Starwood Award Stays Likely to Count Towards Elite Status

It’s been the subject of speculation over on Milepoint, and I’ve just had two different people confirm it for me: expect an announcement on October 1 that award stays and nights (including cash and points awards) will count towards elite status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. We’ll wait until October to see whether this actually goes into effect, but there’s strong indication that it will.

Since January 1, 2003 this has been the case with Hilton HHonors but the other major chains didn’t follow suit. It looks likely that Starwood will be the second.

Last October, Starwood began awarding both two stays and five nights to American Express cardholder accounts (no spend threshold required). Folks who have both the personal and small business card get four stays and ten nights. Now heavy spending American Express card users, earning lots of points, can get a real chunk of the way towards top status by actually using their points.

Personally I’d rather see the option of earning status (or specificially, nights and stays) based on credit card spend instead of having to actually burn the points. But it still represents increasing importance of credit card customers in the overall elite value proposition for this program (as in most other programs).

This change will make it easier to mattress run towards status, since you won’t have to come out of pocket to do so.

Overall I do like the change, though of course Platinums who already earn their status through paid stays will on the whole not like it — since it means more Platinum members competing for the same room upgrades.

Two and a half years ago, Starwood introduced ‘Ambassador’ status which was an invite-only program for high value customers, and provided benefits beyond what Platinum does. I expected the program to roll out more broadly, possibly become even a new top elite tier, but things have been relatively quiet. And while at the beginning of the program there were reports of significant upgrades beyond what a Platinum would be entitled to, many of the more recent comments on the program have been about a disconnect between preferences expressed to one’s Ambassador representative and implementation at the hotel-level. So it seems like things haven’t been getting scaled up.

A new top tier would certainly be in order, provided that Starwood also offered new benefits commensurate (rather than simply devaluing Platinum). Perhaps making status easier to earn presages a new status level…?

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. Gary – What do you mean when you say:

    “Starwood began awarding two stays and five nights to American Express cardholder accounts (no spend threshold required). Folks who have both the personal and small business card get four stays and ten nights.”

    I have personal SPG AMEX, but I don’t believe I’ve ever received this two stay / five night deal. Could you provide details here? Thanks

  2. @Jack That has been the case for a bit over a year now. I suggest you call Amex if they aren’t reporting correctly to SPG.

  3. Gary – this is great news since I am trying to figure out how to maintain Platinum status this year! Originally I was hoping they would run a Q4 double stays/night towards status promo, but I am having false hope. Since I have many award stays booked between now and the end of the year, this is awesome to hear!

    @Jack – those 2 stays/5 nights are automatically deposited into your account during the February time frame each year now.

  4. I’m at 33 stays for the year already so yep for me I don’t like the prospect of “lighter” plats vying for upgrade space. In fact as a predominantly US based traveller I have not seen much benefit of being plat other than free internet access and if the odd upgrade I do get becomes harder still not sure it is much of a benefit at all

  5. i have ambassador status and while i find it super convenient and am glad i have it, there are no additional benefits that I have seen. The program gives me my own Starwood Ambassador, who does all of my bookings and provides similar service as a Platinum Concierge.

    But it does not give me better access to suite upgrades than anyone else. In fact, several of my bookings have not been upgraded this year.

  6. hmm, you could potentially requalify with a bunch of cat 2 cash and pt stays in asia. seems like that would cost only 50k pts and like 750 dollars.

    does not bode well for the future of plat or they will raise the bar…

  7. This is great news!
    While I currently make Platinum Status based on spends, I think this is a great move. If the idea of a loyalty program is to actually inspire loyalty, I think this is another great step. If I am spending all of those nights earning status paying for it, I would like to have the same benefits extended to me when using the points that I have earned.
    This particularly annoys me about airline rewards programs. I understand not awarding additional points when flying on a reward, but I never understand why I’m not entitled to credit towards status for that flight, as I was sitting in their airplane seat the whole time.

  8. Thanks for the post Gary.

    I disagree this is only for the credit card earning crowd though. One of the major reason I stick to Hilton is because awards also earn credit. If SPG does this, as my current 2nd program, they likely will move to the front. I always feel the pinch when using points because it is a stay without credit at SPG (so far)

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