Revealed: the ‘status sweet spot’ in hotel loyalty programs

Elite memberships like Diamond and Titanium are highly sought after, but sometimes Gold or even Silver is all you need.

By Staff Writers, April 3 2024
Revealed: the ‘status sweet spot’ in hotel loyalty programs

While it goes without saying the top tier of any hotel loyalty program delivers the chain’s best perks, reaching that lofty level isn’t always easy – especially for travellers who spread their wings to a variety of destinations, staying at different hotels rather than a single brand.

That’s why savvy travellers instead aim for the status ‘sweet spot’. It’s that rung on the loyalty ladder providing the most practical benefits, but without the need to spend half your life at hotels (as is so often demanded by the most elite membership levels).

If your travels regularly see you staying across a number of hotel groups due to availability, aiming for that sweet spot across several reward schemes can actually be in your best interest.

You don't need to reach top tier to start enjoying tangible rewards.
You don't need to reach top tier to start enjoying tangible rewards.

So whether you’re beginning your journey or are sharpening up your status goals, here are the sweet spots you should know about.

Accor Live Limitless sweet spot: Silver + Accor Plus

Accor ALL naturally reserves its best perks for Diamond and its invitation-only Limitless members, but for everybody else, there’s an easy way to ‘buy’ benefits to enjoy year-round.

That’s by purchasing an Accor Plus ‘Explorer’ membership for $399/year – or activating this membership for free if you hold an AMEX Platinum Charge Card. Being an Accor Plus cardholder also then grants instant ALL Silver.

Explorer is the second tier of the Accor Plus program, just one up from Traveller, which is available for $299 per year but doesn’t have quite the same benefits.

Combined, here are the benefits you’ll enjoy across Accor Plus Explorer and ALL Silver:

  • A complimentary hotel night every year, including at five-star hotels
  • Priority check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • A welcome drink at the bar with every stay
  • Savings of up to 50% on dining in Asia Pacific
  • 15% off drinks at hotels in Asia (but not all Asia Pacific)
  • ALL member rates at participating hotels
  • Hotel rate savings of up to 50% through Accor Plus’ ‘Red Hot Room’ offers
  • 10% off room rates at participating hotels, including already-discounted Red Hot Rooms
  • A membership discount of 13% off the joining fee at the Priority Pass airport lounge network, with which you can access 1,300 lounges worldwide

Normally, ALL Silver would only be earned after staying 10 nights per year, but doesn’t include the most significant perks of dining and hotel rate discounts, or the complimentary night, which are all benefits reserved for Accor Plus members.

Banyan Tree Buahan, part of the Accor All Limitless stable.
Banyan Tree Buahan, part of the Accor All Limitless stable.

Hilton Honors sweet spot: Gold

Being a popular program for business travellers, Hilton Honors and its Gold tier unlock many useful and tangible benefits, without setting the bar too high.

Achievable once you get to 20 stays, 40 nights per year or 75,000 Base Points – or gratis for AMEX Platinum Charge Card holders – you’ll get:

  • Free daily continental breakfast (at non-US hotels) or F&B credit (at US hotels) at selected Hilton brands which include Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn and more
  • Complimentary room upgrades, subject to availability
  • Access to hotel Executive Lounges, when upgraded to the Executive floor or eligible rooms
  • Earn 80% more points on base points with each stay
  • Priority check-in and late check-out
  • Free bottled water and standard-level WiFi

That’s a solid suite of benefits, with the key difference between Gold and higher-tier Diamond being guaranteed access to hotel Executive Lounges for the latter, regardless of the room type booked or received.

For holders of an American Express Platinum Charge Card, you can not only transfer points earned via this card into Hilton Honors points, but you’ll be enrolled automatically at a Gold level in Hilton’s loyalty program to get you started.

For Gold members, access is only available when their free upgrade is to a room type that provides this access – or when booking an eligible room outright.

Read our guide to the Hilton Honors program here.

The Hilton group has a massive brand portfolio and worldwide footprint.
The Hilton group has a massive brand portfolio and worldwide footprint.

IHG One Rewards sweet spot: Platinum Elite

IHG overhauled its rewards program in 2022 to include four Elite tiers – Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. But in all honesty, the perks of Silver and Gold really aren’t that exciting. The real benefits kick in once you reach Platinum Elite.

