Last year, Hyatt shocked many members by not just updating its popular Gold Passport loyalty program but by announcing a completely new one: World of Hyatt. This change takes effect in a couple weeks on March 1, 2017, in the form of new benefits and elite tiers.
Some of the initial criticism focused on the branding–the awkward square logo and the new elite tiers in particular. Much of that is irrelevant to me personally. However, we can debate the benefits of the program itself. (I actually think it’s fantastic when it comes to marketing the program with images like the one below; the problem is the default blue background.)
New Elite Tiers
The most significant changes implemented with World of Hyatt are the qualification criteria and benefits of elite status.
The old program had two tiers, Platinum and Diamond, that you could qualify by tracking either the number of nights or the number of stays (check-in/check-out) during a calendar year. The new program has three tiers: Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalist. In addition, you can only earn status by accumulating nights or a certain number of base points. This will be a disappointment to those who qualified with several short stays.
Rather than try to explain how the old tiers will be matched to the new ones, here’s a chart that Hyatt created to explain the process:
More Meaningful Elite Benefits
Because the program is moving from two elite tiers to three, I’ll compare what’s gained or lost. Only a few changes are significant, but I think these are also more meaningful to guests. What may impact people more in the short term is finding they don’t qualify for the same tier as before.
Discoverist vs. Platinum
With 10 qualifying nights or 25,000 base points you earn Discoverist status. The lowest tier previously required 15 nights or 5 stays, so this is a happy medium. Virtually no benefits are lost.
Members will still receive expedited check-in, a 2 PM check-out, and a room upgrade based on availability. I’m not clear if the complimentary bottled water is a new or existing benefit, but I never had trouble asking for this before. Changes that might matter to some people is a reduction in bonus points from 15% to 10%, and the loss of a guaranteed room 72 hours before arrival.
Explorist vs. Platinum
30 qualifying nights or 50,000 base points are needed for Explorist status. Explorist is a step up for most members who, in the past, easily qualified for Platinum status but couldn’t meet the much higher criteria for Diamond.
Now they’ll get 20% bonus points instead of 15%, as well as four Club lounge access awards to use on the stays when it matters most. The 72-hour room guarantee is preserved (if you were used to enjoying this as a Platinum member), and other perks of Discoverist status apply. Many members will also receive a free award night at a Category 1-4 hotel when they stay 30 nights, which is the same qualification criteria for earning status, although this is not technically a benefit for Explorist members.
Frankly, I don’t need to visit the club on every stay and would probably be satisfied as an Explorist member.
Explorist vs. Diamond
If you were the person who regularly qualified for Diamond status with only 25 stays, then you might find Explorist to be a let-down. The 30% bonus points are reduced to 20%, the late check-out moves from 4 PM to 2 PM, and suite upgrades are no longer an option.
This is probably the most painful transition in the program. However, I think it’s also a very small demographic. If you have 25 one-night stays, you don’t have a lot of time at the hotel to enjoy those benefits.
Globalist vs. Diamond
Diamond members who were already qualifying on 50 nights a year will need to bump this up to 60 nights to be eligible for the new Globalist tier, or you could obtain this with 100,000 base points instead ($20,000 in eligible spend).
Club lounge access, a 4 PM check-out, and 48-hour room guarantees are still provided, as is the usual 30% bonus on points earned. But I think additional benefits make the higher qualification criteria worthwhile: free parking on award stays and a complimentary suite upgrade on arrival, based on availability.
Many members will also earn a free night at any hotel and four suite upgrade awards that can be confirmed in advance (each for a seven-night stay), although these particular benefits are only given if you stay 60 qualifying nights in a year. That’s the same qualification criteria for Globalist status, but the benefits are technically separate.
On the downside, you’ll be losing a welcome amenity of 1,000 points or a food and beverage treat. The value of the welcome amenity really depends on whether you were someone who qualified on nights or stays. Someone qualifying on nights — the new model — might have only 20 three-night stays on average, and the annual free night award is actually more valuable.
It’s interesting that some of these are listed as incremental benefits (see below) even though the qualification criteria are identical to those of Globalist status. However, that’s probably because the re-qualification criteria drop to 55 nights if you were a Globalist member the previous year, so this encourages you to still reach the full 60 nights.
In addition to the defined benefits of each elite tier, Hyatt is also introducing new perks for incremental purchases. Psychologically, this should be a way to keep members interested in the program and avoid the frustration that often fills a void between two levels.
Now when you stay at 5 different brands on an eligible rate you’ll get a free Category 1-4 award night. If you stay 70, 80, or 90 nights (20, 30, or 60 nights beyond what’s needed for Globalist status), you can choose 10,000 bonus points or an additional suite night award each time.
There are other incremental benefits with qualification criteria that match (or nearly match) the same criteria for elite status. I discussed them above in the main benefits of status so as to show they’re not being eliminated.
Earning and Redeeming Points
There are no meaningful changes to how points are earned and redeemed under the new World of Hyatt program. You’ll still earn 5 base points per dollar as before, and the redemption chart is not changing.
There are some slight changes to how many bonus points you’ll earn if you have elite status. Top tier members still get a 30% bonus. However, the new program has two lower tiers that earn either a 10% or 20% bonus, whereas the old program only had one lower tier that earned 15%.
As I said, no meaningful changes here.
Mixed News for the Hyatt Credit Card
Some of the perks you were used to getting with the Hyatt credit card are changing. It’s no longer possible to earn qualifying nights just be reaching a certain threshold in your annual spending. These could be used to goose your progress toward elite status if you were a few nights short.
However, the changes aren’t necessarily bad. If you do have the credit card, you automatically qualify for Discoverist status, just as previously you automatically qualified for Platinum status. If you spend $50,000 you will get a boost to Explorist status even if you never stay at a Hyatt hotel. Previously you needed to spend $40,000 just to get 10 qualifying nights, which would still leave you 20 nights short.
While spending on your credit card won’t make it easier to get Globalist status, consider that if you already had Globalist status the year before you can now requalify with five fewer nights–even if you don’t have the credit card.
Adjusting Expectations at MGM
Hyatt’s MGM partnership in Las Vegas is being diluted. There’s no simpler way to say it. Tier matches to MGM’s Mlife program will be cut down a notch so that Discoverist members receive Mlife Pearl instead of Gold status, while Explorist and Globalist members receive Mlife Gold instead of Platinum status.
Yet I think it’s important to put this in perspective. The MGM partnership is still a good program and the only meaningful partnership remaining in Las Vegas now that Starwood and Caeasars are terminating theirs. It was also probably too generous before. You used to get better status at MGM hotels by getting a Hyatt credit card than you could with MGM’s own credit card.
Finally, unless you actually spend a lot of money at the tables, the status matches were mostly useful for cutting taxi queues and free coffee at the VIP reception–hardly earth shattering benefits. I really value the relationship for being able to earn points and stay credit with Hyatt when staying at MGM hotels, not the status match.
Besides some new names and imagery, what is really changing in the World of Hyatt?
The qualification criteria for elite status are changing, but a new middle tier will fill an obvious need. I actually think the perks of Explorist status are pretty good. If you can actually reach Globalist status, you need to prove you’re a very frequent traveler rather than take the old shortcut, but these benefits have also been enhanced.
You’ll earn and redeem points almost exactly as before, plus there are new opportunities to earn free nights throughout the year. On average this is an improvement.
Some benefits associated with MGM and the Hyatt credit card are being trimmed or adjusted. I think the changes to the credit card are neutral, and the changes to the MGM partnership are overdue.