Revealed: the ‘status sweet spot’ in hotel loyalty programs

Although the top tier of any hotel’s loyalty program provides that chain’s best perks, reaching such stratospheric levels isn’t always easy – especially for travelers who spread their wings and venture to a variety of destinations, staying with different hotels throughout the year rather than only one brand.

That’s why savvy travelers look for the status ‘sweet spot’. It’s that rung on the loyalty ladder which provides the most practical benefits without requiring the extensive stays demanded by the most elite membership cards.

And if your business travel sees you staying across several hotel groups, depending on your destination, it actually makes sense to focus on reaching that sweet spot across several hotel rewards shcmes.

so wwhether you’re beginning your journey or are sharpening up your status goals, here are the sweet spots you should know about.

Accor Live Limitless sweet spot: Silver + Accor Plus

Accor naturally reserves its best perks for ALL Diamond and Black members, but for everybody else, there’s an easy way to ‘buy’ benefits to enjoy year-round.

That’s by purchasing an Accor Plus membership for $399/year – or activating this membership for free if you hold an AMEX Platinum Charge Card.

Being an Accor Plus cardholder also then grants instant ALL Silver.

Combined, here are the benefits you’ll enjoy across Accor Plus and ALL Silver:

  • A complimentary hotel night every year, including at five-star hotels
  • Priority check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • A welcome drink at the bar with every stay
  • Savings of up to 50% on dining in Asia Pacific
  • 15% off drinks at hotels in Asia (but not all Asia Pacific)
  • “VIP treatment” at Sofitel, which can often find a welcome amenity placed in your room
  • ALL member rates at participating hotels
  • Hotel rate savings of up to 50% through Accor Plus’ ‘Red Hot Room’ offers
  • 10% off room rates at participating hotels, including already-discounted Red Hot Rooms and Private Sale rates
  • Earn 25% more points with every stay, compared to Classic members
  • A membership discount of 13% off the joining fee at the Priority Pass airport lounge network, with which you can access 1,300 lounges worldwide

Normally, ALL Silver would only be earned after staying 10 nights per year, but doesn’t include the most significant perks of dining and hotel rate discounts, or the complimentary night, which are all benefits reserved for Accor Plus members.

Hilton Honors sweet spot: Gold

Being a popular program for business travelers, Hilton Honors and its Gold tier unlock many useful and tangible benefits, without setting the bar too high.

Achievable in 2022 once you get to 28 nights, 14 stays or 52,500 base points – or free for AMEX Platinum Charge Card holders – you’ll get:

  • Free daily continental breakfast (at non-US hotels) or F&B credit (at US hotels) at selected Hilton brands which include Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn and more
  • Complimentary room upgrades, subject to availability
  • Access to hotel Executive Lounges, when upgraded to the Executive floor or eligible rooms
  • Earn 80% more points on base points with each stay. This works out at 18 points for every dollar spent on a stay, except at Tru and Home2 hotels.Priority check-in and late check-out.
  • Free bottled water and WiFi

That’s a solid suite of benefits, with the key difference between Gold and higher-tier Diamond being guaranteed access to hotel Executive Lounges for the latter, regardless of the room type booked or received.

For holders of an American Express Platinum charge card, you can not only transfer points earned via this card into Hilton Honors points, but you’ll be enrolled automatically at a Gold level in Hilton’s loyalty program to get you started.

For Gold members, access is only available when their free upgrade is to a room type that provides this access – or when booking an eligible room outright.

IHG Rewards sweet spot: Gold Elite

IHG has overhauled its Rewards program for 2022 to include four Elite tiers – Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite – but based on the previous program’s structure we feel that IHG Gold Elite will be enough for many travelers, especially when it can be earned after only 20 nights or 40,000 points.

While IHG hasn’t yet revealed what extra benefits Gold Elite may enjoy in the program’s 2022 reshuffle, the current menu includes:

  • Priority check-in and extended check-out
  • A welcome amenity, or if you’re staying at a Kimpton hotel, a ‘Raid The Bar’ US$10 credit to freshen up with a drink during your stay
  • Free in-room WiFi
  • A 10% bonus on points earned with every stay and every purchase made
  • No expiration on points

Note that none of the tiers in IHG Rewards includes free breakfast, which is disappointing indeed.

Marriott Bonvoy sweet spot: Platinum Elite

With six rungs on the loyalty ladder, Marriott’s Platinum Elite tier sits in the upper-middle of the hierarchy and comes after 50 nights, giving solid perks without travelers having to reach the program’s highest tier (Ambassador), or even the second highest level (Titanium).

