I like having hotel status because it can make my stay more comfortable, save me $$$, make me feel like a VIP, and impress my wife (most importantly). Plus, there are easy ways to achieve hotel status. You can either sign up for a hotel rewards card (gasp), status match, accumulate paid stays (what?), or through rewards card spending. I’m continuing my Hotel Elite Status Series with the popular Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. Awesome Sauce.
Hotel Elite Status Series
Preferred Guest is the base level of membership with Starwood. All you have to do is join Starwood Preferred’s loyalty program to take advantage of the base level benefits. Don’t be lazy.
Some of the basic benefits of Starwood’s program (via their website) are:
- Earn two Starpoints® for every eligible U.S. dollar spent, including restaurant and room service charges, in-room movies and more.
- Starpoints redemption options, including Free Night Awards without blackout dates1,Award Flights and much more – starting at just 2,000 Starpoints.
- Members-only offers so you can save on luxurious getaways and quickly earn bonus Starpoints for your stays.
- Rewards you can count on – your Starpoints never expire as long as you show account activity once a year.
- Free Night Awards are available when you need them to be. That means if a standard room is available, it’s yours, even during holidays and big events. Cash & Points allow you the flexibility to redeem for Award Nights at most hotels and resorts worldwide using a combination of cash and Starpoints, starting at just 1,200 Starpoints and US$25.
- 5th Night Free. Redeem four nights at select hotels and resorts and your 5th consecutive night is free.
- Room & Suite Upgrades. Upgrade to a Specialty Room, where available, for as few as 1,000 Starpoints or a Suite for as few as 3,000 Starpoints.
- Instant AwardsSM Redeem Starpoints for an array of in-hotel indulgences. Ask about it at the hotel.
- SPG Flights gives you access to airline tickets on more than 350 airlines without blackout dates. Our airline transfer program allows you to convert Starpoints to frequent-flyer miles on over 30 major airlines, most on a 1:1 basis.
- SPG MomentsSM is your invitation to unforgettable experiences, including meet and greets with A-list artists and athletes, backstage concert passes, pro golf clinics and much more.
- Partners - Redeem for products and services from our list of partners.
- Running short for that dream trip? Well buy Starpoints to achieve free nights, free flights or room upgrades faster.
That’s a mouthful. I really like the “5th night free” perk with SPG. Having your 5th night free really helps you save & maximize your Starpoints. Stretch them points! I’ve also made a killing with cash & points redemptions in the past. I just stayed at the Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa, Phuket for $45 and 2,800 Starpoints a night. Be on the lookout for that review! BUT (and a big bodacious but), SPG is devaluing their Cash & Points awards nights on March 5th. Boo. There’s still value to be found, but an increase is never a pleasant sight.
Gold Preferred Guest
Gold Status with Starwood is reached by achieving 10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year. That’s pretty easily attainable, especially since award nights count towards your elite status!
Additional Gold member benefits are:
- Three Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent – a 50% bonus over base-level membership.
- 4 p.m. late checkout,1 so you can sleep in, relax by the pool or see more of the local area you’re visiting.
- An enhanced room at check-in, when available.
- Special elite customer service telephone line (available in most countries).
- New! Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access and a complimentary beverage.
I’m a Gold Preferred member with Starwood and I’ve enjoyed the 4pm checkout, enhanced room, and free wifi. It’s not the best mid-tier hotel status, but it’s still pretty solid. It’s just lacking the free breakfast that Hilton’s Gold membership has, but it’s on par with Hyatt, imho.
On a few occasions, I’ve been upgraded to a Club Level room, giving me access to the Club Lounge (but not on all my Starwood stays).
You can also maintain lifelong Gold membership if you achieve 250 nights and 5 years of SPG status.. That’s a s$@# load of nights, but seasoned road warriors can easily cross the barrier.
Platinum Preferred Guest
Platinum Preferred level of membership is achieved after 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year. That’s a fairly reasonable tier to achieve for top tier status with Starwood, especially when award bookings count. AND you get stay credits if you hold the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card (more on that later).
You will receive these additional benefits if you hold Platinum status with Starwood:
- 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.
- 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,2 so 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.
- 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.
This is definitely a bump in benefits from Gold. The T&Cs say upgrades are based on availability (gives them wiggle room). I’ve heard of Platinum members having to fight for their suite upgrades in the States on some occasions, but it’s still nice to have it as a feature of the elite status. I think it’s a real perk, and one that I wish Hyatt would extend to their Diamonds.
Also, continental breakfast becomes an option that you choose as your “welcome gift.” Guaranteed Club and Executive level privileges where available, gotta love being able to go to the Club for a quick snack.
But wait – there are more perks if you achieve 50, 75, and 100 nights in a calendar year.
50 nights achieved will net you 10 “Suite Night Awards” which can be redeemed for suites. You can confirm your upgrade 5 days prior to arrival. That way, you’re not guessing about whether or not the hotel clerk will upgrade you (and you can get to the availability first).
