My Hotel Elite Status Plan Now That Hyatt is Revamping Their Program

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Since news broke of changes coming in March to Hyatt Gold Passport, becoming “World of Hyatt” with new and different benefits, I’ve been pondering how I’ll approach my own elite status next year.

I’ll be a top tier ‘Globalist’ in the new program based on re-earning Diamond this year (based on this year’s criteria — anyone with 25 stays or 50 nights in 2016 gets top tier through February 2018, even though it will have tougher requirements to keep going forward).

Reader Sam Barnes also asked about a situation not too far off for mine since I earn status with both Hyatt and Starwood,

I would like to hear your thoughts on the scenario of someone who, up until this change, could qualify on stays for both SPG and Hyatt top tier status (roughly 55 stays / 80 nights per year). No reason I shouldn’t keep the SPG side going, but where should I park those other 25-30 stays? Hilton? IHG? Club Carlson? Wyndham?? Go for SPG75? Or is Explorist status better than any of those?


Straits Kitchen, Grand Hyatt Singapore

I Really Want to Keep Top Tier Hyatt Status

Here’s how I’m thinking about it. I still want top tier status with Hyatt.

  • Hyatt’s top tier elites get better suite upgrade benefits than before — potentially more confirmed at booking, and available suites even when not confirming in advance.

  • They get better customer service with a new dedicated concierge rep as well.

  • And the program still offers the best breakfast benefit benefit (full restaurant breakfast when there’s no club lounge).

And with these benefits it makes sense for Hyatt to make it harder to qualify, even though that leaves many current Diamonds by the wayside starting in 14 months. These are strong benefits. But there are trade-offs, too.

It takes more nights to earn status. Those nights are harder to get. And stays alone won’t do it.


Diamond Room Service Breakfast, Park Hyatt Chennai

The Hyatt Credit Card Is No Longer Valuable to Me

Hyatt killed their credit card for spend in my opinion. It already isn’t a top earner, since most spend just earns 1 point per dollar and a transferrable point and most airline miles are worth more than a single Hyatt point.

Nonetheless I did put $40,000 of spend on it for the 10 elite nights that earned me. Under the new program that option is gone, and you cannot spend to earn credit towards top tier elite status. In fact now you need to spend $50,000 on the card just for enhanced Platinum (Explorist) status.

It’s still worth keeping the for the annual category 1-4 complimentary night. But there’s no longer a reason for me to spend any money on it.

Update: Spend on the card can still earn elite nights in January and February, helping you earn status in 2017 that will be valid through February 2019. So I may do that and then call myself done with spend on the card.

It’s Even Harder to Make Status and Even Positive Changes Aren’t All Positive

Eliminating credit card spend for elite nights makes the 60 night threshold for Globalist even worse. I have to go from 40 nights for top tier to 60 (or 55).

Lack of elite credit on award stays stings here especially too. It is great that Diamond Suite Upgrades will be valid on award nights but what top elite who has these can afford to book award nights anymore with the higher re-qualification threshold?

The free uncapped award night on reaching top tier (I have a hard time referring to it as ‘Globalist’) is a devaluation with giving up the 1000 points per stay check0in amenity. You trade enough points for a free night at a great hotel earned via these amenities each year for a free night certificate that expires.


Grand Hyatt Mumbai

My Plan Going Forward

Since I do enough nights to keep top tier this is on net nice for me (even though I am already grandfathered in with a Private Line Agent so it is really just about the upgrades and not the concierge for me).

However I am working hard not to do as much travel next year. I won’t be able to do this and Starwood ambassador 100 nights again.

So my current thinking — and I have the next 2 months to decide — is that I stay with Hyatt enough for top tier and spend $75,000 on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card for Platinum which also keeps me at Starwood Platinum.

Who would have thought I of all people would be semi-happy about the Starwood-Marriott merger? It gives me a way out from a difficult choice.

Hyatt’s footprint isn’t large enough for me to rely entirely on Hyatt. But I value their top tier enough to want to keep it. I can keep Starwood Platinum through spend on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. And that gives me a wide array of hotels through Marriott and Ritz-Carlton at which I’ll have top status as well.

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. “Lack of elite credit on award stays stings here especially too. It is great that Diamond Suite Upgrades will be valid on award nights but what top elite who has these can afford to book award nights anymore with the higher re-qualification threshold?”

