With the changes Starwood made to the SPG program this year, I’ve started re-thinking my prior approach to stays and nights. For hotel programs there are typically two ways to achieve status: crossing a threshold for the number of individual stays, or achieving a prescribed number of nights (regardless of the number of stays). Las year I split my stays between two programs: Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton HHonors. I see the best treatment as a SPG Platinum member, regularly getting upgraded to better rooms at every brand in the chain (including Sheraton, Four Points, W, Westin, Le Meridien and Aloft). For HHonors, however, the strong value was in their ability to redeem points for hotel nights; before the change to their program this year, HHonors had one of the best set of redemption options out there.
I should note at this point that we earn status and points on the American Express HHonors Surpass credit card and are owners (via the resale market) of a Hilton Grand Vacations Club timeshare, so we have a strong ongoing affinity with the HHonors program. The majority of our household bills and expenses go on this card, and it’s valuable because that spend qualifies towards HHonors Diamond status. I also carry an American Express Starwood credit card which I primarily only use for SPG stays (to get the extra Starpoints).
Back to the Starwood changes. Platinum status has required 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year. Once you crossed that line, however, there were no more [official] benefits to be earned (other than the perks of having Platinum status). This year, however, additional benefits kick in at 50 and 75 nights:
- At 50 nights a member receives 10 Suite Upgrade certificates for confirmed upgrades
- At 75 nights a member receives an additional Starpoint for every dollar spent and “Your 24,” the ability to check-in at a member’s choice of time and stay for 24 hours, regardless of check-in/check-out times typically posted for a property
- At 100 nights, the member is assigned a personal Ambassador who assists with recommendations, calling ahead with a guest’s personal preferences, etc.
These new benefits provide additional perks to those with a high number of nights. My guess is that Starwood had quite a few Platinum members with 25 stays and between 25 and 50 nights (probably closer to 25 nights, representing 25 one-night stays), and wanted to attract those that crossed 25 stays to cross 50 and 75 nights – especially those like me that split time between multiple programs.
10 confirmed Suite Upgrades are nice for those times traveling with family – we’re a family of three, so a suite can save us from needing two separate rooms. Additional Starpoints are always nice, too. Your24, however, is an interesting perk. While I can typically check in anytime after noon, and stay the next day until 2 or 4 PM, Your24 offers a chance to do something like check in at 6PM and check out at 6PM the next day, or later should I desire. When my flight out is at 11PM or a red-eye, this could be a nice way to have a place to come back to at the end of the day, shower, work online, take a nap, etc. It’s not something I’d use often, but could be very handy when flights dictated a need. As for an Ambassador? It sounds like a fun thing, but I make my travel reservations myself, and I don’t really have any preferences or needs that require being catered to.
Given the changes to HHonors, the fact I still accure points there via spend, and that I’m enjoying my Starwood status, I’m likely to keep staying with Starwood this year after crossing the 25 stay mark. As of today I’m at 19 stays / 31 nights, with 2 more stays and 3 nights planned for next week. I’ll cross 25 stays this month… so 75 stays isn’t out of bounds by any stretch of the imagination! [Update: I just booked a seven night stay at a Sheraton for May. I thought about rotating hotels for stay credits, but since nights matter more to stays (I'll hit the stay count, it's nights I'm chasing now) it made sense to keep it all in one place. Might as well enjoy a property, right?]
Which program captures your loyalty? Do you split time between programs or focus on just one? Are there perks others offer that you consider valuable?