The Award Traveler’s Guide to Hyatt Gold Passport
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Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr explains everything award travelers need to know about one of my favorite hotel loyalty programs: Hyatt Gold Passport.
When you’re choosing a loyalty program, there are a few key features to look for: a quality product, valuable points, worthwhile elite benefits and a variety of lucrative earning and redemption options. Hyatt Gold Passport checks all of those boxes and more, which is why it’s among the most highly valued loyalty programs out there. Whether you’re new to Hyatt or a long-time member, in this post I’ll show you how to get the most out of your stays, rewards, elite status and more.
Let’s start by looking at the benefits of being a loyal Hyatt customer, first in terms of elite status and then in terms of earning and redeeming points.
Customers who spend a lot of nights at Hyatt hotels earn special benefits and bonus points in the form of elite status. Hyatt offers two tiers of elite status: Hyatt Platinum, and (arguably the most coveted hotel status) Hyatt Diamond.
Platinum membership requires 5 stays or 15 nights in a calendar year, or you can earn Platinum status after holding three qualifying events at Hyatt hotels. The main benefit is a 15% bonus on earned points. You also receive free premium Wi-Fi, a dedicated check-in counter, upgrades to preferred rooms (when available), 2pm late check-out and Hyatt’s 72-hour room guarantee.
Diamond status requires 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year, or you can earn Diamond status by hosting 10 qualifying events at Hyatt hotels. Those requirements are a considerable step up from the Platinum level, but so are the rewards. You’ll receive a 30% bonus on earned points, access to the Regency or Grand club, four Diamond Suite upgrades (each good for up to a seven nights on paid stays), breakfast in hotels without lounges, free premium internet, nightly turndown service, 4pm late check-out, 2 United Club passes annually, upgrades to the best room available excluding suites, and a 48-hour room guarantee.
The news gets better for Hyatt elites visiting Las Vegas. Hyatt’s partnership with MGM Resorts offers M life Sapphire status to regular Hyatt Gold Passport members, M life Gold status to Hyatt Platinum members and M Life Platinum status to Hyatt Diamond members. Be sure to opt in to receive your matched benefits. Those benefits can get you discounts, premium service and more at M life properties like the Bellagio, Aria and more.
Gold Passport functions like most hotel loyalty programs: You earn the majority of your points by staying at Hyatt properties or through credit card spending, and you redeem points for free hotel nights, with awards priced according to the desirability of a specific hotel property. However, there are other ways to earn points as well; here’s a summary of the most prevalent options:
1. Hotel Stays — You’ll earn a base rate of 5 points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties, including spending on spas and restaurants. Elite members earn the additional 15% bonus for Platinum and 30% bonus for Diamond.
2. Credit Card Spending — The Hyatt Credit Card from Chase earns 3 points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties; 2 points per dollar on restaurants, airfare purchased directly from airlines and car rental agencies; and 1 point per dollar elsewhere. That’s in addition to whatever points you earn from stays, so a Diamond member using the Hyatt card would earn 9.5 points per dollar for on-property expenses.
This card also has a particularly lucrative sign-up bonus of 2 free nights at any Hyatt property worldwide after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. I redeemed for two free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, which were going for over $1,000 per night at the time. You also get one free night at a category 1-4 property upon your account anniversary along with the $75 annual fee.
Hyatt is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can effectively earn Hyatt points by using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus Business Card, as well as the Chase Freedom or Ink Cash Business Card if you also have one of the other two cards. (For more information on how to use rewards from the Freedom and Ink Cash cards, see Jason Steele’s recent explanation.)
3. Earn Bonuses — Usually on a quarterly basis, Hyatt runs a promotion offering bonus points and more to Gold Passport members. Sometimes these promotions are great, but recently they’ve been uninspiring. The most recent iteration at the highest level required 15 nights before any bonus kicked in, which is a lot for leisure travelers. My offer was for 5,000 points after 5 nights, which is underwhelming. I hope to see some more lucrative offers over the next six months, so keep your eyes peeled.
4. Buy Points — You can normally buy Hyatt points for 2.4 cents apiece. TPG values Hyatt points at 1.8 cents; so buying at the standard rate only makes sense if you need to top up your account for a specific redemption. However, Hyatt frequently offers bonuses for buying points, like the 30% bonus that just ended. Only a month prior we saw a 40% bonus, so as you can see, opportunities come and go.
5. Combine Points — A unique feature of Hyatt Gold Passport compared to many other hotel programs is the ability to combine points for free with anyone, not just your immediate family or spouse. You can only combine points for an award that’s already on hold, and you’re limited to one combination every 30 days. The process is simple: Just complete your Point Combining Request Form and fax it into Gold Passport.
6. Rental Cars — You can earn 500 points for every rental made with Avis. Enter AWD number K817700 when making your reservation online.
7. Earn Airline Miles Instead of Gold Passport Points — Unless you really have no need for free hotels (or a desperate need for more airline miles), I highly suggest you forgo this option and earn Hyatt points. In general, you’ll earn 500 airline miles per stay from your choice of 27 different airlines.
8. Event Planning — If you’re planning a catering/banquet event or hosting a meeting that will require at least 10 guest rooms, you can earn 1 point per dollar spent on your event (up to 50,000 points).
