I’m a new blogger on US Credit Card Guide. My username is one of my favorite nicknames: The Yoosh. I’m a big fan of the travel/hotel/points world and my posts will be focused on helping you earn and maximize those points and benefits.
How To Get SPG/Marriott Platinum
Ok, so today I’m going to show you how to get SPG/Marriott Platinum status in a very cost efficient manner. First off, here are the qualification requirements for SPG Platinum:
25 Eligible Stays
50 Eligible Nights
You can also get the SPG Personal Amex and the SPG Business Amex card, each of which gives you 2 qualifying stays and 5 qualifying nights every year. Plus both of them have record bonuses right now (35K SPG points for each card), so now is the best time to sign up. So with those two cards, you need to get 21 more stays or 40 more nights.
Luckily, there are a few tools in our arsenal.
Start With Two SPG Promos
First off, there are two SPG promos running right now:
1. SPG Select Member Exclusive Promo [Targeted]. Runs until May 15, 2017. Click on the link and enter your SPG number to see if you get the targeted Double Elite Qualifying Nights promotion. The promo doubles the number of elite qualifying nights you get during the promo period. So if you stay 5 nights in a Starwood property during the promo period, you will get 10 nights of elite credit.
2. SPG Double Take. Jan 16 – April 15th, 2017. Earn double points on your first three stays, and you can earn more based on the number of nights and the offer you get. Variations:
Starting on your fourth stay, you can earn up to 15,000 bonus Starpoints®:
Achieve 20 nights and you’ll earn 10,000 Starpoints.
After 20 nights earn 500 Starpoints for each additional night, up to 5,000 Starpoints
Starting on your fourth stay, you can earn up to 10,000 bonus Starpoints®:
Achieve 10 nights and you’ll earn 5,000 Starpoints.
After 10 nights earn 500 Starpoints for each additional night, up to 5,000 Starpoints.
This FlyerTalk thread has more info if you’re curious. This isn’t needed for achieving the elite nights, but it’s free points so you might as well sign up. ^_^
With the double nights promo, we have to stay 20 nights during the period to earn 40 nights worth of credit, which will get us to SPG Platinum. Most cheap Starwood hotels (Category 2-3) cost ~$100 a night + tax/fees, so you’re looking at over $2000 to hit Platinum Status.
Stack The Citi Prestige Card
We can do much better with the Citi Prestige MasterCard. This card has a fantastic “4th night free” benefit. If you book four nights at a hotel with the Citi concierge, they will refund the cost of the fourth night + tax. It’s basically book three nights and get one free, so you’re booking 20 nights but paying for 15, driving the cost down to ~$1500 plus tax. In addition, the Citi concierge booking will earn full SPG points/benefits, including elite nights.
But wait, there’s more!
Stack A Starwood Rate Code
As you may know, there are some Starwood hotel codes that give you the third night free or fourth night free with a stay of three or four nights. Code Z3H gets you a free third night and Z4H gets you a free fourth night at participating hotels. The difference is that Z3H requires a stay starting Thursday-Saturday, while Z4H allows stays starting on Wednesday onwards to Sunday. These free nights stack with the Citi Prestige benefit, so you can book a four night stay and only pay for two nights!
And that’s how we can get SPG Platinum status for ~$1000 + taxes, which ends up being ~$1200 all-in. You can definitely get this lower if there’s cheaper SPG hotels near your area, but $1200 is the likely cost for most of us.
Now let’s walk through a concrete example to see how it’s all done.
SPG/Marriott Platinum Fast Track Checklist
- Sign up for the SPG Double Elite Qualifying Nights Promo. If you don’t get the double qualifying nights promo and instead get the bonus point offers, then you’ll miss out on the double nights, so your cost is effectively doubled. You may still wish to stay a few nights with the SPG Double Take just to maximize points intake there, but you won’t hit Platinum without spending much more, thus nullifying the benefit.
- Get the right cards. The Citi Prestige MasterCard is necessary to get a free night, otherwise your costs go up by 50%. You don’t need the SPG Personal Amex or SPG Biz Amex, but then that’s ten more nights you’ll have to pay for and earn. Given the record high bonuses and difficulty of earning Starpoints, these cards are a no-brainer.
