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 last year did they publish a webpage with the details of the challenge. Up until recently the status challenge was only available through December 31, 2017, though Starwood’s status challenge has now been extended through June 30, 2018. What makes this unique is that it’s even open to members who don’t have status with a competitor. With that in mind, let’s look at how it works, and whether or not it makes sense to take advantage of it:
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 a consecutive three month period, as follows:
- 9 nights will get you SPG Gold status (ordinarily requires 10 stays or 25 nights per year)
- 18 nights will get you SPG Platinum status (ordinarily requires 25 stays or 50 nights per year)
Again, the challenge is now available for sign-ups through June 30, 2018. 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; elite nights earned with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express don’t count either
- When you register you can choose which three calendar months you want your challenge to include; so if you register in January you could choose January through March, February through April, etc., so 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 complete a status challenge in March or later, it will be valid through through February 2020 (if you complete it in February or earlier, it’s only valid through February 2019)
- 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.
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 Starwood extend their status challenge into 2018. If you time it properly and complete the challenge in March, you’ll have status through February 2020, which is nearly two years of top tier status with Starwood and Marriott. If nothing else, it’s worth being aware of this opportunity.
(Tip of the hat to Loyalty Lobby)