When SPG Platinum Status Falls Short…By One Stay

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At the beginning of 2016, one of our savviest of peeps opened her email from Starwood Preferred Guest to find that she had been awarded Gold Status for this calendar year. Most people would be ecstatic. But for a person who is on a first name basis with front desk managers at Starwood hotels up and down the eastern seaboard, and counts SPG points in her sleep – Gold Status was not an option. Our girl carefully crafted every vacation and business trip to make every single one of her 25 stays and 50 nights count in 2015. But they only counted 24 stays and 47 nights.

The discrepancy was around a holiday stay in December at a Westin property in St. Maarten. She was feeling rather generous, and took her immediate and extended family away after Christmas. They had 4 standard rooms that should have equaled 4 stays. Or not. It seems that only the first 3 of your rooms count towards SPG stays. In addition, the rooms that are included are chosen by the hotel to their discrepancy. And to make matters worse, our girl and her guests had been charging all of their food, activities, spa visits etc. to one room – the one that they excluded from point accrual. So not one cent of the $2,400 in incidental charges counted either. Heavy sigh.

St Maarten SPG

The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten

Not only did this keep our very loyal SPG colleague from Platinum status this year, it put her one-year behind in the ten year marathon needed to reach SPG Platinum status for life. She is one year away and was counting on it being this year.

We here at Point Savvy thought this all sounded a little suspect so we dug around and learned a few things. Here is the legal language about eligible charges directly from the SPG website:

St Maarten SPG

  • “Eligible Charges” are:
    • (1) charges incurred during a stay in a guest room at an SPG Participating Hotel by an SPG Member on his/her folio for up to three guest rooms, including, without limitation:
      • (a) Eligible Rates for Stays;
      • (b) food and beverage (excluding alcoholic beverage where prohibited by law) and excluding charges incurred at restaurants that are not located within or adjacent to SPG Participating Hotels;
      • (c) direct-dialed in-room telephone and direct-dialed in-room fax;
      • (d) laundry/valet; and
      • (e) in-room movies and video games;
      • provided that the SPG Member provides his/her SPG Member number at the time of reservation or at check-in and stays in one of the reserved guest rooms and pays for the charges. Eligible Charges do not include any complimentary services, SPG Awards, SPG Promotion Rewards or any other fees or charges including, without limitation: (A) charges for banquets, meetings or other functions, with the exception of Starpoints earned in connection with an Eligible Event; (B) other fees paid including, without limitation, parking, business center, high-speed internet access, retail stores, spa products and services and greens fees; and (C) taxes, gratuities, service charges, mandatory or automatic charges (e.g., resort charges) and other applicable charges; or
    • (2) charges incurred by the SPG Member, when an SPG Member is not staying in a guest room at an SPG Participating Hotel, for food and beverage (excluding alcoholic beverage where prohibited by law) at restaurants located within or adjacent to SPG Participating Hotels if:
      • (a) the restaurant permits guests to charge food and beverage on their folios;
      • (b) the charges are greater than $10 USD (excluding taxes and gratuities);
      • (c) the food and beverage is not in connection with a banquet, meeting or other function that is excluded from Eligible Charges as provided in Section 1.a.iii.(A)(1); and

(d) the SPG Member provides his/her SPG Member number at the time of payment.

Although it is clear in that only 3 rooms will count (although we think that this is rather bogus) the reasoning behind the exclusion of all of the incidental spending is unclear.

Like with many other hotel chains, Starwood lets you earn bonus points for dining at hotel restaurants even when you’re not staying at a hotel. Today there are plenty of destination restaurants which are now located inside hotel and in many cases, these restaurants may not be owned by the hotel chain. So make sure to pay attention when making reservations.

If they are; however, the earnings rate for dining at Starwood properties is the same as it would be if you were staying at a hotel. So for dining you ordinarily earn:

Get the biggest bang for your buck by combining your SPG accumulation with a credit card that offers bonus points on dining. This can be a little confusing. When you’re staying at a hotel and charge a restaurant purchase to your room, the purchase qualifies as a “hotel spend.” However, if you’re only dining at the hotel’s restaurant, the restaurant processes the purchase directly, so it qualifies as dining spend.

When you dine at a participating Starwood restaurant, simply tell your server you’d like to earn Starpoints for your meal, and you’ll be able to write your SPG number on the receipt. You should automatically be credited the points. But we recommend holding on to your receipt just in case you have to lob in a call to SPG if the purchase doesn’t show up.

In regards to our girl’s situation, we have currently escalated her plight to a more senior team that is reviewing her points accumulation and the vague language surrounding it. The number one lesson learned is to always read the fine print, and to always keep your finger on the pulse of your points. Programs change, not all service representatives are trained the same way, and all customers are not treated equally. We’ll let you know if being the squeaky wheel pays off in this case.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss any of your points problems or questions. Please comment below to start a conversation with Point Savvy!

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