I Finally Earned SPG Ambassador Status!

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It’s no secret that the two hotel chains I’m primarily loyal to are Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest. In my opinion they’re the most rewarding programs out there, which may be in part because they have a limited global footprint compared to Hilton, IHG, and Marriott. But fortunately when you’re loyal to both chains, a good percentage of the places you could want to travel to are covered.

For that matter, as a backup I always have Hilton HHonors Gold status, which gets me free breakfast and room upgrades at Hiltons. This is a perk available through the Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. I have two of the three cards, so I have Gold status on an ongoing basis.

Despite living in hotels full time, I don’t typically earn more than 100 elite qualifying nights in a program per year. That’s because:

  • I spend a good number of nights on planes, which at least saves on the cost of hotels
  • I spend a fair number of nights at hotels participating in American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts and Virtuoso, many of which aren’t Hyatt or Starwood properties
  • As stated above, many places I travel to don’t have Hyatt or Starwood properties, so I end up having to stay at Hiltons, or even at other brands
  • I often redeem Hyatt points for stays, and Hyatt doesn’t credit elite nights/stays when on an outright free night redemption

With the above in mind, I’ve always appreciated that Starwood offers incentives for over-qualifying for Platinum status:

Last year I earned over 75 elite qualifying nights with Starwood. While it hasn’t been a game changer, it is nice to earn an extra Starpoint per dollar spent, and also in theory to have access to Your24 (though I’ve had some issues with getting hotels to honor the request).

Now for the first time I’ve finally earned 100 elite qualifying nights in a year, which should get me Ambassador status. 10 of those elite qualifying nights are for having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, each of which gets you two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards SPG status annually.

Starwood-Ambassador-Status

What’s SPG Ambassador status? I just received an email congratulating me for having earned Ambassador status, which reads as follows:

WE’RE THRILLED TO WELCOME YOU TO AN EXCLUSIVE BENEFIT: SPG AMBASSADOR SERVICE.

You take travel to a whole new level. Reaching 100 eligible nights in a calendar year is a momentous occasion — one that deserves a fitting reward: the SPG® ambassador service. It’s the most individualized benefit available through the SPG program, and it can be what you want it to be. You’ll have 24/7 access to the ambassador team, including a personal SPG ambassador — your primary point of contact no matter where you are in the world.

Just tell us what you need — from preferences to restaurant reservations and car transfers — we’ll work to make it happen.

Start using the SPG ambassador service immediately by contacting our global support team at ambassador.service@starwoodhotels.com or visit spg.com/ambassador. Over the next week, your personal SPG ambassador will be assigned and will reach out to you directly. We’re always here to help you, around the clock and around the world.

SPG-Ambassador

Basically it gives you a single point of contact with Starwood, and I’m very curious to see how it works in practice.

Based on what I’ve heard:

  • The value of Ambassador status is highly dependent upon the Ambassador you get. Like any program, there are the good and the not-so-great.
  • Hotels are aware of Ambassador status, but what they choose to do with that information is up to them. It shows in their system so you’d think they’d prioritize upgrades based on it, but it really seems to vary by hotel.
  • The service is most valuable if you’re someone who values interaction/”service.” I’m a pretty independent traveler, which is to say that I prefer making my own reservations and having as little human contact as possible, at least when it comes to making travel arrangements. I’m not someone who would ask for restaurant recommendations from someone who isn’t an expert on an area. Ambassador status is probably most valuable if you’re the type of person who likes picking up the phone or sending an email to make reservations, ask questions, etc. I generally prefer googling.
  • Don’t expect exceptions, but don’t be surprised by surprises. An Ambassador won’t generally break the rules for you (ie, refund a non-refundable reservation), but instead they might surprise you with your favorite amenity at check-in, make sure your room is ready when you arrive, etc.

Bottom line

I’m not expecting anything life-changing, especially since I’m not someone who even wants much in the way of personalized service pre-stay. The less contact it requires for me to book my stay, the better.

That being said, if it helps with an upgrade here or there, or if it results in the occasional cute amenity, I consider it a win.

I would’ve earned 100+ elite qualifying nights with Starwood this year regardless of whether or not this perk was offered, so it’s not really costing me anything.

So, is anyone here an SPG Ambassador member? If so, what has your experience been like?

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Comments

  1. Have had an ambassador for the past 3 years, honestly I wouldn’t get too excited. Like you, I’m pretty independent when it comes to my travel so I really never needed much from her other than canceling a stay outside cancellation window or finding out how much a paid upgrade would be, pretty much something that any Platinum support person could handle. Within the last 3 years I’ve only had 2 requests for her and both times I have had to spend more time dealing with the aftermath than the requests themselves.

    To be fair, at first she was great and would send random emails here or there to check in, send me a gift on my birthday, little things. However that all went away about a year or so ago. From what I’ve heard, and this might be completely false, most ambassadors have been assigned too many members to really add that personal touch. To your point, it probably all depends on who you have, but I have yet to know someone who raves about their ambassador, though I’m sure there are some really good ones.

