- Elite status (Tiers, ease of earning, lifetime)
- Room upgrades (suites!)
- Breakfast and lounge access
- Late checkout
- Miscellaneous (Customer service, Tech/IT, BRG, promos, partnerships)
- Points earning rates and redemption values
- Global footprint analysis
Lounge access and breakfast will be handled together since they are usually inter-related. They will only be considered as benefits if granted directly as a result of status as opposed to being granted due to an upgrade to a room which grants them as part of the room benefits.
In Middle East and Asia none of the following chains serve the limited continental breakfast common in the US
The only 2 options commonly encountered are:
Lounge/Intermediate breakfast: Usually a full English breakfast and is the International version of “continental”. This includes all the basics plus hot eggs and meat options and is usually served in lounges
Restaurant breakfast: This is the full buffet breakfast and includes dozens of choices including various international and local cuisines. Usually a ridiculous spread in size and quantity displayed and more than enough for a brunch if had past 1030 am.
SPG promises lounge access for 2 people whenever there is a lounge (irrespective of brand). So if you stumble on a St Regis, Luxury Collection or a W hotel with a lounge, you will get access. Marriott and Hilton both restrict lounge access to largely business/boring brands.
The best lounges that I have seen across the various chains have all been SPG lounges. The flagship SPG lounge in UAE/Middle East/MENA would probably be Grosvenor House Dubai (Luxury Collection!) which will offer a full board package (breakfast, lunch, light dinner) along with an alcohol selection that requires a menu! Cost? Free if Platinum
In addition, SPG offers complimentary ‘continental’ breakfast with the lounge access whenever there is a lounge. This is usually a full English breakfast (with hot eggs + meat) along with other items that would qualify as a full buffet in USA.
When the hotel does not have a lounge, you can choose “continental” breakfast for 2 instead of 500/250 starpoints (depending on brand) as your welcome amenity. However, in the regions outlined above, I have never seen any property that implemented a distinct continental breakfast for Platinums. They always just offer the full buffet breakfast in the restaurant.
Even when there is a lounge (Which would exclude you from the restaurant’s full buffet at Hyatts), SPG hotels still typically allow you to trade your welcome amenity starpoints towards the restaurant breakfast. This is usually 500 or 250 starpoints depending on brand which works out to approx. 10 or 5 USD total or 5 or 2.5 USD per person (2 people). This is exceptional value for upgrading from lounge to restaurant breakfast and beats the upgrade value offered by others. If the hotel has a lounge, you can have ‘breakfast’ in the lounge (say at 0600) and use the starpoints amenity to have ‘brunch’ in the restaurant couple of hours later (~1030)!
Hyatt offers breakfast with lounge access whenever there is a lounge and offers full restaurant breakfast otherwise. The lounge and restaurant benefit is for a maximum of 4 people but that in itself does not make it a superior benefit because the base rate for a room allowing an occupancy of 4 already accounts for the extra benefits delivered (basically you will pay extra for those 2 people in the room rate).
However, when a lounge *is* available and you want to upgrade from lounge to restaurant breakfast, you usually pay full price for restaurant breakfast. SPG lets you trade 500/250 starpoints (approx. 5 or 2.5 USD per guest) to upgrade across most hotels internationally (not guaranteed).
So when there is no lounge, you ‘forfeit’ 2.5 to 5 USD per guest with SPG to get what Hyatt elites get for free.
When there is a lounge, you can (usually but not necessarily) ‘forfeit’ 2.5 to 5 USD per guest with SPG to upgrade to full restaurant breakfast whereas you are stuck with Hyatt and cannot upgrade at a cheap rate. Neither the ability to upgrade in lieu of welcome amenity nor the ‘full’ breakfast when the ability exists are guaranteed, however, they are common regionally at least.
For this reason, I don’t regard Hyatt as the clear number 1 for breakfast benefit.
