Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades v Starwood Suite Night Awards

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Of the major hotel loyalty programs only two offer suite upgrade instruments as an official perk of the program while the others may or may not upgrade their elite members upon check-in.


As a Marriott Platinum member it annoys me that there is no official mechanism in place to be upgraded to a suite (although, very occasionally, I do get such upgrades) and it’s one of the major reasons why I’m doing my best to hang on to the Hyatt Diamond status I was gifted in the recent status match bonanza.

The thing is that I’ve been taking a look at my travels for next year and, because Hyatt has such a small footprint, I’m having real trouble figuring out where my 25 stays or 50 nights are going to come from. I’ve got a few Hyatt stays already booked and I’ve even managed to use 2 of the 4 Diamond Suite upgrades Hyatt gave me when they matched me to their Diamond Status, but I’m still nowhere close to requalifying.

This has had me thinking about why I want to keep the status in the first place…… and it all comes down to the suite upgrades.

park-hyatt-abu-dhabi-suitePark Hyatt Abu Dhabi Suite – Image courtesy of Hyatt

I’m doing more and more travel with a nearly-teenager in tow and, while my 2-bed timeshares are fantastic for family travel, they’re not much good to me when we want to visit some of the major cities of the world. That’s when I find myself booking into hotels or, more recently, using AirBnB.

Suite upgrades are a great way of having the amenities of a hotel whilst also having more than enough room for the three of us without having to cough up for a second room – they can actually be serious money savers – so I’m quite keen to keep them in my travel armoury. But Hyatt’s small footprint is making this difficult…and that’s why I’ve been trying to find out what my other options are.

Hilton does, apparently, offer upgrades to their top-tier Diamond Members at check-in although there doesn’t appear to be any mention of this on their Diamond benefits page and IHG’s elite benefits are laughable so that just leaves Starwood and their Suite Night Awards.

Starwood Suite Night Awards

Starwood hasn’t exactly got the largest footprint either but, for my purposes, they have a better selection of destinations than Hyatt and they have more hotels at cheaper price points as well (I really don’t need a 5* Park Hyatt when I’m on my own and staying somewhere for just the one night).

Starwood’s Platinum tier has similar qualification criteria to Hyatt’s Diamond tier – 25 stays or 50 nights in any given year – but the way their suite upgrades work is different.

  • SPG Platinum members who hit the 50-night mark can opt to choose “10 Suite Night Awards” as their extra benefit. These Suite Night Awards are each valid for one night and can be requested at the time of booking.
  • Per SPG, a property will only look to clear a Suite Night Award 5 days before arrival – not before.
  • Starwood Suite Night Awards can be redeemed for cash stays, cash & points stays and even award night bookings.

Royal-Suite-Westin-ParisRoyal Suite at the Westin Paris Vendome – Image courtesy of Starwood

How Does This Compare To Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades?

The Positive:

  • Starwood Suite Night Awards can be used on award night bookings while Hyatt’s are limited to cash and cash & points bookings only.

The Negative:

  • You can get the 4 Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades with just 25 nights spent at Hyatt properties while with Starwood you’d need to stay a minimum of 50 nights – that’s a big difference.
  • One Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade can be used, theoretically, for up to seven nights in a row (providing there’s availability). That gives a theoretical total of 28 nights in suites with Hyatt’s upgrade instrument while Starwood maxes out at 10.
  • Hyatt’s Diamond Suite Upgrades can be confirmed at the time of booking while Starwood’s Suite Night Awards will clear, at best, 5 nights before check-in.

Bottom Line

For my purposes Starwood’s Suite Night Awards are simply not as good as Hyatt’s Diamond Suite Upgrades. When planning family vacations I need to know if I’m going to have a room that’s big enough for the three of us when I book and not, at best, 5 days before we’re due to check in.

If you’re someone who has hotel stays that are generally 2 nights or shorter I can just about see the attraction of the Suite Night Awards (you have the chance to upgrade slightly more often with SPG). I can also see the attraction in using them on award stays…but that’s the limit of the benefits from my point of view

Fundamentally it’s easier to earn the Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades and, because they can be used at the time of booking, they allow me to make concrete travel plans well in advance…which is when I like to make them.

If I can’t use a suite upgrade at the time of booking I’m not going to settle for a regular room on the off-chance that we’ll get upgraded at check-in – that’s a recipe for a less than optimal vacation. I’m going to price up the cost of two rooms, compare that to what I can get via AirBnB and then book the best of those two options….or find a hotel that will be able to confirm a suite upgrade in advance.

Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades can take the uncertainty out of family vacation while Starwood’s Suite Night Awards don’t and that makes them worth more to me….so it looks like I’ll just have to find a way to hit those 25 stays or 50 nights with Hyatt in 2016 🙂