Oct272012

Differences in my stays as SPG Platinum and Gold elite

With two months left in 2012 I mapped out a plan for my end-of-year travels to recapture SPG Platinum elite. What a cruel twist of fate to be offered the SPG Amex Stars gig in 2012 with 10 free nights in luxury hotels in New York, Miami and San Francisco and find myself without the SPG Platinum member free upgrade benefit.

“Show me the upgrade” has left my Starwood phraseology in 2012 as merely SPG Gold elite.

This is the only year since 2003 I did not hold SPG Platinum elite status. In fairness, I regularly receive ‘enhanced rooms’ with good views as SPG Gold.

Thinking about SPG Platinum benefits as I map out hotel stays to regain SPG Platinum elite in 2012.

SPG members earn SPG Platinum elite status with 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year. Award stays like free nights on points, Cash & Points and promotional free nights count toward the 25 ‘stays’ and 50 ‘nights’ elite qualification total.

Starting in 2012 SPG members earn Lifetime Platinum after 500 nights and 10 years as a Platinum elite member.

I already have the 10 years elite. Too bad they just started counting award nights in 2012. That cuts my official total nights at Starwood Hotels over the past decade by about half. I redeemed a lot of free nights and SPG Cash & Points awards over the years.

SPG Platinum Benefits

25 Stays or 50 Nights Annually

  • Three Starpoints per eligible US dollar spent, a 50% bonus over the Preferred level.
  • Upgrades to best available room at check-in, including Standard Suites.1
  • Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast (New Option!)and local amenities.
  • Club- and Executive-level privileges where available.
  • Complimentary in-room Internet access.
  • 4 p.m. late checkout,2so you can sleep in, relax by the pool or see more of the local area you’re visiting.
  • Guaranteed room availability when your room is booked by 3 p.m., 72+ hours prior to arrival.3
  • Our signature Platinum Concierge service4 at 888-625-4991 – always one call away to help you arrange just about anything regarding your visit. It’s service tailored to your needs.

Benefits of SPG Gold

10 Stays or 25 Nights Annually

  • 3 Starpoints per US dollar spent, a 50% bonus over the Preferred level.
  • Upgrades to enhanced rooms at check-in, such as rooms on higher floors, or corner rooms.3
  • 4 p.m. late checkout, where available.4
  • Dedicated Gold customer service line.
  • New! Your choice of a welcome gift to complement each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access and a complimentary beverage.

The Difference in Platinum

SPG Gold elite members receive the same 50% bonus points SPG Platinum members earn at 3 points per dollar for hotel spend. This only increases to 4 points per dollar for 75 nights SPG Platinum members. This article is not for you super-platinums.

4pm late checkout is a benefit for both SPG Gold and Platinum members. When you need to hang out all day to sightsee, work, or wait for check-in time at another hotel in the area, then 4pm is a real blessing of a benefit.

I can sightsee a city between 8am and 3pm and then get back to the room, shower, change clothes and be checked out by 4pm. This is a feature I frequently use, but generally more like staying until 2 to 3pm checkout.

The differences between Gold and Platinum are the in-hotel benefits.

Platinum members always get free in-room internet. SPG Platinum members have a choice of free breakfast or welcome amenity points (500 points per stay, except 250 points at Four Points, aloft, element). I am a breakfast person. Free lounge access often means the opportunity for both breakfast and points at a Starwood Hotel.

In 2012 SPG boosted Gold elite benefits to offer a welcome amenity 250/125 points per stay or Gold elites can choose free in-room internet. Room internet is worth more to me than 250 points most of the stays. Although, several hotels have given both points and internet to me this year since many hotels already include internet in the room rate, or in worse cases – the resort fee.

Executive/Club lounge free access as SPG Platinum is a major benefit allowing members to take the bonus points and also have some kind of free breakfast. I had no Executive Lounge access in 2012 as SPG Gold.

Suite Upgrades

Totally the number one benefit I miss about SPG Platinum are free room upgrades.

Orlando WDW Dolphin 086

Starwood’s Walt Disney World Resort Dolphin Hotel (March 2010) in junior suite with seating for five on a Cash & Points award stay.

Orlando WDW Dolphin 094

WDW Resort Dolphin room view.

I won’t be hitting 50 nights at Starwood Hotels in 2012. That is a hotel or ten too far for my travel plans over the next two months.

