I know it’s only April, but time flies, and I think it’s very wise to take stock of where you stand on obtaining elite status for the next year every so often. Today, I want to focus on hotel elite status for next year. I hold status with 2 chains, Starwood, where I am Platinum, and Hilton, where I hold Diamond status. As of today, I’m at 6 stays and 15 nights with Starwood, and 1 stay and 2 nights with Hilton. It’s not unusual for the first quarter of each year to be light on travel for me, and this year is no different. Things are about to pick up and I will fall into my more typical travel patterns again.
As of now, it is not likely that I will be able to attain top tier status in both SPG and HHonors in 2012. However, it is a virtual certainty that I can attain top tier in one program if I concentrate my stays with a single loyalty program going forward. Time to take stock of things. Both programs provide complimentary high speed internet to their top tiers (and HHonors does for Gold members as well). That’s a big deal for me. Each program will also provide room upgrades. But Starwood really comes out on top here, because they will upgrade Platinum members to a suite at check in if available. HHonors, on the other hand, specifically excludes suites. I’ve had some great suite upgrades at W and Westin hotels….I mean rockin’ suites. 🙂 Heck, I’ve even lucked out a few times with Hilton, but Starwood wins on suite upgrades.
On the topic of elite bonuses, HHonors “sounds” better with 10 points per dollar spent, and a 50 percent bonus on base points for Diamonds. Platinum Starwood members earn 3 points per dollar spent, but most of us know that Starwood points are FAR more valuable than HHonors points. On the topic of service, I’d say that Starwood’s Platinum Concierge is great, but I’ve had good service from the Hilton Diamond desk too.
There are other things to consider as well. For example, I love the transferability of Starwood points: 1 for 1 to many airline programs (notably American and Delta, but not United who will only give you 1 mile for every 2 points) with a 5,000 point bonus for 20,000 points transferred. Couple this with the excellent Starwood credit card from American Express, and you’ve got a real value proposition there. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using the Starwood credit card for all your spend, but using a different hotel brand. Hilton has a couple of attractive card options if you decide to concentrate your stays and card points earning with them as well.
Other than credit cards, there’s the not so small issue that there are something north of 3,600 HHonors properties around the world compared to over 1,000 for Starwood. Not a huge issue when I’m visiting a major city, but it’s not unheard of for business to take me to places like Fayetteville, NC or Huntington, WV. Try finding a W Hotel in either of those spots. Of course, if I’m in a spot like that, I’m more than likely to be bunking at a Hampton Inn where the internet is free, and there’s not much in the way of elite benefit to be had anyway.
That’s a lot of pontificating about a decision I am going to need to make in the very near future. Will I go for top tier with Starwood or Hilton? Or do I chunk them both and roll with Marriott? Do you take stock of your elite qualification progress throughout the year? What would you do? Stay tuned for my decision, and another post about airline elite status too.