UPDATE 4/16/2018: Marriott announced plans for a combined loyalty program between Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG. See details here. Some of the terms and benefits discussed in this post may change from August 2018.
As with airline’s frequent flyer programs, hotel groups offer their own elite membership levels. Starwood’s Preferred Guest (SPG) program offers several elite membership levels, including SPG Gold and SPG Platinum. Each elite level offers valuable benefits, such as bonus Starpoints from paid stays, guaranteed room availability, choice of welcome gifts (even more bonus Starpoints, breakfast) and 4pm late checkout. To earn SPG elite status, you must earn the required number of night, or stay, credits at Starwood hotels during a calendar year. For the legal details, here is an excerpt from SPG’s Terms and Conditions
An “Eligible Night” is a credit awarded pursuant to these SPG Program Terms that counts towards earning the respective “Eligible Night” thresholds for Elite Preferred Guest Membership Status, SPG Lifetime Gold Status or SPG Lifetime Platinum Status. An SPG Member will earn one Eligible Night towards earning Elite Preferred Guest Membership Status, SPG Lifetime Gold Status and SPG Lifetime Platinum Status for every night during a Stay at an SPG Participating Hotel for which the SPG Member pays an Eligible Rate or redeems an SPG Award or an SPG Promotion Reward, and for every night during a Stay at an SPG Partner Hotel for which the SPG Member pays a Partner Eligible Rate.
SPG defines a hotel Stay as a period of consecutive nights staying in a room at a Starwood property. If you book and pay for more than one room, and stay in one of these rooms, up to three rooms count towards your nights and stay totals.
TIP #1: If you are arranging a wedding reception or business meeting where a lot of rooms are booked, you may want to investigate SPG Pro.
To earn SPG elite status at the Gold level, you must earn 25 nights, or 10 stay, credits in a calendar year. I don’t recommend booking rooms via third-party travel agents since you aren’t guaranteed to get room rates that are eligible for elite stay credits. In any case, Starwood offers their Best Rate Guarantee so if you find a lower qualified rate with 24 hours of booking they will match the rate and give you a 25% discount or 2,000 Starpoints. In my earlier post, Earning Points for Free Hotel Stays, I mentioned the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express benefit of five nights and two stay credits to your SPG account at the start of each year. Plus, if you also own the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, you only need to add 15 nights or six stays in a calendar year to make SPG Gold status. Another, more expensive, method to make SPG Gold status is to spend $30,000 with an American Express SPG card within a calendar year.
NOTE: The terms of the American Express SPG cards are changing on August 1, 2018 with Marriott’s announcement of their new loyalty program. SPG will convert every Starpoint in your account to three points in the new Marriott combined loyalty program. Subsequent spending on the Amex SPG card at participating Marriott/SPG hotels will earn six points in the new program and two points for all other eligible purchases. Beginning in January 2019, you will need to spend a minimum of $35,000 to earn Gold elite status in the new program.
TIP #2: If you are a member of Marriott Rewards program and you have linked your account to SPG, you’ll also receive Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status.
As an SPG Gold member you earn three Starpoints per U.S. dollar spent on stays. You may also receive an upgraded room at check-in (corner room, higher floor, or better view) and 4PM late checkout. Here’s a summary of SPG Gold benefits:
To earn SPG elite status at the Platinum level, you must earn 50 nights or 25 stay credits in a calendar year. If you have linked your Marriott Rewards account to SPG, you’ll also receive Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite status.
As an SPG Platinum member, I earn three Starpoints per dollar spent during my stays (plus two more Starpoints per dollar from the Amex SPG card). Among the added benefits I enjoy are frequent room upgrades, sometimes to amazing suites, such as the W Paris Opéra Wow Suite (see my photo below). After earning 75 nights credit in a calendar year, you earn an additional Starpoint per dollar spent. Thus, if you pay for a hotel stay with the Amex SPG card you earn a total of six Starpoints per dollar. Since I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each, this is like getting 15% return on your hotel spending. Unlike cash back cards where the earning rate is fixed in dollar terms, points and miles can have substantially more value depending how you redeem them for hotel rooms, flights or upgrades.
TIP #2: If you are a member of Marriott Rewards program and you have linked your account to SPG, you’ll also receive Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite status.
Here’s a summary of SPG Platinum benefits:
With the recent introduction of a Starwood and Hertz partnership, SPG Platinum members can register to receive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star status. Five Star members receive car rental upgrades, and bonus points.
SPG Nights Benefits
After staying 50 nights at Starwood hotels you can select from a choice of more benefits, including Suite Night Awards to request suite upgrades. After 75 nights, you earn four Starpoints per dollar spent and the flexibility of choosing check-in and check-out times over a 24-hour period. I like to use this latter benefit for an early check-in after an overnight flight, such as from the West Coast to the U.K. In many cases, I have been able to combine this with the SPG Gold/Platinum benefit of 4pm late check-out to stay over 24 hours at the price of a one-night stay, including free award reservations! After 100 nights, you are matched with a personal SPG ambassador to help you with your reservations and other needs during your hotel stays.
Lifetime SPG Elite
After 250 nights staying at Starwood hotels, and five years of SPG Gold or Platinum status you earn SPG Lifetime Gold status. After 500 nights staying at Starwood hotels, and 10 years of SPG Platinum status you earn SPG Lifetime Platinum status. Lifetime elite status does not come with Suite Night Awards unless you actually earn at least 50 nights credit in a calendar year.
Note: The Lifetime elite terms will change in January 2019 with Marriott’s recently announced combined loyalty program. After this year you will need 400 nights to earn Lifetime Gold or 600 nights for Lifetime Platinum.
Elite status provides free and upgraded travel benefits, whether for business or pleasure. One of my favorite hotel companies is Starwood (now part of Marriott) and I am fortunate to have achieved lifetime SPG Gold membership, and now SPG Platinum. I love the benefits of free upgraded rooms, complimentary breakfast and WiFi. If you have a different favorite hotel company, I’d love to hear how you are earning elite status and the benefits you are receiving.