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. Should I apply for Hilton gold before I cancel my Plat? I am Hilton diamond until March 18 I think, and I want to retain gold after that finishes.

    • I don’t think your account will become Gold due to current Diamond status and you’d have to wait till 1 April.

      • Thanks Genghis. Will have to wait til the next churn then!

        • Apply for the status now via platinum as recommended by Matt. This means you have qualified Gold until the end of this ‘year’ and all of next. When your planinum expires you will be gold. I have done this and confirmed my status with Honors for 2018-19. This is not the same as a soft landing to gold so don’t count on one, if you do not apply for gold before cancelling platinum then they will most likely drop you to silver from April.

        • @JamesB I wish I had known that on my last churn. There’s always stuff to learn!

        • @Genghis, I found out only by accident. Despite already having Diamond I decided to apply for the Hilton Gold on off chance I would get it for next year or even somehow keep Diamond a bit longer. I did not get the any confirmation emails so called them up, they confirned they had received the status request and that I would be Gold if I failed to requalify for Diamond.

        • I did that too – applied with the Platinum card I just cancelled to try to get Gold when my Diamond status expires in March 18 but didn’t hear anything back. I should give them a call to check as you can no longer see your expiry date online.

    • Apply now, you’ll likely get a soft landing to Gold in March (at least that’s what happened for me!)

      • Not sure if this is true. I am not aware of a soft landing at Hilton.

        When I lost my diamond. I was put back to silver, which reflected the stays I had completed that year.

        • It’s worth you phoning Honors team and request one, esp. if you have stays planned and would like to put them to Hilton group.

        • I am referring to the case above when you apply for Gold via Amex Platinum while still a Diamond.

  2. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    The Shangri-la welcome amenities are actually jolly good compared to the competition. You get a free choice of *three* items from this list:

    http://www.shangri-la.com/corporate/golden-circle/membership-benefits/at-a-glance/choice-of-welcome-amenities/

    In my experience, options like ‘beer’ have been interpreted as ‘one each’.

    • ankomonkey says:

      Do you get to find out what the “Local / Seasonal amenity” is before choosing? Or is it like a lucky dip?

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        Whilst you can set choices in your profile, I’ve always been asked at check in. Presumably they could tell you then.

  3. Thank you for this. Have just upgraded my Marriott account to Gold Elite as a result of the SPG match.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Got upgraded to the most incredible room at Marriott Kochi in India as a result of SPG Gold / Marriott gold / Amex plat

      Suite (not some pseudo suite), with adjoining room for my friends.

      And treated like royalty 🙂 It changed my perception of Marriott hotels (for the positive)

      • Wally1976 says:

        At the Marriott Budapest, my wife and I got upgraded to a suite on the top floor, access to the amazing lounge with panoramic views and enough “nibbles” to mean you’d never need to pay for a meal if you didn’t want to (we chose not to have the evening nibbles and have a nice meal out instead though) and we got the fantastic free breakfast in the restaurant too. (Breakfast could be taken in the lounge but we didn’t try that.). Very impressed.

        • Wally1976 says:

          PS neither of us had ever stayed in a Marriott before and it was booked with points (35k per night = 11667 SPG = 23333 Amex MR) so we have never directly “paid” Marriott anything at all.

        • i thought that where there was a lounge that was where you had to take breakfast? You were able to use the main restaurant also?

        • Wally1976 says:

          Maybe it depends on property but in Budapest we were allowed to have breakfast in the main restaurant. We considered trying it in the lounge but reckoned it wouldn’t be as good. Presumably no chef cooking omelettes/eggs to order or such a wide choice in the lounge.

  4. the real harry1 says:

    Probably worth mentioning that actually getting the 5 ‘automatic’ status cards won’t just arrive in the post (like Priority Pass) – you need to navigate to a sign-up page on your online Plat a/c and fill in your details & request the cards

  5. Rob Brown says:

    Question on Hilton free breakfast, Is it just for the member who books or the whole room? my wife is also a gold member as she has the additional Amex platinum card on my account. When we stay do I put her card number in to the booking as well and we both get it? Or does she still need to pay?