This can be unlocked by staying 40 qualifying nights, or earning 60,000 points each calendar year. That’s a significant undertaking for the average traveller, but the benefits are worthwhile when you reach it. On the cards with IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite is:

  • Guaranteed room availability within 72 hours of arrival
  • Complimentary room upgrades, subject to availability
  • Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
  • A welcome amenity at check-in
  • Free in-room WiFi (this is standard across all tiers)
  • A 60% bonus on points earned with every stay and purchase made
  • No expiration on points

Read our guide to the IHG One Rewards program here.

Picture yourself relaxing at the InterContinental Sydney's rooftop Aster Bar.
Picture yourself relaxing at the InterContinental Sydney's rooftop Aster Bar.

Marriott Bonvoy sweet spot: Platinum Elite

With six rungs on Marriott’s loyalty ladder, Platinum Elite tier sits in the upper-middle of the hierarchy and comes after 50 nights, giving solid perks without travellers having to reach the program’s highest tier (Ambassador), or even the second-highest level (Titanium).

That starts with lounge access (and daily breakfast within it) with every stay – in properties that have a lounge, of course.

In most hotels, Platinum Elite gets you into the same Executive or Club lounge as available to guests staying on the Executive/Club floors; in some hotels, that’s an exclusive Concierge Lounge to which access can’t otherwise be purchased.

Added to that, Marriott Platinum Elite members also get:

  • Free daily breakfast at most hotels
  • Room upgrades including to selected suites (as available)
  • Guaranteed room availability within 48 hours
  • Earn 75% more points with every stay, versus just 10% for entry-level members
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out (or subject to availability at resort and convention hotels)
  • Your choice of a welcome gift of either up to 500 bonus points, free breakfast or an amenity, which varies brand to brand

However, if you can’t break the 50-night barrier, Marriott Bonvoy Gold status simply isn’t as attractive as what you could unlock via other hotel chains – although it’s again free for AMEX Platinum Charge Card holders.

Gold provides a possible 2pm late check-out as its key benefits, with no complimentary lounge access or breakfast.

Read our guide to the Marriott Bonvoy program here.

Enjoy the bounty of perks at Marriott hotels around the world, including The Ritz-Carlton Perth.
Enjoy the bounty of perks at Marriott hotels around the world, including The Ritz-Carlton Perth.

Priority Guest Rewards sweet spot: Black

Though only available within Australia, Priority Guest Rewards loyalty program actually delivers quick solid perks across Rydges, QT Hotels, Atura and Independant Collection properties. Like Radisson, it’s a streamlined scheme of three tiers: Gold, Platinum and Black.

Gold is the entry-level; Platinum can be unlocked through 10 nights or five stays throughout a calendar year, while Black is yours for 30 nights or 10 stays in a calendar year. That’s pretty achievable.

The perks of Gold and Platinum are more or less the same, with room discount (15% versus 10%) and late check out time of 3pm the most notable difference once you jump up to the second tier. With that in mind, Black is the one to aim for, as it unlocks:

  • 50% discount on dining and drinks, excluding breakfast or in-room minibar
  • Single room upgrade when staying at QT Hotels, plus a QT Secret Treat subject to availability
  • Early check-in at QT Hotels
  • Late check-out until 6pm – subject to availability, of course
  • 20 points per stay (these can be redeemed on free nights from 150 points)

If you tend to stay at Rydges Hotels when you travel for work (they do have a larger footprint), this is a great way of racking up points to then treat yourself with free nights at QT Hotels around the country, including the fabulous QT Gold Coast and theatrical QT Sydney.

Free to join, members instantly get 10% off best price with Priority Guest Rewards.
Free to join, members instantly get 10% off best price with Priority Guest Rewards.

GHA Discovery sweet spot: Titanium

For the uninitiated, GHA Discovery is the abbreviated name for Global Hotel Alliance Discovery – a program combining 40-plus independent hotel brands in over 100 countries under one roof. Among its stable of 800-odd hotels are the likes of Anantara, Parkroyal and Kempinski.

There are four membership tiers, from entry-level Silver to Gold, Platinum and brilliantly-named Titanium. If you compare it to Hilton Honors and Accor ALL purely on total nights, you can achieve the fourth tier in 30 nights versus 42 at Hilton and 60 at Accor.

However, Discovery isn’t just determined by total nights – you can reach the top tier in just three stays of one night apiece, so long as they’re different brands. In Australia, your options are Parkroyal, Pan Pacific, Oaks Hotels and Avani.

