Is It Worth Going Out Of Your Way To Earn Hotel Status?

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Reader Bob asked the following question on the blog yesterday:

Excluding simply personal preferences, in your opinion, which hotel brand offers the best rewards based on status? For example, is SPG Platinum truly worth the effort if it wouldn’t be achieved due to actual travel/stays?

We are partial to SPG and have lifetime Gold Status. We’re wondering whether it might be beneficial to chase another hotel brand’s status for 2015.

I think the thought process of deciding which status to go for is an interesting one. And I think before you even think about that, it’s worth thinking about whether it even makes sense to go for hotel status at all.

Back before I lived in hotels full time I had a hard time mentally justifying being loyal to a hotel chain. So I figured I’d share my general thought process.

There’s an opportunity cost to staying at chain hotels

This is a really important point that I think is often overlooked. By staying at a chain hotel you’re often compromising on price and experience.

There’s no arguing that in most places in the world you’ll get a more “authentic” experience at a local, non-chain hotel, than at a cookie cutter chain hotel. For that matter, while I haven’t done it personally, I know a lot of people are flocking to Airbnb in place of hotels.

Le Pavillon des Lettres Hotel Paris

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are plenty of unique chain hotels out there, and I love how many chains are expanding their brands to move away from the “cookie cutter” model. But on average, you’ll certainly not get as unique of an experience at a chain hotel as you’d get at a local hotel.

Hotel Des Indes, one of the most charming and unique SPG properties I’ve stayed at

Chain hotels are usually more expensive as well. They have management fees to pay to corporate, they know people will pay a premium to stay with them, they have points to award, etc.

My point is, sometimes it makes sense to look outside of chain hotels and focus on local hotels when going through the thought process.

Sometimes you can receive elite benefits without being elite

If you mostly stay at luxury hotels, keep in mind that programs like Virtuoso and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts often give you amazing perks without actually having status. You receive free breakfast, room upgrades, hotel amenities, free wifi, late check-out, etc.

American Express FHR benefits at St. Regis Bangkok

And if you have a great travel advisor that has a relationship with the hotel, they may be able to do even more than that. These really are the equivalent of elite perks at luxury hotels without the need for loyalty.

Lots of ways to get elite status for cheap

When people tell me they don’t stay at hotels all that much but want elite status, my first question is always “well, do you have the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express? The card has a $95 annual fee, and just for keeping it you receive Gold status, which gets you free breakfast/executive club lounge access and free internet.

Complimentary breakfast at Conrad Hong Kong as HHonors Gold member

The other thing to keep in mind about Hilton is that they have properties almost everywhere. So while I’m primarily loyal to Hyatt and Starwood, being loyal to both of them is sort of out of necessity, since they don’t have hotels everywhere. As a matter of fact, combined they only have a bit more than half as many properties as Hilton.

Similarly, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card gives you Platinum status for as long as you have the card, for an annual fee of just $49 (which is waived the first year). Is it the most useful status? Nope. But at such a low cost, it’s a great deal.

Suite upgrade at Crowne Plaza Doha as an IHG Rewards Club Platinum member

So there’s something to be said for having elite status with a chain that has properties everywhere. Are Hilton and IHG properties my favorite? Nope. But there’s no denying the programs are useful, especially for the occasional traveler.

Don’t value perks at face value

If you do “invest” a lot of money into hotel status, don’t fall into the trap of valuing perks at face value, in my opinion. In other words, if you get Hyatt Diamond status and do a week in a suite at a Park Hyatt, I wouldn’t mentally account for everything at face value.

In other words, I wouldn’t say “oh, I got a $1,000 per night suite and breakfast which would have cost $150 per night, so during my week stay I received over $8,000 of value.”

Amazing breakfast at Park Hyatt Zurich — but how much is it really “worth?”

That certainly sounds nice, but for both hotel and airline redemptions, I always try to value the perks at what I’d otherwise be willing to pay for them. Because I’m not receiving $8,000 worth of “value” if I would have never been willing to spend that much for the experience.

