New Starwood Gold & Platinum benefits are official: suite upgrades, free breakfast, lifetime status, and 24 hour stays

Last night I posted about Starwood adding several Platinum benefits as of March 1, and it appears they’re now official. Not only that, but they’ve also added some Gold benefits. I think it’s fair to say this is a massive overhaul to the program, in some ways for the better and some ways for the worse (at least for some).

The new benefits are as follows:

Lifetime Gold and Platinum status

Starting March 1
SPG Lifetime Gold

You’re golden. Enjoy Gold membership status for life when you achieve 250 eligible nights total and any five years of elite SPG status since joining the program. If you’re currently Platinum, don’t worry — your Platinum benefits are still intact. Likewise, as an SPG Lifetime Gold member, you can still earn Platinum status each year. Just enjoy the comfort of knowing that the benefits of Gold status are yours, even if you have a light travel year.

Starting March 1
SPG Lifetime Platinum

It doesn’t get any better than this. Enjoy Platinum membership status for life when you achieve 500 eligible nights total and any 10 years of Platinum SPG status since joining the program. Yes, it’s quite an accomplishment — and one that deserves to be recognized for life.

There’s no doubt this is a huge improvement to the program, and the thresholds are surprisingly low, much lower than the competition. The Gold threshold is especially low, but then again, it’s not like Gold status comes with all that many benefits.

Elite Amenities

Starting March 1
Gold Welcome Gift

Check in, and check out your new Gold welcome gift options. Choose one with each stay — you’ve earned it.

Bonus Starpoints. Get to the points. Receive 250 bonus Starpoints® per eligible stay at St. Regis®, Luxury Collection®, W®, Le Méridien®, Westin® and Sheraton® and 125 Starpoints per stay at AloftSM, ElementSM and Four Points® by Sheraton.

In-Room Internet Access. Online. On us. Surf, stream and stay connected in the convenience of your guest room with free
in-room Internet access for your entire stay.

Complimentary Beverage. Cheers. Sit back and relax with your favorite cocktail in the hotel’s restaurant or bar.

The best option there for most will probably be free internet, which puts Starwood Gold ahead of Hyatt Platinum in my book.

Starting March 1
Platinum Continental Breakfast

Enjoy continental breakfast, bonus Starpoints or local amenities as your Platinum welcome gift. You and a guest staying on your reservation can start each day with juice, coffee, pastries, cereal, yogurt and more when you choose continental breakfast — along with our thanks for being one of our best members.

I’m happy to see that the continental breakfast appears to be daily for two guests. I was worried it would only be for one day during the stay, given that the Platinum welcome amenity is only given once per stay. That being said, I’m somewhat afraid continental breakfast will translate to a croissant and coffee. Interestingly, though, Sheraton hotels with club lounges are excluded, as Platinum members have to choose one of the other amenities. I’m not sure I understand the reasoning there. Furthermore, it appears Platinum members will have the option of upgrading to a full breakfast for the price difference between the continental and full breakfast.

And then the most interesting/controversial changes have to be their new nights benefits.

SPG Nights Benefits

Starting March 1
SPG® 50 Nights Benefit

Suite life. Stay with us at least 50 eligible nights in a calendar year and receive 10 Suite Night Awards™ to be used for confirmable room upgrades to a suite or premium room. Use them for the times that matter most — from a honeymoon in Bali to a family vacation in Florida. The choice is yours.

It’s interesting to note that this is retroactive, so if you spent 50 nights at SPG properties last year you’ll receive the suite upgrades in a few weeks. Starwood is really creating two tiers of Platinum members here — those that qualify on 25 stays, and those that qualify on 50 nights, making this a very interesting move. I’m surprised they didn’t instead offer one suite night for every five nights, for example, so that those Platinum members qualifying on stays aren’t at a disadvantage.

And the most interesting of all has to be the new benefits for those staying 75 nights:

Starting March 1
SPG 75 Nights Benefits

Four. It’s the new three. Complete 75 eligible nights in a calendar year and earn four Starpoints® for every eligible U.S. dollar spent. That’s the richest elite benefit in the industry — and a 100% bonus over Preferred membership.

