What to Do When a Hotel Refuses to Honor Elite Benefits

Each hotel chain takes a different approach towards pushing members of their loyalty programs to book directly with the chain. They withhold points, and in some cases elite recognition, from members who make their bookings via third party sites like Expedia or with a vacation package (air and hotel, air and car) provider like United Vacations.

  • Hyatt and Marriott both will recognize your elite status even if you book through a third party. You won’t earn points for your room rate, and you won’t accrue elite status credits, but you’ll be recognized for your loyalty.

  • Starwood doesn’t honor elite benefits or allow earning of stay credit or points for room rate on third party bookings.

  • Hilton doesn’t do either of those things — and it doesn’t even let you earn points for incidental spend at the hotel.

  • IHG Rewards Club doesn’t honor elite benefits on third party bookings. They don’t even honor most benefits on reward night stays.

One reader booked a fantastic three cabin first class fare with AA Vacations combined with hotel stay at the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York, choosing the hotel because he’s a Hyatt Diamond member. Only he didn’t get the Diamond recognition he expected.

The Andaz 5th Avenue has long been my favorite place to stay in New York from an overall price-value standpoint. I’ll usually make my hotel choice on the basis of location, where in Manhattan I need to be. And if money or points are no object I’d choose the Park Hyatt over the Andaz of course.

Andaz 5th Avenue

The excellent General Manager Jonathan Frolich left (he’s now Hyatt’s VP for the Andaz brand). Then the excellent General Manager Cornelia Samara left (she’ll be opening the new 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge). The hotel has been sold.

This reader was told by the hotel no Diamond breakfast on their stay. He called Hyatt Gold Passport who insisted he was entitled to his benefits. He relays that Gold Passport spoke to the hotel, but the manager they spoke with insisted that no benefits would be offered on the rate booked. After three calls he gave up working with Hyatt after being told that ultimately delivery of the benefit was up to the hotel.

Andaz 5th Avenue Complimentary Diamond Room Service Breakfast

He did manage to get late checkout “as a one time exception” however.

I checked in with Hyatt. They’ve assured me that the policy has not changed. Hyatt Gold Passport elite member benefits apply to stays booked through an OTA.

The “standard procedure” if a hotel isn’t delivering promised benefits is to:

  • Speak to Hyatt Gold Passport who can intercede with the hotel (I’d probably tweet rather than call)
  • Ask for the front office manager who should be aware of the rules.

In this case, the guest did both of those things. Hyatt Gold Passport tells me they’re following up to see why the hotel did not deliver this member’s benefits.

What I’d have done is order the breakfast I wanted. I’d even extend my stay by a night if necessary to check out at the time I was entitled to. And I’d seek reimbursement from Hyatt, or Hyatt’s assistance obtaining reimbursement from the hotel, after the stay.

Andaz 5th Avenue Bathroom

Incidentally, here’s what to do if you’re downgraded from a confirmed suite upgrade.

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. Why show a picture of the bathroom? I understand showing the breakfast or even the sidewalk in front of the hotel. But, the bathroom?

  2. Not sure about Hyatt, but at Marriott and Hilton and IHG, elite benefits are always a crapshoot in my experience. Best bet is to call the hotel’s in-house reservations line before arrival to request that they add a loyalty number — then, during check in at the front desk, verify that the loyalty account and status level appear correctly.

    I have received elite breakfast at Hilton, and room upgrades at IHG, on Hotwire bookings. Incidentally, the last time I booked a Marriott on Hotwire, I had to fight for the elite breakfast to which I should have been entitled.

  3. Loyalty programs will be over soon unless the exonomy tanks again and companies need to beg again for customers. First the airlines and now hotels are limiting more and more what you get for your loyalty. Most of the benefits now have subject to availability or in this case subjected to thr mood of the hotel manager. I thought that SPG would be better under Hyatt but now I think they are all on the same boat and couldn’t care less about customers. Economy is cyclical and one day these companies will be begging for customers again and we will remember how we were treated for our loyalty.

