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While I got involved with airline status long before I got involved with hotel status, I’ve found hotel status to be more and more valuable over the past few years as they’ve added more benefits.
Heck, until a few years ago free breakfast and guaranteed late check-out weren’t even common elite benefits. But nowadays if the hotel “game” is played right it’s extremely valuable, in my opinion.
As I get ready to move into hotels full time next month, I’ve been reflecting on which program is really most valuable. My two favorite top tier hotel status levels are Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum.
Let me first (very) briefly share my thoughts on Hilton and Marriott and why they’re not my preferred programs, as I am asked about both programs frequently:
Hilton HHonors Gold/Diamond
If you’re not a super frequent hotel guest, Hilton is a program that’s tough to beat. If you have either their Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card or the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass Card, you get the following elite benefits:
- Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card
- Hilton HHonors Diamond status for any year in which you spend $40,000 on the card
Gold status gets you free internet and breakfast, which I find to be the two most valuable hotel elite amenities. Hilton also has amazing coverage across the globe, and has properties just about anywhere you could want to go.
Don’t get me wrong, I have Diamond status through the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, but only stay at Hiltons when there’s not a better Hyatt or Starwood option.
Marriott Rewards Platinum
Marriott has the highest elite qualification tiers of any major program, as they require 75 nights for Platinum status. And for that you don’t even get suite upgrades, guaranteed late check-out, or breakfast at resorts as published elite benefits.
In fairness, if you have the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card you get 15 nights towards status annually, and you get an additional night toward status for each $3,000 you spend on the card.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the two programs I do love — Hyatt and Starwood.
To start, lets recap the benefits the programs list for top tier status on their websites:
- Achieve rewards even faster with a 30% point bonus when choosing points
- Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites
- Receive exclusive access to the Regency Club or Grand Club lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres2. Enjoy daily complimentary full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge
- Treat yourself to a suite upgrade at the time of reservation four times annually on eligible paid nights
- Receive a special welcome point bonus or food and beverage amenity during each stay5
- Receive a nightly room refresh
- Receive the confirmed bed type at check-in
- Stay connected with complimentary in-room Internet access
- Expedite check-in at a dedicated area for elite members
- Ensure a room is always available with our 48-hour guarantee
- Extend your stay until 4:00 p.m. with a late check out request
- Book reservations through an exclusive Diamond line
- Three Starpoints per eligible US dollar spent, a 50% bonus over the Preferred level.
- Upgrades to best available room at check-in, including Standard Suites.
- Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast (New Option!) or local amenities.
- Club- and Executive-level privileges where available.
- Complimentary in-room Internet access.
- 4 p.m. late checkout, so you can sleep in, relax by the pool or see more of the local area you’re visiting.
- Access to Hotel’s Health Club / Gym where available.
- Guaranteed room availability when your room is booked by 3 p.m., 72+ hours prior to arrival.
- Our signature Platinum Concierge service at 888-625-4991 – always one call away to help you arrange just about anything regarding your visit. It’s service tailored to your needs.
So what are my actual thoughts on the two status levels?
Starwood Platinum vs. Hyatt Diamond: Ease Of Qualification
Both Starwood Platinum and Hyatt Diamond require 25 stays or 50 nights per calendar to achieve. Both of their co-branded credit cards offer “shortcuts” to status, though:
|Qualification Method||Starwood Platinum||Hyatt Diamond|
|Co-Branded Credit Card||Two stays and five nights towards elite status just for having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express |
(if you have both cards, that means you start each year with four stays and 10 nights towards status)
|Two stays and five nights towards Diamond status when you spend $20,000 on the Chase Hyatt Visa Card in a calendar year
Receive an additional three stays and five nights towards Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on the Chase Hyatt Visa Card in a calendar year
(if you spend $40,000 per year, that means you receive four stays and 10 nights towards status each year)
|Eligible Stays||All Starwood stays count towards status, including free night and Cash & Points bookings||Points + Cash bookings count towards status, while outright free night stays don’t|
While Hyatt offers a more lucrative challenge, Starwood Platinum is easier to maintain between the elite stay and night credits through the credit card, and the fact that all nights count towards status.
Starwood Platinum vs. Hyatt Diamond: Earning Points Through Stays
|Starwood Platinum||Hyatt Diamond|
|Points per $1||As a Platinum member you earn 3.0 Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties||As a Diamond member you earn 6.5 Gold Passport points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties|
|Value of Points||I value Starwood points at ~2.2 cents each, so that’s a return of 6.6%||I value Hyatt points at roughly 1.5 cents each, so that’s a “return” of ~9.75%|
|Promotions||Typically offers less lucrative promotions than Hyatt, and often has excluded hotels (the current SPG promotion offers a maximum of 700 bonus Starpoints per night)||Fairly consistently offers decently lucrative promotions, typically offering an average of 2,500 bonus Hyatt points per night, if maxed out|
You’ll earn more points for Hyatt stays than Starwood stays, both in terms of the earnings rates on base spend and in terms of promotions.
