Home Hotels The Sweet Spot For Each Hotel’s Loyalty Program

The Sweet Spot For Each Hotel’s Loyalty Program

by joeheg

Having status in a hotel’s loyalty program is one of the things that can significantly improve the quality of a hotel stay. At a minimum, just being a member of the program will decrease your chances of getting the worst room at the hotel. As your status level increases, you’ll get perks like free breakfasts, lounge access and room/suite upgrades. The top-level members might also get a concierge to help them arrange travel.

While I’ve often said how I’m not loyal to any hotel chain, getting perks from having status has influenced my choices on more than one occasion. Having Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status from mid-2018 to early 2020 resulted in a majority of our leisure stays being at one of their 30 different brands. As we didn’t stay enough to qualify for Platinum, our status dropped to Gold.

Because part of Marriott’s COVID-19 response was to issue free night credits to members based on your 2020 status and allow stacking night credits from personal and business credit cards, we’re now Platinum again until early 2023.

I would not do a ton of work to manufacture night credits to get status, but I do consider Bonvoy Platinum to be the sweet spot of the program. You get the most incremental benefits when going from Gold to Platinum.

If I feel that way about Marriott, what are the most valuable status levels of the other major hotel brands? By valuable, I mean to say which status bump gives you the most significant increase in benefits while earning higher status levels would not significantly improve your stay.

Hilton Honors

The Hilton Honors program has four levels

  • Member – 0-9 nights
  • Silver – 10-39 nights
  • Gold – 40-59 nights
  • Diamond – 60+ nights

The biggest differences come when you go from Silver to Gold.

Hilton Honors Gold provides members the following perks:

  • 80% bonus points on stays
  • Space-available room upgrades
  • Free continental breakfast
  • Milestone bonuses

You automatically get Hilton Gold status from having the Hilton Honors Surpass co-brand card, the American Express Platinum or Business Platinum cards.

If you value lounge access, it’s easy enough to get Diamond status with Hilton Honors Aspire card ($450 annual fee).

IHG Rewards Club

The IHG Rewards Club has 4 levels

  • Club – 0-9 nights
  • Gold – 10-39 nights
  • Platinum – 40-74 nights
  • Spire Elite – 75+ nights

These levels will be changing shortly when the program goes through a refresh. Besides the names of the new tiers and the stay requirements, there’s no other publically available information about the changes.

IHG Rewards Club doesn’t offer many benefits, regardless of which level you reach.

The biggest changes happen when you go from Club to Gold when you get these additional benefits.

  • Complimentary Room Upgrades
  • Guaranteed Room Availability
  • Extended Check-Out
  • Priority Check-In
  • Welcome Amenity
  • Raid the Bar
  • IHG Points do not expire

The IHG status level most points and miles people earn is Platinum, which you get by having the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card ($89 annual fee). The differences between Gold and Platinum are:

  • Complimentary Room Upgrades
  • Guaranteed Room Availability

There’s not much additional value from Gold, but it’s so easy to earn that there’s no reason not to be a Platinum if you stay at IHG hotels.

Marriott Bonvoy

The Bonvoy program has six tiers.

  • Member – 0-9 nights
  • Silver Elite – 10-24 nights
  • Gold Elite – 25-49 nights
  • Platinum Elite – 50-74 nights
  • Titanium Elite – 75-99 nights
  • Ambassador Elite – 100+ nights & $20K annual qualifying spend

I’ve already said that the jump between Gold and Platinum is the sweet spot of the Bonvoy program. When earning Platinum status you get these additional benefits:

  • Guaranteed 4 PM late checkout – except at resort and convention hotels and Design Hotels, where it is based upon availability. (vs. 2 PM non-guaranteed late checkout at all properties for Gold)
  • Welcome gift of points, breakfast or amenity (vs. points for Gold)
  • Enhanced Room Upgrade (including select suites for Platinum)
  • Lounge access
  • Guaranteed room type (cash compensation if not available)
  • Annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or gift options)

If you really want Platinum status without having to worry about meeting the 50-night requirement, you could just sign up for the $650 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX.

When reaching Titanium, you’ll get another choice benefit and a 48-hour guarantee of room availability (excluding special events), neither of which improves the quality of your stay.

World of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt program has four levels:

  • Member – 0-9 nights
  • Discoverist – 10-29 nights or 25,000 base points
  • Explorist – 30-59 nights or 50,000 base points
  • Globalist – 60+ nights or 100,000 base points

Hyatt loyalists love the World of Hyatt program because of the treatment of the top tier members. All of the most important benefits are reserved for Globalist members. Here are the benefits once reaching the top tier:

  • Club access or breakfast
  • Free parking on free nights
  • Priority access to rooms
  • Resort Fees waived on eligible rates (waived for all members on award stays)
  • Room upgrades including standard suites
  • 4 PM Late Checkout (vs. 2 PM for Explorist)
  • Guest of Honor – Share your in-hotel benefits when gifting an eligible award

Earning Globalist status isn’t easy but those who have it never want to give it up.

Final Thoughts

There’s no set rule about which hotel status is the best to have. Some, like IHG, give most of the benefits to their lower tiers while others, such as Hyatt, reserve almost all of the important benefits for the most loyal members.

Knowing what you get for each level can help you decide if it’s worthwhile moving a few nights to a hotel chain just to earn that next status level. You might get access to the hotel lounge for your upcoming stays or you might only receive a chance to get a room upgrade at the hotel’s discretion depending on availability.

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