Elite status qualification in a hotel loyalty program is the avenue to getting consistent higher-value out of your hotel expenditures. My rule of thumb with the major frequent guest programs like Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood is high elite status will typically add $100 of value for each hotel night. Bonus points, complimentary upgrades, special redemption offers, and complimentary hotel amenities all contribute to the value-added benefits of being a top elite member with your hotel program. Complimentary upgrades to hotel rooms priced $200+ more per night than the rate you book at an upscale category hotel is a common benefit of top-elite membership in a frequent guest hotel loyalty program.
The benefits are doled out to lower level elite members on a sporadic basis. I have had some fantastic upgrades as a Hilton HHonors Gold member and Marriott Silver member, but these are not the norm. Regular room upgrades are the primary benefit of being a top-tier elite member and in my opinion the primary value for maintaining loyalty with a hotel chain year-to-year.
Your personal travel pattern will determine your elite membership target. If you travel just 20 nights per year, then Marriott is probably not a great program for your hotel lifestyle. If your travel is not concentrated in major cities, then you will probably not benefit greatly from Hyatt or Fairmont as your primary hotel loyalty program. If your budget is not elastic, then Loews may not be the program for you.
Not surprisingly, the hotel loyalty programs with the fewest hotel members such as Loews Hotels, Fairmont, and Kimpton tend to be the programs with the easiest high-elite qualification standards. Hyatt and Starwood both have run promotions in the past year for counting stays double towards elite qualification, thereby making top elite status possible with as few as 13 nights. Wyndham ByRequest does not provide a room upgrade as a defined benefit.
Here is the run-down of qualifying stays and nights for top elite status with major hotel loyalty programs. All programs are based on the number of hotel stays or nights earned in a calendar year, except Hilton HHonors which uses any 12 month period of activity.
Qualification Standard for Frequent Guest Top-Tier Elite Membership
Wyndham Rewards = ByRequest elite = 3 nights (room upgrades are not a defined benefit)
Fairmont President’s Club = Platinum elite = 10 stays or 30 nights in calendar year
Loew’s You First = Platinum elite = 10 stays
Kimpton InTouch = Inner Circle elite = 15 stays or 45 nights
Radisson Gold Points Plus = Gold Elite = 20 stays or 35 nights
Hyatt Gold Passport = Diamond elite = 25 stays or 50 nights
Starwood Preferred Guest = Platinum elite = 25 stays or 50 nights
Hilton HHonors = Diamond elite = 28 stays or 60 nights
Best Western Gold Crown Club = Diamond elite = 30 nights
Choice Privileges = Diamond elite = 40 nights
InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club = Platinum elite = 50 nights or earn 60,000 points (potential to earn platinum status based on points earned throughout year can make attaining platinum status qualification much easier than staying 50 nights in a calendar year.
Marriott Rewards =Platinum Elite = 75 nights
A hotel stay is defined as consecutive nights in one hotel property. One-night stays allow a member to qualify for elite membership with a number of nights below the qualification standard for nights. For example, guest member #1 of Hilton HHonors could have 20 one-night stays and 8 two-night stays and qualify for HHonors diamond status with 28 stays and 36 nights. Another HHonors member could have 15 three-night stays and would not qualify for HHonors diamond status with 45 nights and 15 stays. Even though member # 2 has stayed more nights than guest # 1 at Hilton Hotel properties, the diamond qualification level has not been met.