  4. Santastico — loyalty programs aren’t going anywhere, even with the economy on the upswing. Even if heads are in beds, there are credit card deals to negotiate

  5. Wow who’s turning into a regular Chris Elliott. So next time Hilton doesn’t upgrade me to an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora when I know they are still selling them I’ll be tweeting you. Actually some sort of consumer watchdog that performs this kind of stuff, i.e. keeps them honest isn’t such a bad idea.

  6. @Nick there’s a big difference between following up on how programs are following their own rules or not and extorting things that aren’t actually due to a customer.

  7. I consistently get upgrades from one chain – Club Carlson properties. I know they don’t always get a lot of love, but they’ve been great to me.

  8. Another hotel chain that doesn’t care and will only offer an apology is club Carlson. Club Carlson will say the hotels are independently owned and operated and will then have the manager call and just say we will try to do better next time. This has happened about 15x and we have only been given welcome gifts or upgrades about 4x with 3 of them being at the nyc property. Glad I’m almost done with their points.

  9. Just a couple of quick points:

    First, it is not universally and wholly true that “Hilton doesn’t do either of those things — and it doesn’t even let you earn points for incidental spend at the hotel”, for the simple reason that “ultimately delivery of the benefit [is] up to the hotel.” I’d once — the only time, in fact — booked a stay at Hilton Frankfurt through an “opaque” channel, and, contrary to the claim here, I still got all the elite benefits (exec floor room upgrade, exec lounge access, free breakfast). On the other hand, I did not earn a single point, even on incidentals, which is the only thing that seems to be consistently enforced.

    Second, it seems that no matter how often we see stories like these, travel bloggers never seem to get it through their heads that there is no such thing as a “guaranteed” or “confirmed” elite perk. When it is to the advantage of property to deny a perk (if only to send a message), it would do so and there would be little that a member could do about it, as happened here. The flip side of that coin is that individual properties can often ignore the T&C and allow certain forbidden elite perks when it is advantageous for them to so. A case in point is that even though free elite breakfast is explicitly verboten at the Waldorf Astoria brand in the HHonors T&C, I have been served full free breakfast at both W=A’s in China (Shanghai and Beijing), and the reason for this largesse is that those properties would be at a disadvantage against their competitors if they followed the T&C in a country where virtually every hotel, 1- to 5-star, offers their guests free breakfast!

  10. @Gary — Actually, that is not the part that I had referred to as “not universally true”. I was referring to your claim about how Hilton does not honor elite benefits for stays booked through “opaque” or third-party discount channels…but glad to see that you agree that “‘it isn’t universally true’ that hotels follow chain rules”….that is, until the next time you go on and on about “guaranteed” or “confirmed” perks 😉

  11. @DCS I just wrote about a case where a Hyatt didn’t honor its rules. And what to do about it. A hotel may fail on a guaranteed perk, but then you have recourse. In the case of a totally discretionary perk you do not. There’s a huge difference.

  12. @Gary — That is what you keep claiming, except that you will see one of these in the T&C of virtually every loyalty program:

    “Benefits Subject to Availability and Modification. All _”enter loyalty program name here”_ program benefits, amenities, offers, awards and services are subject to AVAILABILITY and may be changed at ANY time WITHOUT notice.”

    Any perceived difference is simply made up or is a figment of your imagination because there is no such thing as a “guaranteed” or “confirmed” loyalty perk. Just refer to my previous post or, even better, to what prompted you to write this post. Similar reports of “guaranteed” benefits that are denied are all over the travel blogosphere.

  13. @DCS you’ve been brainwashed by the limitations of the Hilton HHonors program. If you don’t get benefits which are guaranteed by the SPG program they make good, e.g. if you weren’t given your late checkout I’ve never had a problem being given the points for a free night as an apology.

    Here’s what Hyatt says about Diamond breakfast.

    “At Hyatt hotels that do not have a Regency Club or Grand Club lounge, daily complimentary full breakfast inclusive of one entrée (or standard breakfast buffet), juice and coffee (tax, gratuity and service charges included) will be provided to the member and each registered guest in the room, maximum four (4) people. For stays at Hyatt Regency Bethesda, daily continental breakfast (tax and gratuity included) will be provided to the member and each guest registered in the room, maximum four (4) people. Breakfast is not valid for in-room dining. Benefit not valid at Hyatt Place or Hyatt House.”