    Don’t understand this paragraph. So you have to stay more nights. You earn more Hyatt points in the process. You can’t spend those points on award nights for some reason? Which devalues having the new option of applying confirmed suite upgrades to award nights somehow? I completely don’t understand what you’re saying here.

    Anyway, I too will have difficulty with this next year. The good news is so far SPG award nights count towards status and the option to requalify at 50 nights with SPG is still there. Plus of course you can knock 10 nights off with both SPG Amex cards, even if you won’t get a bonus on getting one of these again for the last time. So 40 nights at SPG and 55 at Hyatt. 95 total nights. Or if you take 3 weeks of vacation a year, a little under two days a week.

    I can swing that. Especially with the SPG award nights qualifying. When/if it eventually moves to 75 nights for top tier SPG? Probably have to give something up.

  2. Useful analysis of a complicated matter, Gary. And thanks for the mention of the $75K spending on the RC card resulting in Marriott/Starwood Platinum status. I’d missed that in previous discussions of the benefits of the card. Not certain putting that spending on that card would be worth the opportunity costs, but still good to know if I decide to get it.

  3. Thought I’d read somewhere that award nights will now count towards status (possibly early speculation). Is that the case? Do not see that in the new terms.

  4. Hi Gary-
    Just to clarify, if I’ve already qualified for Diamond status through Feb. 2018, will 25 stays in Jan-Feb 2017 extend Globalist status through Feb. 2019? Thx

  5. OK I am a bit concerned now. According to the old terms and conditions, points and cash stays/nights were considered elite qualifying. Accoridng to the new website just published by Hyatt, it looks like those are no longer included?! Tell me it ain’t so!!

    Old T&C:
    An “Eligible Rate” shall be defined as any hotel published room rate, including, but not limited to rates found on hyatt.com, the Standard Rate, Volume Account Rates, AAA and Senior Citizen rates and Points + Cash awards. A portion of an Eligible Rate may reflect taxes, service charges, gratuities, and third-party charges for certain included items, and those costs may not be eligible for Hyatt Gold Passport points. “Ineligible Rates” are any free night stays, Third Party Internet Rates (examples include without limitation priceline.com, booking.com, ctrip.com, agoda.com, hotels.com, Southwest.com Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, bookings made directly on Google.com and TripAdvisor Instant Book), traditional wholesale rates (examples include without limitation GOGO Worldwide Vacations, Pleasant Holidays,Tourico, Hotelbeds, etc.), airline crew rates, airline employee rates, travel agency employee rates, Club at the Hyatt discount certificate stays, Hyatt employee or employee family discount rates, airline interrupted-trip vouchers or contracted rooms (a contracted room is a room that has been reserved pursuant to a written and executed agreement between a hotel and a corporation, government agency or individual for a negotiated room rate in exchange for an agreed upon number of rooms to be rented for an extended period of time).

    New T&C:
    What is an Eligible Rate?

    An Eligible Rate is any hotel or resort room rate published by Hyatt (including rates found on hyatt.com, without the application of a discount code, and Hyatt’s “Standard Rate,” “Volume Account Rates,” and “Senior Citizen Rate”).

    Is this just an oversight by the Hyatt people or do P&C nights no longer elite qualifying? Thanks in advance!

  6. Hi Gary,

    I just got the Hyatt Visa back in August. As you’ve said, the only reason to keep it is for the free night for category 1-4. Do you think it’s possible to convert this to a Ritz Carlton Infinite card?

  7. I understand the issue with DSU on award stays being a double edged sword. I don’t travel enough to make 55 nights in a Hyatt AND then have a vacation. If award stays counted, that would be huge.

    Same with the free night. If I use it, I have to stay 56 nights. The points could be used towards cash and points, even if it isn’t the same (I had less than 20 stays).

  8. My elite status plan now that there is ‘turmoil’ across the hotel loyalty programs landscape: stick with HHonors because it offers it all, consistently.

    The canonical list of perks in no particular order:

    — Ability to make elite based on (a) # of nights, (b) # of stays or (c) spend (just $12K for HHD) or # of base points. Only program that offers all three avenues for elite qualification.

    — Unlimited complimentary suite upgrades at check-in, including on award stays, with extremely high AVAILABILITY due to large footprint.

    — Only program that makes no difference between award and paid stays when it comes to earning promo points.

    — Automatic upgrade to exec floor for top elites.

    — “Guaranteed” exec lounge access for top elites.

