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I’m done with my travels for the year. I’ve requalified as an American Airlines Executive Platinum member (100,000+ miles, I actually hit this back in mid-June) and I hit United Silver but not quite Gold. I’ve flown paid trips on Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America as well (not to mention China Eastern, flydubai, and Maldivian).
For my hotel stays I spent:
- 51 nights with Hyatt
- 6 nights with Marriott
- 3 nights with Hilton
- A handful of nights at unaffiliated properties
- And 100 nights with Starwood
My Hyatt nights don’t count at least half a dozen award nights, since award nights (full points redemptions and the annual credit card free night) don’t count towards elite status. They do include 10 nights from credit card spend.
My Starwood nights include 10 nights from having both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card co-brands. And during the summer I was targeted for double elite nights.
Without the double elite qualifying promotion I wouldn’t have seen myself as being close enough to make 100 nights possible. I would have stopped at 75 nights, which gets you an extra Starpoint per dollar spent at SPG hotels and gets you access to ‘Your24’ check-in, the ability to check in any time, 24 hours a day and check out 24 hours later (subject to availability).
Al Maha Desert Resort
But 100 nights gets you a designated “Ambassador” — an individual designated to handle all Starwood issues, “gets to know you over time” and “provide the personal touches that make each trip special.”
Within moments of my 100th night posting to my account, I received an email welcoming me to the program:
You take travel to a whole new level. Reaching 100 eligible nights in a calendar year is a momentous occasion — one that deserves a fitting reward: the SPG® ambassador service. It’s the most individualized benefit available through the SPG program, and it can be what you want it to be. You’ll have 24/7 access to the ambassador team, including a personal SPG ambassador — your primary point of contact no matter where you are in the world.
Just tell us what you need — from preferences to restaurant reservations and car transfers — we’ll work to make it happen.
Start using the SPG ambassador service immediately by contacting our global support team at […] or visit spg.com/ambassador. Over the next week, your personal SPG ambassador will be assigned and will reach out to you directly. We’re always here to help you, around the clock and around the world.
I think I know what to expect because I’ve had a Hyatt ‘Private Line Agent’ for several years. Hyatt used to assign one to any Diamond member that requested on. I’ve had several different ones over the years. They leave the company, in one case get fired (for proactively sharing information that wound up posted on an online forum), or move around elsewhere in Hyatt. Some have been better than others (the one who was fired was by far the best).
It’s one point of contact for all things Hyatt. They follow up on missing points and get me bills from past stays. They process suite upgrades for me and make bookings by email. And they’ve arranged things with hotels at times, like specific room requests.
Within 24 hours of my 100th night posting to my Starwood account, I received an email from the person designated as my Ambassador.
Hello Mr. Leff,
Congratulations on hitting 100 nights and earning SPG ambassador service!
My name is [..] and I will be your ambassador.
As your ambassador, I am here for whatever you may need whether it be reservations, concierge services, keeping an eye on your SPG account, etc.
Please do not ever hesitate to contact me for anything that you may need.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
My Ambassador’s details were also visible in the SPG app as well:
I assume my experience with Starwood’s Ambassador program is going to be similar to working with a Private Line agent at Hyatt. There are reports of excellent Ambassador treatment, and reports of Ambassadors who don’t follow up or really do anything more than make reservations and fetch folios.
Starwood makes it seem really special:
The biggest draw for me was experiencing it myself. I get questions from readers all the time, often beyond the scope of what I write about here on the block, and I want to have had as many varied experiences as possible to draw on in providing advice. So why not see what the Ambassador program is like first-hand and not just from reading others’ reports?
Ben Schlappig loves his Starwood Ambassador. But I think you have to set your expectations appropriately. They don’t necessarily get a hotel to break rules for you, but should get to know your preferences and communicate them to a hotel so that any amenity is customized to things you actually like for instance.
Hyatt is introducing a program that may wind up similar with their new top elite tier launching in March. Those who have participated in a test of the program over the past two years seem to be reasonably happy with it, and it’s achieved after 60 nights rather than 100.
Meanwhile Marriott, which has acquired Starwood, is testing an Ambassador program as well.
At the end of the day I may not get as much use out of my Ambassador in the coming year as I would have this last year. That’s because as of now I don’t expect to do 100 Starwood nights again.
- I’m going to push to do 60 Hyatt nights (including meeting $40,000 co-brand credit card spend before the end of February to earn 10 nights) to requalify top tier.
- I intend to do fewer nights on the road in 2017.
That’s why I intend to use the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card to earn Platinum status with Starwood in 2017.
- $75,000 in spend on the card in a year earns Platinum status. Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Platinum status are effectively the same. I have access to the 5000+ hotel footprint and with status.
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Credit: Ritz-Carlton
- This status matches to Starwood Platinum.
I’ve confirmed that status earned via credit card is eligible for the status match. It’ll keep me Starwood Platinum without having to worry about my stays.
St. Regis Abu Dhabi
And of course $75,000 spend on the card then gets me Delta Crossover Rewards benefits and United Silver as well (plus Hertz status).
I’ll stay with Starwood when it makes sense, but I won’t even have to do 50 nights to keep Platinum. Unless I’m truly transformed by Ambassador – hard to imagine – I don’t see myself doing 100 Starwood nights again next year.