You wouldn’t go tramping off into the Adirondacks without your
Hotel Loyalty Programs ComparisonSleeping Your Way to the Top - of the Hotel Points Game
Your love may not be for sale, but your loyalty could be. That is, your loyalty to hotel programs. For business travelers, all those weeks on the road in windowless conference rooms pay off when it’s time to book your personal luxury vacay. Nothing beats a bonus of cold hard cash, but tax-free hotel points earned on your employer’s dime can give that restricted deferred stock a run for its money. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, staying consistently in one hotel group can equate to free nights and perks that deserve a place on your personal balance sheet.
Choose the right hotel group, and free nights are just the tip of the iceberg. The more you stay, the more VIP you become, with room upgrades, late check-outs, welcome gifts, free Wi-Fi and even the chance to glide past the velvet rope. Some build algorithms to game the point system, but luckily you don’t have to be a mathematician to figure it out. Money can't buy you love (well, depends on how much money), but hotel programs can buy you lots of perks. Here’s the scoop on those who are worthy of your affection.
The scoop: Yes, we know this one is low-hanging fruit, but with over 1000 hotels – and many, like the Westin and the W, that fit within corporate budgets – it’s a solid portfolio. Starwood is often the program of choice for hardcore road warriors.
Status: Basic status is Preferred, from where you accrue points to move up the Starwood ladder. You reach Gold status if you stay 25 nights/year or 10 qualified stays. As a Gold member, you get room upgrades, 3 points for every $1 spent, late check-out and a welcome gift. The big hitters at Starwood are the Platinums who stay over 50 nights/25 qualified stays. Platinums get the additional perks of a dedicated reservation line and your choice of gifts depending upon locale.
Rock star benefit: With no blackout dates, you’ll actually get to use those points. Also, American Express Platinum Card members get automatic Gold status, so you’re way ahead of the game in achieving Platinum. Lifetime Platinum status is available for those on the road 500 nights total or who are Platinum members for any 10 years.
Fave hotels: The St. Regis and Luxury Hotel Collections in Italy. There’s something profoundly satisfying about staying gratis in a $500-plus room.
The scoop: Of all the programs, this is the dark horse. It has one of the lowest thresholds to achieve status, and one of the fastest points accrual per dollar spent.
Status: You start out with Gold status, where you earn 5 points for every dollar spent. After 5 stays or 15 nights, you achieve Platinum status, which qualifies for 30% bonus points, 2pm late checkout and guaranteed rooms within 72 hours of your stay. Step it up to Diamond to get access to the Executive Lounge, more room upgrades, 4pm check-outs and guaranteed rooms within 48 hours of your stay.
Rock star benefit: Like Starwood, no blackout dates. Your Hyatt points can be redeemed at Park Hyatts worldwide, which are some of the chicest options for the working jet set.
Fave hotels: The Park Hyatt Hotels, especially the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and being lost in translation at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Both are hotels that you’d gladly pay for, so it’s even sweeter when you can use points instead.
The scoop: With clients and companies watching budgets, the Marriott is almost always on the approved list. For those who have the pleasure of traveling to Rust Belt cities in the United States, there’s never a Marriott too far away – catering to the business traveler during the week, and to the quintessential Americana family on the weekends.
Status: Achieve Silver status at just 10 nights/year, which gets you 20% bonus points on stays. For Gold members, you get 25% bonus points, room upgrades when available, breakfast, and Hertz Gold membership. Platinum members get 50% bonus and some special love in the form of a welcome gift on arrival.
Rock star benefit: Marriott points are redeemable at the Ritz Carltons. Hello upgrade!
Fave hotels: The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, for the bagpipes they play at dusk and the s’mores by the fire on a crisp evening. Also, the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, which is even better than a Ritz Carlton. The clientele is gorgeous, and you can rub elbows with elite celebs on the Club Room floors.
The scoop: Highbrow hotels in highbrow locales around the world, from the original in London to Hong Kong, Melbourne, Boston, Beijing and Shanghai. If you’re with an almost inappropriately younger significant other, this is the elegant abode to conduct your affairs.
Status: The loyalty program Ouida is named after the English novelist who spent four years in residence at the London property. She was an eccentric character, who fit in perfectly with the extravagant, elegant surroundings of the Langham. For every $1 you spend, you get 2 points.
Rock star benefit: Ouida gives you access to members-only events to socialize with the crème de la crème, beauty services and other elite experiences.
Fave hotels: The London original; it’s a study in British civility at its best.
The Morgans Hotel Group Global Club Card
The scoop: The most elusive of the loyalty programs, the Morgans Hotel Group Global Club Card is reserved for tastemakers, very frequent guests and those who have Gold status or above on Virgin Airlines.
Status: To get the card is a status symbol in itself. Part of the key in getting the keys to the kingdom is knowing to ask for it. There is no information on the website about the loyalty program, so consider yourself part of the circle of trust for reading this article.
Rock star benefit: Flash one of these cards and you’re whisked past the velvet rope at their clubs like Sky Bar in Miami, and treated VIP all the way. Cardholders also receive a free night at any new hotel around the world, and for those spurious hookups, a hotel no-tell rate of $100 or 100 GBP per night past 10pm, subject to availability.
Fave hotels: The rooms are collateral to the consistently great bar scenes, restaurants and common spaces. Our fave experiences are the pool at the Delano and Skybar in Miami and LA for late-night debauchery.