This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel, and is current as of January 2019.
Your business travel has seen you reach the heights of Velocity Platinum (congratulations, by the way!), and you’re now ready to enjoy the upper echelon of frequent flyer perks and benefits wherever your travels may take you.
But don’t reach for the champagne just yet. One important decision still needs to be made – which complimentary hotel elite status takes your fancy?
Both programs see the usual benefits offered to top-tier guests – including room upgrades, late check-out, free Internet and a 50% points bonus.
However, your decision may not be as simple as choosing a brand name.
If your travel policy already has you bound to a particular hotel chain, then it makes sense to choose your complimentary hotel status accordingly. But if you’re flexible, do your research to find the best possible deal.
Here's how Velocity Platinum's hotel status freebies stack up.
HHonors Diamond guests receive these extensive benefits during their stays:
- Room upgrades at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Waldorf Astoria (subject to availability)
- Free continental breakfast at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn
- Access to the Executive Lounge at Hilton, Conrad and DoubleTree by Hilton properties, regardless of the type of room you're in
- Earning both HHonors points and airline miles/points on eligible stays
- A bonus 1,000 HHonors points per stay at Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels
- Two bottles of water per stay at most properties
- Access to any available fitness centre or health club, if owned and operated by the hotel
- ‘Spouse stays free’ – allowing the member’s partner to accompany them on their travels at no additional charge (in most cases)
- Various speedy check-in options including priority HHonors desks and queues, the Executive Lounge (if accessible without a room key), and Digital Check-in – where members can select a specific room number online prior to arrival
- A guaranteed room when booking at least 48 hours prior to arrival, even if the hotel is already fully-booked – though not if the property is already oversold by 2-10%
- Every fifth night free when redeeming HHonors points for a Standard Room Reward of 5 nights or more (up to 20 nights per stay)
IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite
A slightly less impressive list of benefits are available to IHG Platinum Elite members:
- Room upgrades subject to availability, except when you've booked a stay using reward points
- Access to the priority check-in desk
- A choice to earn either IHG points or airline miles/points on eligible stays
- A guaranteed room when booking at least 72 hours prior to arrival (in a similar fashion to HHonors), though not applicable during times of “extraordinary demand” – as determined solely by the hotel
- A free newspaper on weekdays
In addition to the above, both programs provide a toll-free contact number for their elite guests and have no blackout dates on reward stays – which also count towards status retention in both cases.
As you may have noticed, IHG don’t offer breakfast to their elites, nor do they provide access to their Club Lounges (unless staying in a designated Club room) – which are two facets of the HHonors program that really take our fancy.
Maintaining your Hilton or IHG status
While free hotel status is a fantastic companion to your frequent flyer status, you only get it the first time you hit Velocity Platinum – not when you simply retain that level after clocking up enough flights. Even if you later drop to Velocity Gold and then back up to Platinum, you won't get a second shot at redeeming elite hotel status.
Velocity Platinum's hotel status deal offers a minimum of 12 months with IHG Rewards Club's Platinum Elite level or Hilton HHonors Diamond.
It’s easier to retain IHG Platinum Elite than HHonors Diamond in terms of calendar nights per year after this grace period, as IHG requires just 40 nights whereas Hilton needs 60 nights.
It's worth noting that you can also qualify for HHonors Diamond status after 30 stays – that's 30 check-ins, regardless of the length of your stay – which is a sneaky way to maintain that status if you only ever stay for a single night.
With HHonors, if you satisfy either the 'nights' or 'stays' requirement, your status is safe – there's no need to reach for both.
But let’s not forget elite status earned by spend! Members of both programs earn 10 ‘base points’ or ‘elite qualifying points’ per US dollar (as applicable) on their hotel expenditure.
Given that IHG Platinum Elite can be earned or retained with 40,000 ‘elite qualifying points’ and HHonors Diamond with 120,000 ‘base points’ in a calendar year, this translates to an annual spend requirement of US$4,000 and US$12,000 respectively.
While perhaps not the most efficient way to maintain your status, if you’re dropping that kind of coin, you’d rightly expect a little recognition.
Have odd travel patterns?
Many business travellers can find their calendars varying greatly year-by-year, and it’s wonderful to see IHG recognising this with ‘elite rollover nights’.
If a guest exceeds the 40 night Platinum Elite requirement in a calendar year, any additional nights will count towards status retention in the following year, rather than being ‘wasted’.
Effectively, this means that a traveller who spends 70 nights away in one calendar year will only need to spend a further 10 nights in the following year to maintain their IHG Platinum Elite status.
Our call: HHonors Diamond Elite
Unless you have specific circumstances that make IHG advantageous (say, if you frequent destinations not well-served by the HHonors portfolio), we’d definitely recommend opting for HHonors Diamond Elite – the breakfast inclusions and Executive Lounge access make this a no-brainer!
If you truly can’t decide, you could always accept the IHG Platinum Elite offer while applying for the Hilton HHonors Macquarie Platinum card (purely for the Gold/Diamond HHonors status) – that way, you’ll have elite recognition at over 8,500 properties worldwide!
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