Hotel Elite Status Perks I’d Like To See Added

Filed Under: Hotels

There are pros and cons to each hotel loyalty program, and there’s not going to be one program that gives you the best of all worlds. That’s probably also why we’re not all loyal to the same hotel program (which is a good thing).

My personal favorites are Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest, though there’s no doubt that there are plenty of reasons to like other hotel elite status levels as well.

While perhaps totally random, I figured I’d compile a list of some hotel elite status perks I’d like to see across various hotel chains. In many cases the perks could apply to more than one chain, so don’t take this as the conclusive list of everything I’d want to see at any given hotel chain. For that matter, these perks aren’t all necessarily specific to elite status, but some are just general changes I’d like to see at programs.

But I figured it was an interesting brainstorming exercise, and in the comments below I’d love to hear what you guys would like to see changed.

With that out of the way, here are some perks I’d like to see, in no particular order:

Hyatt Diamond Gold Passport: complimentary bottled water

It always sucks when you arrive at a hotel late at night and are thirsty, and the only option for water is the $5 bottle in the minibar. Starwood offers their Platinum members a couple of complimentary bottles of water in their room, so it would be nice to see Hyatt do the same. Admittedly lots of Hyatt hotels already do this, though it would be nice to see it as an official policy.

Love me some free water (and chocolate doesn’t suck either!)

InterContinental Royal Ambassador: elite benefits on award stays

The greatest thing about Royal Ambassador status with InterContinental is that it comes with many guaranteed benefits, like 8AM check-in, 4PM check-out, etc. Unlike with other chains, all of these benefits are guaranteed, regardless of how full the hotel is.

One glaring omission in terms of benefits, though, is that they only apply on revenue stays. On award stays InterContinental Royal Ambassador members don’t technically receive benefits, even though in practice many hotels will still honor them. This policy is puzzling to me and rather antiquated, given that virtually all other chains honor benefits on award stays.

Complimentary minibar beverages, a Royal Ambassador benefit on revenue stays

Hilton HHonors Diamond: confirmed suite upgrades

I’m a Hilton HHonors Diamond member, and so far can’t say I’ve noticed much of a difference between Diamond and Gold status. In 2012 Hilton added suite upgrades as an official Diamond benefit, though differently than other chains.

For example, Starwood offers guaranteed suite upgrades based on availability. That means (theoretically) if there’s a suite available at check-in, you should receive it as a Platinum member. The verbiage for the Hilton benefit, on the other hand, is as follows:

Upgrades may also be rooms with desirable views, corner rooms, rooms on high floors, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors**, or suites, as identified by each property.

With Hilton the terms are basically saying that you may receive a suite upgrade at the hotel’s discretion, but that the hotel isn’t required to give it to you even if available.

I’d love to see Hilton add some confirmed Diamond suite upgrades, much like what Hyatt and Starwood offer. It doesn’t have to be much, but just something.

Suite at Hilton Budapest

Hilton HHonors Diamond: guaranteed late check-out

Hilton already offers Diamond members late check-out based on availability, which is ultimately at the hotel’s discretion and “subject to availability,” which basically means that they can give it to you if they feel like it (which describes many aspects of the Hilton HHonors program).

Hyatt and Starwood offer guaranteed 4PM late check-out at all non-resort properties, so it would be nice to see Hilton do the same. Really with Hilton it would just be nice if they did something to differentiate Gold status from Diamond status, which they haven’t really done up until now.

Marriott Rewards Platinum: breakfast at resorts

Despite having the highest elite qualification tiers of any hotel program, Marriott has had among the stingiest breakfast benefits. Up until last year they didn’t even offer elite members breakfast on weekends or at resorts. They improved that slightly in 2013 by adding breakfast on weekends.

However, as a benefit they still don’t offer Platinum members complimentary breakfast at resorts. Some resorts of course offer it, but it’s puzzling that this isn’t a published benefit.

Because who needs breakfast while on vacation anyway? šŸ˜‰

Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond: fifth night free on points redemptions

Hyatt Gold Passport is probably my all around favorite loyalty program, and they’re always looking to add new benefits. Earlier in the year they added Points + Cash redemptions, which I’ve found to be wonderfully useful.

There’s no denying, however, that the cost of free night redemptions has gone up substantially over the years. And I don’t blame them for it one bit, as I find it to be perfectly justifiable given the direction the hotel industry has gone the past few years. But a few years back they charged 18,000 points for a free night at one of their top properties, while they now go for 25,000-30,000 points per night.

Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood offer fifth night free award redemptions, so I’d sure like to see Hyatt offer the same, even if it’s just an elite benefit as opposed to something available to all members.

Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond: marginal benefits for exceeding 50 nights

As I mentioned above, my primary hotel chains are Hyatt and Starwood. I’ve already requalified for top tier status with both programs.

