Posted by Ric Garrido

Hyatt Gold Passport is a good hotel loyalty program for its free breakfast and Diamond suite upgrades. Those are high value benefits on paid stays and breakfast saves some cash on award stays.

Complimentary upgrades have seemed harder to get without a suite upgrade certificate in both of these programs since the introduction of e-certificate suite upgrades for high elite Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond members and 50 nights per year SPG Platinum members.

I have never spent 50 nights with a single hotel chain in one calendar year. My focus for elite status is always stays and getting 25 stays in a year, usually with 25 to 35 hotel nights is an expensive year in hotels when my average room rate is about $100 per night.  My spend is far below the average room rate of about $180 per night if staying in upper-upscale urban centers and resorts with Starwood or Hyatt.

$200 nightly rates is an understatement for most city center properties with Hyatt and Starwood Hotels. 50 nights at $200 per night is $10,000 per year in hotel spend.

That is extravagant spend for a leisure traveler.

The point of this analysis is to compare the value of SPG Gold elite (10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year; reward stays and nights count for elite) to Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum elite (5 stays or 15 nights in a calendar year; reward stays and nights do not count for elite).

Why SPG hotel loyalty works better for me.

Mommy Points mentioned she needs five more stays for Hyatt Diamond qualifying stays in 2013 to continue Diamond membership through 2014. (I would link to the actual post on Mommy Points blog, but I do not see a way to navigate back a few days on her blog to find her post from earlier this week and the post is not listed under Hyatt category.)

For me the rising cost of Hyatt brand hotels in 2013 has been a concern.

Hyatt brand numbers show the average daily rate (ADR) for the first half of 2013 according to the company’s 2013 Q2 financial report.

  • Hyatt Place, 161 hotels, ADR = $103.21
  • Hyatt House, 53 hotels, ADR = $123.42
  • Hyatt Regency, 139 hotels, ADR = $169.55
  • Hyatt Hotels, 25 hotels, ADR = $170.40
  • Grand Hyatt, 36 hotels, ADR = $242.30
  • Andaz, 8 hotels, ADR = $284.88
  • Park Hyatt, 27 hotels, ADR = $340.15

Starwood brand numbers show the average daily rate (ADR) for the first half of 2013 according to their company’s 2013 Q2 financial report.

  • Aloft, 73 hotels, ADR = $111.86
  • Four Point, 181 hotels, ADR = $115.96
  • Sheraton, 431 hotels, ADR = $150.67
  • Westin, 193 hotels, ADR = $186.66
  • Le Meridien, 97 hotels, ADR = $191.49
  • W Hotels, 44 hotels, ADR = $295.90
  • St. Regis, 30 hotels; Luxury Collection, 85 hotels, ADR = $302.79
  • (Note: SPG combines data on room rates for these two brands).

This data shows that both Hyatt and Starwood have upper midscale brands with average room rates around $113 per night. Hyatt has around 225 hotels in Hyatt Place and Hyatt House out of 525 hotels worldwide.

Starwood Hotels has Aloft and Four Points with about 250 hotels out of around 1,200 hotels worldwide. Sheraton is the big difference between the two chains with over 400 hotels in the upscale to upper-upscale hotel market with an average daily rate of $150. Sheraton is the hotel brand where the SPG member has a good opportunity to find a lower rate than $150 or a room upgrade in a hotel that most likely offers several types of suites.

Starwood’s 1,200 hotels compared to 525 with Hyatt is one aspect of Starwood Preferred Guest favoring SPG members.

Hotel Rate Discounts

Even more important to me than the footprint of SPG with its 1,200 hotels is the opportunity to find discount rates for Starwood Hotels with Cash & Points rate discounts and special offers like Pay Your Birth Year rates.

SPG Cash & Points [click image to enlarge]

SPG Cash & Points.

SPG members have access to Cash & Points rates that reduce the price significantly for hotels in the mid-range reward night categories of category 3, 4 and 5.

  • Category 3 hotel = 7,000 points standard award night
  • Category 3 hotel = $55 + 3,500 points Cash & Points award night
  • Category 4 hotel = 10,000 points standard award night
  • Category 4 hotel = $75 + 5,000 points Cash & Points award night
  • Category 5 hotel = 12,000 or 16,000 points standard award night
  • Category 5 hotel = $110 + 6,000 points Cash & Points award night

The opportunity to drop the rate of a $300 per night category 5 Luxury Collection or W Hotel down to $110 and 6,000 points means the points you earn in SPG can buy rooms for 50% of the standard points price.

Hyatt has no comparable discount program for its upper-upscale hotels in the category 3, 4 and 5 tiers at 12,000 to 18,000 points per night. A category 4 hotel at 15,000 points will take around $2,500 in hotel spend to earn those points as a Platinum elite.

SPG members with Gold elite status will earn 6,000+ points with $2,000 in spend.

