Are the seven Amex Platinum hotel status cards worth having?

If you’re looking to get yourself some hotel status quickly, there is no easier route than getting an American Express Platinum charge card.

It comes with SEVEN hotel status cards.  Five of these are given to you directly and two require you to complete a partner match.  Even better, your partner (or whoever you choose to give your free supplementary Platinum card to) will get hotel status too.

American Express Platinum offers the following hotel status automatically:

Hilton Honors Gold status

Melia Rewards Gold status

Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status

Club Carlson Gold status

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status

You can also get the following two statuses via a guaranteed match:

Marriott Rewards Gold status (Marriott now owns Starwood and matches your SPG Gold instantly, online)

Taj InnerCircle Gold status (Taj and Shangri-La have a formal status matching programme)

American Express Platinum hotel benefits

You will have seven shiny cards in your wallet (or at least in your Apple Wallet) but ….

It is worth looking more closely at each of these statuses to see if they are actually worth anything.

Here is the ground rule for this article.  Because I am old and cynical, I do not trust anything unless it has the word ‘guaranteed’ in front of it.

I won’t move my business to a hotel because I may or may not receive a benefit ‘subject to availability’, which can mean anything.  The one thing you can be sure of is that ‘subject to availability’ does NOT mean is ‘as long as we can physically manage your request, you can definitely have it’.  That isn’t how it works.

As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not guaranteed, I assume I won’t be getting it and I value it at virtually nothing.

So, if you get yourself an American Express Platinum card primarily for the hotel benefits (although the 30,000 Amex Membership Rewards points – worth 30,00 Avios – you get for signing up come in handy too!) then what are you certain of getting on your next stay?

Hilton Gold benefits

Hilton Honors Gold – what is guaranteed?

This is the mid-tier Hilton status.  Hilton Honors is generally known for having the best mid-tier benefits in the hotel industry.  Gold does not carry a lot of weight in North America, where hotels are overrun with Gold members, but it does often carry respect in Europe and Asia.

(Marriott Rewards Gold status has better benefits than Hilton, as we will see below.  However, as Marriott Gold requires 50 nights per year if you earn it the hard way, it is a bit unfair to compare it with the mid-tier status of other brands.  You can get Hilton Gold with just 20 stays – which could all be one night – or 40 nights in total.)

The key benefit here is free breakfast.

With the exception of Waldorf-Astoria hotels, you will receive a free breakfast of some sort at all Hilton, Conrad, Curio and DoubleTree hotels.  This is usually but not necessarily full breakfast – at the Conrad New York, for example, I was given a special Gold breakfast menu which allowed me to pick a couple of items from a short list or take a $20 credit off a cooked item

You should also receive some sort of upgrade – this IS a guaranteed benefit but it is not clearly defined.  You shouldn’t expect too much, often just the best room in the category you booked.  You will also receive two free bottle of water per stay.

The other benefits of Hilton Gold, which I do not hugely value, are:

  • 25% bonus points
  • late check-out (not guaranteed)
  • 2nd guest stays free (only useful in countries which tend to charge more for two people, eg Germany)

You will also qualify for the ‘book 5 nights and pay for 4’ Hilton Honors redemption benefit which is offered to all status members.

Overall, because of the sheer size of the Hilton chain and the guaranteed breakfast, and to a lesser extent the upgrade of some sort, this ties with Marriott Gold as the best of the free Amex Platinum hotel statuses.

You can see the official list of Hilton Honors Gold benefits here.

Innside exterior

Melia Rewards Gold – what is guaranteed?

Melia is a Spanish-based hotel group.  The key brands are Sol, Tryp, Melia, Gran Melia, Paradisius, ME and INNSIDE.

In the UK, they have a number of impressive but not very well known hotels which you may want to try with your new Melia Rewards Gold status:

ME London, the Norman Foster designed hotel on the Strand which has a good reputation.  Think of a hotel like The Trafalgar nearby or a more sophisticated W.

Melia White House, a surprisingly pleasant art deco era hotel near Regents Park where we had our 2016 HFP Christmas party

INNSIDE Manchester, the first UK outpost for Melia’s four-star business brand.  The image above is of the hotel.  I reviewed INNSIDE Manchester and was very impressed. 