On the table at Titanium level are:

  • Member Rates: Save 10% or more when you book direct
  • Earn 7% Discovery Dollars on your total hotel spend
  • Double room upgrade subject to availability
  • Early check-in from 11am
  • Late check-out until 4pm
  • Receive a ‘locale-inspired’ welcome amenity on arrival
  • Gift status benefits to family and friends
  • Access member-only discounts and packages
  • Complimentary Wifi access

In addition to the above listed perks, members also earn Discovery Dollars, which can be spent however you like on rooms, dining, spa, golf and experiences. At check-out, simply put Discovery Dollars towards your bill.

Read our GHA Discovery guide here.

Anantara Kihavah Maldives is one of 800+ hotels within the GHA Discovery stable.
Anantara Kihavah Maldives is one of 800+ hotels within the GHA Discovery stable.

Shangri-La Circle sweet spot: Jade

With four tiers and just over 100 participating hotels worldwide, Shangri-La’s Circle program isn’t as expansive as many of the larger chains, but the scheme’s Jade membership tier can be unlocked after only 10 stays or 20 nights each year.

Covering properties such as Shangri-La, Jen hotel, Kerry Hotels and Traders Hotels, Jade members and travelling partners in the same room start by enjoying free breakfast at designated restaurants every day of their stay.

Continuing its perks, Jade members get:

  • Priority 11am check-in and 4pm check-out at an exclusive desk
  • Room upgrade within the same category (subject to availability)
  • Guaranteed availability if a booking is made 72 hours or more prior to arrival
  • A choice of three welcome amenities, including USD$10 dining or laundry credit and 100 points
  • 25% bonus points for every US dollar spent

Room upgrades are generally to the next-best category but it is possible to get promoted to a room several categories above the one booked, particularly during school holidays when fewer elite members are staying.

However, access to Club Lounges isn’t offered unless staying in a room type that includes this – only Circle Diamond members are guaranteed that perk.

As an extra sweetener, Jade members qualify for KrisFlyer Elite Silver membership. In addition, enjoy an accelerated upgrade to KrisFlyer Elite Gold status by completing the required three eligible flights on Singapore Airlines within four months of registration.

Enjoy breakfast with a view at Shangri-La Sydney's Altitude Restaurant.
Enjoy breakfast with a view at Shangri-La Sydney's Altitude Restaurant.

World of Hyatt sweet spot: Explorist

Sitting in the centre of World of Hyatt’s elite tiers, ‘Explorist’ members gain their stripes after spending 30 nights at Hyatt hotels every year.

This status can also be earned after hosting 10 meetings and events, or by collecting 50,000 base points and delivers:

  • Dedicated area for check-in
  • 2pm late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Upgrades to the best available room at check-in (excluding suites and lounge access rooms)
  • Earn 20% more points compared standard Members
  • Guaranteed room availability within 72 hours
  • Daily bottled water and premium in-room Internet
  • Earn points for every dollar spent on qualifying American Airlines fares on top of AAdvantage Miles

Several of those benefits mirror Hyatt’s Discoverist tier – such as free water, WiFi and late check-out – which is an easier goal to aim for if those are the priority, achievable after just 10 nights.

Hyatt Hotels' footprint includes more than 1,300 properties worldwide.
Hyatt Hotels' footprint includes more than 1,300 properties worldwide.

Radisson Rewards sweet spot: Gold

There aren’t many hotels in the Radisson group in Australia and New Zealand but the company is much more active in Asia and Europe, with several brands offering Radisson Rewards earning rates and privileges.

Newly-streamlined, Radisson Rewards loyalty program consists of just three levels: Club, Premium and VIP. You can reach Premium with only five qualifying nights or three stays needed, unlocking most of the perks.

With Radisson Rewards Premium comes:

  • Earn 27 points per dollar spent on stays and dining, with a 10% off sweetener for dining too
  • Complimentary room upgrade to the next category (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
  • A Discount Booster, which unlocks up to 20% discount when activated
  • ‘My Favourite Hotel’ priority bookings, preferred room and luggage

Free breakfast is only afforded to members of the highest Radisson Rewards VIP tier, which requires 30 nights. That’s certainly achievable across a year.

