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For the most part loyalty programs are becoming less generous when it comes to status matches, since I assume they’re finding that in many cases they don’t actually change consumers’ long term behavior. There are exceptions, of course, but there’s a reason we’ve seen many loyalty programs discontinue status matches over the years.
For example, Starwood Preferred Guest stopped status matching in 2011, and has been offering a status challenge ever since. However, only recently did they publish a webpage with the details of the challenge. So this seems like a good time to look at Starwood’s current status challenge, especially in light of Marriott’s takeover of Stawood.
How does the Starwood status challenge work?
You can earn Gold or Platinum status through the Starwood status challenge, by completing a certain number of nights over the course of consecutive three month period, as follows:
- 9 nights will get you SPG Gold status (status ordinarily requires 10 stays or 25 nights per year)
- 18 nights will get you SPG Platinum status (status ordinarily requires 25 stays or 50 nights per year)
As of now the challenge is valid for sign-ups through December 31, 2017 (though it could be pulled at any time). There are a few other important details to be aware of:
- While award nights usually count as qualifying nights, for the purposes of a status challenge, only paid nights qualify
- When you register you can choose which three calendar months you want your challenge to include; so if you register in April you could choose February through April, March through May, or April through June, meaning you can make it somewhat retroactive
- If you successfully complete the challenge, your status should be upgraded within 5-7 days of your last eligible stay
- If you start a status challenge now, the status will be valid through February 2019 (that’s because if you complete a challenge in March or later, it’s valid for the remainder of the year, and the entire following year)
- If you’ve been a Platinum member in the past five years then you’re not eligible for the Platinum challenge, while if you’ve been a Gold member in the past five years you’re not eligible for the Gold challenge
- You can register by calling SPG customer service
- See this page for full terms & conditions
What’s the best way to complete the SPG Platinum challenge?
Personally I think the Platinum challenge is significantly more worthwhile than the Gold challenge. Keep in mind that you can get SPG Gold status just for having The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. Assuming you’re eligible for either of those cards, that’s a much easier way to earn and maintain Gold status than going through a challenge or making 10 stays or 25 nights.
Since you only receive the status through the challenge upon successfully completing it, I think the ideal situation is to get SPG Gold status through the Amex Platinum Card, and then start the challenge. That way you at least have some status during your challenge stays.
18 nights is quite a few nights to stay, though do keep in mind that you’ll get almost two years of SPG Platinum status out of it, and will also be able to match it to Marriott Platinum status. So if you’re someone who is planning some stays at Starwood hotels anyway, this isn’t that out of reach.
Also keep in mind that Starwood offers elite credits for booking up to three rooms. In other words, booking three rooms for a six night stay would complete the SPG Platinum challenge.
This is perhaps especially tempting if you live in China and have access to Alofts in secondary markets, which often go for ~$40 per night. 😉
What does Starwood Platinum status get you?
When comparing SPG Gold and Platinum status, both status tiers get you guaranteed 4PM check-out (except at resorts, where it’s subject to availability), a 50% points bonus, and premium internet. So, what are the incremental benefits of Platinum status?
- You get upgraded to standard suites at check-in, subject to availability
- You get executive lounge access at all properties (keep in mind that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express comes with lounge access at Sheraton properties)
- You get a welcome amenity, and can select continental breakfast for that (typically at international properties it includes a full breakfast)
Personally I love SPG Platinum status, especially for stays in Asia and the Middle East, where treatment tends to be exceptionally good. In the US and Europe it’s hit-or-miss, and dependent on when you’re staying and at what hotel.
It’s nice to see that Starwood has published the details of their status challenge online. This isn’t some amazing value challenge that everyone should take advantage of, given that you only get Platinum status upon completing the challenge. However, if you’re someone who is thinking of going for SPG Platinum status, this is probably the best way to do so, especially since you’ll get nearly two years of status out of it. You’ll also be able to match it to Marriott Platinum status, which gets you benefits at a lot of hotels.
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)