Melia Rewards Gold offers the following benefits:

  • 30% bonus points
  • free breakfast for a companion (so basically 2-4-1)
  • free wi-fi
  • 3 x 20% off vouchers for room bookings
  • 4pm late check-out at city hotels, 2pm at resorts

Late check-out IS guaranteed as long as the hotel is not 100% full.  You will also receive free wi-fi.  There is no upgrade benefit.

Overall, there isn’t much here to persuade me to move a stay to Melia EXCEPT for the ‘almost guaranteed’ 4pm check-out.  That could be important on a short break if you have a late flight back.

The full list of Melia Rewards status benefits is here.

Shangri La Shard

Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade – what is guaranteed?

Shangri-La has only a limited presence in Europe via its luxurious properties in London (in The Shard) and Paris.  It has a large presence in Asia and also operates the lower priced Traders, Hotel Jen and Kerry brands.

Your Jade status will get you:

  • 25% bonus base points
  • “Priority upgrade to the next available best room category, if the reserved room type is not available at check-in” (I have no idea what this is meant to mean – it appears to mean you are guaranteed not to be downgraded!)
  • 11am check-in and 4pm check-out (not guaranteed, and many hotels including London and Paris do not offer it at all)
  • choice of welcome amenity
  • free breakfast
  • partner stays free, in hotels which charge more for double occupancy

This could work out well for anyone planning to travel in Asia.  The 4pm check-out, if ‘available’ and as long as your hotel is not on the excluded list, is handy.  All you are guaranteed is the free breakfast and a welcome amenity but overall I think you could do quite well from the benefits above if your hotel was playing ball.

Club Carlson Gold benefits

Club Carlson Gold – what is guaranteed?

Club Carlson is the loyalty scheme for Radisson Blu, Radisson Edwardian, Park Plaza and Park Inn plus a few smaller brands.

Gold is their middle tier which usually requires 35 nights or 20 stays.  It is worth noting that their top tier, Concierge, is very hard to get (75 nights or 30 stays) compared to the size of the chain.  This is good news because it means that a Gold member may well be the highest status member in a hotel on a particular night.

Your Gold status will get you:

  • 20% off food and drink
  • room upgrade “when available”
  • 35% bonus on base points
  • early check-in and late check-out “on request”
  • welcome gift

Nothing is guaranteed – there is no free breakfast.  However, in my experience, you can do well as a Club Carlson Gold.  I have been upgraded to a ‘Business Room’ a few times (the features are listed here) at a Radisson Blu and – whilst the hotel can refuse to honour this on upgrades – a ‘Business Room’ gets you free breakfast.

The bottom line is that, whilst Gold is not technically their top tier, hotels take it more seriously than they take, say, Hilton Honors Gold.

Full details of Club Carlson status benefits are here.

Taj InnerCircle Gold – what is guaranteed?

I’m not going to focus on this heavily as few of you will ever stay at a Taj.

Taj and Shangri-La are now co-operating to allow members the opportunity to earn points at hotels in either chain.  A status match is part of the package.  You can match your Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status to Taj InnerCircle Gold status via this website.

Taj InnerCircle Gold status is not hugely valuable.  Taj InnerCircle Gold benefits are

  • Late Check Out
  • Early Check In
  • 2 Upgrade Vouchers
  • 15% discount on room redemption rate

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold – what is guaranteed?

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) is the loyalty scheme for Sheraton, St Regis, Le Meridien, Luxury Collection, Aloft, Westin, W and various other brands.  Whilst Starwood is now owned by Marriott, the two schemes have not yet been integrated and this is not now expected until January 2019.

The Gold benefits of SPG are:

  • 50% bonus points on your stay
  • 4pm late check-out
  • Upgrade to an ‘enhanced’ room at check-in
  • Welcome gift – a drink, high-speed internet or bonus points

Breakfast is conspicuously missing from this list.  However, the 4pm check-out is guaranteed except at ‘resort and conference centre hotels’.

High-speed internet is included if you book direct with SPG online so, if you do this, you can select the bonus points or a drink as your welcome gift.

The upgrade benefit has never delivered me anything noticeable at SPG hotels as a Gold member and I have never taken advantage of the late check-out to my knowledge.  The bonus points have always been welcome.

Full details of Starwood Preferred Guest Gold benefits are here.