Starwood Platinum vs. Hyatt Diamond: Earning Points Through Credit Card Spend
|Starwood Platinum||Hyatt Diamond|
|Co-Branded Credit Cards||Starwood offers the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express||Hyatt offers the Chase Hyatt Visa Card, but also participates in the Ultimate Rewards Program|
|Other Credit Cards||Only reasonable way to earn Starpoints on credit card spend is through the co-branded cards||You can earn Hyatt points through the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold® Business Card and Ink Plus® Business Card, etc.|
|Points per $1 Spent||Both offer 2 points/$1spent at SPG properties, and 1 point/$1 spent on everything else.||The Hyatt Visa offers 3 points/$1 spent at all Hyatt properties, 2 points/ $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies, and 1 point/$1 spent on everything else. |
The Ultimate Rewards cards not only offer bigger sign-up bonuses, but also offer 2-5 points per dollar in several spending categories
Hyatt points are not only much easier to come by through hotel stays, but also through everyday spend.
Starwood Platinum vs. Hyatt Diamond: Upgrades
|Starwood Platinum||Hyatt Diamond|
|Upgrade Instruments||If you earn 50 elite qualifying nights in a year you receive 10 Suite Night Awards, each of which can be used to confirm an upgrade for one night up to five days before arrival (Suite Night Awards can also be applied on awards)||For earning Diamond status you receive four Confirmed Suite Upgrade Awards, each of which can be used to confirm a suite on a revenue or Points + Cash reservation at the time of booking for up to seven consecutive nights|
|Complimentary Upgrades||If not using a Suite Night Award, you receive the best available room, up to a standard suite.||If not using a confirmed suite upgrade, you receive the best available non-suite|
In theory I think Hyatt has the slight edge here, though it all depends on the individual.
As a Diamond member you can receive up to 28 “confirmed” nights in a suite if you’re maxing out the Suite Night Awards, while with Starwood you can confirm at most 10 nights.
That being said, with Starwood you can upgrade award reservations as well, and if you frequently make short stays you may come out ahead (since you can apply the Suite Night Awards to ten individual reservations, in theory).
When not using a confirmed suite upgrade, Starwood is theoretically better, as you are officially eligible for suite upgrades. That being said, execution of that can be a bit hit or miss, as not all hotels will proactively provide suite upgrades.
Starwood Platinum vs. Hyatt Diamond: Breakfast
|Starwood Platinum||Hyatt Diamond|
|Lounge Access||Platinum members receive club lounge access||Diamond members receive club lounge access|
|Restaurant Breakfast||In place of the 500 Starpoint welcome amenity, Platinum members have the option of choosing a continental breakfast in the restaurant||In the event that the hotel doesn't have a club lounge, members receive full American breakfast in the restaurant|
If the hotel has a club lounge and it's closed, members receive full American breakfast in the restaurant and 2,500 Gold Passport points
Hyatt offers the most generous breakfast benefit of any hotel chain, and wins hands down.
With Starwood you get continental breakfast as the best “published” benefit, and have to give up 500 Starpoints to receive it (assuming the hotel doesn’t have a club lounge), while with Hyatt you get a hot breakfast and your welcome amenity.
So which is better: Hyatt Diamond or Starwood Platinum?
As a frequent hotel guest that’s not a huge fan of Hilton or Marriott, I really love having status with both Hyatt and Starwood.
Combined Hyatt and Starwood have substantially fewer properties than the three “major” chains (Hilton, IHG, and Marriott). So it really helps to have status with both programs, since one likely wouldn’t cover all the places I’d need to go (then again, that’s what backup Hilton status is for).
Hyatt and Starwood both aren’t perfect, and both win in some categories. I do find that Hyatt does a phenomenal job of managing expectations, and do generally find that I get somewhat better recognition at hotels as a Hyatt Diamond than as a Starwood Platinum member.
That being said, as a leisure traveler it’s awesome that Starwood Platinum is fairly easy to achieve, between the potential to earn 10 elite qualifying nights towards status just for having two credit cards, and earning stay credits for award redemptions.
What’s your favorite hotel chain and why?
(In the interest of full disclosure, I earn a referral bonus for anyone approved through some of the above links. All are for the best available offers. Thanks for your support!)