As I announced on HFP last week, and subsequently confirmed to cardholders in writing, American Express has added three new hotel benefits to the Platinum charge card package:
Hilton HHonors Gold status
Melia Rewards Gold status
Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status
However, it is also removing Le Club AccorHotels Platinum status as a benefit from the end of April.
It is worth looking more closely at each of these statuses to see if they are actually worth anything or not.
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.
There are no circumstances under which I will move my business to a hotel because I may or may not receive a status benefit ‘subject to availability’, which can mean anything. The one thing you can be sure 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.
The end game here is when you pull out your mobile phone in a hotel lobby, after being refused a non-guaranteed upgrade because ‘the hotel is full’, to show the check-in clerk exactly how many rooms mysteriously seem to be available for that night – for cash. If you’ve never done this, I promise you, the day will come.
First up is Hilton HHonors Gold.
This is the mid tier Hilton status. Hilton is generally known for having the best mid-tier benefits package in the hotel industry, which is good news for you. Gold does not carry a lot of weight in North America, where hotels are overrun with Gold members, but it does often carry some respect in Europe and Asia.
The key benefit here is free continental 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 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.
(At a Waldorf-Astoria you will get 1,000 bonus points instead, worth £3, or a free in-room movie. You will also get a handful of points at other brands not listed above.)
You should also receive some sort of upgrade – this is a guaranteed benefit although it is not clearly defined. You shouldn’t expect too much, often just the best room in the category you booked, but you should get something. You will also receive two free bottle of water per stay.
Hilton Gold used to bring free internet but that is now available to everyone. It does not get you free hi-speed internet access, where a paid premium service exists. This is restricted to top tier Diamond members.
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 HHonors 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 guaranteed upgrade, this is by far the best of the new benefits.
Melia Rewards Gold
Melia is a Spanish-based hotel group. The key brands are Sol, Tryp, Melia, Gran Melia, Paradisius, ME and INNSIDE. Their London team has always been very proactive towards Head for Points, sponsoring a competition a couple of years ago for example, but their scale outside Iberia is not huge.
In the UK, they have a number of impressive but not very well known hotels which you may want to try with your new 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
INNSIDE Manchester, the first UK outpost for Melia’s four-star business brand. The image above is of the hotel. I reviewed INNSIDE Manchester last year and was very impressed. Glasgow and Birmingham properties will follow over the next couple of years.
Melia Rewards Gold offers the following benefits:
- 30% bonus points
- free breakfast for a companion (so 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 but only 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.
Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade
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, however, and also operates the lower priced Traders, Hotel Jen and Kerry brands.
Your Jade status will get you:
- 25% bonus 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!)
- 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.
The big question is whether these new benefits offset the loss of Accor Platinum. That is a top tier status (all of the above are mid tier) with guaranteed lounge access at Sofitel, welcome drinks and upgrades. Overall – and this is a personal thing – I think I will get more out of Hilton Gold than I did from Accor Platinum, simply because Hilton has a bigger footprint.
I don’t put much value on the Melia and Shangri-La cards, to be honest, and I doubt that I will even sign up for them at this stage. I have enough plastic cards in the house as it is ….
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