I discussed how to get a Hyatt Diamond trial on Monday, a status that I’ve held for a few years. But in 2013 I decided to go for Platinum status with Starwood Preferred Guest, as well. Both programs have good benefits but relatively few properties (Hyatt especially so). It had started to become an issue. My general impression is that SPG Platinum status is not as good as Hyatt Diamond, but it has its own virtues depending on what you, as an individual, are looking for.
SPG Elite Status Can Be Easier to Obtain
My main reason for considering Platinum status in 2013 was that I knew I would have lots of award stays during our honeymoon that year, and award stays count toward elite status with SPG. (Since then, Hyatt has added the ability to earn elite stay credit with Points + Cash rates.) I even held out hope for a time that some family would stay at Starwood hotels during our wedding, since I could earn elite credit for up to three rooms per night. (Except they didn’t.) And with both personal and business versions of the SPG American Express Card, I automatically get 4 stays and 10 nights elite credit each year (2 stays and 5 nights each).
There is a definite advantage to earning elite status with nights instead of stays. By earning status through 50 nights instead of 25 stays, Starwood provides a more generous form of Platinum status with the offer of 10 suite night awards. Stay 75 or 100 nights and your benefits will be greater still. Hyatt seems treat all Diamonds equally, for better or worse.
As a frequent business traveler who books three to four nights a week, Starwood may provide you better recognition and faster elite status than Hyatt. As a leisure traveler who organizes family vacations and multiple rooms, you’ll get recognition for all the business you provide. And as a person doing manufactured spend, who tries to avoid paying cash for hotels, you can still earn top-tier status by redeeming points alone.
Benefits of SPG Platinum
The most basic level of Platinum status is earned by completing 25 eligible stays in a calendar year. In exchange, you’ll receive:
- 50% bonus points (3X instead of the usual 2X)
- Upgrades to the best available room, including standard suites
- Welcome gift of 500 points, continental breakfast, or a local amenity
- Club level access, where available
- Free Internet
- 4 PM late check-out
I like that Starwood offers a larger elite bonus than Hyatt — but you’ll need it because it’s top award tiers are especially inflated. I like that Starwood promises an upgrade to a standard suite if available — but not all hotels are forthcoming, and I have received complimentary suites from Hyatt. I’m a little disappointed that I’m forced to choose between points and breakfast, but at least some hotels are generous in providing more than just continental fare.
If you complete 50 eligible nights, you’ll also receive:
- 10 suite night awards, which can be applied up to 5 days before arrival, based on availability
These are not the same as Hyatt’s Diamond confirmed upgrades, each of which is good for one stay of up to 7 nights and can be booked as early as the time of booking. But, they do place one higher in the priority queue, ahead of complimentary upgrades at the time of arrival.
If you complete 75 eligible nights, you’ll also receive:
- 100% bonus points (4X instead of the usual 2X)
- Your24 benefits, permitting you to choose your arrival and departure time for those situations where you have flights that arrive very early or depart very late
I actually think these are worthwhile. The benefits of 50 nights, not so much. But I already laid out reasons why I think it might be easier to earn status with nights instead of stays.
If you complete 100 eligible nights, you’ll also receive:
- A personalized SPG Ambassador, who acts as a point person for handling reservations and arranging special occasions
I’m not sure this is something I would value. I like to do stuff myself, and I’ve heard conflicting reports from others about how responsive and helpful these Ambassadors truly are. But, it’s not like I’m going to get one soon.
How to Receive a Platinum Trial
Unlike with Hyatt’s Diamond status, I did not request a trial from SPG and earned Platinum status (50 nights) the hard way. I actually did hit 25 stays right before my last stay of the year, a three-night trip to Milan, which put me at 50 nights. The problem is that I never had enough eligible nights in a row so that I would qualify.
Anyone can request a challenge by emailing email@example.com, and you won’t need any pre-existing status to get it. But you will be excluded if you’ve already had Platinum status (for any reason) in the last five years. Status will not be granted up front because this is a challenge, not a trial. To complete the challenge, complete 18 paid nights in a 90 day period.
This was my problem. The only time I would have 18 nights in the same three months was around the honeymoon when most of our stays were either award nights or Cash & Points nights. These need to be fully paid nights to be eligible to complete the challenge. We ended up staying at hotels while I was only a Gold member, which I obtained for free as a benefit of my Business Platinum Card from American Express. The regular Platinum Card for consumers would also work.
Like with Hyatt, complete the trial late enough in the year and it will last for the remainder of this year as well as all of next year (through February 2016, in fact). You’ll still have to meet the regular requirements for elite status in 2015 to earn it for the entirety of 2016. The cutoff for late applications is April 1, so even if you apply right now you probably won’t earn 18 nights before the end of March.
If you already have 18 nights, or if you think you will soon, I’ve heard it’s possible to set the starting point for those 90 days sometime in the recent past for retroactive credit.