What is the best Hotel program to belong to?
The following, (like everything I write on my Blog) is my opinion. I hope you find it helpful and I would love to hear from you,
If you spend more than 100 nights a year in a hotel (and I spend about 250), then you are a professional traveler and have a different set of standards than the leisure traveler. For us a hotel room is truly your home away from home.
Each hotel chain has its own affinity program for frequent guests and I think it is very important to pick one or more to achieve top tier status with.
I have three goals when deciding my strategy for which Hotel Chains I want Elite status with.
· I want the most perks that will make me the most comfortable when I travel on business.
· The most points so that my rooms are free when I vacation or travel abroad and the rooms are priced in Euros or pounds and the exchange rate is horrible.
· Who treats me the best.
Currently , I am top tier with SPG(Starwood),Hyatt and Marriott. I used to be top tier with Hilton but I stopped staying in Hilton because they have a terrible program that got significantly worse after they sold out to a Wall St buy out group a couple of years ago.
I think the best overall program is SPG/Starwood (25 nights to become Platinum).They have the largest number of upscale hotels in great locations. You can earn lots of extra miles if you get their credit card (issued by American express, not my favorite, but we will talk about that another time) If you fly American you can convert them to AA miles and get a 20% bonus. In addition, now when you redeem your points for stays, even those stays count towards your elite status. Their status is so easy to achieve.
The downside to SPG is that since they issued their credit card their members are racking up so many points that most properties have stopped upgrading Platinum members to suites. They do give the 5th night free when you book 4 with points. Check with the specific hotel before you go.
Hyatt is my second favorite and would probably be #1 if they had more hotels in more cities. They are still are pretty generous with the upgrades although you need to be slightly aggressive and ask for it. They also give their Diamond members (25 stays per year) 4 free suite upgrades to use during each calendar year. Their credit card gives you points and 2 free nights a year.
Marriott, while it has more locations than the other two combined it is truly terrible!
The Marriott namesake hotels are all done in the same hideous red, gold and purple motif .It takes 70 nights to qualify for their top tier and they never upgrade you. It is so bad that I called Bill Marriott’s office about a problem and when asked “what can we do to make it up?” I replied “upgrade me to a suite at one of my upcoming stays." Even his office was unable to get me upgraded at one of his hotels! It is VERY difficult to use the points you have earned. Their executive lounges are closed on the weekends and that tells me they are not interested in the leisure traveler. There really is nothing good about their program.