Comparison of Lower Tier Hotel Status

Thanks for all your comments on my first draft comparing top tier hotel status. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve updated the top-tier tables with some corrections and added Club Carlson to the mix. Go back to the original post to find them. The present post contains tables I created for lower and middle tier status, which was a little easier. (When there are fewer benefits, there are no terms and conditions to decipher to figure out what exactly is being promised.)

You can download a PDF with all of the tables here, and I’ve added a link to the Resources tab, as well. Downloading the images might give you a better resolution because these tables are all different sizes.

Hotel Lower Tiers 1

Hotel Lower Tiers 2

Analysis

Many of the lower tiers of elite status can be easily obtained just with a credit card, which I’ve discussed earlier in the context of free hotel Internet access. I think these tables are most useful not for comparing between brands but for comparing to the benefits you’d receive at the same hotel with higher status. For example, Marriott and InterContinental both have pretty high thresholds for their top tier. Do you really need it? Maybe you can get by with something less. The upgrade benefit at Marriott is exactly the same for Gold and Platinum members — Platinum members just have higher priority (as you would expect).

Just going by the qualification requirements, I think Hyatt has one of the best payouts for the investment required. Only 15 nights or 5 stays for Platinum status, which gets you free Internet and a 2 PM checkout. Marriott and Hilton have a similar requirement, with only 10 nights, but Silver status in either program does not come with free Internet and late check-out is by request only. Gold status requires a big jump to 40-50 nights.

But who really qualifies by stays for these lower tiers? The Hyatt Credit Card offers free Platinum status, two free nights for signing up, and another free night each year. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers free Gold status and two free nights for signing up.

Kimpton is unique in that their lowest tier isn’t really a tier at all. All general members of InTouch, a free program, get a range of benefits that include Internet. (If you forgot to sign up before arriving, the hotel encourages you to join when you first access the network.) Contrast this with InterContinental’s Ambassador status, which costs $150 each year to renew. It has many of the same benefits promised to Royal Ambassadors, which have a stay requirement but no renewal fee — although regular Ambassadors do not get the mini bar credit and have lower upgrade priority.

Promised Benefits vs. Personal Experience

Going back to the changes I made to the top tier comparison tables, I softened the language slightly on “discretionary” benefits, which apparently upset some people. To be clear, I am not supportive of loyalty programs that try to give themselves lots of exceptions to weasel their way out of benefits. If a hotel is going to guarantee a late check-out, it should specify a time and stick to it. If it’s by request only, on the day of departure, and with a time of the hotel’s choosing… well, I have done that successfully many times even without elite status.

The fact is, what a hotel does in practice and what it guarantees are two entirely separate things. Hotels will always bend the rules now and then, but a suite upgrade that relies on a good mood at the front desk isn’t a benefit — it’s just luck combined with good service. Here are examples of three hotel program’s rules on suite upgrades:

  • Hyatt (Diamond): “Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites.”
  • Starwood (Platinum): Upgrades to best available room at check-in, including Standard Suites.”
  • Marriott (Platinum): “Upgrades may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites.”

Only Starwood Preferred Guest promises a suite upgrade, if available. Hyatt specifically excludes a suite. Marriott says a suite is one of many possibilities. This is the kind of language I hate to see in program benefits. Marriott makes an effort to describe every kind of preferred room if only to emphasize that any one of them will satisfy their obligation to you. A suite upgrade is still at Marriott’s discretion, just as any Hyatt can go above and beyond if it chooses (my first stay as a Diamond member was in the Presidential Suite).

Disclaimer: I may receive compensation if you apply for and are approved for some of the cards mentioned on this page. Your support is appreciated.

About 

Scott created Hack My Trip while traveling on a budget during graduate school and continues to share his thoughts on better travel. He maintains elite status with American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hyatt, and Starwood.
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  • Gene

    IC Ambassador members do not get any choice of welcome amenity, but instead receive fruit and water. I think you have the 2,000 points confused with the number of base points earned by Ambassadors and Royal Ambassadors when staying at InterContinentals outside of the US (2,000 points per stay, regardless of spend). Furthermore, although suites are not guaranteed for Royal Ambassador members, IC RA is by far the most dependable status for the best suite upgrades.

    • Scottrick

      I did say in the footnote that the points are in addition to the food and beverage. I was not aware the points were only for international properties, so thank you for that clarification. I’ll update the tables.

      • Gene

        Scott — Note that the 2,000 points are instead of the usual 10 points per dollar earned at brands other than InterContinental and at US InterContinental properties. This is probably the worst part of the Ambassador program since you would earn only 2,000 base points for an international IC stay even if you stayed for weeks and/or spend thousands of dollars.

  • Joe

    There is no upgrade potential for Marriott silvers.

    • Scottrick

      You are correct. I’ll update the tables.

  • Paul

    As someone with three of these statuses, I can say Marriott is easily the WORST. In over 30 nights with Marriott in the last two years, I’ve never been upgraded or even been verbally recognized for having Silver status.

  • Elaine

    Thanks, Scott. Just printed the tables for my reference binder!

  • Bryan

    What a resource. Thanks for always bringing this quantitative approach. It really sets your blog apart from the many others in this crowded space.

  • Matt

    Thanks for this! You’re right that certain Hyatt properties are very generous to
    elites. I’ve been upgraded to suites at the GH Seattle and HR Orange County as
    a lowly Plat member.

  • http://www.BaldThoughts.com/ Lee Huffman

    Scott, thanks for making these easy to read schedules. Low-level status acquired through credit cards and status matches is awesome for those of us who don’t travel too much with work and don’t pay for rooms often enough personally to acquire higher-tier status.

  • Jonathan

    What are you’re thoughts on having a chart that combines all the major airline award charts instead of having to compare each one separately? I would think there would be such a thing but a quick search didn’t turn up anything on Google.

    • Scottrick

      That’s a good idea. I’ll work on it. (Or if someone else has a work-in-progress, feel free to share it with me. I am always willing to add stuff to the Resources page.)

      • Jonathan

        In putting together a mini one myself today (just for North America to a couple different countries I’m interested in visiting) I found that the scale of such a thing could easily grow out of control making it difficult to convey in two dimensions. Thus I think maybe taking the approach of single charts for “Travel from/to _” could make it a bit easier to convey instead of one giant chart with everything (unlike the airline award charts which show all countries to all countries, but don’t leave room for other airlines). In any case, you’ve done a great job with the other charts, so I’m sure you’ll come up with something that works well. I’ll probably hack away at it myself in Excel so I have the option to filter on countries and sort by points. Looking forward to see what you put together.