    There’s no ambiguity. None. Though of course in spite of these terms many hotels will allow breakfast via in-room dining anyway.

    Here’s what they say about late checkout:

    “Diamond members receive a 4:00 PM late checkout (local hotel time) on day of departure at most Hyatt properties. 4:00 PM late checkout is subject to availability at hotels with a casino (including Grand Hyatt Macau and Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila) and Hyatt resorts. A detailed list of Hyatt resorts can be found at hyattresorts.com.”

    The only hotels where it’s not guaranteed and is instead subject to availability are 2 casino properties and the resorts specifically listed at hyattresorts.com.

    The terms for suite upgrades are similarly unambiguous. Has a hotel every failed to honor it? Sure. And when that happens I’ve found compensation to be significant.

    The difference between ‘at hotel’s discretion’ and ‘guaranteed’ is both in terms of (1) the likelihood of the median eligible guest receiving the benefit, and (2) what happens if the hotel fails to deliver.

    What’s more, unlike airline programs, hotel programs are obliged to honor their terms and aren’t exempt from standard contract rules such as duty of good faith and fair dealing the way airline programs are.

  14. The policy of not providing elite benefits on certain (e.g. direct bill or opaque) stays is the #1 reason I give my 150+ nights/year to Marriott and Hyatt.

  15. @Gary — The one who is brainwashed and doing the brainwashing is you. I am a realist who fully understand the limitations of loyalty programs and tailor my expectations accordingly. As a result, I make the most of my membership in every program I patronize, including those, like HGP and SPG, in which I do not hold top elite status and have never cared to precisely because I find the flexibility of HHonors’ T&C to work greatly to my advantage. A case in point are suite upgrades, which are by far my top perk. Just getting 4 per year as HGP Diamonds do would be very limiting for me, despite the bogus claim that DSUs are “confirmed” (by which you imply “guaranteed” even though they depend on AVAILABILITY like complimentary upgrades), because I would run out by the end of the first quarter of every year. However, with HHonors’ complimentary suite upgrades, there is no limit to how many I can have a year, nor is there a limit on the length of stays on which such upgrades are valid. Therefore, as a “creative” elite who knows how to play the game, I can and do stay in suites all year on relatively long stays (some more than a week) using complimentary upgrades, whereas such a feat would be impossible with just 4 DSUs per year. For a stay of more than 7 nights, a HGP Diamond would have to burn two DSUs to be in a suite for the duration of the stay — assuming a property even has basic suites that can be confirmed as upgrades at booking.

    Therefore cutting and pasting HGP T&C does little to get around the basic point that there are no guaranteed perks. A property can deny any perk when it is advantageous to do so [most of the time it isn’t]. On the other hand, being aware of potential limits allows one to devise a method for getting around them to make the most of one’s elite status…


  16. @Gary – as always, DFFT. Not worth spending your time debating folks who come up out of their underground bunker to argue about the definition of “guarantees” and “confirmations”.

  17. Dear Mr. Leff,

    Thank you for taking the time to share the above feedback with us.

    I am terribly sorry to hear of the inconviences that one of your readers experienced and would like to connect with them directly to further discuss this when their schedule allows.

    Once again, thank you for connecting with us and I look forward to continuing this dialogue.

    My Best,

  18. Andaz 5th Avenue under the leadership of Cornelia Samara in the past the hotel achieved a high spot for Diamond members .
    I was never nickled and dimed when it came time to receiving benefits like receiving a full breakfast for myself and traveling companion
    The hotel started to go down hill somewhat with caps and playing games over the past year or so
    My guess Is I read somewhere that the hotel was recently sold and it may be the hotel is going downhill fast under the new ownership
    Having said that they have always been very fair to me as a guest but concerned under the new ownership they will like some other Andaz properties (Hello Andaz Maui) start playing games with the breakfast and suite upgrades and or award inventory .Ive started moving business over to Starwood and Marriott over the games that Hyatt Gold Passport has allowed in some select hotels
    Because the hotel reached out apologized and righted the wrong I think its fair to assume there is no reason to stop going to Andaz 5th Ave or boycotting them at present
    But its still unacceptable none the less as to how the hotel behaved
    Management is at fault as they should be setting a tone always in the spirit of cooperation as they are in the hospitality business!

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