Feb012012

Rewarding Hotel Loyalty: Starwood Enhances Elite Benefits March 1, 2012

Starwood Preferred Guest has outlined a good balance of new benefits to recognize its frequent guest elite members. The changes coming March 1, 2012 reward hotel loyalty with enhanced upgrade benefits for more frequent SPG Platinum elite members.

SPG Benefits website presentation.

SPG Elite Table of Benefits.

SPG Benefits FAQ.

Overview of SPG Elite Changes

SPG Gold members

· Hotel Stay Welcome Gift – Choose from Starpoints (up to 250 points/stay) or free internet or free beverage.

· Lifetime SPG Gold elite membership earned after 250 nights and 5 years as SPG elite member. Award nights from October 1, 2011 onward count.

SPG Platinum members

· Hotel Stay Welcome Gift – Choose from Continental Breakfast for entire stay or Starpoints (up to 500/stay) or local gift.

· 50+ nights Platinum members only10 Suite Night Awards. This is in addition to the existing and continuing policy of complimentary upgrades upon arrival for SPG Platinum elites that has been a long time competitive edge of Starwood preferred Guest.

· 75+ nights Platinum members only – Earn 4 points per dollar on hotel spend. Lower tier Platinum members earn 3 points/$1 on hotel spend.

· 75+ nights Platinum members only – Your24 check-in at any hour and maintain room for 24 hours. Check in at 9pm and the room is yours until 9pm 24 hours later.

· 100+ nights Platinum members only – Personal Starwood Hotels Ambassador to help travel planning.

· Lifetime SPG Platinum elite membership earned after 500 nights and 10 years Platinum elite status. Award nights from October 1, 2011 onward count. SPG American Express 5 annual nights credit will not count for Lifetime elite nights. Years of Platinum Elite status earned as a benefit of American Express Centurion credit card membership will count.

· NOTE: Members who achieved the 50 or more nights Platinum thresholds in 2011 will receive their new benefits March 1, 2012.

Detailed look at SPG Changes

Starwood Lurker on FlyerTalk set up discussion threads for each of the new benefits. This post includes a link to the FlyerTalk discussion thread for each of the new SPG benefits. Starwood Lurkers, official company representatives for SPG on FlyerTalk, will provide clarification on questions regarding the March 1, 2012 changes in these discussion threads.

Hotel Stay Welcome Gift for SPG Gold members granted on paid and award stays. FlyerTalk discussion thread.

Choose one:

· 250 bonus points: Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, W Hotels

· 125 bonus points: Aloft, Element, Four Points brands.

or

· One Complimentary beverage at hotel bar/restaurant up to amount designated by hotel brand.

or

· Complimentary internet in guest room (wired or wireless). Lobby area and meeting room internet access is not part of this benefit. The guest may have multiple devices connected to internet in room (e.g. two computers in room may use internet free).

 

Platinum Welcome Benefit now includes Breakfast Option for entire stay (FlyerTalk discussion)

Choose one:

· 500 bonus points: Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, W Hotels

· 250 bonus points: Aloft, Element, Four Points brands.

or

  • Local gift

or

  • Continental Breakfast for entire stay.

Continental breakfast is a worldwide welcome gift option, but Sheraton Hotels with lounges offer SPG Platinum breakfast in lounge and guest can choose from one of the other two welcome gift options – points or local gift.

Type of breakfast is at discretion of hotel, but at a minimum is comprised of the continental breakfast items on the hotel restaurant menu option. Benefit applies to one other registered adult orchild in member’s room.

· Platinum member has the option to upgrade to full breakfast by paying the menu cost difference between the Continental Breakfast and Full Breakfast.

 

SPG Lifetime Gold and Platinum elite membership (FlyerTalk discussion)

SPG Lifetime Gold Elite – This new benefit is a major change for the program granting lifetime Gold elite after 250 nights and 5 years elite status. Award nights since October 1, 2011 count for elite nights.

· SPG Gold elite earned from SPG American Express spend counts as a lifetime elite qualifying year. Annual 5 elite nights from SPG American Express membership do not count as Lifetime Gold qualifying nights.

· Lifetime elite membership will be designated on SPG elite card.

The primary benefit being SPG Gold elite is 50% elite bonus points. A $200 stay earns an extra 200 bonus points and the Gold benefit of welcome amenity points gives the member the choice for up to 250 more points per stay. Lifetime Gold elite is a great consumer benefit for a frequent guest winding down hotel travel after years of loyalty to Starwood.

Meeting SPG Lifetime Gold qualification is an average of 10 years with 25 nights. The annual minimum nights qualification for SPG Gold is 10 stays or 25 nights. Assume $100 to $200 per night and earning SPG Lifetime Gold equates to around $25,000 to $50,000 in hotel spend.

250 nights is a reasonable threshold even for a leisure traveler over 10 to 15 years of SPG loyalty membership. There will likely be many current SPG Platinum members who qualify for SPG lifetime Gold as of March 1, 2012.