The Hyatt and Starwood status that’s worth going for

As I’ve explained many times before, I’m primarily loyal to Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest, and have top tier status with both programs. Both require 25 stays or 50 nights to earn top tier status, though there are ways to “reduce” those thresholds a bit:

Qualification MethodStarwood PlatinumHyatt Diamond
Co-Branded Credit CardTwo stays and five nights towards elite status just for having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express

(if you have both cards, that means you start each year with four stays and 10 nights towards status)
Two stays and five nights towards Diamond status when you spend $20,000 on the Chase Hyatt Visa Card in a calendar year

Receive an additional three stays and five nights towards Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the Chase Hyatt Visa Card in a calendar year

(if you spend $40,000 per year, that means you receive four stays and 10 nights towards status each year)
Eligible StaysAll Starwood stays count towards status, including free night and Cash & Points bookingsPoints + Cash bookings count towards status, while outright free night stays don’t

As you can see, the elite qualification threshold can be lowered to 20 stays or 40 nights with credit card spend. Starwood counts Free Night as well as Cash & Points stays, while Hyatt counts Points + Cash stays towards status. So in many cases you don’t have to make anywhere close to that many revenue stays to earn status.

Bottom line

I guess to some up my general thoughts:

  • Think about what you’re most looking for with elite status, because in many cases staying at independent hotels or booking through Virtuoso/FHR can represent a better value
  • If you do want status but are not an especially frequent traveler and go all over the place, it’s tough to beat HHonors Gold status through the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express.
  • If you do stay a bit more often, Hyatt and Starwood are worth considering, especially if you can lower the threshold through their co-branded credit cards (I value Hyatt and Starwood top tier status most because of confirmed suite upgrades, guaranteed late check-out, quality of properties, etc.)
  • It could be worth “mattress running” a few nights in order to qualify for status, but I wouldn’t do more than five or so unnecessary nights with either chain in order to achieve top tier status

For those of you that don’t stay at hotels all that often, what do you consider to be the best option for achieving hotel status, and do you ever “mattress run?”

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  1. Because I’m not receiving $8,000 worth of “value” if I would have never been willing to spend that much for the experience.

    That doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like the value should be determined by the market price.

  2. The recent roll-out of free WiFi at the major chains has changed this equation significantly for me. I always use the WiFi, and saving $10-$25/night is very helpful. Free breakfast is also a great perk, but I often find myself leaving a hotel before breakfast begins. Beyond this, free water (~$3?) and room upgrades (basically meaningless on a short, single-night stay by yourself) don’t amount to much real value. At this point, the only significant thing my Hilton and Hyatt Diamond status bring is excellent treatment when I visit upscale properties with my wife. Is this worth being loyal all year?

  3. @John

    I think what Ben is saying is that if he’s willing to spend, at most, say, $300/night on a room and $20 per person for breakfast, then he’s only getting $340/night in value, because that’s what he would otherwise actually spend.

    However, like you, I’m not sure (assuming that’s what Ben meant) I view the calculation that way either, though I do understand Ben’s rationale.

    Ben, sorry to talk about you like you aren’t here. 🙂

  4. @ John — Hotel stays are a perishable commodity which can’t be resold. This isn’t like a $100,000 diamond which can be resold for that amount.

    While there’s the retail price of a hotel stay, that’s far from what people value it at, in my experience. In other words, if a ticket in Cathay Pacific first class costs $27,000, I wouldn’t claim I got 20 cents per mile out of value, since I’d never be willing to pay that much.

  5. @lucky –

    You state: ” Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card – The card has a $95 annual fee, and just for keeping it you receive Gold status, which gets you free breakfast/executive club lounge access and free internet.”

    Well, that is not entirely true. We have been denied access and to the executive club when availability stopped or ability to be upgraded. So, if we do not get our room upgraded, the access is denied. It has been frustrating; but it is just not a guarantee simply by possessing the card, unless you have had a different experience?

    Review terms:

    Executive Floor Lounge Access Policy: The following policy applies at all Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and DoubleTree by Hilton™ hotels with Executive Floor Lounges. Executive Floor Lounges are available only at select properties.

    ◾If you are an HHonors guest with Gold status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will be granted complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge only if you receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor or an upgrade to a room type that confers Executive Floor Lounge access benefits.

    All in all, acquiring hotel elite status, in my opinion, is good if you like consistency in the services you expect. Large chains are going to deliver a more uniform product….not the over-the-top experiences, but hopefully, not the abysmal lows, either.

    That said, we often choose a large chain our first visit to a new location and use some of our time to visit future potentials that are local flavor for our future return visit.

