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:
- Hotels are full these days
- 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.
- Suite upgrades have to be available every night of a stay.
- 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.