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


marriott
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We are only two days into 2020 and it is time to start evaluating which hotel chain my family will earn status with this year. At the end of 2019, my husband earned Hyatt Globalist status, and I believe that is the best option for us. The benefits we receive are top notch compared to the others. We have two little kids so there are some benefits that are quite necessary for us to stay in comfort and save some money.

While my family has already decided that 2020 will be a Hyatt year, your family might have other plans. Here is the 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 I 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, Suite Upgrade
Get upgraded to a 1-bedroom ocean view suite with your own hot tub on the balcony (at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun)

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. No need to wait until check-in with your fingers crossed hoping you are upgraded.

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

Additionally, a little less than a year ago, Hyatt announced milestone rewards. Every time you complete 10 nights (starting at the 20 night mark), you’ll receive a new reward. This means you can even earn suite upgrade certificates before reaching Globalist status when completing 60 nights. With the milestone rewards, you’ll earn two suite upgrades at the 50 night mark and another two at the 60 night mark.

Related: 10 Tips to Hyatt Certificates — Club Lounge Access, Suite Upgrades, and Free Night

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.

For me personally, I selected the five Suite Night Awards last year and ended the year with all five still in my account. We actually didn’t stay in Marriott properties as much, but even when I tried to use them, I was never upgraded.

Related: 4 Ways to Earn Marriott Lifetime Status

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.

marriott aruba
I had a great stay at the Marriott in Aruba, but my Suite Night Upgrade request was denied.

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.

On the positive note though, earning Hilton Diamond status is easy to do since the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express comes with complimentary status. This means you do not actually have to earn status the hard way, you just simply need to be a card holder.

Related: Increase Your Hilton Points with Four Co-Branded Credit Cards

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 and snacks throughout the day — perfect for kids. For the adults, 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.

The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar offered a great breakfast and even dinner in their lounge.

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. Complimentary drinks also hit the spot!

At properties without a lounge, they give guests complimentary “full” breakfast. This means you are receiving a full hot breakfast and you will not be charged to upgrade for 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.

Related: 8 Opportunities to Receive Hyatt Free Night Certificates

Marriott

Marriott probably has the weakest policy, although it was “enhanced” after the Starwood merger. 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.

Related: Extending a Marriott Free Night Certificate for One More Year

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. They are absolutely ridiculous and I wish hotels would somehow just bake them into the price of the hotel. I 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 and Hilton wins 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 are waived on paid stays as well! This is huge as it can save your family a ton of money. For example, during our stay last year at the  Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, we saved the $33 a night resort fee due to our Globalist status. This saved us $132 on our four night stay which is huge. We paid for the hotel room, due to a low rate, but if we had used points, regardless of our status the fee would have been waived.

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 required to pay a resort fee. 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! Hyatt Globalist status has served our family well for many years and we will continue to earn this status for hopefully many years to come.

Info about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected independently by Deals We Like. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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Kyle Hawkins
Kyle Hawkins
1 year ago

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.

Narayana Sundaram
Narayana Sundaram
9 months ago

Hi, great article. I do stay a few nights at Marriott hotels so I usually make Platinum but I do agree, Hyatt offers more benefits to Globalists. How do you typically earn Globalist status? Do you stay that often?

Luke Vader
Luke Vader
9 months ago

Don’t have Hyatt Globalist, but had both Marriott Titanium Elite and Hilton Diamond status in 2019. Like you, I also selected the five Suite Night Awards for Marriott and ended the year with all five still in my account. With Hilton, received an upgrade to a nice corner suite over the Summer. Limited data points in my case, but I’d have to say Hilton Diamond (complimentary with the Amex Aspire) pays better dividends than Marriott Titanium status.

don
don
9 months ago

Here’s another key point. Under the old SPG program, on a points redemption stay, up to (I believe) three rooms would credit towards elite status. Now under Bonvoy, only the first room is credited. In Europe, this is particularly painful where suite upgrades are nonexistent and you need to double rooms for a family of four or more in most situations.

Duke
Duke
9 months ago

Hyatt…..Then Hilton….Marriott the worst..

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