Time on your side. Also get access to our new Your24™ benefit, which allows you the flexibility to choose your check in time. For example, if you check in at 9 p.m., check out at 9 p.m.

So if you complete 75 nights you get four points per dollar spent plus 24 hour stays for the remainder of the year and the entire following year. I’m curious if those with 75 nights will get some sort of designation making them “super-Platinums,” putting them first in line for upgrades.

In the end I’d say this is probably a wash for Platinum members qualifying on stays. While they now have the option of continental breakfast, upgrades may very well be a bit tougher to come by without any suite night awards. Gold members come out ahead, since they now get either bonus points or free internet.

Starwood Platinum members qualifying on points definitely come out ahead here, with those 10 suite night awards. And I think it goes without saying that those with 75+ nights come out way ahead here, since they’ll finally get added benefits for their incremental loyalty.

What do you guys thing? Excited? Indifferent? Angry? I’m curious to hear, and please also let me know your status and how you usually qualify for status (nights or stays) to add a bit of perspective.

Comments

  1. Points loverrrr says

    Will ‘regular’ platinum members still be eligible for a space available suite upgrades, or did that quietly disappear?

  2. James says

    “The best option there for most will probably be free internet, which puts Starwood Gold ahead of Hyatt Platinum in my book.”

    But Hyatt Platinum gets free wifi…

  3. lucky says

    @ James — Right, but Hyatt has limited benefits other than that. With Starwood you get a 50% points bonus and room upgrades, which you don’t get with Hyatt.

  4. Mike says

    I prefer Hiltons gold status due to free bfast. 125-250 pts isnt much, free internet is dumb domestically since u can use ur smartphone or use smartphone as ad-hoc. This doesnt change how i will travel.

  5. matt says

    Hotels with lounges have breakfast excluded as a benefit because it is already served in the lounge. Other than adding a discount on restaurant breakfast, not much point in offering it.

    As a stays qualifier (my stay pattern is mostly business stays that are 90% 1-night, plus whatever leisure stays I can fit in.) I’m somewhat torn. The added benefits are a good thing, and rewarding top customers makes sense. In any case where upgrades are being preallocated, the people with suitenights are probably already ahead of me anyway. Lifetime is nice, but I wonder how many people that adds to the plat pool?

    Applying all of these benefits retroactively has got to annoy people who were close but didn’t bother. A softer transition would have been better for them.

    Finally a use for the SPG amex qualification nights? They could possibly put 50 in reach.

    As it stands now, I’m HH diamond and SPG plat, both on nights. I flirted with Hyatt, but they just don’t have the coverage where I need it. Most of my leisure travel was at Starwood properties last year.

    Starwood footprint with modest-cost properties is an issue – unlikely I can squeeze very many more business stays to Starwood, and with Hilton at least claiming to be stepping up, interested to see where that program heads.

  6. Chelsea says

    I am excited about the changes. I used to travel all the time so I am top tier in both Hilton & SPG. I will should be around the 50-75 hotel nights this year so this might put me over the edge to focus on SPG exclusively. I should also be close to the suite upgrades incentive. I wonder if you can use these in addition to for free/point stays?

  7. lucky says

    @ matt — But many people still prefer a continental breakfast in a restaurant vs. club lounge. Notice how they only exclude Sheratons, and not other SPG brands that sometimes have club lounges. So I think there’s more to it.

    @ Chelsea — Absolutely, the suite upgrades can be used on award stays.

  8. Colleen says

    I’m curious if the look-back for the “lifetime” elites will be effective starting now, or effective for our current lifetime history of stays.

  9. lucky says

    @ Colleen — It’s based on your history of stays, so you can earn lifetime status today if you have the years/nights needed for it.

  10. lucky says

    Absolutely, per the terms and conditions:

    “If a member completed 75 or more Eligible Nights in 2011, when can they start requesting the Your24 benefit?
    Members who completed 75 or more Eligible Nights in 2011 can start requesting Your24 benefits on March 1, 2012. Members who reach 75 Eligible Nights in 2012 can start requesting Your24 anytime from March 1, 2012.”