With Starwood, there are marginal benefits for exceeding 50 nights (75 nights gets you 24 hour check-in and an extra Starpoint per dollar spent, while 100 nights gets you Ambassador status).

Marginal benefits for exceeding 50 nights with Starwood

However, with Hyatt, I’m kind of torn. You get four Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards for passing 50 nights, and then there aren’t really any marginal benefits beyond that. Now, Hyatt does have Courtesy Card, which is invitation only, so I assume if you put in enough nights there’s a chance of earning that.

I’ll continue to stay at Hyatts mainly because I actually enjoy staying at their properties. If I get Courtesy Card, great. If I don’t, that’s great too.

But it would certainly be nice to see them add some additional published marginal benefits. How about extra Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards for passing 75 or 100 nights?

Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum: reasonable redemption rates for top tier properties

There’s no denying that Starpoints are incredibly valuable, and I actually really struggle with redeeming them. That’s because they can be converted into airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. So there’s a fairly transparent opportunity cost to redeeming them.

As far as Starwood hotel redemptions go, I find the best value is generally for mid-tier hotels in high season. There are some top tier hotels that can also be a great value, like the redemption I made last Christmas at the St. Regis Bal Harbour.

St. Regis Bal Harbour

Nonetheless, at 30,000-35,000 Starpoints per night for top tier hotels, that can be a tough cost to swallow. However, what makes it worse is Starwood’s redemption rates at all suite properties.

Take the W Koh Samui, for example, which consist exclusively of “specialty” rooms. It’s already a Category 6 property, and then because it’s an “all suite” property, they charge double points on top of that. So the cost is literally ~40,000 Starpoints per night, which is ridiculous.

The reason this doesn’t make sense (aside from the obvious) is that a hotel’s category is determined by the average daily room rate, so the fact that it’s an “all suite” property should already be factored into the number of points required. So you’re essentially being double penalized.

It would be nice to be able to redeem Starpoints at their truly aspirational resort properties for a reasonable cost.

Bottom line

I know above I’ve listed more areas for improvement for Hyatt than any other chain, and that’s simply because I love them the most. I think they offer the most compelling program to begin with, and since I stay with them most, I also see the tweaks they could make to improve things firsthand.

What new perks would you like to see added to your favorite (or least favorite) hotel chain?

  1. Not only does Marriott not offer Platinums breakfast at resorts, they do not offer breakfast at their Courtyard properties. This is beyond annoying!

  2. Do you really not drink tap water?! Bottled water is incredibly wasteful in countries with potable water.

  3. While free internet is a nice benefit, it would be a perk for elites not to have to keep logging in all the time. How about a cookie for elites that provides for automatic login at everywhere in the chain (whether or not you are actually staying)? Just walk on to the property and log in is automatic.

  4. The perk I’d love to see, at any chain, is some sort of limited credit towards laundry — maybe $5/day, or something like that. If a trip is a week or maybe even 10 days, I usually pack enough clean clothes for the whole trip, since hotel laundry is so outrageously expensive and going to a laundromat is such a drag. The hotel that would let me cut down on how much I need to pack would hook me forever.

  5. (Not to mention, it would be nice not to have to think about the cost when you spill tomato juice on yourself on the first day of the trip and have no choice about doing some laundry.)

  6. Ben, it’s like you designed a blog just for me!

    I’d like a level above Marriott Platinum/Hyatt Diamond that kicks in when you stay +100 or +150 nights a year.

  7. Complimentary sexual favors has yet to be adopted by any of the major programs and I find that surprising — and disappointing — in the year 2014

  8. Hyatt should definitely offer something more after 50 nights. I stayed 100+ nights last year and I didn’t get anything extra. I do get wonderful treatment at hotels I frequent, but nothing official or to make me feel appreciated by the chain as a whole. BTW after 100+ nights I did NOT get CC. Based on what you post are your rates I sincerely doubt you would either (I pay an average of $300 a night).

  9. I need help with Hyatt. When I read all the blogs [including yours] it sounds like Hyatt is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It gets a lot of favorable bandwidth in the blogosphere.

    I am a Diamond and for the last two years I would have difficulty trying to put a positive answer on why I maintain Diamond Status. If it wasn’t for the Hyatt/MGM partnership I wouldn’t even come close.

    Hyatt has a smaller footprint and it seems like a lot of the truly aspirational properties aren’t bookable on points when I want to go. I will concede cash+points has helped and I just had a fabulous stay at the Park Hyatt in Sydney during the Vivid Festival which was incredible.

    I have traveled a lot in Asia and as a Starwood Platinum I have never not been upgraded into a suite even when I don’t use my free suite upgrades.

