Laet year, Starwood made a change (improvement?) to the Platinum Benefits SPG members enjoy. If a member logs 25 stays throughout the year, they earn SPG Platinum status. With 50 nights under your belt in a given year, you earn Platinum status and SPG would give you an additional bonus: 10 Suite Night Upgrades. These upgrades could be redeemed anytime after you booked your room up until a few days before you stayed. These upgrades were NOT guaranteed and they only clear a couple days before arrival. If you wanted a confirmed suite, you’d need to pay for it (either wish cash or extra points if you were booked on an award stay).
My luck with these upgrade instruments was absolutely abysmal for domestic stays, but phenomenal for foreign travel. I’ve never once had a Platinum Suite Night Upgrade clear in the US or Canada, but in Europe, we’ve been upgraded to great rooms at the Alfonso XIII in Seville, Prince de Galles in Paris and the Bristol in Vienna. I’ve been Platinum (with 50+ nights) for a few years now and I usually end the year with 4-6 unused Suite Night Upgrades. It kills me.
I think many Platinum members were in the same boat. Perhaps SPG was tired of us all complaining about it in person and over social media, so they decided to give us some additional options once we reach 50 nights in a calendar year:
I love choices and I really hate when you get pigeonholed into just a single choice that hardly ever works out for you. So instead of earning 10 Suite Night Upgrades, one could choose:
- The ability to give SPG Gold Status to a Friend/Family Member
- Have SPG give $100 to UNICEF
- A $100 Amazon.com Gift Card
- TSA Pre-Check (an $85 value)
- 4 Uber Rides worth $25 each
I like choices. These choices suck. Basically SPG is valuing the 50 night bonus at about $100. Even though I end up wasting most of my upgrades, I still value the two or three nights a year I get upgraded to a fabulous suite at more than $100. I’m sure you are waiting with bated breath to hear my thoughts on each of these alternate choices, so here they are:
- Gift SPG Gold to a Friend
- This isn’t too bad – I’ve gifted Gold or Silver Status in other programs before and you get some great Karma points. There are other ways to get the status (having the AmEx Platinum Card) or the benefits of the status (booking through certain Travel Agents get you free internet, or breakfast or if you use the SPG AmEx card you get extra points). Unless I’m trying to gain something from someone, this gift really doesn’t deliver to me.
- Have SPG make a gift to UNICEF
- Nothing against UNICEF, but 1) I don’t trust that a donation would actually be made and 2) I want to maximize my value here and I value the other items much more than $100.
- Receive a $100 Amazon.com Gift Card
- See above, RE: Value Proposition. It’s a loser.
- TSA Pre-Check
- I really think that if you are staying 50 nights a year with SPG you are by definition a frequent traveler and unless you are driving everywhere, you are likely flying a lot. If you fly a frequently, you already know the value of Pre-Check and already have it. I got my Pre-Check as an Elite with United many years ago. Pre-Check is already included with Global Entry (which costs just $100 for a 5 year membership) and several premium credit cards already reimburse you for Pre-Check (and Global Entry). Back to the value proposition – if I think $100 is a rip off, then an $85 value is a big-rip-off.
- Four Uber Ride Credits (@$25 each)
- Most of my Uber Rides are less than $25, so I’d almost automatically be losing out on this game and again, back to the value proposition: maximum value of $100, but likely less. This is a loser too.
As I crossed the 50 night mark in 2015, I opted to keep the 10 Suite Night Upgrades. I just hope that my luck abroad continues to hold true. If I end the year with 10 unused Suite Night Upgrades I’ll be pissed that I didn’t just cash in some free Amazon bucks to buy some digital content to keep me entertained while I’m stuck in my standard room.
If SPG calls me up tomorrow and asks what I think would be a better option, I would not hesitate. I’d say make these instruments confirmable at time of booking. Even if that means reducing the number of Nightly Upgrades they give you. In an ideal world, they’d switch them to STAY Upgrades (valid for multiple night stays) versus the NIGHT Upgrades. Even if they only gave us 3 or 4 of these (and cap them at 7 nights max for each upgrade), I’d consider this a HUGE win.
What did you (or what would you) choose as your 50-Night Platinum Reward? If you could add one more item, what would it be? I’d love to know how many people are choosing the UNICEF donation, wouldn’t you?