  11. Rob says

    As somebody who averages about 125 paid nights/year in hotels, I think this is smart from a business perspective for Starwood. Previously I would typically qualify for SPG Platinum (on nights) and Marriott Gold or Platinum (also on nights), but the new benefits above 50 nights provide at least some incentive to shift nights to Starwood properties and focus on lower-tier status with another chain (Hyatt or Hilton, probably, since Marriott Silver is fairly worthless).

    On the benefits side, I see it pretty much as all upside, except that I am worried ocean-view rooms will become less-available unless redeeming the “suite nights” at SPG resort properties. Generally-speaking, as a Plat I’m able to get an ocean-view room when I’m on vacation on an award stay and I’d hate to have to feel like I have to turn in my chits for something I might get for free… or worse, not turn them in and then miss out on the ocean-view room. Something for Starwood to think about, since I don’t think they want to put their guests into these sort of “should I or shouldn’t I” type situations, it doesn’t make for a good customer experience.

  12. matt says

    @Lucky good point. I read the question, not starwood’s answer…

    It could be that the Sheraton brand has lounges as a standard while the other properties don’t, or it could be something more. Interesting wording.

    It certainly makes sense to offer specific benefits to those who spend a ton of nights in your hotels, to give people a reason to not move on after 25 stays.

  13. HoKo says

    Ben do you know if the 5 nights per year from Starwood Amex will count towards lifetime?

    Also now that award stays count towards elite status will they also count towards the lifetime thresholds?

  14. Toula says

    I actually think it is a good thing. We have no status in our household, but based on these changes will switch SPG to our number 1 program in 2012 as we expect to be able to get 75 nights this year.

    For me the lifetime qualification is interesting as my husband has 190 nights in the program, not sure how many years he hit Plat, but as he would be close to Lifetime Gold, it is a benefit that is probably worth us pursuing.

    Overall I can’t see anything wrong in rewarding those who stay the most. Others might whinge because they reach Platinum on 25 stays, but at some point you have to differentiate.

  15. Shaffer says

    As an Amex Platinum I get complimentary SPG Gold status. Assuming I have 5 years of SPG Gold status through Amex Platinum, does that make me SPG Lifetime Gold?

  16. Shaffer says

    Also, free continental breakfast is a joke. You get way better selection for free at Holiday Inn Express and Hyatt Place. If it was continental breakfast I would consider that a nice perk.

  17. john simpson says

    I am glad to see that a hotel chain is appreciative of their longer term stay guests, finally after all these years of spending weeks and weeks in a hotel and only having 1 stay. I wonder if Hilton now will match with something similar, that would be nice. I presume point stays and free stays count towards status, since the program was changed to reflect this in October.

  18. Carberrie says

    I’d rather see free breakfast as a benefit across the board for Platinums rather than now taking the place of the 500 points amenity gift, which may translate into some hotels just taking away the extra 500 points they’d otherwise give.

    I’m most curious to see how W Hotels will role out the free breakfast option. Will we get the breakfast buffet or some water’ed down option in a local cafe 2 blocks away?

  19. Kevin says

    @Rob…yes I’m concerned about not being able to get upgrades to the oceanviews too. However unlike Hyatt where 1 suite upgrade covers multiple nights, these are on a per night basis so while 10 seems like a lot, maybe it’s not too many especially if people don’t use wisely :-)

  20. says

    “That being said, I’m somewhat afraid continental breakfast will translate to a croissant and coffee.”

    There’s actually guidance on what continental breakfast consists of. Always individual hotels with compliance issues, but I wrote on my blog specifically what continental breakfast is supposed to me as explained by SPG to their hotels.

    “Interestingly, though, Sheraton hotels with club lounges are excluded, as Platinum members have to choose one of the other amenities. I’m not sure I understand the reasoning there.”

    You already get the lounge access, so you get breakfast, so you choose the points or local amenity, and SPG is also pushing hotels to refresh the local amenity option.

    “Furthermore, it appears Platinum members will have the option of upgrading to a full breakfast for the price difference between the continental and full breakfast.”

    This is the guidance but not a hotel REQUIREMENT. Hotels SHOULD do this but are not out of compliance if they do not.

