When staying at hotels, the experience can be both nicer and cheaper if free breakfast and/or club lounge access is included. Club lounges usually offer free breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres. In the best lounges, the evening food spread can be a good substitute for dinner. Rather than actually paying for breakfast or club lounge access, here are shortcuts for the following chains: Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood.
This table shows a high level view of the requirements for free breakfast and club lounge access by hotel chain:
|Hotel Chain||Requirements for free breakfast||Requirements for free club lounge access|
|Hilton||Gold or Diamond Status||Diamond Status|
|Hyatt||Diamond Status||Diamond Status, or pay/upgrade with points.|
|Marriott||Gold or Platinum status||Gold or Platinum status|
|Starwood||Platinum status||Platinum status or SPG Business Credit Card from American Express (Sheraton properties only)|
More details follow…
Guaranteed Free Breakfast: Gold Status
Hilton has three elite tiers: Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Gold or Diamond status is required for free breakfast.
- Type of breakfast guaranteed:
- Hot, cooked to order, breakfast: Hilton Garden Inn.
- Continental breakfast: Conrad, Curio, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and DoubleTree hotels. In my experience, most of these hotels either offer Gold members hot breakfast for free, or let you buy up to a hot breakfast for a modest fee.
Guaranteed Club Lounge Access: Diamond Status
Shortcuts to Hilton Gold status (free breakfast):
- Sign up for a credit card: Both the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass card and the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card offer automatic Gold status
- Spend $20K per calendar year: Get the Amex Hilton Honors card. This card offers Hilton Gold status each year in which you spend $20,000 on the card.
- Request challenge: Email HHonors@hrcc-hilton.com and ask if you can “fast track to Diamond status”. Include proof of top tier elite status with a competing hotel chain. The result is that they may enroll you in a challenge in which you need to complete a number of paid nights to achieve Diamond status. Even better, they will most likely give you complementary Gold status for some period of time.
- Watch for promotions. Hilton has been known to offer easy paths to Gold status quite often.
Shortcuts to Hilton Diamond status (club lounge access):
- Request challenge: Email HHonors@hrcc-hilton.com and ask if you can “fast track to Diamond status”. Include proof of top tier elite status with a competing hotel chain. If approved, you will be given Gold status and you will have 90 days to complete the challenge (21 nights). The usual requirement for Diamond status is 30 stays or 60 nights per calendar year.
- Spend $40K per calendar year: Both the Hilton Honors Surpass Amex card and the Hilton Honors Reserve Citibank card offer Diamond status after $40K spend within a calendar year. More details can be found here: How to manufacture Hilton Diamond status.
Guaranteed Free Breakfast and/or Club Lounge: Diamond Status
Hyatt has two elite tiers: Platinum, and Diamond. Diamond status is required for free breakfast and/or guaranteed lounge access.
- Type of breakfast guaranteed: Full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge. Full breakfast includes one entrée (or standard breakfast buffet), juice and coffee (tax, gratuity and service charges included)
- Exceptions: Continental breakfast only at Hyatt Regency Bethesda. Benefit not valid when staying at Hyatt Place properties, Hyatt House properties, or Hyatt Residence Club resorts.
Shortcuts to Diamond status
- Hyatt Diamond Challenge: Enroll in the Hyatt Diamond Challenge by calling 1-800-228-3360. Complete 12 paid Hyatt nights in the next 60 days to achieve Diamond status. The current challenge, at the time of this writing (June 2015), offers Diamonds status through February 2017 for those who complete it.
Club Lounge Access through points
- With a paid stay: 3,000 points per night to upgrade room to club lounge access. More details about using points to upgrade can be found here.
- Award stay: You can book an award stay that includes club lounge access. These awards are priced higher than standard awards. Award prices can be found here.
Guaranteed Free Breakfast or Club Lounge access: Gold or Platinum status
Marriott has several elite tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Premier. Gold or higher status is required for free breakfast and/or guaranteed lounge access.
- Type of breakfast guaranteed: Free breakfast in club lounge, when/where available, otherwise continental breakfast in restaurant. Individual hotels may offer Platinum members hot breakfast for free, or let you buy up to a hot breakfast for a modest fee.
- Exceptions: Resorts are excluded. Also, Marriott maintains a list of non-resort properties that do not provide free breakfast when the lounge is closed (found here).
Shortcuts to Gold and Platinum status:
- Request status challenge: Depending on whether you challenge for Gold or Platinum status, you’ll have to complete 6 or 9 stays in approximately 3 months in order to be granted status for the rest of the year and all of the next year.
- Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa: Cardholders are given Gold status automatically the first year. Cardholders can keep Gold status through $10K spend per account year, or get Platinum status through $75K spend per account year. Marriott and Ritz share the same loyalty program, so Gold or Platinum status with Ritz counts as the same level status with Marriott. More details here: How to manufacture Marriott elite status.
- Marriott Rewards Premier card: This card offers 15 nights elite credit each year plus an additional elite credit for each $3K of spend put on the card. Marriott requires 50 paid nights per calendar year to reach Gold status and 75 nights to reach Platinum status. Unless you are already close to achieving status, this would be a very expensive way of getting there. More details here: How to manufacture Marriott elite status.
Shortcuts to maintain status:
- Elite Status Buy Back: Each year Marriott offers to let members buy back their previous level of status. 25,000 points for Gold; 40,000 points for Platinum. Of course, there is no guarantee that they’ll continue this practice in the future, but it’s a great option while its available.
SPG: Starwood Preferred Guest
Guaranteed Free Breakfast: Platinum Status
Starwood has two elite tiers: Gold and Platinum. Platinum status is required for free breakfast.
- Type of breakfast: Continental breakfast. Individual hotels may offer Platinum members hot breakfast for free, or let you buy up to a hot breakfast for a modest fee.
Guaranteed Club Lounge Access:
- Platinum Status, or
- SPG Business Credit Card from American Express: As of August 11, 2015, business cardholders will be granted club lounge access at Sheraton hotels worldwide. Please note that this benefit does not include non-Sheraton SPG brands such as Westin, W, etc.
Shortcuts to Gold status (chance of club lounge access):
Even thought Gold status does not guarantee lounge access or free breakfast, some Starwood properties grant lounge access to Gold members at their discretion.
- American Express Platinum card: Cardholders (including authorized users) can simply call American Express and ask to be upgraded to SPG Gold status
- Starwood Preferred Guest credit card: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year to get Gold status.
Shortcuts to Platinum status (club lounge access and/or free breakfast):
- Starwood Preferred Guest credit card: This card gives cardholders 5 nights and 2 stays towards elite status each year. You can double elite status credits by owning both the personal and business versions of this card. Platinum status requires 25 stays or 50 nights.
- SPG Platinum Challenge: send email requesting Platinum challenge to firstname.lastname@example.org. Complete 18 paid nights within a 90 day window to earn Platinum status. Award nights and Points & Cash nights do not count. If you complete the challenge after April 1, your status will be good for the rest of that year, all of the next year, and through February of the year after that.