Hotel Chain with the Best Benefits for My Family: Hilton vs. Hyatt vs. Marriott

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Yesterday I wrote a post describing my 2019 position on which hotel chain will earn my family the most number of points (thus free night stays) between Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott. While I am pretty much between Hilton and Hyatt, the benefits we’ll receive with Hyatt Globalist status will definitely suit our family best throughout the year. We have two little kids so there are some benefits that are quite necessary for us to stay in comfort and save some money. So here is a breakdown of benefits that you’ll receive with top tier status that families will absolutely care about.

Suite Upgrades

For my family, suite upgrades is probably our #1 priority while traveling. Of course I won’t actually pay for a suite and really do not want to use more points to book a suite — I personally prefer complimentary upgrades! Here is the upgrade policy for the three chains with Hyatt Globalist, Marriott Platinum, and Hilton Diamond status. Spoiler alert: Hyatt by far has the best upgrade policy!

Hyatt

With Hyatt, once you reach Globalist status, you receive 4 Suite Upgrade certificates. These certificates can be used on a qualifying paid rate or when using points and are valid for a stay up to 7 nights! The best part about these certificates is that you can apply them to your reservation immediately after you book your stay. If a standard suite is available, the room is yours!

Now, if you have used all of your suite upgrades or one wasn’t available when you booked your room, you can still receive an upgrade during check-in. When checking in, all Globalists are eligible to receive an upgrade, including a standard suite.

Hyatt also just announced some changes to their program starting March 1, 2019. They are giving out milestone rewards every time you complete 10 nights (starting at the 20 night mark). Instead of receiving 4 Suite Upgrades at 60 nights (upon reaching Globalist status), you’ll receive 2 Suite Upgrades at 50 nights and 2 more at 60 nights. This means even if you aren’t able to earn Globalist status, but able to secure 50 nights, you’ll still receive 2 Suite Upgrades, which is awesome!

Marriott

Once you reach Platinum status with Marriott, you have the option to select one out of 5 benefits: five Suite Night Awards, give the gift of Silver Elite status, 40% off your favorite mattress, five Elite Night Credits or a $100 charity donation. Probably one of the more popular selections is the five Suite Night Awards. Starting 5 days prior to your arrival, the hotel will check for availability. If they cannot upgrade you at that point, they will continue to check for availability each day up until 2pm the day prior to your arrival. While these awards look good on paper, it is up to the hotel to actually upgrade your room and there are many reports of suites actually being available despite the hotel confirming the upgrade.

These awards also apply per night. So 5 Suite Night Awards will cover 5 nights, NOT 5 stays. If you are able to be confirmed into a suite, this typically means one vacation per year — unlike Hyatt which would cover you for 4 vacations! With that being said, it is still nice that you can possibly get some confirmation of an upgrade prior to actually arriving at your hotel, but there are definitely no guarantees.

If you are not confirmed in advance, or have run out of your Suite Night Awards, you can still be upgraded upon check-in. You should receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room (including suites). This includes all Marriott properties except Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Vacation Clubs, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Aloft, Element, and Vistana properties. Only those with Platinum Premier status receive complimentary upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties.

Hilton

Hilton Diamond members may receive an upgrade upon check-in, but it is up to the hotels discretion. There is no benefit that confirms a member into a suite prior to their arrival and no benefit that obligates the hotel to upgrade a guest into a suite. While a Diamond member will most likely receive priority over another guest, even if a suite is available, the hotel does not have to upgrade you.

Complimentary Lounge Access & Breakfast

Having lounge access for my family is huge! Of course lounges vary by property, but I definitely seek out properties that have a robust lounge! Typically, lounges only have to offer breakfast, but there are many that also offer dinner (perfect for kids!) and snacks throughout the day. Many also offer complimentary evening drinks. When we stay at a hotel with a lounge we eat breakfast there daily. While this saves us a ton of money, it is also so much easier with the kids. Eliminating another sit down meal is huge and it gives the kids more variety of foods to choice from. Spoiler alert: Hyatt again has by far the best complimentary breakfast policy.

