Earlier in October, I posted about a sign-up link to get free top-tier Platinum status with Accor Hotels. While that link is dead now, I was able to snag free Platinum status with Accor Hotels as a result, and use that to leverage instant Gold Elite status with Club Carlson and also start my Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum Challenge.
What is the SPG Platinum Challenge?
It’s a special fast-track method to receive top-tier Platinum elite status with SPG by staying only 18 nights within a 3 month period. This challenge has to be officially started by a Starwood representative (online chat, email, or telephone), and you can choose your start date since you must achieve the 18 nights within a 90 day period.
In order to qualify for the challenge, you are supposed to show Starwood that you have elite status with another hotel group already (I was leveraging my new Platinum status with Accor Hotels), but they never actually asked me for proof of status so I assume you could theoretically ask them for the challenge regardless of if you have elite status somewhere else.
So why even bother with the Platinum Challenge? Let’s take a look at what Platinum means with Starwood.
Benefits of Platinum Elite status:
- Three Starpoints® per eligible U.S. dollar spent, a 50% bonus over Preferred members.
- Room upgrades at check-in, including Standard Suites.
- Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast (new option!) and local amenities.
- 4 p.m. late checkout where available.
- Complimentary in-room Internet access.
- Club and Executive Level access where available.
- Guaranteed availability when your room is booked by 3 p.m. 72+ hours prior to arrival.
- Signature Platinum Concierge service.
The club and executive level access (where there is often complimentary appetizers, small bites, and drinks available) within itself is a nice perk, along with complimentary internet. Whether or not SPG’s Platinum product is actually the best Elite status product in the hotel industry is certainly debatable, but I have come to really enjoy the service and stays with Starwood hotels. I personally value status with SPG very highly, especially since I believe Starwood has one of the best social media teams in the hotel industry.
My Platinum Challenge Progress:
I officially started my SPG Platinum Challenge last week, on November 1st. I have until January 31, 2013 to complete 18 nights in order to meet the challenge requirements. Meeting the challenge will mean that I will be upgraded to top-tier Platinum status, which will be good till February 2014. (I can requalify and renew the status if I complete the normal Platinum stay or nights during 2013.)
By the end of this weekend (second week into my challenge), I will have completed five nights at three different Starwood properties, with half of the travel for leisure and half for business.
In all honesty, prior to this challenge, I have been investing most of my hotel time with Hilton and Hyatt–mostly ignoring Starwood properties. It wasn’t until early this year, after several conversations with other frequent travelers, that I began to turn more of my attention towards Starwood. I have been pleased with my stays thus far, and I like where this is all going. But the biggest question that pops up for me is: is this all worth it?
While I do have some business travel, I do not normally have enough to warrant 18 nights within 3 months. Most of my nights during my challenge will definitely be for leisure, which also means that I’m going to be the one fronting the costs. So let’s talk about what I’m doing to minimize my costs and maximize my return via Starpoints.
Minimizing Costs & Maximizing Starpoints:
- Up to 3x Starpoints via Fall Promo: Register for the Better By the Night fall promotion, where you earn 2x points on stays of 1 to 2 nights and 3x points on stays of 3 or more nights. Registration closes November 30th, so make sure you register soon!
- Bonus 500 Starpoints for Booking via iPhone or Android App: After registering for Better by the Night promo, book your stays using the iPhone or Android app and you will receive 500 bonus Starpoints just by booking via the app! This is a valid promotion only until December 20, 2012. Or if you don’t have a smartphone, just book at spg.com for 250 bonus Starpoints. I’ve booked all my stays using the iPhone app.
- Bonus 250 Starpoints for Foursquare Check-in: After registering for Better by the Night promo, and after booking your stay—make sure you link your Foursquare account so that you can earn another 250 bonus Starpoints just for checking in via Foursquare to your Starwood hotel during a paid hotel stay during the fall promotion period!
- 2x Starpoints per $ spent via Starwood American Express Credit Card: The SPG American Express card is a great way to get automatic “preferred” status with SPG, but is also a great way to earn some 2x Starpoints at Starwood properties. The current sign-up promotion is 25,000 Starpoints (10k after your first purchase, 15k after you spend $5k within 6 months). With SPG award nights starting as low as 3,000 Starpoints, that’s a pretty sweet deal. If you are interested in this card, tweet me a message @frugalasianman or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to send you a personalized referral inviting you to apply for the card. I’m glad to be carrying around both my personal and business Starwood AMEX cards with me during my Platinum Challenge.
- Better with Friends: Earning Starpoints might be better by the night this fall (ha ha…see what I did there? I’m clever.), but taking an advantage with friends is always more fun–especially if they are willing to help chip in for the room costs. If you are planning on completing the challenge no matter what though, this might just be a good time to treat some of your friends out to a few hotel nights on you. You will probably get it back in good karma and free drinks later. (Or maybe they’ll pick up the tab for dinner a few times.) Adventures are just always better with friends.
- Starpicks.com: Starpicks is a website run by the Starwood team, where they update every Tuesday a different selection of Starwood properties that are on sale over the next 6 weekends. These picks are 20% to 40% off the normal rate, which is a great way to shop around for some cheap Starwood stays to complete the challenge.
With 5 nights finished only two weeks into the challenge, I think I’m at a pretty good place. I’m still planning out where the remainder of my nights will be for my challenge. I will post more about my stays in the near future.
A couple of other things to note about the Challenge:
- In order to count towards the challenge, all nights must be fully paid for. Cash & points nights or award redemption nights do not qualify.
- Each room you book counts as a separate night. For example, if you book 2 nights in 2 rooms during the same stay at a hotel, that actually counts as 4 nights towards the challenge requirement. (See, it is better with friends!)