    — Free full breakfast except in the US.

    — Award stays count towards elite qualification.

    — Uncapped time for late checkout.

    — Only program with 4 different co-brand CCs that one would actually want to use to pay for stays.

    — 1000 Diamond My Way bonus points.

    — 500 Amex co-brand cards booking bonus points.

    — Best second tier elite status in the business. Period.

    — Only program that offers top elites the mother of all status diffentiators: HHonors “Diamond Force.” Only truly guaranteed perk because it is automated and independent of individual properties.

    — Only program that’s consistently offered lucrative global and targeted promos over the last couple of years, WITHOUT A SINGLE PROPERTY OPTING OUT.

    — Yuge footprint.

    — Unprecedented programmatic maturity and stability.

    — Among best managed hotel loyalty programs and parent companies.

    — Etc…etc…etc…

  9. One poster mentioned the Hyatt branded card, which up to 3/1/2017 gives one PLT status. while this is minimal it still helps one if they don’t travel as much as some of us do. Now there is very little reason IMOP to keep this card. Sapphire looks even better !

    This and other program changes that have been announced and or rumored to be happening will change the landscape of FT/FF programs. It appears some of the party is coming to a close. Note I have always been a supporter of revenue based rewards.

  10. Oh, and a very important one that makes stays at aspirational properties (e.g., Conrad Koh Samui) affordable:

    — 5th award night free!

  11. BTW, speaking of how the CSR has made the Chase Hyatt visa obsolete as a spend card, I am one of those who got the plastic CSR card because they ran out. Before I left NYC for Fort Lauderdale, where I am now, on Wednesday I had requested a “heavy metal” CSR card replacement, and today (Friday) I got an email from the receptionist of my apartment building that the replacement was delivered! Fast and easy. You might want to request your “heavy metal” CSR too because they are now back in stock…

  12. Random thoughts . . .

    @Gary, since I am *not* a Road Warrior (but in fact semi-retired), Hyatt has just about killed off my interest in staying there, as it seems I shall be unable to qualify for anything meaningful with them. On the other hand, I already have SPG Gold status for 2017, and will work towards making sure I re-qualify for that for CY2018. Once Marriott actually gets around to fully merging their (now) three programs, THEN will be the time for me to re-evaluate my plans moving forward.

    Additionally, I find greater value with the SPG Amex card than I do with the Marriott Rewards card from Chase, and while I intend to keep both for the short-term, there is no doubt that the SPG gets far more use.

    @DCS, I’m with you. In addition to Gold w/SPG, I also have Gold status with Hilton, and find excellent value in their program, particularly overseas. (Had a great stay this Spring in Venice on points.)

  13. I know it’s more emotional than rational, but the effort — and expense — involved in now reaching top tier Hyatt status couldn’t possibly be worth it for 99%+ of travelers. Getting the best status you can get without exerting significant effort and expense in as many hotel programs as possible seems like the best strategy by far.

  14. @DCS In regard with the uncapped late check-out, what’s your experience getting late check-out in a Japanese hilton property? I planed to ask for a late check-out in Conrad Tokyo next month as a Diamond, but I am not sure what’s their usuall practice and what’s they bottom line.. Thanks for your advise.

  15. The question is how will other programs respond? It seems that Starwood/Marriott could tinker with its new program in a way that could put a hurtin’ on WOH. This year I’ve enjoyed my status match Diamond status with Hyatt but I’m not married to it. I’ll reach Diamond again next year through stays and SPG75 down from ambassador this year. (SPG actually has four top tiers — Platinum(25 stays), SPG50, SPG 75, and SPG100 or ambassador.)

    For me and many other Diamonds it will be a stretch to get to 60/55 nights with WOH. I see little value in trying. My 25 stays and 36 nights with Hyatt will be better used next year at Starwood/Marriott. First, there is the incredibly small footprint of Hyatt and limited access to less expensive brands outside the US. (The WOH theme song is the Disney classic “Its a Small Small World.”). Second, Hyatt points versus Starpoints is no contest. Third even with the improved ugh “Globalist” benefits there is nothing to match Crossover Rewards and SPG75 benefits like Your24, additional Starpoint, and additional Uber credit.

    It will be interesting to see how Starwood/Marriott responds. If it improves the Suite Night Awards so there are more of them and they can be confirmed at reservation, perhaps eliminate the $75,000 “Leff” loophole to Platinum status (although I would think few do this), and/or tweak other benefits, it could severely undermine WOH.