  6. I would disagree on your calculations as well. I look at an $8,000 hotel or $27,000 airfare at those vales because that is the value of the experience. Sure, if I want to be in the back or have a low price room that would be the value of that experience. For my wife and I, we love the upgraded experience and I calculate ot out as to what it would cost to have that experience. That’s the fun of all of this.

  7. I agree – if you are not staying in hotels very much, status is not very useful, though there are a few statuses that you can get with cards or other “free” ways that can have some value. I just signed up for a credit card that got me Hilton Gold (different one than the one you mention) because we’re planning a trip to Europe and the free breakfasts with Hilton Gold are going to be worth paying the annual fee.

  8. @ danray — Sorry, maybe my point isn’t clear. If you’re willing to spend $27,000 out of pocket for Cathay Pacific first class that’s great.

    But my point is that it doesn’t make sense to mattress run and say “well I only spent $7,000 to stay in an $8,000 hotel suite, so mattress running is totally worth it,” unless you’d actually be willing to spend the $8,000 for that suite.

  9. @ John DELTA — No, that’s correct. Complimentary breakfast is guaranteed, but you get access to the club lounge on a space available basis. Personally I’ve never been denied as a Gold member.

  10. I don’t particularly value big chain hotels in many cases, because for me a major criteria (after basics like a clean, comfortable, safe place) is the location of the property. I would much rather be in a local or smaller or whatever hotel that is in a great location than in a big chain hotel. Since I’m more likely to skip a hotel that isn’t in the location I want, there is less interest in having elite status. This is more so now that virtually everybody is offering free wifi.

  11. Wait–am I reading correctly that you have never used airbnb? That’s kinda shocking. I know your focus is points, but really you gotta at least try out the alternatives to understand the market as a whole. I’d love to see a Lucky does airbnb review.

  12. Travelling alone, or even as adult couple, not at all. A singleton doing mattress runs is crazy.

    Travelling with spouse plus two small children, hells YES! Typically able to get upgraded to more spacious room makes all the difference. The 4 of us CAN fit into a King bed, but nobody sleeps well. If I can at least score a room with a sofabed, it’s a big win for us.

    However, unlike many of you status chasers, I don’t travel for business, and spouse not enough to earn status. We get mid-level status through credit cards for Hilton and Hyatt. Marriott is the exception, I registered for Platinum Challenge last summer before a 28-day family road trip and with a little finesse made Platinum.

  13. @ John — Ultimately it’s fuzzy math, but I value it based on what I’d otherwise be willing to pay in cash for what I redeem, while accounting for the “holding cost” of miles. I’ve redeemed my American miles almost exclusively for international first class, so if I valued them based on the average cost of what I redeemed them for, I’d claim they’re worth 15-20 cents each.

  14. so if I valued them based on the average cost of what I redeemed them for, I’d claim they’re worth 15-20 cents each.

    As a reader, I would love if you could track cash value at time of booking. I think that would be a valuable additional metric we could use when evaluating various rewards programs.

  15. @Lucky Are you sure you receive the stays/nights for both personal and business each year for the Starwood cards? I have both personal and business and my wife has the personal, all under the same SPG number. We got all three at various points throughout 2014. We had received credits for 6 stays/15 nights from the cards after we got the third card. When 2015 hit we only got 4 stays/10 nights. I posted this in the SPG Amex thread on FlyerTalk and someone indicated that 1.) you don’t get the credits each year from personal and business cards and 2.) you can’t have 2 people on one SPG number.

    The Starpoints earned on all three cards are still crediting to the SPG account each month so I can’t figure out which card didn’t give me the third stays/nights credit. Was it one of mine since you can’t earn the credits from having both the personal and business cards or was it hers since you’re not supposed to have 2 people’s cards going to one SPG account number?

    And if you can’t have two people under one SPG account why, for about a week after she received her card, did my account greet me as “Mr./Mrs. “? After about a week it reverted back to just my name for some reason but it seems the system can recognize a family as one account.

  16. @John @Lucky – this is an eternal question in the miles and points community but I think people who don’t understand economics keep thinking the listed retail price is the valuation one should use. This is false because it isn’t “market clearing” for oneself. If you aren’t willing to pay a price, you don’t value the product at that value. You can only derive the value you yourself would pay.

    For example (using a real example here):

    Grand Hyatt New York – rack rate for the 2 days I was taking my family there: $450/night.

