Want Hotel Status and Upgrades? Just Ask.

OK first of all, the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program is amazing. In fact I’m comfortable declaring that it’s my hands-down favorite and the best loyalty rewards program I’ve ever used to date. The reasons are many, but I’ll save extolling these virtues for a later post. Before I go on gushing and retell how I achieved Platinum status in nearly a third of the typical time required, let me first disclose that while it would be sweet, I did not receive any discounts, free nights, or any other cool stuff as a result of this post. I just happen to travel a lot, and I happen to stay mostly with SPG hotels, and they happen to rock.

Now back to the gushing. When I first learned I’d be traveling to Toronto every week I asked a few traveling buddies for hotel recommendations around downtown Toronto. Curiously my cohorts spent more time raving about SPG than about any particular hotel, so after the third or fourth SPG recommendation I signed up for an account and booked my first few weeks at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel on Queen St.

Sheraton Centre Toronto Lobby
Grand lobby at the Sheraton Centre Toronto

It turns out this Sheraton is a popular hotel – when I first strolled through the lobby a check-in line stacked 15 people deep greeted me, along with a host of front desk reps hustling back and forth. As I waited I noticed a much shorter, faster moving line over at the SPG Gold & Platinum desk. This line, I decided, was where I needed to be, and I immediately began hatching schemes to get there.

I became Gold later that very night, not more than an hour after I checked-in for the very first time and well before I spent a single week at the Sheraton. Six weeks (and only 18 total nights) later I became Platinum. For reference it normally takes 10 stays or 25 nights to reach Gold and 25 stays or 50 nights for Platinum. So how did I get to Gold before staying a single night and Platinum after just 18 nights? I simply asked.

After I checked-in and settled into my room I jumped on to their super-convenient online chat and asked something to this effect:

me: hi there. Looks like I’ll be spending six months to a year in your hotels and was hoping you could upgrade my account to Platinum in advance?

SPG rep: Hello and welcome to SPG Online Chat, my name is so-and-so.

SPG rep: While I cannot upgrade your account directly to Platinum, I went ahead and upgraded you to Gold to welcome you to the SPG program.

SPG rep: I’ve also enrolled you in our SPG Platinum Challenge Promotion. If you stay 18 nights during a consecutive three-month period we will automatically upgrade you to Platinum.

That was literally all I did. At three nights per week it would have taken me over four months to achieve the 50 night minimum for Platinum. I hit it after just six weeks, and enjoyed Gold status perks along the way.

I’ve come to learn that other loyalty programs work similarly. If you have status with one hotel brand, other hotel brands will often “status-match” your account if you just ask. For example, let’s say you have Platinum status with SPG but Hilton is the only player at your destination. All you have to do is contact Hilton Honors customer service and ask if they’ll match your SPG status. Sometimes they’ll ask for proof of your existing premier status with the other program, but more often than not they’ll be happy for your business.

Rumor has it some airlines, in rare acts of benevolence, will also play the status-match game. I haven’t tried this personally (yet), but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Just asking bumped me into Gold status immediately; it also led me to the previously unknown Platinum Challenge promotion.

It’s all gravy from here.

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