Is Mid-Tier Hotel Elite Status Worth It?

Is Mid-Tier Hotel Elite Status Worth It?

 

Is mid-tier hotel elite status worth it? Back in 2011 Ben compared hotel chains' mid-tier elite benefits, but there have been some changes to what you get and how you can earn status, so I'd like to share my perspective. Before ranking the programs, I'd like to lay out the main criteria, since how you weigh these will affect your own valuation.

  • Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: How much do you value the specific mid-tier elite status benefits, such as free Internet, late checkout, and better rooms? If you don't actually value the benefits that much, then chasing status won't be worth it.
  • Hotel Presence in Places You Travel To: Does the hotel chain have properties in the places you travel to? For example, if a lot of your travel is domestic and in smaller locations, you might be hard pressed to find a Hyatt or even a Starwood property, while instead you'll find plenty of extended stay properties from Marriott, Priority Club and Hilton.
  • Aspirational Properties: Does the hotel have many amazing, luxurious properties that you actually want to redeem points for? Starwood has many, but Hilton, Club Carlson and Priority Club don't.
  • Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: How costly is it to redeem for the best properties? An award chart that's not competitive with other chains can make it not worth earning elite status.
  • Ease of Obtaining Status via Stays, Credit Cards: A number of cards bestow hotel elite status either as a cardholder or after certain minimum spend. But don't neglect to figure out your opportunity cost for that spend.
  • Your Travel and Number of Hotel Stays: How many stays at this hotel chain do you anticipate over the next year? If you only anticipate a few nights in hotels, status probably won't be worth it to you.
With those criteria in mind, here's my personal ranking of mid-tier hotel elite status, and how to earn it. As I've noted in prior posts, I prioritize quality of hotel over loyalty stays, so I only earn mid-tier status where it easily works for me–no “mattress running” which in any case is pretty hard to do cheaply in NYC.
 
 
1. Starwood Preferred Guest Gold
Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: 4/5
Hotel Presence: 5/5
Aspirational Properties: 5/5
Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: 4/5
Ease of Obtaining Status: 4/5
Total: 22
Credit Cards: SPG AMEX, SPG Business AMEX, AMEX Platinum
Credit Card Status Benefits: Each SPG card gives 2 stay credits that count towards elite status. AMEX Platinum gets you free SPG Gold Status
 
Why #1 for me: Starwood Gold is the only mid-tier hotel elite status that guarantees 4pm late check out. Other hotel programs such as Hyatt offer late checkout until 2pm based on availability, but I like being able to count on having a late check out if I need it, say because I want to take a nap before a late or red-eye flight. Sure, I once had to fight for this benefit at the St. Regis Bangkok, but it did get honored in the end. I've also been pretty fortunate with upgraded rooms, even with Gold (see What's Right with Starwood Preferred Guest), and of course complimentary Internet is a good if standard mid-tier benefit.
 
Starwood is especially good at having a large number of more upscale properties, including St. Regis, Luxury Collection Hotels, and some nice W and Westin hotels. And while the cost of outright free nights at Category 7 properties is expensive, Cash & Points redemptions are often (although not always) a great deal, and the nice thing is that award stays count towards elite status. 
 
The SPG cards won't get you automatic status, but if you have a personal SPG AMEX and a business SPG AMEX, you'll get 4 stay credits toward the 10 night stay requirement for SPG Gold. Or, if you have the AMEX Platinum, you do get complimentary SPG Gold, although you need to call up and request it–it doesn't usually happen automatically.
 
Given that only a handful of my stays each year are at Starwood properties, with others at Four Seasons, other TravelSort luxury and boutique hotels and a few Hyatts, it speaks to the overall good experience I've had with Starwood that I focus on retaining SPG Gold year after year.
 
 

2. Hyatt Platinum
Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: 3.5/5
Hotel Presence: 3/5
Aspirational Properties: 5/5
Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: 5/5
Ease of Obtaining Status: 5/5
Total: 21.5
Credit Card: Hyatt Visa
Credit Card Status Benefits: Hyatt Platinum Status

Why #2 for me: I don't value Hyatt Platinum status as highly as SPG Gold since it only gets you late checkout to 2pm, based on availability, and Hyatt doesn't have as many hotels around the world. That said, Hyatt does have the aspirational Park Hyatt brand, and an award night only requires 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points. Even better, Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Hyatt, and I can earn 5X points with all Amazon spend (and some other gift card spend) thanks to the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, which I can't do with SPG points. And the Hyatt Visa comes with complimentary Hyatt Platinum elite status, including free Internet and a preferred room within the category you book, in addition of course to the signup bonus of 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide.
 