    Will Starwood/Marriott seize an opportunity to add customers at the expense of a competitor, or will the airline model of not rocking the boat prevail?

  16. Instead of putting $75k on the Ritz card why not just wait for the buyback status offer. I think its like 40,000 points if you were already Platinum to buyback platinum. At 0.8 cents per point, it’s like buying back status for $320. By putting $75k on the Ritz card you are earning points worth 0.8 cents instead of putting that spend on a card that earns MR or UR points worth more like 2 cents each. So missing out on 1.2 cents per point on 75k points is costing you $900 to retain status by Ritz card spending versus $320 by doing the status buyback..

  17. i have Ritz Plat, and i have limited stays/points with them, it must be through some other card, or membership, i don’t spend USD 75K on the RC card?

    is it via Amex Plat, or Mileage Plus?

  18. Don’t understand the decision to spend $75K on ritz Carlton card to get top status (and 75K points Marriott points worth one night in a top RC or one night in a second level SPG) vs spending the same 75K on two Hilton Reserve cards (at least 50K on one) and getting top tier status, two free nights at a top tier Hilton (and at least 225,000 points, worth at least another 2 free nights at a top tier Hilton).
    To each his own, but I would rather spend my 4 free nights in a harbor view suite at Conrad Hong Kong, a Waldorf Suite (800 square ft in the heritage building) at the WA Shanghai, or in a premier suite (1600 square feet) at the Conrad Macao (as I did for all of these last June) and still have 65-145,000 points left over than one spend 1 night in a RC top tier hotel or a SPG second tier hotel.

  19. Updated with more ‘nuance’ and ‘contrast’…

    BTW, I agree with those who question the “wisdom” of spending $75K on the Ritz visa — an all-around mediocre “premium” card — to earn top elite status.

    My elite status plan now that there is ‘turmoil’ across the hotel loyalty programs landscape: stick with HHonors because it offers it all, consistently.

    The [updated] canonical list of perks in no particular order:

    — Ability to make elite based on (a) # of nights, (b) # of stays or (c) spend (just $12K for HHD) or # of base points. Only program that offers all three avenues for elite qualification.

    — Unlimited complimentary suite upgrades at check-in, including on award stays, with extremely high AVAILABILITY due to large footprint.

    — Makes no difference between award and paid stays when it comes to pretty much every aspect the program, be it earning promo points, status recognition, etc.

    — Automatic and “guaranteed” upgrade to exec floor for top elites.

    — “Guaranteed” exec lounge access for top elites.

    — Free full restaurant breakfast EVEN when there is exec lounge, except in the US where AT LEAST “continental” is “guaranteed” (exec lounge or full restaurant? usually optional)

    — Award stays/nights count towards elite qualification.

    — 5th award night free!

    — Uncapped time for late checkout.

    — Best second tier elite status in the business. Period.

    — Only program with 4 different co-brand CCs that one would actually want to use to pay for stays. In addition, program offers ability to make top elite through AFFORDABLE CC spend on co-brand cards ($40K on HH Citi Reserve or Surpass vs $75K Chase Ritz Carlton – an all around mediocre “premium” card); and offers Gold status, best second tier in the business, by just having either of 2 co-brand cards with an annual fee.

    — 1000 Diamond My Way bonus points.

    — 500 Amex co-brand cards booking bonus points.

    — Only program that offers top elites the mother of all status diffentiators: HHonors “Diamond Force.” Only truly guaranteed perk because it is automated and independent of individual properties.

    — Only program that’s consistently offered lucrative global and targeted promos over the last couple of years, WITHOUT A SINGLE PROPERTY OPTING OUT.

    — Yuge footprint.

    — Unprecedented programmatic maturity and stability.

    — Among best managed hotel loyalty programs and parent companies.

    — Etc…etc…etc…

  20. Depending on where your travel takes you, consider Kimpton. Not sure for how much longer they will remain a viable option per the IHG acquisition, but for now they have a very strong program for frequent guests.

  21. If you have Platinum from UA Mileage Plus, will that remain for Explorist?

    and does that mean if you stay 30 nights with Explorist from credit card source, you’ll get Globalist? or does it require the full 60 nights?

  22. My problem with Kimpton has always been room size — every Kimpton I’ve ever stayed at, the rooms were tiny! YMMV . . . .

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