Bonus points promotions will mean more points are earned at these levels of hotel spend. I don’t think the bonus points offers are a huge differentiator between SPG and Hyatt Gold Passport. I think Hyatt and SPG have mirrored each other in the value of their promotion bonuses for the past 18 months.

SPG Award Stays count for elite status

Another advantage of SPG over Hyatt is award stays count for elite status and the SPG American Express credit card gives an annual elite credit of 2 stays and 5 nights. Another 8 stays in a calendar year, including elite stays earns SPG Gold and the 50% elite bonus points for hotel spend.

Spend $1,000 at Starwood Hotels as SPG Gold and the member earns 2,000 base points + 1,000 elite bonus points for 3,000 points without credit card spend points.

Hyatt Gold Passport Visa grants Platinum elite, however that only gives 15% elite bonus points.

Spend $1,000 at Hyatt as a Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum member and earn 5,000 base points + 750 elite bonus points for 5,750 points without credit card spend points.

Hyatt Gold Passport will get you into a category 1 hotel for 5,000 points. A category 2 hotel will require 8,000 points. You will likely earn plenty of bonus points from promotions while spending $1,000.

SPG will get you a free night at a category 1 hotel for 3,000 points or only 2,000 points on the weekend. The problem is there are only 42 category-1 hotels worldwide in the SPG tier. SPG category 2 hotels are far more prevalent with 184 hotels worldwide and 3,000 points will buy a weekend night at a Category 2 hotel.

SPG Gold members earn 250 points per stay at Starwood Hotels, except 125 bonus points at Aloft, Element and FourPoints. This can mean an additional 1,000 or 2,000 points after $1,000 in spend.

Assume the SPG Gold member earns 3,500 to 5,000 points before promotion bonus points after $1,000 in spend. This member has the opportunity to redeem for a category 3 hotel at $55 + 3,500 points or 5,000 points + $75 for a category 4 hotel award night. This opens up nearly 800 hotels worldwide for a room award night with the points an SPG Gold member earns after $1,000 in hotel spend.

Hyatt Gold Passport members will find 18 hotels in Category 1 for 5,000 points per night that are not a Hyatt Place or Hyatt House brand hotel in the USA. Category 2 hotels for 8,000 points per night are still mostly Hyatt Place and Hyatt House in the USA. Hyatt Regency Warsaw is the only hotel in Europe at 8,000 points.

Why SPG hotel loyalty works better for me than Hyatt Gold Passport is based on the assumption that I do not stay sufficient nights to earn SPG Platinum or Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond with 25 stays in a calendar year.

Given the choice between SPG Gold and Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum and $1,000 to $2,000 in hotel spend annually, I find there is better value with SPG points for lower cost award nights and Starwood Hotel discount rate opportunities than available with Hyatt Hotel discount rates and award value.

17 Responses

  1. The thing is, I’m pretty sure (or I hope) most people reading this post have a cc which will give them SPG Gold for free (AMEX Plat) or Hyatt Plat for free (Chase Hyatt Visa), which makes the spend useless. Or you could buy Hilton Gold for 50 bucks.

  2. Ric

    Big fan of your blog
    Interesting assessment
    I don’t disagree with most of your thoughts its just that there are so many variables for each individual.

    Hyatt once one of the most fair to do business with is getting greedy with their daily rates and a lack of value added promotions
    Management has killed the program (except for Diamonds) chased away price sensitive customers. Gold Passport really only appeals to the top tier at Diamond status for value add

    Being a Hyatt Diamond myself I admit to liking their hotels a lot and the top tier bennies
    I’m a big Chase customer with Sapphire, Ink bold and the Hyatt Visa CC.That gives me many options and flexibility to earn the extra points to redeem.
    But at the end of the day it takes a lot of spending. I find Starwood to have less of brand standard and guest assurance when things go wrong. There is a cost and frustration attached to failed stays that must be factored in.
    If I was going to stay in a mid tier and I am glad I don’t have too I’d still probably choose Hilton
    Gold Status.It brings some nice benefits and the room rates and options can seem better frequently
    I just wont be redeeming any more in big cities with them anymore. That I do with other programs
    I booked the Conrad Miami for 139 dollars a night and a full service Doubletree in Portland all under the MVP rate at 79 dollars a night.
    I like the premium properties at SPG and their redemption frequently makes no sense
    Many properties are known to be stingy with upgrades for Platinum’s and in the end that’s why I am a Hyatt guy
    They may be more pricey but IMHO they deliver value in the fuller experience (yes for the top tiers) and even the ROI if you use every trick in the book 10% off gift cards 5% off Amex open network
    discount codes and membership rates when booking
    Frequently SPG has nothing but non refundable rates when I go to book
    Cash and points can be tough to redeem if at all. Starwood Hotels are frequently too lazy to load a wide variety of rates in their system.
    Despite your good overview I’d say many customers buy emotionally and yes on price too!
    Cheers

    Comment by D Wonderment on October 13th, 2013 at 10:32 am
  3. @Ric – Thoughtful analysis. One point you might also consider – you can effectively just buy SPG Gold for $250. This is the net annual fee for an Amex Platinum card, once you factor in the $200 airline fee/gc rebates. Overlay that you get lounge access for DL, AA, US and AS included with the fee, it is tough to beat.