    While the Park Hyatt sydney was fabulous I just did the Hyatts in Bangkok, Bali, and Minneapolis recently and they all were ordinary and forgettable.

    My only guess is that someone like you really worked hard to upgrade into a suite with certificates or points to make Hyatt a truly above average experience.

    Please enlighten me as I am ready to give up on Hyatt.

  10. Lucky, you have pretty much nailed all the key things I wish for from Hyatt, Starwood & Hilton

    The only things I would add is that at Starwood & Hilton I really like the breakfast to be full breakfast like it is at Hyatt

    At Hilton I want breakfast to extend to Waldorf Astoria properties. It is ridiculous that it doesn’t

    Hyatt, is complimentary water too much to ask? Hilton is guaranteed 4pm check out that hard for Diamonds?

  11. MARKj,

    Just my two cents. Hyatt is the only one who seems to want my business. I’ve started at a new site and needed 160 nights a year for 2-3 years and have called and emailed the sales teams at Hilton, Starwood and Marriott properties and no one but Hyatt has called me back.

    But, my situation seems different from yours.

  12. FWIW W Koh Samui is currently 26k points per night with the 35% off that’s being offered at that + a few other properties. Around 20k/nt after 5th night free isn’t so bad…

  13. Actually Marriott has a decent list of properties in the US (some of their most expensive/premium properties) which do not guarantee breakfast on weekends when the club lounge is closed. This is beyond annoying!

  14. Great post, and I’ve glad you’ve picked up on the Hyatt 5th night free omission. I’m currently doing a diamond trial between Park Hyatt Sydney, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, and Park Hyatt Canberra, and I must say the service I’ve received has really been amazing. May have me rethinking my usual Marriott!

  15. I would like to see Marriott offer cash & points. I would also like a confirmable upgrade option from them for Platinum and above, even if just one or two per year.

  16. I agree that confirmed suite upgrades would be great for Hilton Diamonds, but I would really like to see a lifetime status level for Hilton as well maybe 500 nights for Gold and 750 nights for Diamond. This would make Hilton competitive with Hyatt, Marriott, and SPG’s lifetime programs.

  17. Regarding your thought that Starwood gives free bottled water for Platinums, I think it’s actually a brand standard thing…not an elite thing. Four Points, for instance, requires bottled water for all guests. I don’t THINK it’s a Platinum elite thing.

  18. I’m with the “just drink tap water” crowd here . . . not for any environmental or political reason, but simply because needing bottled water in a hotel room with a perfectly functional faucet seems incredibly pointless (unless, of course, you are staying somewhere without potable water).

  19. That Hyatt doesn’t offer suite upgrades without certs to Diamonds leads me to stay with Starwood more often as a Platinum. I do like the two tier structure that Starwood offers. I stayed 50 nights at Starwood last year and got the 10 nights of upgrades, but still have a shot to a lower suite on regular stays without using the uograde.

  20. @ Rhys — Just curious, what percent of the time do you get suite upgrades with Starwood when not using a certificate?

  21. I like the bottled water vs tap water and it should be up-to one bottle a day, not one per stay. What does it cost the hotel 10c ?

    I like a bottle on my bedside for in case I’m thirsty in the night. While a glass of water would do the same, I’d have to know the glass was clean (how?) and it would need refreshing everyday to make sure it stayed clean, which would be wasting water!

  22. I can’t believe nobody has mentioned points stays not counting for Hyatt elite credit like they do at Starwood. Really this is my biggest beef with Hyatt & I choose Starwood more often just because of this. Hyatt diamond is where the program really shines, & I want to be able to use my points to keep it. Yes c&p was a great improvement. But they need to go further: award nights need to count for status!

  23. To add one that hasn’t been mentioned yet: for SPG, I’d love ability to confirm suites (using SNAs) at time of booking instead of waiting until a few days out to see if the request was accepted.

  24. Starwood upgrade percentage as a platinum without using a suite cert varies depending what kind of hotel I’m staying at. In a downtown hotel with a ton of suites, particularly if it’s on a weekend is 75%. If it is a resort which tends not to have many suites, more like 5-10%. Kind of sad as I would rather have the suite at the resort when I’m with my wife rather than by myself at a downtown hotel on business.

    As M said above, Hyatt not counting award bookings as stays would be my other gripe about the program. If they did that, and had tiers like 50/75/100 stays, I would probably stop staying at Starwoods, but as it is, split my 75-80 nights a year at this point.

  25. I’m a little late to the party, but what I’d really like to see if Hyatt and SPG offer breakfast to mid-level Elites like Marriott and Hilton do. (Yes, I know Marriott has exclusions…but sometimes is better than nothing which is what I get as an SPG Gold and a Hyatt Platinum…)

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