After many years of living in hotels, I have learned a great deal about how to optimize loyalty points and perks. One of the perks I enjoy most is complimentary suite upgrades. Since my husband and I live in hotels 365 days a year, staying in suites significantly improves our experience because we have larger, separate spaces, and we can lounge on a couch instead of our beds to watch the television.
Following are the reasons that enabled me to get these complimentary upgrades at the major hotel chains. Tip #1 is the most critical. I stay at Hilton, InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), and Marriott properties at least 60 days/year each, so I am at the highest loyalty elite status with all 3 hotel chains.
Tips for getting a complimentary suite upgrade at major hotel chains
- Have the highest loyalty Elite status. Hotel chains require between 60-90 nights in a year to get the highest elite status. The higher elite status, the better your chances for upgrades. Hotel-branded credit cards and the IHG Ambassador program can help get you that status faster.
- The Marriott Rewards Visa card automatically provides Marriott silver status, and after you spend a certain amount, you can have Gold status. ( I have 2 levels higher, which is Platinum Premiere Elite + Ambassador).
- For a $450 annual fee, Hilton American Express Aspire card provides Hilton Honors Diamond status. (I have Diamond status; I just earned it the hard way.)
- The IHG MasterCard card does NOT provide elite status. However, for $200 or 40,000 IHG Rewards points, you can purchase IHG Ambassador status. Beginning January 2019, Ambassador status comes with Platinum elite status. (I have 1 level higher, which is Spire Elite). Note: Fast-tracking your way to an elite status may be valuable, but be aware that the other perks of IHG Ambassador are limited and misleading. (See my post Is IHG Ambassador Status Worth the Money?)
- Book for 1 or 2 nights. Hotels don’t like to give away their suites long-term just in case a customer is willing to pay for it. However, they can pretty easily provide an upgrade short-term. For example, during a one-night layover in NYC, my one-night (Saturday) Crowne Plaza standard room that I booked was upgraded for free to the presidential suite. See my “How to turn a suite night into suite weeks” tip below to hopefully extend this 1 or 2 night upgrade to a much longer upgraded stay.
- Stay during an off-peak season. My best suite upgrades have been during off-peak times. For example, I was upgraded to a junior suite at the Hilton Amsterdam for a couple of weeks last winter. In the summertime, that hotel is always packed, so suites are much harder to come by.
- Complain (if deserved). Often times, a suite isn’t offered until there are issues with the standard room. For example, at the Doubletree in downtown Boston, I complained about the loud noise coming from outside the room. The front desk staff upgraded me to a junior suite in a quieter area.
- Build rapport with the hotel manager. After building a relationship with the hotel manager, they often upgrade my room. For example, when I told the hotel manager of the Doubletree Waikiki in Hawaii that I was planning on staying for several weeks, he assigned me a nice junior suite to stay in. (By the way, when I told the hotel manager of the Hilton Pasadena that I was planning on staying for several months, he didn’t offer me a suite, but he reduced my rate by 33%.)
- Request a suite upgrade upon check-in. This method typically only applies when the manager is working at the front desk. It also works with any staff at Crowne Plaza hotels.
- Marriott Only: Choose and use “Suite Nights.” Marriott recently merged with Starwood hotels and inherited a loyalty perk called “suite nights.” After staying 50 nights in a year, a member can choose from a number of perks, including 5 free suite nights. After staying 75 nights in a year, a member can choose 5 more free suite nights. In 2018, I have chosen this benefit at both milestones, so I received the maximum perk of 10 free suite nights.
How to turn a suite night into suite weeks
There are times when I plan on staying at the same hotel for many weeks or months, for example, in states like California where hotel taxes are refunded after 30 days. I would love to have a suite, but the cost is prohibitive. Following is my well-tested tip for enjoying a complimentary suite long-term.
When I book a hotel for a long-stay, I book one night only, and then 1 week at a time after that. If I get a suite upgrade for my first night, I then generally keep that suite for my remaining week-long bookings. This tip is more of a guarantee at Marriott hotels, where I apply my “suite night” perk for my first one-night booking only.
After enjoying my one night complimentary suite upgrade, when it’s time to check-out and check-in to my next reservation, I tell the front desk “I have a back-to-back reservation. I am hoping to stay in the same room.” Unless the hotel is fully booked, I always receive a response of “Of course, Mrs. Rome.”
At first, I felt guilty about using this sneaky method. However, after speaking with several hotel staff members, it seems to be the only method of securing a suite. The upgrades are important to me, so I have been using this tip a lot this year. I stayed in a lovely suite at the Sheraton Pasadena for several weeks. Using the Marriott app, I booked my first night and requested to use one of my suite night rewards. I received the following email:
Here is a video of my sweet suite at the Sheraton Pasadena, where I lived for the past several weeks.
I also applied this tip right before I arrived in Pasadena. I used a suite night award to get upgraded to a presidential suite at the Sheraton in Agoura Hills, California. I used a credit card free night perk to stay for free the first night, and my loyalty elite points to stay in that suite for free for 5 additional days. Unfortunately, my week ended early due to evacuations from the surrounding Woolsey fire! My typical suite video turned into an evacuation video:
I hope these tips are helpful to others. Suites are so sweet! Questions? Comments? Let me know in the Comments section below.