I am kind of excited the Giants are going to the World Series. Hopefully this will be a better show than 1989.
I booked a couple of nights in the city for the first two games this week. Rates shot up to over $600 per night after the win this evening, but I snagged the W San Francisco and InterContinental Mark Hopkins on points. Who you gonna call?
I left out mattress runs as a component of the Chicago Seminar DO hotel loyalty programs presentation.
Here is a tutorial on how I approach planning multiple one-night stays for the purposes of earning elite credit fast and maximizing promotions. Points and elite status come in handy at times.
Remember the Future
The end of 2010 is quickly approaching with only about ten weeks left for securing elite qualifying hotel stays for the 2011 membership year.
In the remaining 10 weeks of 2010 I need more Hyatt stays, more Priority Club stays, and more SPG stays. I want some cheap rooms since several of these hotel nights are more about elite status and promotion bonuses for 2011 hotel stay opportunities rather than a need for so many hotel rooms before the end of this year.
Elite Qualification is Based on a Calendar Year
Basically all the major hotel loyalty programs determine a member’s elite status level by the number of stays or nights completed in a calendar year. Most major hotel loyalty programs only count paid stays for elite status (Accor A-Club, Best Western Rewards, Carlson goldpoints plus, Hyatt Gold Passport, InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Wyndham Rewards). Hilton HHonors and Choice Privileges also count reward nights and stays for elite which adds an additional strategy component for hotel stay elite qualification. Priority Club counts almost all points earned for elite status (notable exception is points purchased for Points + Cash award stays.) HHonors also counts base points earned for elite status, but that is generally a more expensive route to elite status than qualifying by hotel stays.
Starwood Preferred Guest Stays Count Double and 4 stays to Gold promotions.
I find myself running short on SPG hotel stays in 2010 for Platinum elite requalification. Platinum elite members receive 500 welcome amenity points for most Starwood Hotel stays, except 250 points for aloft, element, and Four Points brand hotel stays.
Another major benefit of SPG elite is complimentary upgrades at full service hotels. In the past year my upgrades have varied from as basic as a top floor room with hotel lounge access, but the less desirable view at the Sheraton San Jose to a junior suite preferred view room at the Walt Disney World Dolphin on a Cash & Points rate to a full suite at Westin Market Street San Francisco on a $99 hotel rate.
Planning Mattress Runs
One of my main objectives is to get cheap room nights since I am planning to book more room nights than I really need for work or leisure. I must complete 5 stays to earn a SPG Rewarding Returns promotion bonus that will allow me to book a five night Category 5 hotel for 36,000 points rather than 48,000 points in 2011. That works out to essentially 2,400 bonus points per stay.
Five stays at Four Points, aloft, or element hotels during Stays Count Double will also fast-track requalification for SPG Platinum elite in 2010 to retain my Platinum elite membership through February 2012. SPG Platinum elite normally requires 25 stays in a calendar year.
I definitely prefer to stay at Westin, Sheraton and upper-upscale Starwood brands, but the option to get 10 stay credits with only 5 paid hotel nights for around $500 compared to needing around $1,500+ for 10 stays at Starwood upper-upscale brands is a major motivator to downscale my desired hotel market segment over the next two months.
Personally I give SPG Platinum elite a $1,000+ value over being SPG Gold as long as I spend 15 nights or more at Starwood Hotels in 2011. I estimate I will average around $100 per hotel night in added value by being SPG Platinum. Some complimentary room upgrades are $100 to $200 in added value like when booking a lowest rate room in the bottom category and getting a suite upgrade.
Not all Starwood Hotel stays will have that high an added-value due to Platinum elite. My two Starwood Hotel stays in Chicago this past week actually fell short of my $100 per night estimate since I only received Preferred view rooms with no substantial room category upgrade at either hotel, lounge access at the Sheraton Chicago ($15 value) and two free beers at the W Lakeshore Chicago ($12 value) + 500 bonus points at each hotel (1000 points = $29 purchase price value with current Starpoints promotion). That works out to about $28 added value per room night. Still, even at that rate I can expect to get about $420 in added value in 2011 with 15 room nights, in addition to the 12,000 points discount 5-night category 5 hotel reward stay.
I’ll certainly come out ahead more than $500 in 2011 by planning five stays at Four Points hotels before the end of 2010.
Finding Cheap Rooms
Stays Count Double only applies to Aloft, Element and Four Points brands. There are no Aloft or Element Hotels in the San Francisco Bay Area so I will focus on finding low cost Four Points hotels.
In the San Francisco area I have five hotel choices within 150 miles of my home:
- Four Points San Francisco Airport
- Four Points San Francisco Bay Bridge
- Four Points San Rafael
- Four Points Pleasanton
- Four Points San Jose Downtown
Book refundable rooms whenever possible to lock in rate, but have the option of rebooking if rate drops before stay which is highly probable.
Nightly Parking fees – $20 per night San Jose Downtown impacts the $89 room rate; the other Four Points locations offer free parking.
Cost of gas to reach hotel – San Rafael is 250 miles roundtrip so $30 in gas compared to San Jose at 140 miles roundtrip or $16 in gas.
Location factor – accessing San Francisco Bay Bridge and San Rafael require driving in heavy traffic areas. San Jose Downtown is only hotel that has interesting sites within walking distance around hotel. Pleasanton is in the burbs. SFO is quite familiar and boring location.
Weekend vs. weekday – San Rafael is the only hotel here that consistently has lower weekday rates than weekend rates. Most of my stays will need to be on weekends to get the best price. Four Points Pleasanton is in a corporate business park area and weekday rates will be double the cost of weekend stays.
Holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays can result in really low rates and provide a good opportunity for end-of-year mattress runs. Four Points Pleasanton has $79 and $80 rates from November 19-28. Unfortunately this hotel is the most distant from the other hotels. Pleasanton is good for mattress runs by alternating nights between Hyatt Place Dublin ($62/night during Thanksgiving week) and Four Points Pleasanton to earn low-cost bonuses in two loyalty programs.
How to find low rates:
Travelocity allows me to check room rates over next 90 days. These rates will mirror the rates available on Starwood sites. And if the low rate is not showing up on the Starwood site, then I can file a Starwood Hotels Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) claim and receive 2,000 bonus points for the hotel stay. I filed a BRG today with SPG.
Four Points San Jose Downtown
Friday, Saturday and Sundays are inexpensive.
My initial thought is book San Jose on Friday night, go to another Four Points for Saturday night and get San Jose for Sunday night on the drive home. I can check in Sunday and go home and receive 2 stay credits for about $100. For about $300 I can receive 6 SPG elite stay credits over a single weekend.
San Francisco Airport tends to be cheap on Saturday nights. Here is the Travelocity calendar for Four Points SFO.
Four Points San Rafael drops to $99 per night every night in December 2010. Not bad for Marin County. Maybe even see George Lucas at the Starbucks.
Then there is always East Bay on the east side of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. I rarely venture into those parts, but I have wanted to check out the Four Points San Francisco Bay Bridge for several years.
I think it is time for the Four Points Industrial Tour of northern California for SPG hotel loyalty enthusiasts and wannabes.
I have always liked the feel of platinum.