    “I’m curious if those with 75 nights will get some sort of designation making them “super-Platinums,” putting them first in line for upgrades.” At the hotel level they will not be super Platinums. In terms of the algorithm for assigning upgrades, I have to think that this is part of the secret sauce that SPG hasn’t revealed.

    The Ambassador at 100 nights is also interesting, rolling out the new tier.

    And I really do think what ultimately may be the most interesting thing here is SPG taking the upgrade process out of the hands of the hotel for all advance upgrades…

  21. MillValleyMom says

    I’ll be staying at a Sheraton in February. Do you have any insight into whether they might be flexible with the free internet perk? Is it worth a phone call, or will I be wasting my breath? Thanks.

  22. Andy says

    Starwood has no annual rollover plan, am I right? Marriott has, though shortened to only one year since 2011.

  23. Andrew says

    Are the confirmable room upgrades only valid for paid stays, or can you book a cash and points stay, for example, and still use a confirmable upgrade?

  24. says

    Love this actually. I stayed 54 nights last year with SPG on a status matched Platinum status from Hhonors Diamond. I also gave HHonors 60+ nights, so I chose to not renew HHonors status this year I could conceivably get to the 75 nights perk and get the lifetime gold in another 18 months. The thresholds seem nice and low for the frequent traveller.

    I would have liked some sort of base points system too as I can requalify on HHonors quite easily with far less nights than that threshold, but can’t have everything :)

    I also really like the guaranteed suite upgrades too, great for those trips where I am extending a business trip into a vacation trip by staying over the weekend too.

    HHonors just updated their program, I wonder what the reaction is in their camp right now? They still have a great program but…

  25. lucky says

    @ Andy — Correct, no rollover unfortunately.

    @ Andrew — You can use them for paid or award stays (or cash and points stays, for that matter).

  26. lucky says

    @ Patrick — I believe they’ll status match to Gold, though for Starwood Platinum they’ll only do a challenge nowadays.

  27. mike says

    is the 24h deal guaranteed?
    I have seen way too many instances of “when available” “opional” late check outs only to be denied when actually at the property to believe this!!

  28. Elenaor says

    I’m hoping Hilton will follow suit with the lifetime status. If not, I may switch and see if I can at least attain gold by the time I retire.

  29. Jeff says

    Say you earn Gold for 5 years but you earn the 250 nights spanning a period longer than 5 years. Does that qualify for lifetime Gold, or do the nights need to be earned in the years you’re Gold to count?

  30. Tim says

    Time to get rid of Starwood. Until October, I had close to 600 stays. This included the old Westim Premier program from which SPG evolved . They were removed and only stays since 1999 now count——–the only hotel or airline program in history to not include accumulated points/nights throughout their history. I now have 400 or so and have told them where they can stuff their gold status.
    Here,s the other problems with this disgusting program
    1) SPG has made all stays count toward status—- free nights, cash and points, etc—-between that and credit card promotions, there will now be more phony platinums than real ones. So from someone who is a real platinum, this is really ugly——probably twice the number now and you can be certain they won’t be doubling the number of upgraded rooms and suites. Recently stayed at a property with 40 some upgradable rooms and there were 126 platinums there. Nobody happy!!!
    2) breakfast amenity choice totally bogus. Alomost all Starwoods at the lower end—-Westin, Sheraton, 4 Points—-give their platinums a full breakfast in addition to amenity. Now this continental breakfast becomes a choice, so you won’t get bonus points and breakfast. This is actually a REDUCTION in benefits.
    3) no secret that all programs operate to create maximum revenue for their company and the APPEARANCE of benefit to their guests. SPG simply the creepiest of the bunch. Very sly . Anyone who really looks into this new list of crap from them can see that it is evolving into a mess of “let’s make more people feel important and trick them out of real benefits.”. Only their quietly administered ViP and Ambassador people will ever be happy with this outfit.

    I can’t decide whether to quit them altogether or only stay on freebies and cash and points and become a phony platinum myself to add to their coming miseries down the line whe they have 2 million platinums! In the meantime, I’m a Diamond at Hyatt Free breakfast at every property Always an upgrade. And you actually have to earn it through minimum of 25 paid stays.

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