Is The Starwood Platinum Status Challenge Worth It?

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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)

Starwood-Platinum-Challenge

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 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. 😉

Aloft-Foshan

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)

st-regis-dubai-57

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.

W-Taipei

Bottom line

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)

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Comments

  1. Ben,

    If I’m in China in October for three nights, couldn’t I book three rooms at the Aloft for six nights and be done with it for $720?

    Would that be worth it you think to have Plat status for the next 16 months since my globalist status will end due to Hyatt raising the requalification bar?

    In other words, would a $720 spend be worth it to have Platinum in 2018 for my usual 25-40 nights of travel?

  2. Any news on the SPG/Marriot alignment? This might be worth it if programs are aligned and we see better benefits such as breakfast and room upgrades at Ritz and JW Marriot properties.

  3. @ peetryd — Unfortunately not. They’re still aiming for creating a single program at some point next year at the earliest, though we don’t have further details.

  4. To sum up Lucky – unless you stay in Asia or the Middle East it’s not worth the work. Grab the AMEX card and enjoy Gold for free.

  5. Do you have to have status with another hotel reward program?
    I’m almost Singapore Gold & will do the a night stay at a Shangri-la for Golden Circle Status will this then enable me to do the SPG challenge?

  6. Lucky,

    I’m currently registered for their double elite night credit promo. Will that stack with the challenge? I’m just curious.

  7. If you get lounge access at all properties why would you need to select continental breakfast as your welcome gift?

  8. @ Europe Son — Not all Starwood properties have club lounges, so at those you could select breakfast as the amenity.

  9. @ Erik — Nope, you’d only earn a single qualifying night per night; the promotional double nights wouldn’t count.

  10. @ Kyall Nielsen — Anyone can take advantage of this. There’s no need to have status with another program.

  11. If I was to book a 4 night stay with the citi prestige 4th night free but only stay for two night and leave without telling them, would the hotel assume that i’ve left when they do house cleaning or whatever? i have a 2 night stay in orlando coming up and thinking it might be worth it to pay for an extra night to try and earn this challenge.

  12. @European Son, it’s an option. Personally, I would choose points as welcome amenity if there’s lounge access at the hotel I’m staying, but not all SPG hotels have lounges. For example, Alofts and most FPS do not have lounges so you would be better off with complimentary breakfast.

  13. I would say completing the Marriott Platinum challenge would be a better deal, if it is still available. Last I checked it was 9 stays in 3 months…. match that status with SPG

  14. @Kevin I did exactly that this February, a couple of months ago — 9 stays in 90 days. I had to start by being Gold, which the Amex Biz Platinum provides, via matching from SPG Gold. (The Ritz-Carlton card also provides Marriott Gold.) I had to call in to request the challenge.

    I became Marriott Platinum automatically a day after the 9th stay, and SPG automatically matched a day or two after. I just decided to essentially pay for it — I booked most of the hotel rooms locally, usually at Fairfields, in the deadest part of the tourist season, and didn’t even stay overnight. And when I travelled, I stayed at a different property each night.

    Another worthwhile benefit of SPG Platinum is Delta Crossover rewards, which is of some use of you don’t have any kind of Delta status (which I don’t). And Marriott Platinum gets you United Silver, which may not realistically get you upgraded but might get you into Economy Plus, and certainly expedites the airport experience and upgrades the phone experience. (I cover United Silver benefits on my own blog here: http://ivanx.nyc/status-seeker)

  15. @ Kevin – any idea how long you would have platinum status for via the Marriott Platinum challenge? Would it be up to 2019 as well?

  16. This seems like a risky bet at best. With the merger we don’t know what SPG plat will look like in a year. I did a marriott plat challenge a few years ago but It required only like 12 stays or something within a short period of time. Since I was travelling for a period of just over two weeks it was fairly easy to make the challenge. If I had to make the stays already or if I had to make most of the stays and were only a few short I’d consider doing this, but anything beyond that doesn’t seem to be worth it if you can get gold with the plat card.

  17. This is a timely post as I have just started the Platinum Challenge. However, Starwood tells me that if you book multiple rooms, you DO NOT receive credits for all the rooms towards the Platinum Challenge. Only one room per night as “you cannot stay in multiple rooms during one night”.

    I had two supervisors confirm this and they even pointed out the fine print.

    I’m currently staying at a St. Regis where I booked multiple rooms so it sucks for me.

  18. I am very sad to see this happen now, and not 2 months ago.

    Due to a unique situation with my job, I’ve spent Monday-Friday ever week for the last 5, changing hotels every single day in order to get to 25 stays, instead of waiting for 50 nights.

    At least I’m almost there. I’ll be platinum when I check out this Friday morning.

  19. @HR I just completed the challenge last month, and 2 of my 18 nights were from a second room booked during a stay.

  20. @HR It’s also possible that Starwood changed this element of the challenge since they decided to publish the details. The challenge I completed was unpublished.

  21. @Andy – Platinum status would last until January 1, 2019, at which point you’d drop back down to Gold unless you had managed to qualify for Plat the hard way in 2018.

  22. Re the Marriott Plat challenge – does this apply to ALL brands in the MR program or just a subset?

  23. @European Son — yes, all Marriott hotel brands that you would normally earn Marriott Rewards with. And yes, status is through end of 2018 (maybe even end of Jan 2019, I can’t remember).

    I think one of the other benefits of doing Marriott Challenge rather than Starwood is that if you earn Marriott Platinum at Marriott, you can buy your way back into platinum after it expires, for 40,000 Marriott points. If you match to it from SPG, I don’t think you get that option. But it’s all likely to be a moot point unless they’re *really* slow about rolling out a new unified rewards program.

  24. I was told by SPG that multiple rooms in a single stay would not count towards this challenge. For example 3 rooms for 2 nights still only count as 2 nights towards platinum. What am I doing wrong?

  25. @lucky

    Do you think booking through Citi Prestige Concierge would disqualify those nights towards the challenge due to the following language: “SPG Free Night Award and Cash & Points Award nights do not count toward this offer, nor do reservations booked through any third-party sources”. When I contacted Citi they quoted me SPG member rates, and were even able to quote me a rate with my corporate discount number, making me assume they were booking directly through spg.com

  26. I am SPG gold through AMEX. Because of the fires in Napa I am now in a SPG hotel and will easily be able to make the 18 night platinum challenge this October. I have picked October, November and December for my challenge. Is there any benefit of holding off on the 18th night until the very end of December to try to push my actually receiving my platinum status into 2018 and possibly stretch out my status with, SPG, Marriott, United, etc. ?
    Thanks

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