    – I could have said, hmm, 25,000 points for a night. That’s redeeming my Hyatt points for 1.8 cents/point. Not a great redemption but not bad either.
    – Instead, I find myself relatively indifferent between GH NY and other properties of a similar quality level. I go to Priceline Express and win the same hotel for $200/night. I simply won’t pay $450/night for a hotel in New York. Now the points valuation is below 1 cent/point. Now I’m really glad I didn’t use points.

    It’s really up to your own spending patterns and indifference levels. If you MUST stay at a specific hotel, chances are you may end up having higher valuations because of your brand preference. For many people, urban vacations are about the destination, not the hotel. Most good, clean, high-quality hotels are interchangeable. The point of good loyalty programs is to change this kind of behavior.

  17. The “what your are willing to pay” metric is more flawed than market price, since it depends on how much money people have–and, I imagine, people willing to spend 27000 bucks on an airline ticket don’t really care if they can get the ticket free with points.
    “Wife: Honey, should we take our jet today? It’s cheaper to fly on our jet today then it is to fly first in Cathay?
    Husband, no it isn’t; we can use points to buy those tickets, that’s 20 cents per point!!!”

    I get that bloggers want to be critical thinkers, but coming up with some subjective measure of devaluing points seems like a bad way of accomplishing that goal.

    At the end of the day, whether you were willing to pay for it or not, even hotel rooms and first class are worth the cheapest price they can be purchased for.

    While it’s true that they can’t be resold, that’s part of a different conversation. Point resale value might affect how much return you are earning when you get the points. For example, if you could sell points, for cash, at twenty cents per dollar, then you could run around saying your card–which earns 1 point per dollar–is obviously better than a 2% cash back card. Since points can’t be resold at those rates, it’s a debatable question whether cash back is better than points. But people don’t say their cards earn 20x, they say they earn 1 SPG point, and that SPG points are worth a lot because of how they redeem them. The presumption, in nearly every case is that they need to be redeemed (i.e. you aren’t earning cash).

    In short, conflating point resale value with the market price of what points can get you is unproductive for the purposes of the discussion you are having above.

  18. @ El Turk — But I’m not suggesting the value of points is objective. I’m saying it’s subjective, which is why it can vary from person to person based on how much money they have, etc.

  19. @ Mike — You absolutely earn it for both the personal and business number. However, you can’t anymore earn the credit for multiple personal and business cards to the same account.

  20. But that’s not what you said. You said “don’t fall into the trap of valuing PERKS at face value.” (emphasis added). While I take less of an issue with the proposition that the value of points are subjective,* I disagree that the value of what you can purchase with points are subjective. If there is no cheaper way of getting a first class ticket, then the value of the first class ticket is exactly what the airline charges.

    *I think points are worth the cheapest price you can purchase them at. However, there are a bunch of different methods of “purchasing” points (including MS, buying/selling, etc.) and they aren’t freely tradable, so their value is heavily skewed. Subjective might not be the best word.

  21. By the way, although I didn’t see the comment before, I don’t take as much issue with what AnonCHI is saying. Though I do think he assumes a certain level of indifference and flexibility. For him, hotel rooms are interchangeable (and, I suppose, first class cabins are, too). This seriously complicates things, because it assumes people are indifferent to substitution. And, more importantly, it replaces whatever is being valued with a generic version. So breakfast at Park Hyatt is worth whatever a similar breakfast could be purchased for elsewhere.

    But, Lucky, what you are saying is different. You are saying we can take breakfast at the Park Hyatt, or First Class in Cathay, and ascribe to it a value of whatever we’d be willing to pay. That’s not even substitution, that just assumes nothing has value unless you would be willing to by it. While that might be true as a philosophical matter, it’s useless for the purposes of figuring out how much status is worth.

  22. People here are interesting. If you guys actually think you’re getting 20c per mile on your 27000 cathay pacific flight, then you’re an idiot.

  23. Just wanted to make one point about the credit cards. For those of us that are married, both sets of cards for both married members equal 8 night or 20 stays. On the Jan 2nd I walk into the new year 1/3rd of the way to my SPG Platinum status…….

  24. @Lucky advises:
    “If you do want status but are not an especially frequent traveler and go all over the place, it’s tough to beat HHonors Gold status through the Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
    If you do stay a bit more often, Hyatt and Starwood are worth considering, especially if you can lower the threshold through their co-branded credit cards (I value Hyatt and Starwood top tier status most because of confirmed suite upgrades, guaranteed late check-out, quality of properties, etc.).”

