It’s been the subject of speculation over on Milepoint, and I’ve just had two different people confirm it for me: expect an announcement on October 1 that award stays and nights (including cash and points awards) will count towards elite status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. We’ll wait until October to see whether this actually goes into effect, but there’s strong indication that it will.
Since January 1, 2003 this has been the case with Hilton HHonors but the other major chains didn’t follow suit. It looks likely that Starwood will be the second.
Last October, Starwood began awarding both two stays and five nights to American Express cardholder accounts (no spend threshold required). Folks who have both the personal and small business card get four stays and ten nights. Now heavy spending American Express card users, earning lots of points, can get a real chunk of the way towards top status by actually using their points.
Personally I’d rather see the option of earning status (or specificially, nights and stays) based on credit card spend instead of having to actually burn the points. But it still represents increasing importance of credit card customers in the overall elite value proposition for this program (as in most other programs).
This change will make it easier to mattress run towards status, since you won’t have to come out of pocket to do so.
Overall I do like the change, though of course Platinums who already earn their status through paid stays will on the whole not like it — since it means more Platinum members competing for the same room upgrades.
Two and a half years ago, Starwood introduced ‘Ambassador’ status which was an invite-only program for high value customers, and provided benefits beyond what Platinum does. I expected the program to roll out more broadly, possibly become even a new top elite tier, but things have been relatively quiet. And while at the beginning of the program there were reports of significant upgrades beyond what a Platinum would be entitled to, many of the more recent comments on the program have been about a disconnect between preferences expressed to one’s Ambassador representative and implementation at the hotel-level. So it seems like things haven’t been getting scaled up.
A new top tier would certainly be in order, provided that Starwood also offered new benefits commensurate (rather than simply devaluing Platinum). Perhaps making status easier to earn presages a new status level…?