Award Chart and Redemption Options
1. Free Nights — Hyatt divides all worldwide properties into seven categories, each requiring a different number of points for a free night. Award redemptions start at 5,000 points per night in category 1, and increase to 30,000 points per night at category 7 properties (of which there are only seven worldwide). You can also redeem at a higher rate for Regency and Grand Club rooms.
You can also redeem points for nights in a suite, as well as for free nights at one of Hyatt’s five all-inclusive properties. However, certain properties are excluded from suite night awards.
As long as a hotel’s standard accommodation is available at the Hyatt Daily rate, you should be able to book that room using Gold Passport points. Knowing the rules can prove to be very lucrative, as TPG Contributor Nick Ewen discovered.
2. Points + Cash — This option has only been around for a couple years, but has proven to be very valuable. Award nights cost half the normal number of points plus a cash surcharge. Points + Cash nights are generously treated just like revenue nights, so you can earn points and elite status credit for your stay.
With many category 4-6 properties going for $400+ per night, the ability to pay $100-$150 a night along with a relatively low number of points offers significant value.
3. Upgrades — You can use 3,000 points per night to upgrade to a Regency/Grand Club room when you’re already paying the Hyatt Daily rate of at least a deluxe room. Use 6,000 points per night to upgrade to a suite. Upgrades are based on availability, and require a phone call to Gold Passport. You may also have the opportunity to pay to upgrade after making a paid reservation via an e-Standby upgrade offer. It may or may not provide value, but you can compare the daily rates to your upgrade offer to see if you’ll come out ahead.
3. Transfer to Airline Miles — You can convert 2.5 Gold Passport points to 1 mile with 27 different airlines. You need to transfer at least 5,000 Gold Passport points, and you’ll receive 5,000 bonus miles when you convert 50,000 Gold Passport points. These transfers are not a good idea, as Hyatt points are generally more valuable than airline miles to begin with. I would avoid transferring unless you need to top off your Southwest account to earn the Companion Pass.
4. Car Rental Awards — Use 6,000 points to get a free rental day at Avis for an intermediate size car. I again recommend you forgo this option and save your points for free hotel nights or upgrades.
5. Dining, Spa, and More — This option essentially gives you coupons to redeem on hotel amenities. The return is so poor (at best around 0.8 cents per point) that I would never recommend this over using your points for free or discounted hotel nights.
Award Booking Process
Booking free nights in standard accommodations or in Regency/Grand Club rooms is easily done online at Hyatt.com. Select the Show Hyatt Gold Passport Points option above the rate search results to see which rooms are available using points.
Unfortunately, Points + Cash awards must be booked over the phone. As long as there is a standard accommodation available at the Hyatt Daily rate, you should be able to book that room using a Points + Cash rate, except at a few properties that don’t participate in the program. You also must call to use free night certificates, but you can view your them in your online profile by clicking My Awards on the left side of your profile after logging in.
There are several strategies you can use to maximize your Hyatt points and get the most out of the Gold Passport program:
1. Best Rate Guarantee — Hyatt is confident you’ll find the cheapest rate on Hyatt.com. If you find a cheaper price elsewhere, Hyatt will take an additional 20% off the lower rate. This could mean tremendous savings on a paid hotel night. Best rate guarantees come with a lot of stipulations, but if you find a lower qualifying rate, fill out the online claim form prior to or within 24 hours of booking on Hyatt.com. I have a success rate of about 75% in getting my claims approved, though Hyatt has become noticeably stricter this year about honoring these guarantees.
2. Diamond Challenge — If you don’t plan on staying 25 separate times or for 50 nights, there may be another way to earn Diamond elite status. Hyatt often opens its Diamond Challenge to elite members of other hotel chains or the general public, offering a shortcut to Diamond status if you stay 12 nights in a 60-day period. The Diamond Challenge comes and goes periodically, so keep an eye out for it.
3. Guest of Honor — As one of the new benefits announced earlier this year, Diamond elites can redeem points for a free night and give it to a friend or family member, who will then receive Diamond benefits during their stay. Make sure you take note of everyone’s Hyatt status at the next company picnic or family reunion!
4. Hyatt Horizons — Still not confirmed in public, Hyatt is rumored to be launching a beta version of a program comparable to Virtuoso and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. By booking through a registered Horizons agent, you’ll receive guaranteed benefits equivalent to having Diamond status, plus a $100 credit to use on spa treatments or dining. I am eagerly awaiting the public announcement to see how rates will compare to the Hyatt Daily Rates.
Why Gold Passport is Great
My experience with Hyatt has been reliably enjoyable. Hyatt not only offers great service and aspirational properties around the world, but also has hotels that make for great value-based redemptions. In my opinion, Gold Passport sets itself apart from other programs with reasonable redemption levels, great Points + Cash options and the ease and variety of strategies available to get into a really nice room at a discount.
Here are the strategies I use to get into a suite or club room on almost all my Hyatt stays:
- Earn Diamond status through a challenge and get Regency/Grand Club access every stay;
- Use 3,000 points per night to get club access;
- Use a Diamond Suite Upgrade (earned through a challenge) on a Points + Cash night;
- Use 6,000 points for a Suite Upgrade;
- Use a Best Rate Guarantee for a Club room or Suite.
At least one of these strategies tends to come through on my stays, leaving me with a minimal out-of-pocket expense compared to the standard daily rate of my room. The ability to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards in conjunction with Hyatt points gives Gold Passport a leg up, and makes it my first choice among the major hotel programs.
What’s your favorite aspect of Hyatt Gold Passport?