    That gets it exactly BACKWARDS and may even be misguided because it is based on the preference (read: bias) of the one providing the advice. Objectively, one would want to select a chain or loyalty program with large “footprint”, like IHG or Hilton or Marriott, if “one goes all over the place” because the chances of finding an IHG or Hilton or Marriott hotel “all over the place” is much higher than that of finding a Hyatt or SPG. If one wants “easy” elite status, then Hilton does offer an advantage by providing the Gold status for simply having the AMEX Surpass or Citi Reserve visa. People with United MileagePlus Gold status or higher can also automatically get Gold status with Marriott. Both the HHonors and Marriott Reward Golds offer free breakfast and free wifi, which many consider to be the necessary perks to make a status worthwhile.

    In addition, Hyatt and SPG properties tend to cost a lot more than the competition for comparable properties so that if one “stays a bit more often” one would save a great deal of money by going with IHG or Hilton or Marriott than with Hyatt or SPG.

    Furthermore, whereas spending $40K on the Chase Hyatt visa would get one ONLY 20% of the number of nights or stays required to make top-tier elite status (Diamond), a $40K spend on the HHonors Citi Reserve visa of HH AMEX Surpass would get one top-tier elite status (Diamond) outright with Hilton.

    Lastly, one needs to consider the other side of the equation, which how many free nights one can get out one’s paid or revenue stays. The “spend per free night” metric is, in fact, my primary consideration in selecting a program because I used points from my revenue or paid stays to subsidize my leisure travel. On this metric, SPG offers by far the worst value of any program.

    One problem with getting advice from someone, like @Lucky, who is already sold on a program is that you may not be getting the complete picture, and may thus wind up selecting a program like Hyatt or SPG, which may be the least suitable option for people who play the mile/point game on their own dime since the two programs are arguably the most expensive in the business 😉

  25. Lucky,

    Premium cabin valuation gets interesting, because one can debate whether or not the advertised price is the “true” price of the product, given that the airlines sell most of their seats at discounted corporate rates.

    OTOH, you can’t argue that a million dollar house isn’t worth a million bucks because you wouldn’t pay it. It’s only worth it if the “market” is willing to pay it… and by that definition, I’m not really sure what the “market” is truly willing to pay for a first class ticket.

    That said… I think you underestimate the value of British Airways Avios. Assuming that your most likely use of those points is for coach travel, such as short-haul flights abroad, that’s something that you are most likely otherwise willing to pay the asking rate for. IOW, it’s the one currency that will get you closest to the “true” value of points. I’m willing to pay cash for a 10,000 point redemption when the price is under $250. AA points have a higher value, because at some point, I have to weigh saving cash with the reduced potential of a premium cabin award which I will not pay cash for.

    Technically, I don’t think the “value” of a point changes based on how many you have… a dollar is worth a dollar, no matter how many you have. If you have a lot, you’re just willing to spend more of them.

  26. I am in full accord with El Turk’s view. The value of something does not change simply because we are willing, unwilling or unable to pay for it. It is what it is. I roll my eyes every time @Lucky says, “I value a startpoint at, say, 2.2 cents.” Well, SPG does not!!! The way to know how much a loyalty point is worth is to purchase it directly from the program that issues it!I Any other valuation is highly subjective and thus of limited value.

    So, if I book a standard room at Conrad Hong Kong and then I get upgraded to an executive suite that goes for twice the rack rate of the standard room, that does not change the value of the executive suite. In fact, it is one rationale for going after top elite status. I get to live beyond my means, because every suite upgrade has its assigned value regardless of whether not I can afford it or I am willing to pay for it. The value I get out of the upgrade is as real as it gets, and it provides me with a taste of fruit that would otherwise be forbidden or inaccessible to me, which is why each suite upgrade tastes so sweet! 😉

  27. Ben,

    Ahhh, so here is the question. I want to go to Madrid in business class in May, should I use the Capital One card or the USAir card? I ran my biz and personal expenses through the Capital one card for a few months and accumulated 200,000 points which converts to $2,000 to spend on tickets, I do the same with the USAir card and it converts to 100,000 points and envoy to Mardid worth $4,750.

  28. @dcs,
    your “spend per free night metric” is very much flawed as it doesn’t take into account of all the lucrative promos hyatt offers like ‘stay more, play more’.
    nor does your metric addresses the intrinsic value of hyatt brand vs. hilton.

    if your objective is to maximize free nights, i am sure choice hotels have better “spend per free night metric” than hilton.

