Oct242012

Best easy-to-reach elite benefits with Hotel Loyalty Programs

The hotel guest has one primary objective – a sense of getting good hotel stay value for the money paid. The goal of the traveler is to find hotel value for any hotel whether booked through Priceline, Expedia, or a major hotel brand website.

Elite member recognition as a frequent guest can tip the scale for sticking to a specific hotel loyalty program member hotel over other lodging choices. The benefits of being an elite member in a hotel program combined with rebates on the cost of rooms in the form of hotel points, free nights and airline miles offers added value to the frequent guest.

Elite is High Value Strategy for Hotel Stays

Hotel loyalty program elite status is the best way to upgrade your hotel life for less cash. You do not have to be top tier elite with 25+ hotel stays a year in a loyalty program to receive valuable benefits like free internet, free breakfast and room upgrades.

An $80 upscale hotel room bargain gets blown out of budget with a $40+ hotel restaurant breakfast charge for two. Internet access can set you back $10 to $25+ per night at many high-end hotels.

Survey of Hotel Loyalty Program Lower Elite Tier* Benefits

*nearly all these elite levels can be reached with as few as 25 hotel nights in a calendar year.

Hilton HHonors Silver Elite (4 stays or 10 nights) earns 15% bonus points which amounts to 16.5 points per dollar as a Points & Points earner rather than 15 points/$1 for a Blue member. HHonors Silver elite has few benefits besides the 15% to 25% points discount for elites on award stays of four nights or more. Marriott and SPG offer all members 20% discount with 5th night free awards.

Hilton HHonors Gold Elite (16 stays or 36 nights or 60,000 base points) elite offers rewarding benefits with free internet, breakfast globally except for Waldorf Astoria, and room upgrades, potential for executive lounge access.** Award stays count for elite credit. 25% Bonus Points.

**Executive Floor Lounge Access Policy: The following policy applies at all Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and DoubleTree by Hilton™ hotels with Executive Floor Lounges. Executive Floor Lounges are available only at select properties.

If you are an HHonors guest with Gold status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will be granted complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge only if you receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor or an upgrade to a room type that confers Executive Floor Lounge access benefits.

Marriott Rewards Silver Elite (10 nights) earn 20% bonus points and slightly more than HHonors Silver elite (15%). Marriott gift shop 10% discount, late checkout and 10% Friday and Saturday night discount at participating Courtyard and SpringHill Suites. Elite only reward offers.

Marriott Rewards Gold Elite (50 nights) elite gets complimentary breakfast, except at resorts and Courtyard Hotels. That is a big gap in coverage with over 800 Courtyard hotels globally. Gold elite members get free internet, except only outside U.S. and Canada for Courtyard. It is hard to be Marriott Gold and an infrequent guest. 25% bonus points.

IHG Priority Club Platinum elite (50 nights or 60,000 points). Priority Club counts all points earned and reaching 60,000 points is far less costly and easy to earn on far fewer than 50 nights. Platinum elites do not have a defined benefit for breakfast or even internet access, but room upgrades are a possibility and 50% elite bonus grows points more quickly.

IHG Priority Club Gold eliteoffers 10% elite bonus points and little more benefit.

InterContinental Ambassador membership ($200 or 32,000 points) is useful for room upgrades, late checkout, 5,000 bonus points, annual Buy One Get One Free weekend night and other defined amenities. Benefits are only applicable for stays at InterContinental Hotels.

Club Carlson Silver elite (10 stays or 15 nights) are eligible for room upgrades, earn an extra 1,000 points online booking bonus, early check-in and late checkout and elite roll over nights. Silver elite earns 25% bonus points.

Club Carlson Gold elite (20 stays or 35 nights) adds a welcome gift and elite bonus points increase to 50%. All Club Carlson members receive high speed internet, but only top tier Concierge elites (30 stays or 75 nights) have a free breakfast benefit.

Starwood Preferred Guest – Gold elite (10 stays or 25 nights) has a benefit of 4pm late checkout.  Hotel Stay Welcome Gift – Choose from Starpoints (up to 250 points/stay) or free internet or free beverage. Potential for a higher room category upgrade; mostly preferred view room, and with luck, sometimes a suite. Upgrades do not apply to Aloft or Element and late checkout is limited at resorts and conference hotels. Award stays count for elite credit. No complimentary breakfast option as SPG Gold. 50% bonus points.

SPG Platinum elite (25 stays or 50 nights) receive free internet and consistent room upgrades including suites and lounge access. Hotel Stay Welcome Gift – Choose from Continental Breakfast for entire stay or Starpoints (up to 500 points per stay) or local gift. 50% bonus points.

Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum elite (5 stays or 15 nights) are eligible for room category upgrades, free internet globally, 2pm checkout and every third stay earns a Platinum Extra Award for a choice of bonus points and F&B choices. Stay 15 to 24 times and the Award includes Regency Club upgrade or free breakfast. Diamond elites (25 stays or 50 nights) receive free breakfast and four confirmed suite upgrades. 15% bonus points.

Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond elite (25 stays or 50 nights) receive a large array of benefits including complimentary breakfast, free internet, 4pm late checkout, welcome amenity bonus points or local gift, four confirmed suite upgrade certificates each year and each upgrade certificate is valid for up to 7 nights in a single stay. Complimentary access to Regency Club. 30% bonus points.

Best Value Lower Tier Elite Benefits:

1. Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum (5 stays or 15 nights) free internet, upgrades, 2pm late checkout and 15% bonus points, Platinum Extra Awards every 3rd stay.

2. Hilton HHonors Gold (16 stays or 36 nights) free breakfast, internet, upgrades, potential for free lounge access and 25% bonus points. Award stays count for elite credit.

3. SPG Gold (10 stays or 25 nights) free upgrades, 4 pm late checkout, 50% elite bonus points and choice of free internet. Award stays count for elite credit.

4. Club Carlson Silver (10 stays or 15 nights) room upgrades, 2,000 points online booking bonus, elite roll over nights, early check-in/late checkout and 25% bonus points.

5. InterContinental Ambassador ($200 or 32,000 points) offers benefits if your travel style fits with luxury InterContinental Hotels.

Consider the benefits of elite status that offer you the most value and choose your hotel loyalty programs accordingly for 2013.

Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

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. Hyatt Diamond – Breakfast only at location w/o regency Club or closed Club. Else breakfast is in Club. My experience there is huge difference.

  2. @Justin Martin – There can be a big difference in breakfast quality. You can always ask for the restaurant and see what the hotel says. The majority of my Hyatt stays have been restaurant breakfast.

    Hyatt Regency San Francisco I prefer the Regency Club cold breakfast buffet with the great views from the top of the hotel over the lobby cafe. Great views at Grand Hyatt SF lounge too.

  3. @mwwalk – Thanks for the comment. True that Hilton HHonors Gold elites are only guaranteed lounge access with an executive lounge floor room. I edited the piece to include that detail in this post.

  4. Quick note on SPG Gold membership, the welcome gift that was extended last month was either a $25 SPG gift card or 1,000 SPG points. No mention of free internet access (and at 20 euro per 24 hours, would have been considerably more useful). This was for a .ca SPG member

  5. @Ian – the website states the member has a choice of points, beverage or internet.

    I have only been charged once for internet this year at the W New York Union Square last month. That reminds me that I should ask the hotel for a refund.

  6. Interesting. I’ll ping my SPG rep about this, and reference the welcome email they sent me laying out the options. I’ll update when I hear back from them.

  7. So, clarification. There’s a welcome gift when you hit gold ($25 SPG gift card or 1k SPG points), and a welcome gift when you arrive to spend a night (250 SPG points, free internet or free drink

  8. I have gold status through a new to me hilton credit card. Should I be asking for an upgraded room? What is likelihood of getting an upgrade? I do like the free breakfast and free wifi..

  9. @Ian – Correct, I think. The welcome gift for Gold elites is a new benefit for 2012 (250 points, free internet or free drink).

    This year is the first year I have been SPG Gold since 2002. I also received the Welcome gift of $25 SPG card or 1,000 points with Gold elite status, but that may only be a welcome gift for Gold status this year of 2012. I think that benefit could be discontinued at any time and it is not in print as a SPG elite benefit as far as I know.

  10. @Margit – Yes. Ask for an upgrade. Do not feel guilty about it since you have Gold status. Talk it up. At most they can ignore your status for an upgrade.

    In 2001 when I was HHonors Gold I once received an upgrade to one of the premier suites of the Doubletree Sonoma Valley in Rohnert Park the night before a flight to Singapore out of San Francisco. I called my wife to tell her that I had been filling the spa tub for 30 minutes and I still had a ways to go to get it to swim level.

    The bath tub was wildly big and would have held three or four people comfortably.

    Kelley was not as excited to hear that I was living in luxury on Hilton HHonors Gold status without her.

    Payback was the 15 hour flight to Hong Kong in the middle seat, economy class, between two burly men.

  11. @gpapadop – According to their website the online booking bonus for Silver elite members is 2,000 points and NOT 1,000 points :).

    ” For each online reservation stay:

    Club Carlson members earn 1,000 Gold Points.
    Club Carlson Silver and Gold Elite members earn 2,000 Gold Points.
    Club Carlson Concierge members earn 3,000 Gold Points.”

    http://www.clubcarlson.com/onlinebookingbonus

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