There are four major hotel loyalty programs, at least for Americans: Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG. Hyatt has the smallest footprint but the best benefits for frequent guests. Marriott is great on paper but most inconsistent at the property-level delivering promised benefits. IHG never had much in the way of benefits at all until last year when everything changed. And Hilton stands alone, promising almost nothing.
Loyalty Lobby points out that Hilton Honors is the worst major chain for late check-out benefits. But I’d go farther. It’s the worst major chain for elite benefits across the board.
- Hyatt: upgrades at check-in up to standard suites, subject to availability. Members who stay at least 50 nights per year receive confirmed suite upgrades where members can book a standard room and convert their reservation to a suite any time a standard suite is available for sale at time of booking or any time prior to check-in.
Suite Living Room, Park Hyatt New York
- IHG: upgrades at check-in subject to availability, and now offers confirmed upgrades within 14 days of arrival on paid stays (excludes award stays and prepaid stays). These confirmed upgrades are choice benefits which are available after staying only 20 nights.
- Marriott: upgrades at check-in up to standard suites, subject to availability. Members who stay at least 50 nights per year can select Suite Night Awards as a choice benefit which offer upgrade priority on selected stays, confirming selected room types including suites starting 5 days prior to check-in.
St. Regis Bangkok
- Hilton: hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites, but are under no obligation to do so. Refusing to upgrade a Diamond member to an available standard suite is not a violation of program terms in any way.
Conrad New York
- Hyatt: top tier elites are guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out (2 p.m. for other elites) except at resort and casino properties (and Destination Residence timeshares) where it’s subject to availability.
- Marriott: Platinums and above are guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out (2 p.m. for other elites) except at resort and convention hotels and Design Hotels where it’s subject to availability, and except at excluded properties and non-participating brands.
- IHG: 2 p.m. late check-out is subject to availability for all members, with priority for elites. In other words late check-out is never guaranteed.
- Hilton: does not guarantee late check-out. Hotels that do not provide it are not violating Honors program terms in any way.
- Hyatt: Not only are top elites guaranteed breakfast, and not even as a choice benefit (where they have to give up some other benefit) but breakfast is specifically defined to prevent hotels from playing games with the benefit: it includes an entrée, juice and coffee, and includes tax/tip/service charges. Many hotels go above and beyond this, especially hotels with small restaurants which may offer complimentary room service.
When staying at a participating hotel or resort that has a Club lounge, Globalists will receive access to the Club lounge. When staying at a participating hotel or resort that does not have a Club lounge (or if Club lounge is closed), Globalists will receive daily complimentary full breakfast (which includes one entrée or standard breakfast buffet, juice, and coffee, as well as tax, gratuity and service charges) for each registered guest in the room, up to a maximum of two (2) adults and two (2) children.
Park Hyatt Vendome Room Service Breakfast
- Marriott: you need a Ph.D. in the T&Cs to decipher the specific breakfast benefit which varies by brand and region, but in general Platinum elites and above receive at least an option for breakfast of some kind – either a continental breakfast, or a small food and beverage dollar credit.
St. Regis Bali Caviar
St. Regis Bali Seared foie gras with eggs
St. Regis Bali Lobster
- IHG: Last year IHG introduced hot breakfast for Diamond members for the first time. In theory this should be the second best breakfast benefit. But note that hotels are now allowed to restrict some menu items from inclusion in the benefit, which we’re seeing happen.
Club lounge chef at the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur
- Hilton: Breakfast used to be the sine qua non of the Honors program, offering it even to mid-tier elites. However elites now receive breakfast or a food and beverage credit depending on where the hotel is located. The food and beverage credit, which covers U.S. hotels, doesn’t usually cover the cost of breakfast. If this were actually about guest choice, rather than a cutback, the could have let elites choose breakfast or a food and beverage credit like my college dorm meal plan used to.
Room Service at the Conrad Bangkok
Hyatt’s footprint is smaller. They have to offer the richest benefits to keep customers loyal. Marriott’s program, since merging with Starwood, has been next-richest in theory but there’s been little enforcement of actual on-property execution. IHG last year revamped its program and now offers competitive benefits.
Meanwhile Hilton has been a laggard for years. They keep hinting at finally getting on the benefits train, for instance seven years ago they considered a new top tier above Diamond and four and a half years ago they were testing confirmed suite upgrades. They never actually do it. Even their earn and burn proposition is less generous.
The only thing the Honors program really has going for it is that even ostensibly top tier Diamond is a giveaway level with their premium co-brand credit card, and the earn rates for Hilton stays with that card are good. But sadly the benefits of top tier more or less match that of a giveaway level.