That starts with lounge access (and daily breakfast at the louge) with every stay, in properties with a lounge of course.

In most hotels, Platinum Elite gets you into the same Executive or Club lounge as available to guests staying on the Executive/Club floors; in some hotels, that’s an exclusive Concierge Lounge to which access can’t otherwise be purchased.

Added to that, Marriott Platinum Elite members also get:

  • Free daily breakfast at most hotels
  • Room upgrades including to selected suites (as available)
  • Earn 50% more points with every stay versus entry-level members
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out (or subject to availability at resort and convention hotels).
  • Your choice of a welcome gift of either up to 500 bonus points, free breakfast or an amenity which varies brand to brand.

However, if you can’t break the 50-night barrier, Marriott Bonvoy Gold status simply isn’t as attractive as what you could unlock via other hotel chains – although it’s again free for AMEX Platinum Charge Card holders.

Gold provides a possible 2pm late check-out as its key benefits, with no complimentary lounge access or breakfast.

Radisson Rewards sweet spot: Gold

There aren’t many hotels in the Radisson group in Australia and New Zealand but the company is much more active in Asia and Europe, with several brands offering Radisson Rewards earning rates and privileges.

The Radisson Rewards loyalty program consists of four levels, and while you’ll likely reach Silver quickly with only 9 qualifying nights needed, the next step up is Gold at 30 nights. That’s certainly attainable across a year, and with Radisson Rewards gold comes:

  • Earn 25 points per dollar spent on stays and dining, with a 15% off sweetener for dining too
  • Rollover nights: if you exceed your qualifying criteria for one year but don’t quite reach the next, this excess figure goes towards retaining your status for another year
  • Complimentary room upgrade (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out, both on request, and up to two hours either side of the hotel’s regular arrival and departure times
  • Guaranteed room availability if booked at least 72 hours in advance

Free breakfast is only afforded to members of the highest Radisson Rewards Platinum tier, which requires double the patronage of Gold at 60 nights.

Other than a higher bonus points earn rate and 20% discount on dining, the only other benefit Platinum members receive is access to a dedicated help desk and booking service – so if sacrificing free breakfast is no big deal, Gold could well be your goal.

Shangri-La Golden Circle sweet spot: Jade

With just over 100 participating hotels worldwide, Shangri-La’s Golden Circle program isn’t as expansive as many of the larger chains, but the scheme’s Jade membership tier can be unlocked after only 10 stays or 20 nights each year.

Covering properties such as Shangri-La, Jen hotel, Kerry Hotels and Traders Hotels, Jade members and traveling partners in the same room start by enjoying free restaurant breakfast every day of their stay.

This isn’t simply a coffee voucher: at Hong Kong’s Hotel Jen, for example, breakfast can be taken at the property’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Café Malacca.

Continuing its perks, Jade members get:

  • Priority 11am check-in and 4pm check-out at an exclusive desk
  • Room upgrade (subject to availability)
  • Guaranteed availability if a booking is made 72 hours or more prior to arrival
  • Three complimentary amenities with every stay (eg beer, soft drinks, snacks)
  • A choice of three amenities from a list of 11 little but appreciated perks such as chocolates, mineral water, beer, soft drink or even milk and cookies

Room upgrades are generally to the next-best category but it is possible to get promoted to a room several categories above the one booked, particularly during school holidays when fewer elite members are staying.

However, access to Horizon Club lounges isn’t offered unless staying in a room type that includes this – only Golden Circle Diamond members are guaranteed that perk.

World of Hyatt sweet spot: Explorist

Sitting in the center of World of Hyatt’s elite tiers, ‘Explorist’ members gain their stripes after spending 30 nights at Hyatt hotels every year (temporary reduced to 15 nights in 2021).

This status can also be earned after hosting 10 meetings and events, or by collecting 50,000 base points and delivers:

  • Dedicated area for check-in
  • 2pm late checkout (subject to availability)
  • Upgrades to the best available room at check-in (excluding suites and lounge access rooms)
  • Earn 20% more points than standard members
  • Two hotel Club Lounge passes every year
  • Daily bottled water and premium in-room Internet
  • Earn points for every dollar spent on qualifying American Airlines fares on top of AAdvantage Miles

Several of those benefits mirror Hyatt’s Discoverist tier – such as free water, WiFi and late check-out – which is an easier goal to aim for if those are the priority, achievable after just 10 nights.

Additional reporting by Matt Lennon

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