Marriott Rewards Gold – what is guaranteed?

Now that Marriott has acquired Starwood, you can match your Starwood Preferred Guest status online to Marriott Rewards via this page of the Marriott website.  This means that your free SPG Gold card via American Express Platinum becomes a Marriott Rewards Gold card.

This will benefit you at any The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Marriott, AC Hotels, Delta, Protea, Renaissance, MOXY or other hotel controlled by the group.

This is a good package at the right brand – not surprising, because Marriott Gold is usually very difficult to earn, requiring 50 nights per year in their hotels.

These are the benefits of Marriott Gold:

  • 4pm late check-out, except at resort and conference hotels
  • 25% bonus on base points
  • high-speed internet access
  • room upgrade, based on availability at check-in
  • Executive Lounge access at JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance and Marriott Hotels, Delta Hotels (resorts excluded) or, if there is no lounge at these brands, free continental breakfast in the restaurant

This can be a great package.  You are guaranteed a 4pm late check-out and Executive Lounge access (at the brands listed above).   At a brand without the lounge benefit, or at resorts, it is less useful.

The full list of Marriott Rewards Gold benefits is here.

Conclusion

Just because you now have seven mid-tier hotel status cards in your wallet via Amex Platinum doesn’t mean that your hotel stays are going to be transformed.

That said, if you are a regular guest at Hilton and Marriott properties – although not regular enough to earn status in your own right – then you could do nicely.

I have done OK with Hilton and Club Carlson stays via my Amex Platinum status, although to be honest I can’t think of any time that I ever got something noticeable at a Starwood.  The time I got the Presidential Suite at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport doesn’t count, as I traded two standard rooms – which they couldn’t interconnect – for it!

My experience of Melia, Shangri-La, Taj and Marriott is too limited to draw any honest conclusions.  The Marriott package of free lounge access plus a guaranteed late check-out at certain brands is an impressive one and if I was a regular user of their hotels I think I would value a free Gold card highly.

If you are thinking of applying for the American Express Platinum charge card to take advantage of these benefits, you can find out more in my review here.

Don’t forget the sign-up bonus is currently 30,000 Amex points which makes the £450 fee more palatable – and there are plenty of other benefits, including airport lounge access.  You will also retain the hotel status cards until their expiry date even if you cancel your Platinum card for a pro-rata refund.

Flying Blue: WestJet deal, a look at the KLM UK network and latest promo awards
Bits: Atlantis The Palm Avios promo, all food now free at Escape lounges, airberlin closing
About Head for Points

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Comments

  1. “I do not trust anything unless it has the word ‘guaranteed’ in front of it.”
    Does AmEx guarantee any of these status?

  2. Wally1976 says:

    I’ve been looking at the Shelbourne in Dublin (Marriott) and it seems that although most nights are 40k points, on some nights they charge 40k points PLUS EUR250. Also if you try and book, say, Thursday to Sunday all as one booking and the Friday and Saturday nights are PLUS EUR250 nights then they seem to add the EUR250 to the Thursday night too. So better to book the Thursday night separately if going down this route. Personally I would never pay EUR250 a night for a hotel room never mind with 40k Marriott points on top but realise the cash prices here are EUR400+ per night.

    • These are really good offers though. When you have kids, you struggle to get redemption rooms which take a family. This Marriott feature lets you book most room categories for a modest payment on top. We did it in Venice when we got a Junior Suite, sleeping 4, for €100 on top of the standard points price.

      Note that the Shelbourne, pre Marriott days, had some really tiny standard rooms. Westin is the best option of the chains.

      • Wally1976 says:

        I was just looking for a double room for my wife and I though, Rob and there’s nothing for just points on certain nights, you have to have points + EUR250.

        I looked at the Westin but no free breakfast with SPG so either Shelbourne or one of the Hiltons but need more points for them.

        For family trips I tend to stick to Premier Inn, Travelodge or Holiday Inn Express in UK and abroad stay at non chain hotels.

  3. Do you have to book directly to receive these benefits or can you book via hotels.com or other such site?

  4. Mr Bo Jangles says:

    Are these membership benefits mirrored with the Amex Business Platinum card?

  5. How long does it take for the status cards to arrive?
    Do you have to apply in anyway? i have not been asked for my membership numbers for any of the hotels…