75 nights achieved gives you the perk of earning 4 Starpoints for every eligible US dollar spent, and “Your24.” Your24 gives you the flexibility of checking in whenever you want, and then checking out exactly 24 hours later. So if you checked in at 10 p.m. on a Friday, you wouldn’t have to check out until 10 p.m. on Saturday or your departure day.
100 nights gives you big baller status and your own personal concierge/handler. Think, “high roller status in Vegas.”
You can maintain lifelong Platinum status with Starwood if you achieve 500 nights and maintain 10 years of SPG status. Like whoa.
American Express offers the personal Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card. Jordan was able to take advantage of the 30,000 sign-up bonus last September, but I already held the card, so I had to pass. You can reapply for the SPG card 12 months after canceling your current card. I’ll be ready to apply again if they have the same promo this year. Count on that.
Perk Alert: If you hold the SPG rewards card in your wallet – you will receive 5 nights and 2 stay credits toward SPG elite status each year (if you have both the business and personal card that will equal 10 nights and 4 stays towards status yearly). Noobtastic.
If you have the American Express Platinum card you will get instant Gold Status, but you have to call in and have SPG upgrade you. I just applied for the Platinum card during the 100k promo a few weeks ago, and have already upgraded my SPG status to Gold.
Unfortunately status matching with Starwood Preferred Guest is d e a d. But you can ask for a status challenge. However, unlike Hyatt’s challenge you won’t receive temporary elite status.
You can email Starwood at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if you’re eligible for a Platinum status challenge. Usually, they will let you choose a 3-month window where you have to meet 18 nights. You won’t be eligible if you’ve held Platinum status with Starwood before, and only paid nights count.
Check out this Flyertalk thread for more details.
The basic SPG award chart doesn’t really tickle my fancy, but you can find some killer value in the mid tier categories, especially internationally. For me, it’s always been about stretching my Starpoints via Cash & Points, and now that’s being devalued. Here’s the new Cash & Points chart that will go live March 5th.
They will be opening up Cash & Points for category 1 and 2 hotels, so that’s a plus. I never like seeing devaluations, but it’s just the way the world works. We’ve seen a lot of devaluing this year – the economy is getting better (is it?) and more people seem to be traveling so it’s no surprise. You will also be able to use Cash & Points for upgraded rooms and suites, so there’s that. There’s still value to be found with Cash & Points, but if you have an upcoming SPG stay this year – go ahead and book it while the rates are lower.
Another one of the perks of the Starwood program is the 5th night free. Free is niiiice. Getting your 5th night free on award bookings (no Cash & Points) can help ease the pain of shelling out a good amount of Starpoints.
You can also redeem your SPG points (ha, didn’t say Starpoints) for Nights and Flights. This is an interesting option, and one that I’ve never taken advantage of. It allows you to book a category 3 or 4 property for 5 consecutive nights, and for 50,000 airline miles. It will cost you 60,000 points for a category 3 and 70,000 points for a category 4 property.
Adding even more value to SPG is the ability to transfer points to 30 airlines. Some of the transfer ratios are terrible (United), but you do receive a 5,000 points bonus when you transfer 20,000 points. Score. American Airlines is also a transfer partner, which gives SPG an edge over Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards if you prefer American Airlines.
Also, you can transfer points out to Lan Airlines at a 1:2 ratio. This is a sweet redemption option if you’re looking to travel to South America.
You can combine or transfer Starpoints to other accounts if they have had the same address as you on their account for more than 30 days. It takes about 5 days to complete the transfer. I just transferred over all of Jordan’s points (she has no idea) to my account, because I now hold a higher SPG status than her.
Starwood is a transfer partner of Membership Rewards, but the transfer ratio is 1:3. However, there is a targeted promo going on now.
If there’s a hotel group that I’m going to try for Platinum status with through stays it’s Starwood.
1) you receive a 2 stay, 5 night credit if you hold the SPG rewards card (4 stays, 10 nights if you add the business card)
2) award stays count towards elite status
3) you can combine household points (giving me access to more points to make award bookings from my account)
I don’t spend a lot of $$ on hotels, but I will now and again. If I focused on SPG properties primarily (paid and award) and added in the rewards card credits – I could probably make it to Platinum status by achieving the 25 stays barrier. But is it worth it? Probably not for me since I have a large sum of Hilton points and certificates burning a hole in pocket, and with Hilton Gold status I receive free breakfast already. I will just have to stay content with my Starwood Gold status for now. Always a struggle.
If you’re a road warrior, I would highly suggest thinking about Starwood as your preferred hotel group. They have tons of properties (Sheraton, Four Points, Le Meridian, W, aLoft, St. Regis, and Westin) domestically and internationally. Plus, their points are some of the most valuable out there, because of the many options you have in redemption.
[Disclosure: I receive a referral for the SPG cards mentioned in this post. Thanks for the support if you apply through the blog.]
— Geoff Whitmore