    Your status as a blogger will probably get you more upgrades/benefits than your Ambassador will.

  2. just saw you ABC interview from a while back loved it great to see you being recognized on a global scale for the achievement ben.

  3. Ambassador service is, as you noted, completely dependent on your assigned ambassador. Mine is good, checks in from time to time, and certainly helps me when I make requests. A friend of mine has an ambassador who likes to surprise him on a regular basis! I hope yours is great!

  4. Had ambassador status the past couple years and have really enjoyed her. Best experience was asking her to help decorate a suite for a bachelors’ party trip. All I asked was that she see if the hotel would be willing to dress up the suite in a pink princess theme. We showed up and the entire place was covered in pink Disney princess decorations, balloons, ribbons, boas, full themed pink tea party set and pink snacks (cupcakes, chocolates etc). It was really way past expectations. Amazingly, I inquired about if I could help offset the costs or anything and was told that they had so much fun doing it, that it was free. One of my favorite ambassador experiences.

  5. I have enjoyed my ambassador. He is very helpful with complex reservations, getting certain rates such as SPG50s that are not available online. While many of these things can be handled by calling the call center and speaking to any representative, it is nice to talk to a friendly and familiar voice who knows what I like and don’t like, what special requests I typically might make, etc. Makes the phone calls short and to the point.

    He is also great about following up with hotels on special requests, which I make from time to time. It’s nice to be able send one email and then I can consider the requests to be handled, and I don’t have to hope the hotel answers their general email box.

    As for better chances of upgrades, I certainly have had my fair share of upgrades over the years, but I would say that over the past 2 years of having an ambassador, I would think that my percentage might have increased even some more, even at hotels that I do not frequent on a regular basis.

    Hope I make 100 nights in 2016. Too bad they don’t have rollover nights as I will be somewhere between 120-130 this year, not sure if I will make that many nights next year?

  6. I tend to use the ambassador “pool” as a whole rather than my particular ambassador always mostly because I value the time the most. Most things get done pretty consistently (pooling them also has the benefit of possibly two ambassadors looking over the matter since they do hand over to each other across shifts).

    In general, you’re looking at a more consistent Plat Concierge experience (for you) and they can be very helpful in hotels you’re visiting for first time to ensure you receive your entitlements. Then again I have never once had trouble obtaining suites at Starwood properties (mostly UAE) even without their intervention. (Infact there is no point to their intervention at properties that you are a regular at)

  7. I have been on the ambassador program for 3 years now… Here are my thoughts… My first ambassador her name was Karen Morales. She was AMAZING! And I mean that. Not sure what happened with her. But she was always checking on me. On my bday sent me a Westin robe with my name on it. On some of my international trips she would send me this little books with guides about my destination etc. she was very proactive and could tell she loved her job. My new ambassador who I will not name, he/she is ok. But the level of personal attention has fallen off the cliff. Is she helpful when asked? Absolutely. Most requests have been accommodated. I just don’t feel the personal attention I was getting before. Now as far as status is concerned truly depends on the property. I would say around 60-75% of the properties clear UG the day before and Automatically will show on your app. You won’t get notified. But it’s there. So it’s nice to know the night before if you have been upgraded instead of first come first serve… At one point they will probably ask you for your picture. In theory that picture should be sent to the hotels so the staff is aware of who their VIPs are. Now this is a more miss than a hit for all properties. But there was an instance at Le Meridien in Siem Reap where literally all the staff new who I was including the bellman. When I got off the car and saw me they run to me and greeted me by last name. Which was kinda weird and nice at the same time. At breakfast the lady in the front before even given my name was mr….. We have a table reserved for you. It was a little over the top. But at least they take their VIPs seriously. The Westin at Francis in SF I know posts your picture on a wall they call the wall of VIPs. So staff is aware of you. Anyways. That’s a lot of info… For your 24 is so much easier if you have your ambassador call the property directly. I haven’t had any rejected that way. Welcome to the club. Now I feel “Lucky” to have you in it 😉

  8. I had an Ambassador for 2 years and only had 2 minor requests. My assigned Ambassador was never available so someone else handled it. And I think both requests could be handled by any Platinum operator. I never got anything extra at any hotel for being in the Ambassador program. Yes, I got once a cake for my bday, but I got a bigger & better cake for my bday at a 3 star independent hotel in the middle of China. Therefore I don’t see any extra added value in Ambassador program and I hated getting random emails “Hello David, I see you are going to XY ……”. I’m pretty independent when it comes to planning/travelling and don’t like the feeling when someone is constantly checking on me. For this we have NSA. 🙂 Therefore I keep my nights under 100 only not to get into the Ambassador program. For 75 nights you have all you need.

  9. Surely there is some humor in the names of these things: A Chairman Preferred enjoys the Admirals Lounge before checking into his Ambassador’s status hotel while going for Executive Platinum. Maybe the next status should be called Royal Gold CEO Presidential Preferred King Jesus God Lord of All Captain’s Diamond Medallion Penant. I mean, come on. These are mostly tired consultants. I guess calling them ambassadors and Chairmen is an ego boost?

