Why I’m Disappointed By Hyatt’s New Promotion — And Why I’m Liking it More and More

Last week I shared the details of Hyatt’s new promotion which kicks off September 1. I wasn’t especially excited, most of the reaction to the post was similar, and I even called it “better than a hole in the head.”

I’ve come to reconsider that view.

The offer is 5000 bonus points after 5 nights and then 10,000 additional bonus points for each incremental 5 nights stayed during the promotion period — up to a maximum of 35 nights. If you have a Hyatt Visa you get 20% more bonus miles from the promotion. That’s similar to what they did earlier in the year as well.

Don’t get me wrong — this is the least generous Hyatt Gold Passport promotion in awhile. Here are recent points promotions they’ve offered:

  • Last spring they offered 10,000 points after 5 nights, then 5000 more each additional two nights (up to 60,000 points for 25 nights). More points earlier, and easier to obtain than the current promo.

  • Last fall it was 5000 points every 3 nights up to 30,000 points after 18 nights. Easier to earn bonus points than the current offer.

  • February through April of this year it was progressively more bonus points for more nights. The first four nights would earn 4000 points — so 1000 points per night, like the current promotion, but only needing 4 (rather than 5) to get there. Then incrementally more points — 2000 points per night after hitting the next 4 night milestone. Then 3000 points per night for the 4 night milestone after that, and finally 5000 points per night for the four night milestone representing nights 12 through 16. And the Hyatt Visa bonus was 25% to boot. 16 nights during the three month promotion, with a Hyatt Visa, earned 55,000 bonus points. That was really exceptionally generous for high night members.

When folks complain or shrug their shoulders about a Hyatt promotion, it’s really because they’re comparing the promos to what Hyatt Gold Passport has done in the past. They’ve historically been the most generous with their promotions of any chain, and that’s in addition to having (what I believe still is) the most rewarding top tier elite program of any hotel chain.

Each year Hyatt used to offer the ‘Faster Free Nights’ promotion. That was a free night at any Hyatt in the world after two paid stays. Those two paid stays could be two cheap airport nights, and you’d have a free night at, say, the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Once upon a time even Priceline stays qualified towards the promotion. And if you had any charges to your room at all on your free night redemption, the free night would count towards the next free night. So after the first two nights that earned a free night you could even leverage the promotion so that one Priceline night would generate a free night at any Hyatt in the world. (Folks would place one local call, perhaps, from their room during their free night redemption — and then beg the front desk not to remove the charges!)

Over time they did tighten up the loopholes a bit, but it was a consistent offering and the absolute gold standard in hotel promotions. So Hyatt takes heat when they offer anything less. Unfortunately for travelers hotels have been much closer to full than in the beginning of this decade, or at the beginning of the last decade. They don’t feel the need to give out free nights to the same extent. And up until three years ago the award nights were capacity controlled, so even as there’s been less need for the promotion it’s also gotten more expensive to offer since award nights are available whenever a standard room is being offered by a hotel.

It may not be fair to compare the current promotion to Faster Free Nights (which is what it will always be called — “The Big Welcome Back” or what have you just didn’t have the same ring to it).

But what about to past Hyatt promotions, or to other hotel promotions in the market?

The points promotion starting in September is at least marginally (though in some cases markedly) less generous than the points promos of the past two years. But I’m still going to argue that it’s pretty good.

This morning I read a blog post over at Pizza in Motion arguing that the Hyatt promotion was better than Marriott’s new MegaBonus offering. I hit the comments over there a couple of times arguing it was wrong-headed to claim that. But as I think on it more and more, I stand by the arguments I wrote, I just realize that they represent a pretty limited case.

I first read the deals of Marriott’s new MegaBonus offer last week at New Girl in the Air. I hadn’t mentioned it here or even registered for it myself yet because I don’t pay a great deal of attention to Marriott. Although it looks like I may just earn another free night from them with the promotion that wraps up end of August.

Marriott’s MegaBonus is historically somewhat similar to Faster Free Nights — two stays earns a free night. Except they cap the number of free nights you can earn at two or three, and they cap the level of hotel you can redeem for, usually at category 4.

I’ve managed to redeem MegaBonus free nights at the SkyCity Marriott at the Hong Kong airport and at the Marriott Boca Raton in the past, these are both category 4 properties. But the challenge is that you have to use them in the months following when they’re earned, and you can’t use them at the more aspirational properties. That’s pretty limiting.

Marriott usually offer several points promotions alongside MegaBonus, and has in the past allow members to switch to promotions they hear about but were not targeted for. They’ve apparently tightened up a bit on that with some folks getting pushback, if they were targeted for points after a whole ton of stays then they haven’t uniformly been able to switch to MegaBonus free nights.

Additionally, early reports were that the cap on redemptions was raised so that the free nights could be used up to category 5 properties. That starts to go a ways towards increasing the value of the free nights earned. Unfortunately that was targeted, too. When I went to the Marriott MegaBonus 2012MegaBonus registration page after logging into my Marriott Rewards account I found I was targeted for stay 2 get a free night… up to category 4.

Truth is that for folks doing cheap 1 night stays, who want to redeem for cheap stays, this is going to be really lucrative. A couple of $100 room nights and you’ve got a redemption worth perhaps $150..

But that’s not really how I want to use my points. I want to use them at my own leisure rather than quickly or lose ’em. So I always prefer points promotions where I can build my account balance for redemption in the future. It takes an insanely generous offering like Faster Free Nights to prefer something I can only redeem with short expiration.

And I want to use the points for things I wouldn’t be in a position to afford with cash. I like that the Hyatt Gold Passport program’s top properties are remarkably affordable on points. The Park Hyatt Paris and the Park Hyatt Maldives are the same points price as the Grand Hyatt in New York. So that’s where I have my eyes set for redemption. Not somewhere that I’m simply displacing a $100 or $150 cash stay.

So while I’d love a more generous Hyatt promotion — give me even more points! And a pony! — Marriott’s free night promo isn’t enough to pull me away from a Hyatt stay, and I’ll happily earn whatever additional Hyatt points are being offered.

Now, if Starwood brought back their free resort nights promotion — a free resort night up to category 6 hotels with everey 3 stays — that would be an enticing offer. But until other hotel chains become more generous, I can’t fault Hyatt for not being such.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Marriott is changing around those categories every 6 months it seems.

    Skycity is category 5 now. Renaissance Cat 6.

    The Courtyard is left as the only Cat 4 in Hong Kong for now (hopefully it sticks for a while).

  2. I didn’t pay attention to the Marriott promo this time like usual, but after very limited options waiting to move into my house, I earned one free night so far and the terms say “use within one year of issue.” At least they give you a year to find a decent Cat 4 to redeem…if there are still any out there.

  3. Agree if Starwood brought back their Free Resort Nights promotion it would probably cause me to push for 50 nights instead of 25 stays 🙂

  4. Seems like comparisons with Marriot are not in order in that Marriot has SO many more properties at which to redeem awards. Frankly there arent that many Hyatts.

  5. Some have been reporting that they are getting the stay 4 get 2 Cat 1-5 Megabonus offer. Worth considerably more.

  6. Gary — One of your complaints has been addressed by Marriott. The Megabonus Certificates are now good for an entire year from their issue date. Although this is not as good as points in the bank, it is far longer than the time period that Hyatt provided on the Faster Free Nights Promotion.

    With respect to Categories changing, Marriott has maintained that hotels go up and down based upon redemption nights. If so, one should see a number of Category 5 hotels slide back to Category 4 next March/April, as it is probably true that a number of these were re-categorized higher by virtue of a large number of MeagBonus redemptions in the past. The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, come next year.

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