  29. To people saying something is valued at the market price, if I’m running a burger shop and decide to sell the hamburgers for $1000, are they now worth $1000?

    And then if I put out coupons to sell the burger for $100, are you now getting a good deal?

  30. @Steven — Spend Per Free Night is a good objective metric because it reflects the base earned points relative to award rates within each program regardless of promos, which are highly variable. For your edification, however, it is not only Hyatt that offers “lucrative” promos. If this site is the only one that you visit, then, sure, you’d think that. I would like to suggest that you check out the most “non-partisan” site that lists every single airline or hotel loyalty promo that’s out there:
    You just select a program and you get a list of every one of their promos, with minimal commentary.

    By way of illustration, I will just do some quick math to show you that other programs do offer promos that are as “lucrative” as GP’s, if not more so. My primary program is HHonors in which I am a Diamond (although also I elite status in Marriott Rewards [Gold], SPG [Gold] and Hyatt GP [Platinum]). The way I qualify for HH Diamond is through spend or base points — HHonors the only program that offers this option for earning elite status. One requires $12K or 120K base points to make HH Diamond. Last year, I qualified for HH Diamond with 121K base points earned after just 7 stays/35 nights. This means that I had spent $12.1K to make HH Diamond. Based on my earning preferences/style and paying for all my revenue stays with a co-branded HHonors CC, my base earning is ~32 HH points/$ with every stay. The number points that I earned just from the spend on my revenue stays last year was, therefore:

    $12,100 x ~32 HH points/$ = ~387,200

    After starting last year with less than 20K points in the bank because I redeem all my points every year, I ended the year with 703,000 HHonors points. This means that my points from JUST PROMOS accounted for nearly half of my total haul of 703K points last year. You think only Hyatt offers “lucrative” promos? Think again. In fact, Hilton promos have been so good up to this point that I am on pace to finishing the year with 1,000,000 or more points, with the promos accounting for some 60% of total.

    The Spend Per Free Night is a great metric because of its independence. In my view, most programs offer “lucrative” promos if one travels enough to take advantage of them, which I do.

  31. @ TG — It’s staying at a hotel for the sole purpose of accumulating hotel points. Similar to how a “mileage run” is flying for the sole purpose of accumulating airline miles.

  32. @ John — Definitely avoid Capital One card for international premium cabin tickets. You’ll pay an arm and a leg.

  33. @dcs,
    if i am not mistaken, you earned 700k hh points on $12k spend.
    that would get you 7 award nights at top category hilton.

    i think a hyatt diamond member using the hotel cc would fare better with $12k spend.
    here is the math.
    $12000 x (5×1.3+3) = 114000 gp

    plus, promos such as “stay more, play more”
    60000 per promo. x twice a year(being conservative) = 120000 gp
    which translates into roughly 8 award nights at top category hyatt.

    also, one gets 4 CONFIRMED suite upgrades and 4pm check out.
    plus, you get 2 award nights(not restricted to cheap azz weekend) with the hotel cc (first year fee waved)

    IMO, hyatt is the superior program.

  34. I’m with Lucky on the valuation of perks and awards. It’s insane, imo, to say the trip I am about to take is worth, TO ME, 22k, though if you add up the first class suite flights, 10 nights in suites, breakfasts, etc. in HK, Bali and Singapore, you would need that much to BUY the trip. I would never, ever, ever, pay 1/3 of that for this trip. I will love, love, love it, but I’m pretty cheap, and would probably pay no more than about 5k for the whole trip. Was it worth the mattress runs at Hyatt Houses to get Diamond status, and all the MS and new cards I’ve had to manage this year? Hell yeah. And, I hope to repeat the whole thing again next year (maybe to Australia). But, this trip is “worth” 22k only to a very wealthy person.

  35. “To people saying something is valued at the market price, if I’m running a burger shop and decide to sell the hamburgers for $1000, are they now worth $1000?”

    Um, TK, the market price is not the same as the price tag I slap on the item/service. The market price is the price at which people will BUY the item/service. So yeah, put a $1000 price tag on a hamburger and see how long it sits before you have to throw it out. No one will buy it. The real issue is not CX slapping a $27,000 price tag on a fight in first class. It’s whether or not people will pay that amount for the experience. If people will pay, welcome to the market price.

