One of my goals this year is to explore some of the airline and hotel elite statuses out there and see if there are any worth attaining and/or if there are shortcuts to receive those benefits. Personally, I do not travel very much while I’m working. Graduating from college only a couple years back and working as a junior level employee, I travel perhaps 3 to 4 times a year at most. As a result, it is often very difficult to obtain some of these elite statuses that you hear about from other more frequent travelers.
Sometimes, you aspire to these classifications because they allow you to have a smoother path through airport security, or a free upgrade once in a while to business class; or perhaps some of us would love to spice up our holiday travels by living in a hotel suite rather than the typical bland room that our budget can afford.
With all that in mind, my goal for 2016 is to receive at least Platinum Status with American Airlines (and thus with the OneWorld Alliance that includes Cathay Airlines, British Airways, and a couple of other notable names), and also Platinum Status with the Starwood Preferred Program, which includes hotel brands such as the W, St. Regis, and Westin. This article explains how I plan to achieve the SPG Platinum Status in the cheapest available way.
SPG Platinum gives the typical hotel perks such as 4pm late check out, an enhanced ability to earn bonus hotel loyalty points, and complimentary access to club lounges at many properties. But one of the perks that I enjoy the most is the ability to be upgraded “to the best available room at check in, including a Standard Suite.”
Now, since every property has its differences, it is not always easy to define what a standard suite is, but if you take a look at some of the threads on FlyerTalk forums, you will see some outrageous upgrades. The one that I appreciated the most was this guy, who bought a regular room at the St. Regis Florence (which on SPG’s website costs around 300 EUR a night on an April weekday) and was upgraded to a Royal Suite – which costs around 10,000 EUR a night. Or another guest who booked a regular room at the Westin Palace in Madrid and got upgraded to a junior suite
Here’s a photo of the ‘regular’ room at the St. Regis Florence:
And here are photos of the Royal Suite at the St. Regis Florence:
Now granted, you won’t be upgraded every time you check in at an SPG property with your Platinum status since it is based on availability on that day, and some could argue that this perk is just an SPG marketing trick to entice you to hit 50 nights with them. But if there is an affordable way to get to SPG Platinum, and there’s a decent chance I will get upgraded to a 10,000 EUR suite when I’m travelling with my girlfriend, then I say, why not?
Here is where the SPG Platinum Challenge comes in. In short, it allows new members who have never been a Platinum or Gold member to get to SPG statuses faster. For example, it allows you to get SPG Gold if you stay 9 nights in 3 months (typically you need 25 nights), and SPG Platinum if you stay 18 nights in 3 months (typically 50 nights).
Now, 18 nights in 3 months is still a ton of money to be spending, especially if you don’t travel and stay at hotels as part of your job, but some of you might already have nights that you’ve spent on a vacation that you can credit towards those 18 nights, bringing the total down a bit. For example, I’ve already racked up 6 nights in February/March for my personal travel at a Westin in Malta and a W hotel in Chicago. That leaves me 12 nights I need to complete by the end of April.
I do not have plans to travel any time from now until April, so my best bet would be to stay at the cheapest hotels around me in order to collect nights as soon as possible. Conveniently, the Aloft near Dulles Airport in Virginia is pretty cheap (around $59 a night), so I’m planning to book 3 rooms (SPG rules allow 3 rooms a night to be ascribed to you) for 4 nights in order to quickly get up to 12 nights, costing me around $720.
Some may argue that paying $720 extra to get SPG Platinum is stretching it. But the way I think about it, because I’m completing my challenge early on in April 2016, and my Platinum status will last until February 2018 due to a quirk in the terms and conditions, I’m really paying for 22 months of these perks rather than the 8 remaining months of 2016. Dividing the $720 fee by the 22 months gets me around $33 a month – which to me is a pretty decent ‘subscription fee’ for SPG Platinum perks, especially given that I plan to travel quite a bit in December and will be hitting a few SPG properties with gorgeous suites along the way. I’m looking forward to completing the challenge in the month of April, and I’ll post everyone here on how I did!