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The Best Hotel Loyalty Programs for Elite Status

Posted: 02/11/11 05:05 PM ET

The major hotels reward their most loyal guests with some fantastic perks, but how do these programs compare? Which ones offer the best rewards, suite upgrades, and most importantly, the best value given what it will cost to obtain top-tier status?

TravelSort business travel expert Ben Schlappig analyzes the big 5: Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Intercontinental Priority Club and Royal Ambassador, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. and gives his recommendations, along with a summary of the pros and cons. TravelSort sales are also an option, if you opt against hotel chains or don't stay frequently enough to join a program, yet still want a chance at upgrades at a fraction of the cost.

Hyatt Gold Passport
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Photo: Hyatt Regency Maui Credit: Alan Light

In order to earn Hyatt Diamond status you need to make 25 stays or spend 50 nights per year at Hyatt properties.

As a Diamond member you earn five base points per dollar spent, plus a 30% bonus for being a Diamond member, for a total of 6.5 points per dollar spend.

Hyatt has pretty good on-property benefits, though. As a Diamond member you get free internet access for the duration of your stay, and access to the club lounge. If for whatever reason the club lounge is closed and you aren't granted access, you get restaurant breakfast plus 2,500 bonus points as compensation. While the bonus points only apply if the hotel actually has a club lounge (and it's closed), you get the free restaurant breakfast even if the hotel doesn't have a club lounge.

Furthermore, you get a Diamond amenity at every property worldwide. Within the United States you get to choose between 1,000 Gold Passport points and a food and beverage amenity, at full service Hyatt hotels. At international properties, you don't have a choice: you get a food and beverage amenity, which ranges anywhere from three apples to a nice bottle of wine and box of gourmet chocolates.

Hyatt is also the only chain to issue their top tier elite members four confirmed suite upgrades annually. You can apply them to any paid stay of up to seven nights at the time of booking, assuming a standard suite is available. If you decide not to use a suite upgrade, you automatically get upgraded to the best available non-suite room.

Given the reasonable requirements to qualify for top tier status with Hyatt and the excellent benefits, I think it's the all around best value program.
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