The 50-nights in a calendar year threshold earns the additional Platinum member benefit of 10 suite upgrade night certificates. I will try and qualify for SPG Platinum on 25 stays. No suite Night Awards are earned as a Platinum-lite (25 stays and less than 50 nights).

My hope is Starwood Hotel properties have not eroded the SPG Platinum-lite free upgrade benefit after the 2012 introduction of Suite Night Awards for SPG Platinum-heavy members staying 50+ nights.

Platinum Member Suite Night Awards

Additional Potential Platinum Preferred Guest Benefits.

  • 8.4.a. Suite Night Awards (50 Eligible Nights). A Platinum Preferred Guest who has 50 Eligible Nights in a Qualifying Period is eligible to receive 10 Suite Night Awards. “Suite Night Awards” may be redeemed for advance confirmable upgrades for select, premium rooms or standard suites on a per room, per night basis, subject to availability.
  • i. Suite Night Award upgrades must be requested through the SPG Program website (www.spg.com) or by contacting a Customer Contact Centerno later than 2:00 p.m. (local hotel time) one day prior to arrival. If a request for Suite Night Award upgrade is confirmed, a confirmation email will be to the requesting SPG Member.
  • ii. Suite Night Awards may be only be redeemed for upgrades in connection with an Eligible Stay.
  • iii. Requests for Suite Night Award upgrades and confirmed Suite Night Award redemptions may be cancelled pursuant to the Suite Night Award cancellation policy on the SPG Program website (www.spg.com).
  • iv. Suite Night Awards have expiration dates that may be different than other SPG Program benefits. An eligible SPG Member should check his/her account to confirm the expiration date of his/her Suite Night Awards.
  • v. Suite Night Awards may not be redeemed at certain Aloft and Element brand SPG Participating Hotels or at Starwood Vacation Ownership and residential properties.
  • vi. Rooms that are eligible for Suite Night Award upgrades vary by SPG Participating Hotel. In general, a standard suite or select premium room as designated by SPG Participating Hotel is eligible depending on availability. Specialty suites, such as presidential, honeymoon or multiple bedroom suites, are not eligible for Suite Night Awards. In some resort locations where these room types are not available, upgraded rooms are based on preferred view, such as pool or ocean view, or room styles offered.

SPG Terms 8.4

Upgrades using Starpoints for any member

Number of Starpoints required for upgrade are per room/per night and range from 1,000 Starpoints for a room upgrade at a Category 1 property to 2,750 Starpoints for a room upgrade at a Category 7 property and 3,000 Starpoints for a suite upgrade at a Category 1 property to 35,000 Starpoints for a suite upgrade at a Category 7 property.

Upgrade types may include

  • larger rooms,
  • a Club Room,
  • Westin Guest Office®,
  • Corporate Club Room,
  • Smart Room,
  • a room on a floor that may include Club Lounge Services or Concierge Services,
  • suites,
  • or a room based on type of view or floor within the hotel. Types of rooms available varies by property.

Category of upgrades and Starpoints needed for an upgrade are determined by each property and are subject to availability.

SPG upgrade terms

This post will have a follow-up post, Mapping out stays for cheap SPG Platinum showing the steps I used for mapping out Starwood Hotel rates during Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks when many urban center business hotels offer their lowest rates of the year.

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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Comments

  1. Looking forward to the follow-up, have started the same idea/ strategy here as well by the end of the year and interested to see how yours mapped out.

  2. I believe that the lifetime platinum status is only achieved when has 500 nights AND 10 years PLATINUM status (not gold or platinum). At least that’s what I was told earlier this year.

  3. @Andrew – I will have 10 years as SPG Platinum if I reach Platinum elite in 2012. I will probably need at least another 5 years of hotel stays to reach the 500 nights.

    I added ‘Platinum’ elite to lifetime criteria.

  4. Noticed you were at the SPG Dolphin Hotel in 2010 as a Platinum. What additional benefits were you given? Did you get a room upgrade? a free breakfast? Club or executive privileges? Late checkout? Did you still have to pay the “resort fee”? Thanks in advance.

  5. @traveller – I had a room upgrade to a junior suite on high floor. The room was great.

    I do not recall any other benefits. Maybe free internet?

    Starwood does not waive resort fees for anyone as far as I know.

    The hotel did not have a Club Lounge and breakfast was not a Platinum benefit at that time.

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