What the New Starwood Preferred Guest Benefits Mean for Families

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If you read other miles and points blogs, you have certainly already learned that the Starwood Preferred Guest program (W Hotels, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Four Points, Element, etc…) rolled out some new benefits today for their “elite” hotel guests.  This had been rumored to be happening for quite some time, and in this case the rumors proved to pretty much be accurate.  SPG did not announce a new elite tier, but instead added benefits to the existing tiers, and gave some additional bonuses to those with a high number of nights per year in the top tier.  These changes are scheduled to go into effect on March 1st.  I will go over the new benefits and discuss what these benefits mean for traveling families.

SPG Elite Tiers:

The elite tiers themselves remained unchanged.  You can reach Gold Status with 10 stays or 25 nights per year.  Or by having an Amex Platinum card or spending $30,000 per year on the Starwood SPG Amex.  Both can be obtained here.

You can obtain Platinum status with 25 stays and/or 50 nights in a calendar year.  Award nights count toward elite status.

New Gold Benefits:

Choose between a 250 point amenity (125 for Aloft, Four Points, and Element hotels), high speed internet access for the duration of your stay, or a complimentary beverage in the hotel bar/restaurant (ie, not room service).  Max value of the drink is $15.

If I had a one night stay,  and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to need the internet, I would go for the points.  Otherwise, I bet the internet is going to most often be the choice for many travelers, especially for longer stays.

New Platinum Benefits:

Stay 50+ Nights Per Year, Get 10 Free Suite Night Awards

Stay at a SPG hotel for at least 50 eligible nights in a calendar year and receive 10 Suite Night Awards to be used for confirmable room upgrades to a suite or premium room.  What this award does essentially make a higher tier within the Platinum tier.  SPG Platinum guests are already theoretically entitled to suites and/or premium rooms at check-in, but that benefit sometimes isn’t honored without some serious persuading on the part of the guest.  This way you can confirm a suite or premium room in advance and skip the front-desk negotiations.

Platinum Amenity Options

Choose between continental breakfast, a 500 point amenity (250 for Aloft, Four Points, and Element hotels), or a local amenity as your Platinum welcome gift.  Up to two people in the room can receive the Continental breakfast that is defined as “juice, coffee, pastries, cereal, yogurt and more”.  If you choose to upgrade to a full-breakfast, you will only pay the difference between Continental and full-breakfast over a $15 threshold.  This breakfast amenity cannot be redeemed via room service.  If the hotel has a lounge that you have access to, you can still chose to eat in the lounge and then select a different amenity, such as the point bonus.

Stay 75+ Nights Per Year, Earn 4 SPG Points Per Dollar and Get 24 Hour Stays

SPG guests without elite status earn 2 points per dollar for all eligible charges on their stays.  Gold and Platinum guests earn 3 SPG points per dollar for all eligible chrages on their stays.  Now Platinum guests who stay 75+ nights per year will earn 4 SPG points per dollar on all eligible charges for their stays.

Platinum guests with more at least 75 SPG nights per year can also get 24 hour reservations.  So, if you happened to not arrive until 12AM one night, you could keep the room until 12AM the next night.  This could be great when you have some flights that depart and/or arrive very late or very early.  This is only confirmable up to 48 hours in advance, so it wouldn’t work very well with last minute schedule changes.

Stay 100+ Nights Per Year, Get a Starwood Ambassador

Platinum members who stay 100 nights in a calendar year will receive access to their own personal ambassador to help with their travel planning.  I’m never going to stay anywhere near 100 nights annually in a Starwood hotel, but this could be very helpful for those who spend almost 1/3 of the year in Starwood hotels.

Lifetime Gold and Platinum Member Status

Receive Gold membership status for life when you achieve 250 eligible nights total and any five years of elite SPG status since joining the program.  Receive Platinum membership status for life when you achieve 500 eligible nights total and any 10 years of Platinum SPG status since joining the program.