  36. @steven — So, based on $12K spent a Hyatt GP Diamond would get 8 award nights at a top category Hyatt hotel, and a HH Diamond would get 7 award nights. Considering the approximations, we would call this a wash, but it makes sense. 1 GP points is approximately 3 HHonors points, leading to 95K HH/night for a top category HHonors hotel to be about the same as 30K GP/night for a top category Hyatt hotel — exactly what the award charts show. So, first off, remember that famous Hilton “devaluation”? It does not exist, does it? That is what expressing things terms of “spend per free night” demonstrates. So congrats for showing that the purported Hilton “devaluation” was a myth!

    Second, I will just adapt below parts of what I’d posted yesterday on this very site comparing HH Diamond vs. GP Diamond to see what is the “better” program:

    HHonors Diamond is demonstrably well ahead of GP Diamond. How so? Because in 2014, I cleared 12 of 12 or 100% of my HH Diamond suite upgrades, which were 8 more suite upgrades than GP Diamonds could “confirm” all year before they had to start paying out of pocket to see the inside of a suite again. HH Diamond suite upgrades are good even on AWARD stays and UNLIMITED, depending on availability, like ANY top elite suite upgrades in the business, including so-called “confirmed” ones. How is the availability of HH Diamond suite upgrades? Like I said, 100% in 2014, and better than 90% overall since 2012. Don’t take my word for it. I documented it blow-by-blow here:

    In addition, the full power of HH Diamond becomes manifest when the chips are down. I take free breakfast [often skip it], free wifi [can’t do without], or late check-out [been approved for as late as 6pm] for granted. When it really matters, HH DIAMOND FORCE enables HH Diamonds to “force” (hence Diamond “Force”) availability of standard revenue or award rooms at overbooked Hilton properties that show none. If you know nothing about HH Diamond Force, I strongly urge you to see this jaw-dropping demonstration of what it is:

    lastly, @steven, here’s is a demo. Could you dummy-book a room at any Hyatt property in San Diego for July 10-12, 2015, as a GP Diamond and let us know how you fare? (Hint: It’ll be really tough without something like “Diamond Force”)

    G’day! 🙂

  37. mbh said at March 3, 2015 at 11:39 pm — But, this trip is “worth” 22k only to a very wealthy person.

    Are you in denial?! That is precisely the beauty of it. The trip would still be worth $22k if that is what its “market value” would have been, but you played the mile/point game and got it for much, much less! It value did not change, so accept it and be happy. You lived beyond your means and it felt really good. That it why you’ll reload and do it again.

    Congrats! 🙂

  38. @ Mike — It wasn’t ever supposed to be possible (you’re supposed to link a credit card to your individual SPG account, after all), but in practice wasn’t enforced in the past. This seems to be the first year where they’re enforcing it.

  39. Is the Diamond challenge gone? I’ve heard a few conflicting reports, and was hoping to try it in a month or two.

  40. Going out of our way for *Lifetime* Platinum with SPG? Me and my girlfriend have decided: What the heck, let’s do it…
    I had accumulated 8 years of SPG Plat before quitting my job that put me in Starwood hotels. In the 9th year we were lucky enough to do 3 longer trips on private dime and ended up only adding a handful of nights in our hometown. Now we’re in the 10th year and it’s gonna be tough (only 2 nights, one stay so far) but we’ll go for it 🙂 It does help quite a bit that award stays now also count towards status!
    We’re well aware of the fact that Starwood might simply kill Lifetime Plat at any point. But we’re going for it anyway – and that’s even sitting in Europe – in a city that has exactly 1 (ONE) Starwood Hotel… (with a second to open but delayed for approx. 3 years already – now I’m wondering if you know the brand well enough to know which city I’m talking about 🙂 ).

  41. You can do twice as well on the SPG side of it by adding 2 more CC: SPG Amex Canada, personal and Biz version. Get all 4 and you’re at 8 stays and 20 nights! Works like a charm…

  42. I agree with some of the folks above: for me, Airbnb works better, for 3 or 4 main reasons. It’s cheaper (generally), it gives me more flexibility of choice, it offers a more personal, authentic experience. But most of all, as I live in Brazil and we don’t have (as far as I know) hotel branded credit cards, it is very hard for one to achieve elite status only by paying for stays. Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, these brands are all present in Brazil, but for the most they are represented by very expensive properties. That’s why I’d rather redeem my hotel program points in miles and class upgrades.

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