    • My wife has always received free breakfast with me even though she had no Gold status herself.

    • I booked two rooms at the Hilton Metropole for myself and a colleague and both put in Exec Rooms and free full breakfast for both rooms.

    • It’s free for the member and another guest in the same room.

      If there are three adults in the same room then they will usually make you pay (but as Diamond we can all go to the lounge instead).

      Some hotels will decide to make it free for 2 rooms if you book them together, but they don’t have to.

    • The whole room and sometimes if you book more than 1 room your whole booking will get it. We’ve always had it for 2 rooms but aware it’s not guaranteed.

    • Wally1976 says:

      I was wondering this too – planning a booking with wife (also same statuses) + 2 children. Do we all get breakfast (1 room). Also same question for Marriott??

      • Strictly, no. However some brands may have ‘kids eat free’ policies.

        Some hotels try to game this. When we were at Four Seasons Hampshire in August, we had ‘continental breakfast’ included as a standard benefit. The hotel does not have this, there is just one buffet. Historically they didn’t care. In August, they had invented a price for what they would charge for a continental breakfast if they served one (which they don’t) and then billed us the extra.

        I got so annoyed we ended up getting £2,500 compensation (not a typo) as they ended up comping the whole holiday.

        • Wow, seriously good effort. Almost sounds like that practice should be illegal (hence the settlement)

          Now you just need to chase Virgin on the EU261, eh Rob? 😉

  6. Melia Gold:
    Does anybody know when one receives the ‘3 x 20% off vouchers for room bookings’ ?
    Is this on signup or after a stay or more?
    Also, are there any rules / restrictions on using these vouchers ?
    Are they for a single night or for the duration of any stay?

    There is also listed a ‘Birthday surprise gift’
    Anybody know what this might be?

    • On sign up, though they tend to “forget” to add them to your account. If you call customer services they will apply them to your account. Plus, I have always found it better to speak to the service agents with Melia as they seem to ensure any requests are followed up.

      I’m staying at the Melia Milano from tomorrow for a few nights so will report back on any benefits added or not adhered to and am using my 20% discount voucher which was only €120 off the lowest rate for the stay. The birthday gift at this hotel is apparently a free dessert made by the chef. Though may know tomorrow what the actual “gift” is.

    • The 20% off voucher codes will appear in your account but if not, just call/email them for manual addition. The bday gift for me was choice between another 10% discount voucher or 20 euros off my next stay. There will be an alert on your account page showing your bday offer.

  7. Is the Hilton Gold benefit now a permanent one? I’ve been diamond since 2013 so I’ve had no need to check but originally with Amex the Hilton benefit was for one year only so unlike the other ones it was important to only sign up if you had some Hilton stays planned whereas the other ones could be signed up to just in case.

  8. Rob Brown says:

    Meliá I have always found much better than what they offer as benefits. This year I have had an upgrade to a suite in Girona and Dubai (Dubai came with lounge access) I have also recieved a welcome gift in both, in Girona I recieved a bottle of Cava and fruit plate and in Dubai we recieved a plate of sweet pastries on our first day and on my birthday a giant chocolate cake that could feed about 10 (they do like excess in Dubai)

    Also a handwritten note in both which is always a nice touch. Obviously none of this is guarenteed so I don’t expect it but I’ve been lucky so far.

  9. Roger I* says:

    Marriott Gold doesn’t mean much at Marriott-owned Protea Hotels in Africa. No ‘free’ breakfast, no Club access (there haven’t been any lounges in the Protea hotels I have used).

    Of course, Marriottization may come, but there’s no sign of it yet.

  10. Taj treated me nicely in Cape Town. Upgraded room and free Chauffeur three times during my stay. I am at the Taj Mumbai then Taj Exotica in Goa in a few weeks time I will see what they do.