On top of a higher bonus points earn rate – 36 per dollar spent versus 27 – and 15% discount on dining, the other key benefit of VIP status is a free upgrade to the best room category, though suites are only offered at select properties. With that in mind, Premium is a better choice.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

27 Feb 2015

Total posts 20

In the age of online bookings I think it is a shame you have not included Hotels.com membership perks. The most useful is a 10% credit back to use for new bookings after 10 stays. The simplicity of that across multiple hotel brands and independents is nice. There are also perks like upgrades and occasional welcome amenities. My sense is that platform (part of the Expedia empire I think) is going to give more tangible benefits to travellers across a wider range of stays.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 692

@sydney slug

I can entirely understand why the "Staff Writers" (whom-ever they are) have excluded Hotels.com from this review. The program is now simply and entirely uncompetitive - Expedia Rewards (and the associated Hotels.com 10% reward) has folded into a new reward program called OneKey. The 'benefit' is now a 2% reward making this program purely laughable.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

27 Feb 2015

Total posts 20

I must be the luckiest bloke alive, my Hotels.com membership still operates as below” Hotels.com™ Rewards is for guests aged 18+ who registered with a valid email address. When you book and stay for 1 night at eligible properties, you’ll get 1 stamp. Collect 10 stamps and you’ll get 1 reward* night to redeem at any eligible property. We work out the average value of all 10 stamps you’ve collected (before taxes and fees) and give it back to you as a reward* night. You just pay taxes and fees on your reward* night. And if you choose a room, apartment or other equivalent that costs more, you pay the difference. You can’t collect stamps or redeem reward* nights when you pay using a discount coupon or if you’re making a reservation for a package holiday. Stamps and reward nights collected will expire if you have not made and completed a booking with your Hotels.com™ Rewards account in the previous 12 months”

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 692

Sometimes, it is wise to listen.

Feel free to take a look here : Hotels.com Totally Guts Rewards Program - One Mile at a Time

Courtesy of a site called onemileatatime.com and current as 07/07/23.

You could also look at Expedia.com and query OneKey. 

You're welcome!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

27 Feb 2015

Total posts 20

What I will be welcome to do is keep earning at the 1 for 10 rate until 2024 and with 12 upcoming stays will squeeze at least two more free nights in before then.

25 Apr 2020

Total posts 5

IHG Platinum Elite status can be essentially purchased by becoming a member of the Intercontinental Ambassador program and also comes complimentary on request with Virgin Australia platinum status. 

02 Jun 2022

Total posts 8

Another worthwhile one is Leading hotels of the world - Leaders Club.  Free Breakfast just for joining. 

I saw an article somewhere of the free Breakfast at the Ritz in either Paris or London which has to be pretty amazing,

 

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 92

Reached lofty level of Genius Level 2 with bookings.com, but found all of the things you lose in hotel and rental car bookings makes this less than worthwhile.  I found the benefits bookings.com bookings are excluded from, make the savings less than they appear.  I've gone back to direct booking with brands to get the full package of benefits and have found I'm streets ahead.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 123

Can you not just do a table of Benefit's?

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 92

Liked the comparison of the ‘status sweet spots’ in the major hotel loyalty programs.  I maintain status in several brands, but not as many as I once did.  I've pared them down to a few I patronize and seeing comparisons can help when I think a change is due.  You covered my big three which are Accor (Diamond), IHG (Platinum Elite) and Marriott (Platinum Elite).  Often, I find I know more about the benefits than the staff.  I like properties with free mini-bars and where once I might have emptied the mini-bar, now I just selectively consume a couple of items.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

I think Platinum is the sweet spot with Accor since that gives you free breakfast every day in Asia Pacific (and weekends in Europe) and access to the Executive lounge where ever they are where you can often sort out dinner for yourself.
Accor Platinum is a better aligned to Hilton Gold and Bonvoy Platinum Elite.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 566

The internet is replete with hotel loyalty discussion sites full of complaints about hotel chain in certain regions who do not offer the perks even even the hotels are not busy with staff and managers not wanting to supply the upgrades despite being flagged by the customers. And these poorly trained or disinterested staff don’t get penalised for poor service and life carries on to short change the next unsuspecting customer.

I am not sure whether there are similar problems in certain region/state for big hotel change but certainly my younger days not so long ago saw huge variations in ibis and comfort inn and big 4 when booking on the internet (3 or 4 stars pretty much means nothing in practice and sometimes the guest comments are next to useless)

So the article would have been more useful to discuss about how likely the perks will be honour and where are the problem sites

02 Jun 2022

Total posts 8

GHA Titanium now includes breakfast - just occured in last few days


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