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In mid-August Starwood and American Express announced a host of new benefits for their Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express cards. Some features (like the removal of foreign transaction fees) were a long time coming, in my opinion, while others are pretty innovative.
Namely, those with the SPG Business AmEx will receive complimentary executive lounge access at Sheraton properties worldwide. This is a benefit which is usually reserved for SPG Platinum members (which requires 25 stays or 50 nights), or those paying for Club Level rooms.
Ben has gone through the basics of how Sheraton lounge access works with the SPG Business Amex, so I won’t recap that here, but there are three common access issues that people seem to be having that I’d like to address.
The Sheraton Club in Edinburgh is one of my favorites
Myth: “This Sheraton has opted out.”
Nope, that’s simply not true. American Express and Starwood have an arrangement, and it sounds like it has nothing to do with the individual hotels (though I’m sure they’re getting compensated at some level).
In fact, when I reached out to SPG directly, their response was as follows:
All Sheratons that have a club lounge, as listed on http://sheratonclubroom.com are participating.
This website (clunky though it is), lists every Sheraton with a club lounge that I know about. The only property not listed that I noticed was the Sheraton Maui — however, their club lounge is pretty new, and some OMAAT readers have reported getting lounge access there. I have sent a follow-up to SPG about this particular property, and will report back.
So if a property is on this list, they are participating. Full stop.
Myth: “Your rate isn’t eligible for lounge access.”
This one is trickier, because there seems to be a lot of confusion here. I’ve even heard of people getting incorrect information from front-line agents at SPG, so it is complicated.
For avoidance of doubt, these are the official determinations of what makes a rate eligible, as per Starwood:
- Reservations booked under SPG Starpoint-eligible room rates (as defined at spg.com under Terms and Conditions of Membership)
- Free Night Awards
- Cash & Points stays
That’s right, if you’re using Starpoints to book a room, you’re eligible. Using some cash and some Starpoints? Eligible. Booked a Hot Escapes rate or used an AAA discount on spg.com? Eligible.
Here are the cases in which you would not be eligible, per the SPG terms:
- The guest room was booked through a tour operator, online travel channel or other third party channel including, without limitation, expedia.com, hotwire.com, priceline.com, orbitz.com, booking.com, travelocity.com, ctrip.com, and elong.com
- The guest room was booked at a group rate as part of an event, meeting, conference or organized tour, and the SPG Member does not directly pay the SPG Participating Hotel for such room
- The guest room was booked at a tour operator, wholesaler, or crew room rate including, without limitation, STARNet and STARPRO
- The guest room was booked at an employee or friends and family rate or a Starwood business rate
- The guest room was provided complimentary
- A voucher or third party award (e.g., Aeroplan room award, Air Miles room award) was redeemed for the guest room
So if your booking is valid under the first list, you’re eligible for lounge access. If nothing on the second list applies to you, and a property tells you that you had to book a specific rate on spg.com to have lounge access, that’s most likely incorrect.
Verdict: Mostly false
Myth: “You had/have to pay with your SPG Business Amex.”
Now, I’m sure that the folks at American Express would strongly prefer you use your SPG Business AmEx to gain access to the Sheraton Club lounges. Afterall, they’re paying for it.
However, it does not matter which card you use to pay for your stay. At all.
This makes logical sense to me — if Free Nights are eligible, then the method of payment obviously doesn’t matter. But I’ve heard from many of you that this isn’t as obvious to front desk staff, so it’s worth clarifying. And AmEx has confirmed that the intention is for all primary cardholders of the SPG Business AmEx to have lounge access (provided the other conditions are being met).
In theory your SPG profile should note that you have the business AmEx, and you should be granted access automatically. In practice, that isn’t happening — I don’t know if it’s a tech issue or an awareness issue, so the best option is to just carry the card and present it at check-in.
Both Starwood and American Express are as excited about this new perk as we are, and want cardholders to be able to use this benefit. When I reached out to both parties they were equally emphatic in their responses, and apologetic for the confusion.
So if you’re having issues with a property, I would suggest reaching out to SPG on social media (nicely), or even opening a customer care file. With so many properties and employees involved, it’s realistically going to take some time for everyone to be completely aware of the benefits, and some properties might need more education than others.
That’s pretty typical, so just be kind and practice patience if you can.
Also, don’t forget that both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express have an increased signup bonus that ends Monday! If you’ve been thinking about applying for one of these cards, you’ll want to take advantage of the extra points if you can.
Has anyone used the new lounge access benefit yet? What was your experience?