How Well Do Starwood’s New Keyless Rooms Work? Review of the W Times Square

I needed to be in New York on Monday for meetings, so I flew up Sunday night. I spent less than 20 hours in the city.

My plan was a hotel near my first meeting of the day. And the W Times Square was both reasonably close and priced ~ $180 on a ‘AAA Hot Deal’. I hadn’t ever stayed there, so figured I’d give it a go.

I used Starwood’s app and was happy to see the hotel come up as ready for their new ‘keyless’ option — you check-in with your phone, your phone acts as a room key, and you can bypass the front desk entirely. At about 10pm, wanting to get sleep before morning meetings, that appealed to me.

I checked in with the phone and got the message that I’d still need to go to the front desk.

spg keyless w times square

That’s still the screen that showed up half an hour later when I arrived at the hotel, and I had tried restarting the app already.

At the front desk they were a bit perplexed, but refreshed the key and I restarted the app and it appeared to work.

spg keyless w times square

Only it didn’t work. I went to the elevator, and the elevator required a key to get to the guest floors. My phone didn’t work, it didn’t turn the elevator’s sensor solid green, instead I just got a flashing green and couldn’t hit the button for my floor (top floor, the 57th). They shared that they had had trouble with keyless the previous week in Boston, so didn’t try it on this stay.

Another guest came in, used their room key, and I hit my floor figuring I’d still give the room a try. It too gave me only the flashing green, not the solid green. So it was back downstairs to the desk.

I had to wait a couple of minutes for one of the two agents at the desk to free up. She told me she couldn’t help me, I needed to be helped by the woman that actually pushed me the key in the first place and she was helping another guest. Keyless wasn’t useful to me at this point, as much as I wanted to try it finally, since I was already standing at the desk. I asked her to just set up a standard room key for me. She did, but suggested I come back later ‘to switch’. I was only there one night, would be leaving in the morning, and had already missed the main advantage of keyless. I’ll have to give it another go next time.

The hotel was good value for the money, perhaps because it was just one of those nights (a Sunday night, as it happened) where hotels in New York are cheaper than usual. That happens. Perhaps also because the hotel is undergoing renovations. The lobby was abuzz with construction workers when I came downstairs in the morning.

You enter the hotel on the ground floor and then take an elevator up to 7 which houses the lobby. Then you change elevators to head up to guest floors.

There’s a lounge when you get off the elevator on 7.

And around the corner is the front desk.

I had a corner room on the 57th floor, and it actually had surprisingly great views — you could see the water in one direction and the Times Square lights in another.

It was a small room, though I suppose average-sized for New York (and this was a corner room). But it was immaculate and full of the W’s whimsy.

I do like the W’s take on the extra roll of toilet paper in the closet.

The room had an amenity, a bottle of wine I didn’t drink and some snacks I didn’t eat, as a courtesy. This wasn’t my Platinum amenity. I chose the points since breakfast there is in the restaurant and just coffee or tea, a choice of juices, bread or muffins, plus cereal and yogurt.

There was a closet for hanging clothes (and I immediately hung up my suit to get rid of any wrinkles it picked up from the bag).

The minibar was chock full of ‘random stuff.’

There were two free bottles of water in the room (and a $7 bottle). I always appreciate bottled water, something to drink when I arrive and during the night that has a consistent taste.

There were two chocolates by the bedside and I admit to eating one of them.

The bathroom was super small — I’ve only ever been in one hotel, the W New York, where I had didn’t really have any room between the toilet and sink and it could be a bit awkward closing the bathroom door.

Nonetheless, the hotel was a fantastic value for New York City. The room was ample in size for one person for sure, though I wouldn’t have found it enjoyable for more than one person over several days.

In general I try to avoid Times Square, but if I were back I’d probably pick this hotel over the Intercontinental Times Square now that I am no longer a Royal Ambassador.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Based on the feedback I’ve seen on Twitter & Facebook (including my own), the SPG Keyless doesn’t work for a majority of users. In the words of the ‘SPG App Specilaist’ who called me, “the keyless launch has been an unmitigated disaster.”

  2. Have W hotels discovered the benefits of electricity? I have not stayed with this brand in awhile. W thinks darkness in corridors and public areas is chic. You got a grear rate for NYC though.

  3. I can tell you that Hyatt’s works well! Used it at the Bellevue property.

  4. When Apple opens up the Wallet NFC APIs to third party devs, using your phone (or watch) to get into rooms will be seamless overnight. Why hotels don’t try this on Android devices is beyond me, or perhaps they do. The current standard for hotels on iOS is Bluetooth Low Energy, which was t exactly designed to unlock rooms. I think there are potentially creative ways hotels could implement an NFC solution in iOS 9 with the new tools Apple will release (essentially by linking a provisioned virtual loyalty card as your room key), but we will have to see.

  5. Gary, I stayed at the W Union Square in April. Keyless entry was a little sketchy there also. I spent more time at the front desk resetting it. The front desk was not too familiar with it then. The W Times Square is remodeling the living room bar on the 7th floor. It’s scheduled to be finished in September. It normally has a DJ on weekends.

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