What This All Means for Traveling Families:

Unless there is a member of your family who travels a fair amount for business, most families are only able to attain SPG Gold status.  As I mentioned earlier, that comes easily enough through having a Amex Platinum card or spending $30K annually on your SPG Amex.  If you are going to have many nights away annually at a SPG hotel, hitting at least Gold via one of those methods is a good goal.  Not only do you get the old Gold benefits of a 50% elite bonus on SPG points, late-checkout (not guaranteed at resorts), and very occasional upgrades, but you can now choose an additional Gold amenity.  While I still have Gold status, I will be most often going for the free internet – that can savings can really add up over a multi-day stay.  Plus, all families need access to Netflix and Hulu while on vacation, right?!  Seriously though, the Gold amenity choices are a nice addition, but they aren’t exactly earth shattering.

The Platinum benefit addition of free breakfast is where it really starts to get good for families.  The downsides are that it is for a maximum of two people in the room, and it is for a continental breakfast (though some properties will offer full breakfast).  However, you can still upgrade to a more substantial breakfast and just pay the difference.  That will make breakfast quite affordable.  I often find that breakfast servings are for more food than I really need, so it will be easy for me to share my plate with my toddler.    Obviously, there will come a time that she will need her own serving, but this benefit will really help us keep breakfast costs down at SPG hotels once I hit Platinum status (hopefully) later this year.

The Suite Awards are great if you have someone in the family that has 50+ nights away at a SPG hotel annually.  Families simply need more room, and they need to know for sure that they are confirmed in a larger room in advance.  This makes that possible, and what is fantastic is that you can confirm suites on award reservations.  I very much wish that Hyatt would offer that option on award reservations.  I am disappointed that this confirmed suites benefit will likely be out of my reach since I won’t come close to 50 SPG nights in a year, but it is a very positive step for those who do have that many nights away.

For the average traveling family, I would give these enhancements a B+.  They aren’t exceptional for most of us, but since they didn’t take benefits away (unlike many airlines these days), I do give them credit for trying.  Some additional befit options for Gold members, and some real enhancements for Platinum members are a good thing for travelers.  I Can’t wait until I hit Platinum so I can start enjoying my free breakfast.  😉

Will these new benefits help you and family on your travels?  Do they make you more or less likely to concentrate some stays at SPG hotels?  What change do you like the best?

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  1. Very nice analysis from a different perspective (I mean family perspective). However can anyone further elaborate here on what would be the best hotel program for families right now?

  2. I am more C- than your B+ for families. I have two kids, older than yours at 7 and 9 but not so old that they’ve got to the point where we necessarily need to get two separate rooms. But Hyatt is still way ahead here where a Diamond can confirm a suite upgrade at time of booking four times a year. That would cover all my family trips and I am sure enough for any average family with room to spare. With SPG I’ve got to be away from my family a full 50 nights before I start to get suites that are only confirmed a few days out. Then the breakfast addition is poor value compared to Hyatt. At Hyatt we get full breakfast for all four of us wherever we stay, unless it’s a club location in which case we get full club access. Paying for two at a hotel and getting two free is still poor value. We are still more likely to find a nearby Starbucks where the cost of breakfast will be less than paying for TWO people at an average hotel.

    So personally I don’t think these are great changes family wise. Gold benefits are nice that IMHO gets them up from D into C- territory. And it looks like I am not that far from lifetime gold if it is retrospective so a useful backup status. But I don’t see this putting SPG into serious competition with Hyatt on the family benefit front

  3. @caveman, thanks! Look for a post next week comparing elite hotel status programs for families. 😉

    @Simonne, thanks for sharing.

    @Jamison, they do seem to hand out Hilton Gold left and right. I agree it is probably the best mid-tier hotel status. I plan to write more about that soon.

    @Phil, I hear ya. I would give the enhancements themselves a B+ (I honestly start expecting the worst when I hear “enhancements”, so when they only add things, I am pretty happy). However, I would agree tha tthe program overall is not as good as Hyatt for families. I’m going to have to think a little more about what grade I would give the SPG program as a whole for families, but I do think it will fall behind the Gold Passport program.

  4. Our family is a big fan of Hilton (spouse and I are both Gold) and the chain has a good footprint of hotels wherever we travel. Hard to beat the free breakfasts for us as a benefit.

  5. If I’ve had SPG gold already for 5 years, do I now have it for life?

    Frankly, Gold isn’t a great benefit (especially at USA hotels), but it’s better than nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever actually earned it with enough annual stays, just through codes and credit cards, etc.

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