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Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest are the two hotel chains I’m most loyal to. Part of what I like about them is that they do a good job offering guaranteed benefits. Both chains offer guaranteed 4PM check-out to top tier elite members, Hyatt offers confirmed Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards which can be used at the time of booking, etc.
In hundreds of stays I’ve almost never had issues with getting guaranteed 4PM check-out honored. After all, it’s a guaranteed benefit, at least at non-resort properties. They ask you at check-in when you want to check-out, and if you say 4PM then that’s that. There’s no “negotiation” needed.
Anyway, I’ve had two interesting data points recently which make me wonder if there’s more than one definition of “guaranteed.”
My experience as a Hyatt Diamond
I had booked a stay at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for four nights, and used a Diamond Suite Upgrade Award to confirm a Grand Suite.
The stay was fantastic, and in the end we needed to extend by an additional night. We booked another night, though there were no suites available, which meant we had to switch rooms.
I went to the front desk to explain the situation right as we were leaving the hotel for an excursion which would last several hours. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “We have a separate reservation for tonight and realize we need to switch rooms, but are headed out for the day. We will be back shortly before 4PM to check-out and then check-in for the new reservation.”
Associate: “No, we can’t do late check-out.”
Me: “So we can’t check out at 4PM and then switch rooms?”
Associate: “We are fully booked tonight, the latest we can do is 2PM.”
Me: “But aren’t Diamond members guaranteed 4PM late check-out?”
Associate: “We are fully booked, we can’t do 4PM.”
Me: “But 4PM check-out is a guaranteed benefit, isn’t it?”
Associate: “That’s only if you’re checking out.”
Me: “But we are checking out. If we have to switch rooms, how is that any different than a check-out?”
Associate: “Please try to understand the situation.”
Me: “And please try to understand that I’m guaranteed certain benefits, and those don’t just go away because a hotel is full.”
If he had said “I know you’re guaranteed this benefit but we are fully booked tonight and would appreciate if you can switch earlier,” I would have been more understanding of the approach he was taking. But the fact that he simply tried to deny the existence of a benefit because the hotel was full was a bit of a disappointment.
I realize juggling room inventory at a sold out hotel can be a challenge, though in practice not all guests are checking in at exactly 3PM, especially at a hotel with as many suites as the Grand Hyatt. I understand his intentions were good, but it’s a bit short-sighted to just consider the “situation” from the perspective of those checking in and not those checking out, who are also guaranteed certain benefits.
We had somewhere we needed to be, and a room wasn’t ready anyway for us to switch to. So we’d have to completely change our plans in order to change rooms earlier.
Ford’s experience as an SPG Gold
Ford has The Platinum Card® from American Express, and until recently wasn’t aware that the card comes with SPG Gold status. So before a recent SPG stay of his I signed him up for SPG Gold, so he’d at least earn extra points for his stay and get guaranteed 4PM check-out. Here’s his experience with that:
While staying at the W Austin two weeks ago for my sister’s wedding, I requested a late check out. When I called down to the front desk, they told me the hotel was fully booked and that 1:30 PM was the latest they would be able to accommodate. I had forgotten that as an SPG Gold Member, I was guaranteed a 4 PM late checkout.
Less than 30 minutes later, Ben sent me a text reminding me of this benefit. When I called down to the reception again and spoke with the same man, I explained that my member status conferred me a late checkout of 4 PM – which they knew, because my SPG number was on file with the hotel. He paused, then asked if he could offer me points in lieu of late check-out.
When I explained that I really wanted late check-out he said “OK, 4 o’clock.” It would be interesting to know how many points they would have offered, but my flight was delayed and I didn’t feel like spending more time in the airport than I needed to!
With hotel occupancy extremely high, it’s tougher than ever before for hotels to deliver on “guaranteed” benefits. I totally understand that it’s tricky to offer a guest 4PM check-out when check-in time is at 3PM. At the same time, we’re offered certain guaranteed benefits in exchange for our loyalty, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to use them.
Have you ever been denied a “guaranteed” 4PM check-out?