Hyatt is making two changes to their elite program for 2018, and they’re both positive.
- All free night awards — whether full award nights on points, or free nights from the credit card, reaching an elite level, or collecting stays across their brands — will count towards status. Hyatt was the only major chain that didn’t count award nights as elite nights.
- The free nights earned upon reaching Explorist status each year (capped at category 4) and upon reaching Globalist status (valid at any hotel up to category 7) will no longer expire after 120 days.
They will be valid for 180 days instead.
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
Award nights counting towards status is huge. This makes sense for Hyatt for two reasons.
- Every one of their major competitors counts award nights towards status
- Their new tougher qualification rules were clearly weighing on the number of elites that were renewing, hence the elite fast track for all co-brand credit card holders this year. Adding award stays (including earned free night stays) towards status makes qualification a bit easier and helps preserve their elite pool
Meanwhile it helps customers requalifying easier, and it helps avoid points and earned free night stays feeling like a net negative to the extend they stood in the way of requalification. This removes a pain point for elite members.
And while I don’t like short-expiring free nights in place of points as a check-in amenity of choice. I’d rather build up points that I can use myself any time I want, however I want. But at least using these free nights will count towards status (so they no longer feel like a punishment) and won’t have to be used quite as quickly (so I don’t wind up throwing them away on low value stays).
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
Overall I believe Hyatt has the most valuable hotel loyalty program top tier. There are two major differentiators:
- Suites confirmed at booking at least 4 times a year (with additional confirmed suites earned for incremental night thresholds after requalifying). Having to use those suite nights by their expiration is a new annoyance in the program, but none of their competitors currently offer confirmed suite upgrades. Upgrades are the benefit elite members overall value most, and Hyatt is set up to deliver the benefit on the stays where it matters most to members.
- An assigned concierge for top elites (similar to Starwood’s Ambassador earned at 100 nights, but intially earned at just 60 nights and renewed at 55). The delivery of this benefit in its first year has been rocky and Hyatt knows it, but it’s a priority for them to invest in. Amy Weinberg tells me,
“My Hyatt Concierge is designed to serve as a single point of contact within Hyatt to assist members. We understand the value of providing our most frequent and loyal guests with personalized, on-demand care, and in 2018, we are allocating more resources for the delivery of this benefit to our valuable members who’ve achieved it.”
Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
I still think there’s a lot of work to be done on the Hyatt program.
- The level below top tier, Explorist, isn’t competitive with Gold at Hilton or Marriott. They currently offer 4 upgrades to club lounge per year, while Marriott and Hilton offer their mid-tier elites lounge or breakfast on most stays.
- The credit card is great to get for the signup bonus and annual free night, but there’s no longer a reason to spend on the card. Chase’s Ultimate Rewards products earn points faster and transfer to Hyatt and the card no longer provides nights towards status for spend.
- There’s no meaningful benefit for elites at limited-service properties, and Hyatt Place and Hyatt House represent half the chain’s portfolio. Without the check-in amenity all I get for my loyalty is a bottle of water.
Chase re-upped its Hyatt deal and told me they’re working on ways to improve the card. I’ve seen some surveys of possible ideas for how they might do so. I’d expect that Hyatt will focus on this, and its uncompetitive upper mid-tier status level, in the year ahead.