Hilton offers the next best benefit for breakfast and lounge access. Gold members get lounge access only if they are upgraded to a room that grants lounge access as part of the room benefits. If you get lounge access, you get breakfast in the lounge, otherwise you can have breakfast in the restaurant (for Golds, you have to pay for this with your welcome amenity points).
Diamonds get lounge access without any strings attached and breakfast free along with it. While SPG hotels almost always ignore the ‘continental’ part of the promised benefit and just provide full breakfast, Hilton hotels are all over the place with their policies, some enforce the continental concept of limited breakfast, others will go above and beyond stated requirements.
The lounge benefit is restricted to Conrad, Curio, Hilton and DoubleTree brand hotels. Waldorf Astoria hotels aren’t included for breakfast or for lounge access (this makes it significantly weaker than SPG/Hyatt because of the lack of guaranteed breakfast at top tier properties). Some may choose to offer breakfast anyway but this is not part of the stated benefits and not uniform across the brand.
The lounge/breakfast policy also leads to an interesting and unique situation where Golds can sometimes have a superior breakfast benefit to Diamonds if they do not get upgraded to a room with lounge access as they will frequently be invited for restaurant breakfast (in exchange for 1000 welcome points) and Diamonds will have to make do with lounge breakfast (for free). Any hotel that allows Gold members to have full restaurant breakfast should generally allow Diamond members the same courtesy if asked. If Gold members are offered lounge access but do not drink (eg: Muslim guests) it might be worthwhile to enquire if they can trade full restaurant breakfast instead of lounge access (and lounge breakfast). The answer is almost always yes but is entirely upto hotel discretion.
Marriott/Ritz have the weakest breakfast benefit of the major US chains evaluated here.
The following brands will grant lounge access and breakfast to Golds and Platinums:
Except any of those that are resorts!! (Key exclusion #1)
The following brands will not:
Bvlgari (doesn’t participate in loyalty program at all)
Courtyard!! (key exclusion #2)
Any resort from any brand! (exclusion #1 again)
Moxy (exclusion #3)
There maybe a couple others that don’t as well.
With the overwhelming majority of its heavy lifting business hotels (Courtyards), all resorts anywhere in the world (of any brand) and all branded luxury properties (Ritz/Edition/Bvlgari) not offering any sort of breakfast benefit, it is by far the weakest major US chain in this comparison.
What is even more worrying is that new brands such as Moxy where owner agreements do not have to be renegotiated for brand standard benefits are also not providing breakfast, in stark contrast to SPG and Hilton competitors. This suggests no quick fix in the near future and no recognition that this is a program weakness.
Accor Le Club
Offers lounge access and breakfast (as part of lounge access only) only to the highest Platinum level. Golds go hungry unless they are upgraded to a room that grants lounge access as part of the room benefits. However unlike Hilton, they don’t get breakfast at all if they do not get lounge access. No one is entitled to restaurant breakfast.
Accor has precious few hotels that have lounges and even then there are big exclusions in some of their key markets like Australia (The only market where they are clearly dominant) where properties do not honour Le Club benefits because, just because. Actually finding an Accor hotel which has a lounge and then getting access to that lounge is a chore (like almost everything else with Accor).
Does not offer lounge access or breakfast as a stated benefit for any elite level. However, you maybe upgraded into a room that has lounge access or breakfast included.
SPG always grants breakfast and lounge access and allows upgrade from lounge to restaurant breakfast frequently but this is not covered in T&C.
Hyatt also always grants breakfast and lounge access and guarantees the stronger benefit as per T&C but is often beaten by SPG’s stronger implementation despite a weaker promise.
Hilton is also close behind. It is very easy to get Gold Status with Hilton which then allows the *easiest* access to a breakfast benefit. Hilton will frequently violate the ‘continental’ aspect of the breakfast for the guest’s benefit.
Marriott is a distant last amongst the US chains here and so far behind it isn’t worth comparing.