SPG Lifetime Platinum Elite

Qualification: 500 nights and 10 years as SPG Platinum member. The main thing to know is this is lifetime Platinum-lite. The benefits for SPG Lifetime Platinum are only the basic Platinum benefits unless you achieve the 50+ nights for additional Platinum benefits. 500 nights at $100 to $200 per night is around $50,000 to $100,000 in hotel spend. Award stay nights and credit card nights can lower that amount significantly.

The spend level needed to reach lifetime elite in other hotel loyalty programs is much higher.

Hyatt Gold Passport and Marriott Rewards already had Lifetime Elite Qualification

Hyatt Gold Passport and Marriott Rewards also offer lifetime elite status. Here is a Loyalty Traveler post discussing Marriott Lifetime Elite Qualifications and FlyerTalk thread on Hyatt Gold Passport Lifetime Diamond elite.

· Marriott Rewards offers lifetime elite status for all its three elite tiers with much harder to reach qualification requirements.

· Marriott Rewards lifetime Silver elite qualifications require 12 years membership, 600 nights and 1.2 million points earned. Marriott counts all points earned in account for the points total. Assuming $100 per night on hotels is equivalent to $60,000 to meet 600 nights threshold. Earning 1,200,000 points is likely going to be at least $60,000. This is a far higher nights threshold for lifetime low tier MR Silver elite compared to SPG Gold.

· Marriott Rewards lifetime Gold elite qualifications require 12 years membership, 800 nights and 1.6 million points earned. (I estimate about $80,000+ in spend for lifetime MR Gold).

· Marriott Rewards lifetime Platinum elite qualifications require 12 years membership, 1,000 nights and 2.0 million points earned. (I estimate about $100,000+ in spend for lifetime MR Platinum).

· Hyatt Gold Passport lifetime Diamond requires 1,000,000 lifetime base points earned and 10 years membership which is equivalent to $200,000 in hotel spend.

 

SPG Tiered-Elite Levels

SPG Gold and SPG Platinum remain the names for the basic two elite levels in Starwood Preferred Guest. Yet, there is no doubt that Starwood Preferred Guest is now a multi-tiered elite level hotel program with the separation of SPG Platinum members into upper-tier Platinums who stay 50 nights and more in a calendar year and other SPG Platinum elite members who qualify on 25 stays (or less). I’ll call them Platinum-lite.

These changes for SPG Platinum more-frequent-guests is truly a loyalty program enhancement for top level SPG Platinum members. Currently there is not much incentive to go far beyond SPG Platinum qualification unless you desire to stay in specific Starwood Hotels.

A frequent guest staying 100+ nights a year in hotels is motivated to push stays to a second program and even a third program for high elite status. Starwood only has 1,100 hotels globally and earning elite in other programs opens up more hotel location choice for frequent travelers.

Now the changes next month to SPG Platinum provide incentive to stick with Starwood Hotels beyond the Platinum qualification nights to earn added suite upgrade opportunities (50+ nights) and the 24 hour room benefit (75+nights).

Platinum-lite has been my SPG Platinum group for the past 9 years. I need only one more year for Platinum lifetime qualification, but I am several years short on the 500 nights requirement. Too bad my award nights from 1999 to October 2011 don’t count.

Update 6:00pm Feb 1: The word coming through the FlyerTalk thread is years when SPG Platinum elite was earned by double stays promotions do not count as SPG Platinum years for SPG Lifetime Platinum 10 year requirement. This will push me down a few years from 9 years. This is an area I wait to see further clarification deom Starwood Lurker.

Starwood Lurker stated years as SPG Platinum elite earned from American Express Centurion benefit will count for SPG Lifetime Platinum.

Update Feb 8: Years of elite status earned through SPG Double Stays/Nights promotions count for 5 and 10 year requirements for SPG lifetime elite status, although only actual nights stayed, not SPG promotion double nights, count for the nights requirement . Starwood Lurker posted this Feb 6 on FlyerTalk.

 

10 Suite Night Awards for SPG Platinum members with 50+ paid and award nights in a calendar year.

FlyerTalk discussion thread.

The Suite Night Award is a confirmed upgrade to a standard suite or select premium room for one night. The SPG-Platinum 50+ nights member from 2011 stays will receive 10 Suite Night Award credits March 1, 2012. These credits expire December 31, 2013.

SPG members qualifying for Platinum elite in 2012 with 50+ nights will receive 10 Suite Night Awards that also expire December 31, 2013.

The existing SPG Platinum basic benefit of guaranteed upgrades at check-in remains unchanged. This option allows upper tier SPG Platinum members to have priority on upgrades in the same way airline upgrades are commonly distributed with higher tier elites getting an advance opportunity to upgrade.

10 Suite Night Awards Terms

· SPG Platinum member requests Suite Night Award upgrade and pays one award for each night of the hotel stay.

· At 5 days before arrival upgrade availability will be searched and member will receive email confirmation of upgrade availability. The upgrade will automatically be rechecked over the next four days for upgrade availability.

· The suite night award will be returned to member’s account if no upgrade availability by 2pm the day before arrival.

· Platinum Member may submit a suite night award request up to 2pm local hotel time the day before arrival.