- Find a hotel with cheap rates near your area, preferably a SPG category 2 or 3 hotel (good luck finding a category 1, there are only two in the United States). Here’s an example search for the Four Points by Sheraton Bakersfield in California:
You’ll see that I applied the Z3H promo code here so it lists the fourth night as free. Since you’re not actually planning to stay much, if at all, you should just look for the cheapest rate and apply Z3H/Z4H to make sure it’s eligible.
I recommend you look for Z3H rates though, which I’ll elaborate on in the next step.
Note that the rate is without tax, and in this case the tax is just over 12%:
Once you’ve found your target hotel, onto step four!
4. Book with the Citi concierge. Borrowing from Frequent Miler, the two easiest ways to book are by phone and email. By phone:
Call the Citi concierge at 1-561-922-0158, and ask to use the Prestige 4th night benefit. Specify your hotel with the exact dates you want and ask them to use the Z3H or Z4H code. They should be able to apply that rate and confirm the price with you. Technically, Citi refunds the cost of the room/taxes of the 4th night, so if you use Z4H, your 4th night is free and you may not get anything refunded. With Z3H, your third night is free so Citi can refund the 4th night and you’ll be fine. Both should work, but Z3H is more straightforward so I recommend you use that. Be sure to provide them with your SPG # so you can earn points/night on the stay.
And by email (paraphrasing from Frequent Miler again):
Email [email protected] with the following information:
- The hotel you want
- The exact room type you want
- The “Z3H” or “Z4H” rate code.
- Check-in and check-out dates. For clarity I’d also write the number of nights (e.g. “Check in on July 7 for 4 nights, check out on July 11”)
- Your SPG Number
- The last four digits of your Citi Prestige credit card
And you should receive a confirmation pretty soon. If everything works, you just have to rinse and repeat. Make this booking for the next five weeks and you’ll hit SPG Platinum!
You’ll also earn a nice chunk of points. Let’s review the stays and points earned
Stay #1: $366.88. Citi refunds ~$122. Rate is $327, and you’ll earn double points + 750 for “make a green choice” so that’s 1404 points. Nights earned = 4*2 = 8 nights. Net cost = ~$245.
Stay #2-3: Same as Stay #1
Stay#4-5: Same as Stay #1, but no double points on the base rate, so you’re earning 1077 points per stay.
So in total, you’ll spend $1225 and you’ll hit SPG Platinum + earn 6366 Starpoints + ~5500 Citi ThankYou points. This is definitely one of the fastest ways to hit SPG Platinum, which you can then match to Marriott Platinum.
If you’re already a Platinum member, you can add 3750 Starpoints as your welcome gifts for the five stays to earn over 10000 Starpoints.
Stay #6: Unnecessary, but if you’re in the 10 night double take promo, you may as well book one more to get the 5000 extra Starpoints + 1000 for the two additional nights, so 6000 Starpoints in total. So for a total spend of $1470, you’ll earn 6366+1077 (for Stay #6) + 6000 = 13443 Starpoints and have Platinum Status!
If you don’t want to hit Platinum immediately but just want to set yourself up for later, this is a great way to do it.
And finally, let me ask the question everyone is thinking…
Do I have to stay in the hotel?
The answer is “no, but you have to check-in”. You will have to check-in in person, or add a friend as a 2nd person in the room and have them check-in for you. Note that adding a friend sometimes may not work as there have been cases where Aspire, who is the Citi concierge, left a note to the hotel stating that “the primary card member must be the one to physically check-in”. So I recommend you go in person to play it safe.
After that though, you can just leave. Hotels can and have canceled reservations if nobody checks in, so you can call and ask to see if you need to come in person or not. According to this old FlyerTalk thread, booking but not showing up will earn you points but not stay/night credits, so be sure to check-in!
And with that, you’re all set. If Gold is your target, then ~$500 will do it since two Amex cards + two stays = 26 nights, which is enough for Gold. Otherwise, get in the five or more stays and enjoy the Platinum status!