My Tragic Loss of Starwood Gold Status

I knew this day was coming.  It’s my fault.  I didn’t prepare, and I didn’t plan out my Gold Status for this year.

Still, this is not the e-mail I want to read on Valentine’s Day:
 But where did I go wrong?

First, most of my travel is for work.  I manage the travel budget at work for my projects, so that makes the neurotic side of me more likely to be as frugal as possible.  Many of my stays last year were actually at Starwood Properties.  But I used websites like Hotwire (figuring out which properties were Westins) to book my stay.  As we all know, those stays don’t count towards my status.

Second, with all the weddings I went to last year, my friends had an eerie, and yet consistent, loyalty to the Hilton properties.  I’m not knocking this loyalty, by the way, because I am still beyond impressed at a Hilton Property’s response to a freak off-season snowstorm, fallen trees, and power outage.  (They came through on a promised brunch the following day, despite the power still being out).  Every conference I attended also sold out of Westin rooms first, so I would choose the Hilton.  I’m now Hilton Gold this year, by the way.
Third, up until October, award stays did not count towards status.  To complicate things, I’ve gone on trips with friends (*cough* Keri *cough*) who also have Starwoods status, and have used their account on check-in.  Keri, by the way, protests this, since we only used her account on a 2012 stay, so I concede it isn’t her fault. (But others!)

But why do I want Starwood status?  No, I’m not trying to do something cute with Starwood & Star Alliance status.  I know the other hotel chains have better benefits, but I cannot deny two things:  1.  I love staying in Westins & W’s.  Their beds are incredible, and I always wake up well-rested.  2.  Westins usually have reasonable rates and are widely available.  So my absolute preference is with the Starwood properties. And I would like benefits at the place I most prefer to stay.

I know Starwood doesn’t offer the best elite benefits, but my experience last year really won me over (YRMV).  For example…
I arrived in Chicago for a morning meeting at about 8am.  I had my suit in a garment bag, and I was a bit, well… it was the morning and you could tell by looking at me.  I asked, admitting I knew the chances were slim, if my room were available.  She quickly said no, but gave me the option to pre-check-in.  I pulled out my Gold card along with my credit card.  At that point, her attitude changed.  She apologized for the room not being ready and told me it would probably only be about a half hour.  She also gave me a key to get into the health club in case I wanted to take a shower.  Given my… well… state, I took her up on the shower, and by the time I stepped out of the stall, I already had a voicemail from her letting me know my key was waiting for me at the front desk.

Another time, I was trying to book a conference stay far out from the actual date.  All of the conference hotels were already booked (!) and I was struggling to find a hotel room within walking distance of the event.  I called the SPG’s phone number and explained my situation.  I got a “Let’s see if we can do something about that…” and within five minutes, I had a room booked at the conference hotel.  Of course, YRMV, but it felt awesome getting to stay at the hotel I most wanted to stay at when I thought it was impossible.

What could I have done differently?

There are many things I could have done differently.  The most obvious one is to have booked my travel with SPG qualifying stays through the Starwoods website itself (or another qualifying website), and not through Hotwire.com.  The second is to have bitten the bullet and just stayed a few nights at a Starwood Property.  I live near a Westin, so I could have watched the price for a reasonable night.  I wish I lived near a Four Points, because I’m constantly seeing extremely good deals at the Garden Inn near me, but I’m not chasing after that status.  I could have also (after October!) used award nights to grab status qualifying nights–but I don’t have enough Starwood points to feel comfortable using them on these types of stays.

I also had some non-stay-based options.

I could have applied for a Starwood American Express Card.  (Link stolen from and gives referral bonus to Gary at View from the Wing).  That would have given me 2 stays towards elite status–which would have made all the difference if I had chosen to do one more random stay.

I also could have applied for the American Express Platinum Card (Again, stolen from Gary at View from the Wing, and I think gives referral bonus).  I am still toying with this, mind you, but this card comes with instant Gold Status on Starwoods, at a hefty fee–$450.  For more info about the benefits, here’s a link to View from the Wing since I would be plagiarizing anyway if I posted about it.

The only thing currently holding me back is knowing I already paid for US Airways Lounge Access.  I am a bit high-maintenance discerning, so I did not want US Airways Lounge Access without also getting United, Lufthansa, etc., since I am very loyal to Star Alliance.  (And have no real use for Delta/American since the lounge access is only with a ticket on the airline).  But since the card comes with Free Global Entry, and a $200 airline credit… I may just have to do this.

This post was originally intended to be about how sad I was to lose Starwood Gold Status, not to convince myself to spend $450 on a credit card–but I might have accomplished that.  I will keep you posted because I have many, many stays at Starwoods coming up soon and I wouldn’t mind status when checking in.  Especially at conferences with loud participants.  Being on the Preferred Guest Floor gives me some insulation for those instances!

 

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

 

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