I’ve been thinking lately about my hotel loyalty strategy for 2020. I think the reason this has been on my radar is because my Marriott Ambassador status expires as of the end of this month, and I’ll be dropping down to Titanium.
How will that impact my hotel choices going forward? Let me share my overall travel plans for the year, and then I’ll talk more specifically about my hotel loyalty strategy for 2020.
What my hotel stays in 2020 will look like
Everyone’s hotel needs are of course different, and for me 2020 will be different than past years. Not only do I not live in hotels anymore, but this will also be a year where I travel more purposefully:
- I’ll continue to take review trips, with the goal of minimizing my time away from home and reviewing as many airlines as possible
- When Ford and I take “real” vacations, we’re doing so much more purposefully than in the past, primarily due to other things going on in life; for example, we’re going to Namibia, Greenland, to a couple of weddings, etc.
- We’ll be traveling as much as we can this year with my mom, the way she wants to travel; for example, she likes cruises, so we’re going on a cruise for the first time in eons
In other words, even more so than in the past I won’t be spending an exorbitant number of nights this year in hotels, and for the nights I do spend in hotels, I won’t be choosing them blindly based on my loyalty.
My 2020 hotel status strategy
Given the above theme, 2020 is a year where I’ll be more of a hotel “free agent” than in the past. With each trip I’m focusing on what the overall best option is for a stay (based on value, quality, ability to confirm upgrades, etc.), rather than blindly staying at a Marriott or Hyatt.
I currently have status with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott, so what are my plans for requalifying for status in the coming year?
World of Hyatt Globalist
World of Hyatt Globalist is my favorite top tier hotel status, and this is the status I plan on requalifying for this coming year. That requires 60 elite nights, though I can get a short cut to that with the World Of Hyatt Credit Card (review):
- You get five elite qualifying nights per year just for having the card
- You get an extra two elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 spent
My plan is to stay as many nights as possible, and then supplement that with spending on Hyatt’s credit card.
There’s so much to love about Globalist, though in particular what matters most to me are the following:
- I love the Guest of Honor feature, especially this year, as we can book a separate room for my mom, and she gets Globalist benefits as well
- I love the four confirmed suite upgrades you get every year, which can be used to confirm an upgrade at the time of booking; this allows me to guarantee upgrades on the stays that matter the most to me
- Hyatt just does a better job than other groups when it comes to delivering on expectations
As we take my mom around the world this year, I’ll definitely be focusing on redeeming points at Hyatt thanks to Guest of Honor. I also love the Hyatt Prive program, so I can get extra perks when booking paid rates at many higher end Hyatt properties
Keep up what you’re doing, Hyatt, and please don’t change. Of course Hyatt doesn’t have properties everywhere, and that’s where the below status comes into play.
I love being able to use confirmed suite upgrades with Hyatt
Marriott Bonvoy Titanium
I’ve been Marriott Ambassador for many years, and have had a fantastic Ambassador. I’ll miss having access to him, though realistically I just couldn’t justify the nights and spending requirement with Marriott anymore.
This year I’ll be Titanium, which would require 75 nights to requalify. However, I’m also lifetime Platinum with Marriott, and my plan going forward is to just rely on that, and no longer put effort into earning status with Marriott. To me the incremental perks of Titanium over Platinum aren’t worth it (and I’m looking at that from the perspective of having to do zero nights vs. 75 nights, rather than 50 nights vs. 75 nights).
For me this is a pretty major move — for the first time in over a decade, Starwood/Marriott won’t be one of my primary hotel groups anymore, and I won’t go out of my way to stay at them.
The reality is that Platinum meets my needs plenty, with breakfast, lounge access, and guaranteed 4PM check-out. Room upgrades are too much of a headache to care about, and I just don’t see much incremental value to Titanium.
I still have nearly two million Marriott points to burn, so I’ll keep using them strategically. For example, we’re staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto next month, and at the EDITION Bodrum this summer, all with points.
I’ll be staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto soon using Marriott points
Hilton Honors Diamond
Hilton is a brand that has grown on me so much in recent years:
- They’ve greatly increased their portfolio of luxury hotels, which makes me actually want to stay at more Hiltons
- Just for having the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) you get top tier Honors Diamond status; on top of that, the card more than pays for itself based on all the other perks, like an anniversary free weekend night, a $250 resort credit, a $250 airline fee credit, and more. The card does have a $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees).
- Hilton has gotten better at delivering on elite benefits than Marriott has in many ways; Hilton now offers free breakfast at all brands, while Marriott excludes many brands, including EDITION and Ritz-Carlton
In cities where I might have otherwise chosen a luxury Marriott property, I’m now finding myself gravitating towards Hilton properties. For example, during an upcoming stay in Osaka I’ll be staying at the Conrad, rather than the St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton, which I would have otherwise selected.
I love the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
IHG Rewards Club Platinum
IHG is very much my backup since their elite benefits are weak. However, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (review) offers Platinum status and an anniversary free night certificate on your account anniversary every year, so I do frequently find myself staying at IHG properties.
I’ll only do so in situations where there aren’t better Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott options, but that happens more often than you might think.
I used a free night certificate at the InterContinental Johannesburg Airport
Virtuoso & other programs
The truth is that you don’t actually need to be loyal to a hotel group to actually receive elite-like benefits. There are all kinds of programs offering room upgrades, breakfast, hotel credits, and more, all based on the method you use to book.
Since I’m not on the Marriott status requalification hamster wheel anymore, there are more situations where I’ll stay at a cute independent hotel, rather than a less exciting chain hotel.
For example, during an upcoming stay at Frankfurt with my mom I’ll stay at Villa Kennedy, rather than one of the points options I might have otherwise considered.
Villa Kennedy Frankfurt
For about a decade now I’ve maintained top tier status with both Hyatt and Starwood (and Marriott after the merger). This will be the first year where I won’t be making the effort of going for status with Marriott/Starwood — I have lifetime Platinum, which is enough for me, and I don’t think Titanium is worth the effort required.
I continue to think Hyatt Globalist is worth going for, and I increasingly appreciate the value of Hilton Honors Diamond status, given how easy it is to earn, and the solid benefits it offers at an increasing number of nice hotels.
Being less focused on hotel loyalty than in the past sure feels liberating…
What’s your hotel loyalty strategy for 2020?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).