royal Ambassadors, which have a stay requirement but no renewal fee — although regular Ambassadors do not get the mini bar credit and have lower upgrade priority.
Promised Benefits vs. Personal Experience
Going back to the changes I made to the top tier comparison tables, I softened the language slightly on “discretionary” benefits, which apparently upset some people. To be clear, I am not supportive of loyalty programs that try to give themselves lots of exceptions to weasel their way out of benefits. If a hotel is going to guarantee a late check-out, it should specify a time and stick to it. If it’s by request only, on the day of departure, and with a time of the hotel’s choosing… well, I have done that successfully many times even without elite status.
The fact is, what a hotel does in practice and what it guarantees are two entirely separate things. Hotels will always bend the rules now and then, but a suite upgrade that relies on a good mood at the front desk isn’t a benefit — it’s just luck combined with good service. Here are examples of three hotel program’s rules on suite upgrades:
- Hyatt (Diamond): “Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites.”
- Starwood (Platinum): Upgrades to best available room at check-in, including Standard Suites.”
- Marriott (Platinum): “Upgrades may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites.”
Only Starwood Preferred Guest promises a suite upgrade, if available. Hyatt specifically excludes a suite. Marriott says a suite is one of many possibilities. This is the kind of language I hate to see in program benefits. Marriott makes an effort to describe every kind of preferred room if only to emphasize that any one of them will satisfy their obligation to you. A suite upgrade is still at Marriott’s discretion, just as any Hyatt can go above and beyond if it chooses (my first stay as a Diamond member was in the Presidential Suite).
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