Hyatt

Hyatt lounges are by far the best I’ve seen. They all offer breakfast as well as evening hors d’oeuvres every single day. There have been many occasions where the evening hors d’oeuvres have served as my families dinner. After a full day out with the kids, sometimes the last thing we want to do with the kids is have a sit down meal. The lounge is easy and saves us a ton of money as well! They also offer complimentary drinks!

At properties without a lounge, they gives guests complimentary “full” breakfast. This means you are receiving a full hot breakfast and you will not be required to upgrade for your eggs! You’ll also receive free breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children. No need to pay for your kids breakfast like the other chains require!

Marriott

While Marriott has increased their lounge/breakfast policy due to the Starwood merger, it is still not nearly as good as the other two chains. While you’ll receive free lounge access at properties with a lounge, it seems as though most Marriott Resorts do not offer a lounge. Instead they offer a private “Club” which you can only access if you pay for it. Aside from resort properties, lounge access is not offered at the following brands: The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, EDITION, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Design Hotels, Tribute Portfolio, Gaylord Hotels, Four Points, SpringHill Suites, Protea Hotels, Fairfield, AC Hotels, Aloft, Moxy Hotels, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Element, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, and participating Vistana properties. That is a ton of properties excluded!

If there is no lounge, then you might be eligible for breakfast. Depending on the brand and the country, if lounge access is not available, then you are eligible for breakfast. Although, there are a dozen or so properties that are excluded from complimentary breakfast when the lounge is closed! At resorts properties, you’ll have to select complimentary breakfast as your “choice amenity” upon check-in if there is no lounge available. And when breakfast at the restaurant is given, it only covers continental breakfast for 2 guest. From my experience, Marriott properties are very stingy with giving you anything extra for free when it comes to lounge access and breakfast! At Courtyard properties, you’ll receive a whopping $10 food and beverage credit! This list goes into detail on whether or not you’ll receive lounge access or complimentary breakfast — I hate that there isn’t just one overall policy!

Hilton

At Conrad, Curio, Hilton, DoubleTree, and Tapestry Collection properties, Diamond guests will receive lounge access, when a lounge actually does exist. When a lounge does not exist, you’ll receive complimentary breakfast. At Waldorf-Astoria properties, you will only receive complimentary breakfast. The kicker is that the breakfast is technically only continental and you are limited to two guests. If you are staying with your kids, this means they will not receive free breakfast. With that being said, I find Hilton properties to not be as stingy as Marriott properties.

Waived Resort Fees

I HATE resort fees. I think they are absolutely ridiculous and wish hotels would somehow just bake them into the price of the hotel. I really really despise when you are paying a resort fee to find out that the only thing really included is 2 bottles of water and long distance calls. But that is a topic for another post! Fortunately though, a few hotel chains will waive their resort fees. Spoiler alert: Hyatt wins again for the resort fee category!

Hyatt

For all members, if you are using points, you will not have to pay any resort fees. Now, if you do have Globalist status, your resort fees will be waived on paid stays as well! This is huge as it can save your family a ton of money! For example, we just stayed at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar on a paid rate and due to having Globalist status, we did not have to pay the $33/night resort fee — saving us $132 on our four night stay!

Hilton

Similar to Hyatt, all members who use points for a free night stay will not have to pay resort fees. Again this is huge, but if you are looking to pay for the night, you are on the hook for resort fees regardless of your status.

Marriott

Marriott could care less about your status or how you are paying for your stay when it comes to resort fees. All guests are on the hook when a resort fee is charged! There are some Marriott properties that charge $60/night for resort fees! This can really add up on vacation that you thought was “free” with your points.

Overall…

Hyatt definitely wins in the benefits category for perks that are most important to my family when we travel. This is also on top of the milestone benefits that we’ll receive on our way to earning Globalist!
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Comments

  1. Curious, does your opinion on your family strategy (asking for my own benefit and hopefully others) if you can’t put the spend on personal co-branded hotel cards? I.e. remove that benefit from your calculations if you put the spend on a company (employer) card.

    Thanks, love this type of analysis from bloggers instead of fluff pieces.

    • @Kyle Hawkins – Yes, that definitely would impact my decision as it wouldn’t allow me to earn top tier status as Hyatt. I’d probably then pick Hilton since I could earn Diamond status just with the credit card. I’ll put together a post about this! And thank you for the kid words about my post!

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