Starwood Suite Night Award Upgrade Strategy: Here’s How to Get Your Upgrades.

There’s a reason Starwood has introduced new benefit choices for Platinums who stay 50 nights in a year. Instead of giving 10 ‘Suite Night Awards’, 50 night Platinums can choose from a variety of benefits.

Suite Night Awards are really ‘upgrade priority’ managed centrally by Starwood out of a hotel’s room inventory. They aren’t confirmed upgrades the way Hyatt offers them, at booking, but on availability beginning 5 nights prior to check-in.

Platinums who prefer something else can choose from a variety of items worth at most ~ $100 at retail. For instance, 5 free Uber rides worth $20 maximum each. Use 5 short $6 rides and the benefit won’t be nearly maximized (and you do not get to choose when to use free rides if they’re in your account, those are used on the first 5 rides you take).

It’s hard to argue that any choice could be better than Suite Night Awards. And yet Platinums do get frustrated when they receive this by email:

The problems are:

  1. Hotels are full these days
  2. Everyone wants suite upgrades at the same hotels at the same times. No one wants them on solo one night business stays. They want them at resorts at peak times.
  3. Suite upgrades have to be available every night of a stay.
  4. There are hotels that play games with inventory, though my sense is this factor is less important and less prevalent than commonly believed.

So how do you approach suite night strategy successfully?

  • Use them early and often. Knowing they probably won’t be confirmed on a given stay anyway, throw them down whenever there’s a marginal benefit. This makes the most sense for someone who would trade them in for free Uber rides, the value of the suite on these stays might not be $200 but it might be $30 a night.
  • Use them at less popular hotels. Don’t save them for the Westin Maui, burn them at the Sheraton Tucson. Like Hall of Fame baseball player Wee Willie Keeler, “hit ’em where they ain’t.”
  • Short stays are more likely to get upgrades than long stays.

These are unsatisfying because the promise of the Suite Night Award is the idea that you can get that suite at the Westin Maui. But with plenty of platinums vying for few upgrades in practice that disappoints.

If all Platinums spread their suite nights evenly across all hotels and all nights, everyone would clear. But that’s not how it works.

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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Comments

  1. I have had good luck overseas using these. I have also seen data points about this. However my thought also is if you have 10 and want to stay somewhere for 5 nights, book two hotels (assuming you have the points- or just pay cash) 5 days out see what they confirm. Cancel the hotel that doesnt offer at least what you want. I have seen hotels playing games (SPG) on upgrades, but I have not had issue with the certs. I do notice some properties appear to treat these with some importance. The alternative perks for Plat guests I think are very poor. This is exactly why Hyatt confirmed suites have a greater value to Diamonds. If Hyatt changed that policy that would devalue their programs strongest benefit in my opinion.

  2. the suite night system is a flawed benefit and really tarnishs the value of plat 50.

    If Hyatt can do confirmed upgrades then

    A) Hyatt is simply much more generous
    B) See A

  3. I had at least 2 cases where the property either changed the confirmed upgraded room type, or did not honor the upgrade at all. Had to get Corporate involved and pull a DYKWIA to get compensations.

  4. Oh boy, this topic is going to get fun. You should also mention that every single hotel in the SPG brand has a certain suite type(s) allocated for SNA’s. At many hotels that offer half a dozen suite options to purchase, you may inquire and specifically ask what the SNA is attempting to upgrade you to. Because your SNA is not really an upgrade to a presidential suite, as much as we would really like it to be.

    Le Meridian Barcelona for instance has 2 room types that are eligible for SNA. If your upgrade clears, and you get a room type better than any of those 2 rooms, you have encountered the exception, and not the norm.

    So to reiterate, there is only certain room styles, that will differ from hotel to hotel in SPG, that are available for SNA. If those room types are not available, you do not get a cleared SNA.

    Non-SNA upgrade success is of course, a crap shot.

    Don’t forget you can book room upgrades and suites on points or cash + points now. So there is a use case for not taking SNA’s, if you earn enough SPG points to pay your own way.

    One downside for SNA-users is that the suites you are eligible to book on points or cash + points, as I have experienced, are always the exact same room your SNA would be used on. So basically, every time an SPG member just books a suite on points, or cash + points, they may unintentionally kicking a SNA user out of the running for that room.

    So yeah….I actually think that if you use your SPG card a bit, have Plat 75, make a green choice – you may be a SPG consumer with more points than you “need”, and securing a suite at booking with points could definitely be more attractive to you vs. gambling on SNA’s. Especially if the reservation is during a busy period.

  5. I had better experience getting upgrades before suite night awards than I do now when I use them, including nicer suites when I got the upgrade. The idea seems much better than the practice. I stayed 79 nights in 2014 and attempted to upgrade on at least 50 and had 7 left at the end of the year. Ironically, on ten nights in Europe when I knew the hotel had great regular rooms, I did not use the “awards” but was upgraded to spectacular suites anyway.

  6. You continue to really take it easy on Starwood Gary, and for those who follow you and have first hand experience with SNA games, you lose credibility.

    “Suite Night Awards are really ‘upgrade priority’ managed centrally by Starwood out of a hotel’s room inventory. They aren’t confirmed upgrades the way Hyatt offers them, at booking, but on availability beginning 5 nights prior to check-in.”

    This may be true to the letter, but is patently false. As is widely known and talked about, “available” means the hotel chooses to make the room available for upgrade. So yes, you’re right in using it, but as almost everyone knows you can’t go by what a hotel is selling as available. So there are two availables at play: 1. What the hotel is attempting to sell; 2. A subset of that which they are willing to allow to be given out as upgrades. You somewhat hint at that with your first #3 but that doesn’t really explain that the hotels have a ton of room to play and you saying it is managed centrally by Starwood is (unintentionally) misleading by the omission of relevant facts.

    Your advice is sound and I would summarize it as this: use them at hotels where you don’t really want an upgrade at times of the year you really don’t want to go there.

    And Gary, while you ding the recent post about the Westin Maui, you don’t mention the more than one occurrence of people getting the confirm only to have the sleazy hotel yank the upgrade or swap it out.

    You’re going too easy on this quasi benefit that is earned yet implemented quite pathetically.

  7. @mdtravel I dont think Gary takes it easy on SPG as he has discussed these upgrades previously.Personally I think he takes it easy on AA for many things they do in relation to awards and such 🙂

  8. Perhaps so Robert. I just don’t think enough has been written by bloggers about how this process is a sham. I see people say it “is not transparent” but IMO it is incredibly misleading and in some cases is a bait and switch.

  9. @mdtravel point of this post wasn’t to harangue Starwood but to explain how to get successful suite upgrades with this benefit (indeed, request upgrades at hotels others aren’t and when others aren’t).

  10. Understood Gary; thanks. Perhaps if there were more consistency, we wouldn’t need to use them at the West Des Moines Four Points in mid-January…don’t think there is one actually.

    If you do decide to harangue, it would be a first for me, and I read a lot of miles/points blogs here, Prior2boarding,and so on.

  11. Question: I have a six night SNA request this summer. It’s our family vacation and when I first got the SNA for platinum last year I thought it was a guaranteed deal. Now I’m trying to plan a vacation based on the gable that i’ll get the suite. Is there anything stopping me from reserving a suite with a 3 night cancelation policy now and canceling 4 nights before the reservation so that I can use my SNA on it?

  12. I was looking for some SNA upgrade info and stumbled on this post. I had to laugh because I just stayed at the Sheraton Tucson and was looking for SNA info for our trip to the Westin Maui next week.

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