  11. I’ve always been treated very well in Shangri-La properties – including several suite upgrades. Mostly I book on exec floor, so have lounge access already.

    I’ll also be using the Shangri-La/Singapore Airlines accelerated status program to claim Krisflyer Gold status with 3 flights on SQ. Potentially useful, one-off benefit of Jade.

  12. How long dose it take to get SPG status after enrolled from AMEX plat everyone? It’s been two weeks and SPG said they still haven’t get anything passed from AMEX.

    • Taken between 4-6 months on two occasions for myself. 1st time the status came through after I had cancelled my platinum. On ths churn, my gold status has just been extended to 2019 last week after requesting it in May. Others have reported much shorter timelines though….

      • Thanks, that’s long wait. I applied for MRS at same time as additional card holder and she got it after 3 or 4 days. I’m thinking chase AMEX up as there are some trips planned ahead.

  13. Have found Hilton to be very accommodating, even when not booked directly. Had a long booking in New York last month down via Hotels.com (over £1300 cheaper and Hilton would not price match). However, hotel gave free full breakfast for both and free WiFi. At Hilton costs, this was around $1000, real cost to me was probably around $500, so Cover’s most of the first year fee, if I keep it that long.

    There seems to be problems with the Club Carlson at the moment. I know 3 or 4 , myself included, that have been waiting months for the status. Stuck as “pending”. Intervention from Amex has not moved it. Has lost them several bookings in my case

  14. Agreed, Hilton status is a valuable benefit, free breakfast and always had some sort of genuine room upgrade.

    JW Marriott stay coming up using points from SPG churns, which gets me 5 nights for the price of 4 in KUL, with lounge access (good deal!).

    Not discussed here, but IHG Spire.…meh. Free drink and a thank you for being loyal.

    • Crowne Plaza lounge accesa for Spire now getting more common – got it at Heathrow and Geneva recently.

      • Rob, I saw the chart you showed earlier in the year that said Lounge Access was now being given for Spire, I noticed this was for Europe any news on USA or the far east?
        When we went to New Zealand recently, IHG were very poor in terms of rewards, both the CP Christchurch and IC Wellington we stayed at refused to give us anything free (breakfast or car parking) and the IC wouldn’t entertain giving us lounge access (I’m a lowly spire ambassador, probably need to be RA). They just gave the minimum, one class upgrade and 2 bottles of water, that’s ok, I’ll base my stays accordingly.
        Hilton in Queenstown offered free continental breakfast, but when I emailed, they upgraded this to full breakfast. No upgrade though, they said “you already have the best room”, first thing I did was check and they still had suites left, they just didn’t want to give us one! Hilton in Auckland again gave free continental breakfast, but this included all hot items except cooked to order eggs. Again no upgrade but they were full, so no issue there. Both Hilton’s gave us 2 drinks vouchers per night and two bottles of water a day, too. I’d like to add as a leisure only traveller the Amex plat hotel status is good as I would never stay anywhere long enough to get any status with any hotel as 30 nights is the absolute max we ever have in a year.

        • No, not seen any similar charts (and the one I published was not meant for public consumption).

        • guesswho2000 says:

          I got a free bottle of red wine from IC Wellington as a Plat about two years ago on a reward stay, but that was it, didn’t bother with breakfast and had to pay for valet parking (they disappear off into that maze of a car park underneath the hotel).

          Hilton Auckland were amazing though, Gold at the time and they couldn’t have been more accommodating. No lounge IIRC, but they let us use the gym to shower when we rolled up at 6am from Melbourne and were fully booked (so same as, no upgrade), ended up getting a room about 10am in the end.

      • I recently got lounge access at crowne plaza Gatwick too as a spire.

      • Yes, but not a stated benefit, no guarantees, and even less so when on a points booking.

  15. What happens with status renewals? I’m nearing the point of cancellation of my Platinum Card but my hotel statuses expire in March 2018. Does this mean there is an optimum time of year to take out the Platinum to maximise the hotel statuses?

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