  4. @ D Wonderment – “Frequently SPG has nothing but non refundable rates when I go to book” This cannot be correct. While plenty of hotels offer non-refundable rates, I can’t ever recall a situation where a refundable rate wasn’t also available. (This excludes making a booking within the prevailing cancellation period.)

  5. Neither Hyatt or SPG mid-level status gets me much of anything worthwhile except free wifi and occasionally lounge access if I get lucky – though mostly not. The upgrades are simply to rooms that are a cut above the worst ones – never to suites. Certainly they are better than having no status (where you are treated like a dog) but nothing to write home about or to do mattress runs. Only the top status levels provide any real potential benefits and even then no guaranteed late checkout at resorts (where you really need it).

    That being said I concur with your analysis – far easier to spend points and get value at SPG than at Hyatt. SPG also has 5N awards that are essentially 25% off. Marriott is also good though no guaranteed suite upgrades so no reason to strive for anything above Marriott Gold.

  6. Obtaining SPG Gold is not the real point of this analysis. The ability to earn points for hotel rewards at the mid-level is easier for SPG Gold members than Hyatt Platinum members.

    SPG Gold has little value until you stay in hotels and those hotel stays are where the majority of points will be earned unless you are someone focused on credit card spend to earn points.

  7. Ric
    You analyze hotels very well for the HOTEL SPEND.
    If my employer is sending me places,
    that is the best value we can get out of it.

    But as a cost factor for leisure spend,
    the best value is in Hilton Gold for 95$ a year CC card.
    That gives free breakfast.

    Mid level status easier with Hyatt by a CC – 75$ a year
    For SPG that needs – Amex Plat = 450 a year
    or
    1 cc sign up = 30k miles = use that to stay 9 times at level 2
    real cost about 165$ (65$ for card; 100$ for 5k spend lost cash back)

    The problem is that both mid level statuses give not much benefit
    I agree the benefit is greater with SPG than Hyatt for midlevel
    and I would argue that DM Hyatt is better than SPG Plat.

  8. I agree with you FFI 150% well said
    and that’s coming from one that hates what HH did to its program/ redemption value
    I use HH as a last resort now but I use it when it makes sense
    I have HH Diamond status free for years as they try and woo me back.They killed the free spending revenue golden goose over greedy redemption costs
    Unlikely I will ever spend 20k a year in rooms now though HH after the damage done to the program. Only if its a dirt cheap room do I bite at all.
    Rev too Hyatt,IC & SPG primarily

    Comment by D Wonderment on October 13th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
  9. Ric, when did SPG stop offering 500 SPG points for a gold amenity?

  10. Nobody loves Marriot it seems. For me, being able to take their Gold Challenge and be immediately Gold, made it worthwhile as a leisure traveller. That plus their CC and hotel-hopping on a few vacations, made it easy to get to gold and keep it for a while. I never get to travel for business so I have to think towards maximum bang for buck for leisure travel and it’s property list is far larger than Hyatt or SPG.

  11. I still prefer Hyatt because I feel like I get treated better at their hotels and I feel like it’s the best run loyalty program. Plus, I earn all these miles to redeem at the high end when I’m on vacation and 22,000 point for a park hyatt is the best deal for me compared to 35,000 for spg. Add in the ability to transfer in points from Ultimate Rewards and it’s a no brainer. Though as always, ymmv.

  12. Give mommy points a break, she’s just pimping the brands that Gary and Randy tell her to. Always happy to read your ‘can’t be bought’ analysis Ric!

  13. Marriott Rewards would not let me take a Gold Challenge last year due to too few stays. For 2013 I have earned Silver by hotel nights and I will try the challenge again.

    Marriott has had the best promotions of the past 18 months with 2 stays = 1 free night, up to category 5 hotels. Marriott Rewards has been my favorite program of the past year.

  14. At the high-end rewards Hyatt at 22,000 points for a category 6 is definitely a better value than SPG category 6 and 7 hotels. For the most part I don’t need to stay at the high-end properties. They are nice for a splurge every once in a while, but I don’t earn points quick enough to justify in my mind blowing points for one night at a luxury hotel when I can get 3 or 4 nights at lower category hotels.

  15. SPG offers a welcome amenity choice of 500 points to Platinum members and 250 points for Gold members at all brands except Aloft, Element and Four Points where it is 250 points for SPG Platinum and 125 points at the three limited service brands.

  16. Or just spend less night-to-night and buy breakfast outside the hotel when you get where you’re going. I’d bet you save a lot more money that way, plus no need to worry about how close you are to some status level.

  17. Assuming you can spend less night-to-night conveniently to get the standard of comfort desired.

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