3. Hilton HHonors
Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: 4/5
Hotel Presence: 4/5
Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Ease of Obtaining Status: 5/5
Total: 19
Credit Card Status Benefits: Hilton Gold Status 

Why #3 for me: Hilton HHonors Gold Status sounds great on paper, with its free Internet, complimentary continental breakfast (although not at Waldorf Astoria properties) and even upgrades based on availability to an Executive Floor Room, with access to the Executive Club Lounge. And of course Hilton has very good worldwide coverage. But again, late check-out is subject to availability, and I really can't get excited by most of Hilton's “aspirational” properties, with the exception of the Conrad Koh Samui. So at least for me, even with the ease of obtaining Hilton Gold Status with the Citi Hilton Reserve Card, I won't be applying for that card unless or until I have concrete plans to stay at the Conrad Koh Samui.



4. Marriott
Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: 5/5
Hotel Presence: 5/5
Aspirational Properties: 5/5
Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Ease of Obtaining Status: 1/5
Total: 19
Credit Card Status Benefits: Marriott Rewards Silver Status and 15 night credits towards Gold (requires 35 more nights)

Why #4 for me: Marriott Rewards is a curious beast. Its Gold Status is as hard to obtain as most other hotels' top tier status, requiring 50 nights, with no way to obtain it by a fewer number of stays. And even with 15 elite night credit from the Marriott Rewards Premier card, you still need to stay 35 more nights to qualify for Gold. If you do, then you get to enjoy a room upgrade based on availability, guaranteed lounge access or breakfast (although note this does not apply at resorts or at Ritz-Carlton hotels) and the usual free Internet and points bonus. Marriott, similar to Hilton, has an extensive worldwide presence, and the aspirational appeal is certainly there, since you can redeem Marriott points for Ritz-Carlton and Autograph Collection properties. But the high threshold to qualify pretty much ensures I will never ever chase Marriott elite status.
 


5. Club Carlson
Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: 3.5/5
Hotel Presence: 4/5
Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Ease of Obtaining Status: 2/5
Total: 18
Credit Card: Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa (up to 85,000 points, not my referral link)
Credit Card Status Benefits: Club Carlson Gold Status
 
Why #5 for me: Much has been made of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa, and certainly its most attractive feature is the ability to redeem for one night, and get the second consecutive night at the same property complimentary (or the last night of a multi-night award stay). But that is a benefit of the Visa, and not a mid-tier elite status benefit per se. While there are some nice Radisson and Radisson Blu properties, I really wouldn't call them aspirational in the sense that the best St. Regis, Starwood Luxury Collection, Park Hyatt or Ritz-Carlton properties are. And as with the other loyalty programs, apart from Starwood, late checkout is only up to 2 hours past regular checkout and is based on availability. The lack of aspirational properties and average mid-tier benefits are why, even though Club Carlson Gold Status comes with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa, I have no current plans to apply for the card. 
 

6. Priority Club
Value of Mid-Tier Elite Benefits: 2/5
Hotel Presence: 4/5
Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Redemption Cost for Aspirational Properties: 3/5
Ease of Obtaining Status: 5/5
Total: 17
Credit Card: Priority Club Visa (80,000 points, not my referral link)
Credit Card Status Benefits: Platinum Elite Status BUT note that this doesn't count for InterContinental Hotels, which has its own Ambassador and Royal Ambassador elite status. You need to pay $200 for Ambassador (except for an annual fall promotion, where you stay 3 times and receive Ambassador status) and Royal Ambassador is invitation only.
 
Why #6 for me: I have a real problem with a hotel loyalty program that doesn't even apply to all of its hotels. What I'm referring to is that the only Priority Club I have any interest in staying in, InterContinental, has its own loyalty program separate from the rest of Priority Club, such that Priority Club Platinum Status really doesn't mean anything at InterContinental, where you need to purchase Ambassador status for $200 or earn it via 3 stays during the fall promotion. To add insult to injury, you're not even entitled to status benefits on award stays. Finally, to date I haven't been all that impressed with the InterContinental hotels I've stayed in. That earns it dead last in my rankings of mid-tier hotel elite status.
 
The Verdict: The only hotel mid-tier status I find worth it to earn is SPG Gold, which I did this year via 6 stays and 4 stay credits from the SPG AMEX and SPG Business AMEX. I'm also glad to have the Hyatt Platinum status that comes with the Hyatt Visa since I have occasional stays at higher end Hyatts. But since I purposely have no stays at the other hotel chains, I also have no need for mid-tier status with them.
 
Do you find hotel mid-tier elite status worth it, and if so, for which hotel brand?
 
Related Posts

 
 
 
 

Check out and apply for the Best Travel Credit Cards.

If you enjoyed this, please follow TravelSort on Twitter or  like us on Facebook to be alerted to new posts. 

Become a Member to find your perfect luxury or boutique hotel at up to 50% off: TravelSort Hotels

Share This:

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

avatar