· You may cancel a suite night award upgrade up to 2pm local hotel time the day before arrival without penalty as long as the suite upgrade has not yet been confirmed.

· You can cancel a confirmed suite night award upgrade up to 3pm local hotel time the day before arrival only if you cancel the entire hotel stay.

· After 3pm day before arrival deadline the suite night awards are forfeited if you cancel the hotel stay.

· Buy 2-Stay 3 nights and other extended stay rate discounts require one suite night award for each night of the total stay.

· Suite night awards may not be gifted or transferred. You may request suite night upgrades on multiple rooms for the same reservation as long as SPG Platinum member is one of the guests.

This is an enhancement for upper tier Platinums, and probably will not impact Platinum-lite members significantly. SPG super-Platinum members were likely already beating Platinum-lites for room upgrades. This will also help Platinum super-elite members on extended stays where their Suite Night Awards will likely result in better upgrade opportunities.

· Suite Night Awards may sometimes be offered as a reward in certain promotions.

I am hoping this means SPG promotions for hotel stays rather than SPG credit card promotions.

Extended award stays at Starwood hotels on SPG Cash & Points rates and at SPG Category-1 or Category-2 hotels for 2,000 to 4,000 points per night may be the best new strategy for Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum-lites to earn the 50 nights needed to receive 10 Suite Night Award upgrade/preferred room priority confirmable at 5 days in advance.

 

Platinum 75+ Nights Benefits

Your24 Benefit (FlyerTalk discussion thread)

· Request special arrival time when request is made at least 48 hours (and before 3pm local hotel time) before arrival date for any hour you choose. Check-out is 24 hours later.

· Standard 4pm late check-out applies to guests checking-in between 9am-4pm hotel local time.

I love the 24 hour room benefit concept. This is something I truly can appreciate as a frequent guest.

At 75 nights the SPG Platinum member is likely spending $10,000+ at Starwood Hotels. This benefit is designed to meet the needs of a global traveler.

Airlines drop you off at all times of the day and night. This is a huge benefit for airline travelers. Those 1am arrivals will seem a little nicer when you know you do not have to move until late the next evening.

This is a benefit I probably won’t experience. Congratulations to all you 24-hour party people who can have a hotel stay to meet your lifestyle of living in hotels. You’ve paid and stayed for this benefit.

 

4 Points per Dollar in Hotel Spend (Platinum 75+) (FlyerTalk discussion thread)

SPG super-platinums earn an extra bonus point on hotel spend. Normally SPG members get 2 base points/$1. SPG Gold and Platinum elite members get 1 bonus points/$1 for 3 points. Now SPG 75+ night platinums earn 4 points/$1.

That’s an extra 10,000 points for every $10,000 in hotel spend. About a 2 to 3% rebate on spend and an enhancement for the high-roller frequent guests.

 

SPG 100+ nights Platinum

· Receive a Platinum Ambassador to help with travel planning.

The FlyerTalk discussion thread is a more appropriate place to learn about Starwood Ambassador services.

100+ nights in a calendar year is out of my league. I did that many hotel nights for a couple of years in the early 1990s and I have no desire to travel that frequently again. Unless I can do it in 10 to 15+ day stays.

 

Starwood Rewards Loyalty

These new elite member benefits enhance the Starwood Preferred Guest program in my opinion. The basic change for most elite members are a choice of free internet or bonus points for Gold elites.

Platinum elite benefit changes are significant. The Lifetime Gold and Lifetime Platinum membership levels are at reasonable ascents for the average business and frequent leisure traveler who is likely spending fewer than 50 nights in hotels each year. Over 20 to 30 years a member with 10 to 25 nights a year may reach the lifetime elite level. Customer loyalty over decades should be rewarded by Starwood Hotels even if that repeat guest is not necessarily an annual high-spend customer.

The October 2011 change to count award stays for elite status makes annual and lifetime nights requirements far easier to reach on lower hotel spend. In the past 13 years I think at least 50%, and probably more of my hotel stays have been Cash & Points and standard awards compared to elite qualifying paid nights. Counting award nights for SPG elite annual qualification and now lifetime qualification is a major program enhancement for this long-time SPG member.

Additional points and upgrade benefits for the most frequent guests are well-deserved perks for the frequent guest regulars at Starwood Hotels.

SPG Benefits3-1-12

SPG Benefits SuperCharged

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. I added an update to this post. Starwood Lurker posted on FlyerTalk that years when SPG member qualified for elite with SPG Double Stays/Nights promotion will count for lifetime years requirement, however, only the actual number of nights stayed count for the lifetime nights requirement.

    For example if I stayed 15 nights and 13 stays during a year with a SPG double nights/stays promotion, then I qualified for SPG Platinum with 26 stays and 30 nights.

    The accounting for SPG Lifetime Platinum credits me with one year Platinum elite and 15 nights.

  2. You mention that years of SPG Platinum status offered by the Centurion AMEX card will be credited toward lifetime requirements for SPG Platinum for Life…does the same apply to the years of SPG Gold status offered by the Platinum AMEX Card? Could one simply pay the Platinum Card annual fee for five years, while having SPG, and achieve Lifetime Gold?

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