So you’re going on vacation and you want the best for your family but can’t afford to book a suite so what do you do?
Well you can try to get an upgrade without status or you could sign up for the American Express Platinum Card to get status at SPG, Hilton or Club Carlson but what do you do if you are staying at another hotel chain like a Hyatt or IHG?
The answer is to leverage your status.
The big caveat here is that you need to somehow have status in one of the bigger hotel chains in order to implement this strategy but once you get that initial status, the sky’s the limit.
Why Do You Want Status?
For those that don’t have status, you may sometimes hear stories about the great lengths people go to in order to retain their status and there’s very good reason for it. Having status rocks. You get treated better, you often times get upgraded rooms for free and almost always, you get an added perk like free breakfast or access to the club floor (free food and drinks). All these benefits translate into real dollar savings on your vacation. If you’ve ever taken your family out for breakfast while on vacation, you know that it can easily take $100 out of your pocket. Wouldn’t you rather have that same upscale breakfast for free because you have status? As far as hotel room upgrades go, I would say that I am batting about 90% for free upgrades. The only times that I do not get upgraded are when the hotel is full and I check in late at night. Other than that, I have always been able to get a room upgrade because of my status.
Getting Your First Status
From experience, Hilton Gold is probably the easiest hotel status to get if you aren’t interested in signing up for the American Express Platinum Card (definitely the easiest way to get status). Often times, Hilton will create sign up promotions that will give you Gold status with as little as 2, but most likely 3 stays within a certain period of time (usually 3 months). I signed up for one of these promos a long time ago when I was travelling for work and easily met my minimum stay requirements. If you happen to be in that situation, make sure to employ the same strategy.
In order to find these Fast Track opportunities, simply Google “Hilton Gold Fast Track with 2 Stays” and look for sign up promotions. Obviously you can replace the 2 with another number. As I was researching this article, I found a common Fast Track offer called Hilton MVP that gives you Gold Status with 4 stays plus 20% off the Best Available Rate. As a tidbit of information, the MVP rate is widely known as the easiest significant rate discount you can use on Hilton stays. There are others that may be larger but the MVP rate is accessible to anyone.
Leveraging Your Status
Imagine you are a hotel chain like SPG or Hyatt and one of your competitors, Hilton, has scooped up a potentially very lucrative customer. You know that one of the big reasons that this customer is loyal to Hilton is that they have Gold so what do you do? Well if you want to stay in business, you’ll try to attract that customer to become your loyal client. But how do you do that?
The answer is what is commonly known in the industry as Status Matching.
Typically, a hotel chain will provide one of the following two options for status matching:
- Status Match Challenge – this is the most common approach whereby the matching hotel will throw down a challenge (not unlike what Hilton does for their Fast Track program) whereby you need to stay a certain number of times at their hotel to achieve status. I would say that 50% of the time, the benefits of that status are provided during the challenge period so you may get to experience the good life while you are trying to obtain the status for a longer period. Other times, you may just need to complete the status challenge before they provide you the benefits. Your mileage may vary here.
- Outright Status Match – this is the best case scenario and something that seems to be increasingly rare but there have been times where hotels simply do a status match to attract clients. When Marriott and SPG announced their merger, Hyatt provided a straight up status match to woo disenfranchised SPG members over to their hotel chain so while it is possible, circumstances often dictate whether or not a straight status match is possible.
So now that you are interested in trying to get status and match it with other hotels, where do you start? Well there are two key resources I recommend.
LoyaltyLobby – Loyalty Lobby is a blog that focuses strictly on hotels and all hotel promotions. I have found this to be in invaluable tool for staying up to date on how I can leverage my hotel statuses. This site is also a great resource to check if you have an upcoming hotel stay to ensure you have signed up for any hotel point bonus promotion, of which there are many.
StatusMatcher – the go to resource to find out how successful your fellow travel hackers have been at matching status with other hotels and airlines. Check here first to see what your chances of getting a status match are. If you dig into the reports, you can see what people have said during their status match requests so you can shape your request accordingly.
Round and Round We Go
The first status match is typically the toughest but once you get one of your statuses matched, your ability to match other statuses becomes exponentially easier. Say you are a higher end hotel like Fairmont and you are considering a status match. You may not provide a status match or even a challenge to a loyal client to IHG but you might if that client was coming from a higher end hotel chain like SPG. So if you only have status with IHG, think of the steps in the ladder you might want to climb before you try to do a status match with Fairmont. Something like the chain below might be a better bet.
IHG –> Hilton –> Marriott/SPG –> Fairmont
You have to put yourself in the shoes of the hotel and think about the clientele they are trying to attract. They may not want people that stay at Holiday Inns (IHG) but they probably want someone that stays in a Westin (SPG).
Keep in mind that many of these status matches/challenges are once per account lifetime so for example, if you get a match with SPG you cannot request another match when your initial match expires so only match strategically … or open new accounts … whatever floats your boat.
I have used this strategy (along with being a American Express Platinum holder) to become a status member at the following hotels:
- Club Carlson – Gold
- Fairmont President’s Club – Premier
- Hilton HHonors – Diamond
- Hyatt Gold Passport – Diamond
- Le Club Accorhotels – Platinum
- Marriott – Gold
- SPG – Gold
Hopefully this guide sets you down the right path to the extra perks associated with hotel status. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.