  10. I’ve had ambassador status for the past two years, and I’ve literally never once been able to get in touch with or receive a reply from my ambassador. I’ve never complained because the Platinum liaisons typically have been good about addressing my calls promptly.

  11. I’m Lifetime Platinum and will make Ambassador level for the first time in December. I thought it might help with the many Your24 requests I have. I was really looking forward to Ambassador status until I read these comments. LOL

  12. I have Ambassador for the first time and it has been excellent. Mine helped me with a complex reservation combining Sheraton Free Nights redemption with paid nights across a five night stay. She’s helped me with various other reservations/ requests over the past few months.

    A colleague of mine has had Ambassador Service for years and he used his last year to organize a romantic two week trip throughout Asia and at every stop the Ambassador called ahead for special arrangements, and in a few cases upgrades to a villa.

    Sounds like it depends on who you get, but if you get a good Ambassador, it can be VERY valuable.

  13. I’ve had my Ambassador now for the past 3 years, she is AMAZING, and has become like family!

    I had always been very independent when booking my own reservations, but since having an Ambassador, I feel like I have a personal assistant. I average just over 200 nights a year with SPG. I recently came back from a 19 day vacation to Hawaii where I used a combination of cash for part of my stay, and points for the other part of my stay. My Ambassador was able to arrange my stays back to back to save me the most points & cash, and even was able to apply for my suite upgrades. Before arrival, I had an issue where the hotel (Sheraton Waikiki) accidentally canceled my stay, and with one simple phone call to my Ambassador, and she took care of everything and insisted the hotel give me a better upgrade. Long story short, I was upgraded for the entire 19 day stay to the Pualani Suite, ocean side with 2 balconies, 1,100+ sq. ft., and a fabulous view!

    I’ve come to depend on my Ambassador and if she doesn’t hear from me in a few weeks she calls to check in… We’ve become great phone/email friends. She’s surprised me several times with bottles of my favorite wine waiting for me in my room ($100+ bottles) for special occasions, to a personalized St. Regis (my favorite SPG chain) terrycloth bathroom, to birthday cards signed by the entire hotel staff and desert trays for my birthday, etc.. I’ve also leaned on her expertise and recommendations from other clients of hers, on which hotels to stay at when visiting new cities, to arranging car transfers, to VIP tours, to reservations at hard to get restaurants, to helping book special business dinners/parties. Never once has she failed… Everything has always been above my expectations!

    Even though I’m very independent with all my other travel reservations (air, hotel & car), I’ve come to trust my Ambassador where I just shoot her an email or call her, and she find the best deal for me without me having to do any additional prior research.

    Take advantage of the survey when you receive your Ambassador. Most of the time I receive my preferred room preferences when checking in (upper floor, non-adjoining, corner room, away from an elevator)… They also ask what your favorite types of wine is, do you like chocolate, etc..

    To me, having an Ambassador is like having a personal assistant who has the right connections to make you often times feel like a VIP! I would be very sad if I lost my Ambassador!

  14. I’ve had 2 Ambassadors over 3 years. You have your expectations set correctly. If you don’t expect much, they will surprise you from time to time. I like my Ambassador very much personally but haven’t seen a marked increase in upgrades or the way properties treat me.

    I would be disappointed but I’d read comments from others about their Ambassadors before getting one myself. I almost feel like if I was more of a jerk I might get “more” but that’s just not my personality. I don’t ask for much and get the occasional plus.

  15. I have enjoyed Ambassador services for 5 years now, and average 120-150 Starwood nights per year. As others have indicated there seems to be a decrease in personal attention, I assume because Ambassador’s are taking care of more guests. The first few years in the program I would receive small gifts or a special drink in my room from my ambassador, but haven’t seen this in the last couple of years. I travel internationally mostly so I find reaching out to the ambassador email has worked best for my needs. Although I must say, I called last week for something, and it was obvious the ambassador I got couldn’t wait to get off the phone and forget what I was calling for. Again, I guess it depends on who you get.

  16. I’ve been a lifetime Platinum member for four years and have also had an ambassador for four years. In fact I’m on my third ambassador as Fiona just received a promotion. Fiona was great! She has been a big help when a reservation did not go as expected or Starpoints don’t get credited correctly or helping with upgrades or booking “Nights and Flights”. The best part is you are not in a cue, you have one point of contact for everything. Fiona has moved on so now as of last week I have John. SPG is the best program with the best people who do a great job of making you feel special. I’m so sorry they are being taken over by a program that does not offer all the loyalty perks of living the SPG Life.

  17. Lucky
    Congrats in your new status. When you say you “spend a good number of nights on planes, which at least saves on the cost of hotels” how is it that first class flights cost less than a hotel night? Even economy flights can cost less than a hotel night.

  18. 4 nights to go to Ambassador Status…it’s kind of exciting and I am waiting for my next bookings until I reached that status. SPG Junkie what can I do…..hope I won’t be disappointed….will keep you updated

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