Earlier this year, TPG staffers from the points, miles and credit card teams sat down to discuss some of the Editors’ Choice picks for the 2022 TPG Awards.
We discussed each category passionately, as we each have our own travel styles, preferences and priorities that lead us to prefer different elite statuses and loyalty programs. In the end, we agreed on winners for the Best U.S. Airline Elite Status, Best Hotel Elite Status and Best Loyalty Program Investment/Enhancement honors in the Editors’ Choice Awards.
Here’s what we decided and why.
Best US Airline Elite Status
KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Among TPG staffers, most airline loyalty programs and elite statuses have at least one advocate. On just the points and miles team, we have staffers with the highest elite status you can earn for each of the Big 3 U.S. airlines: Andrew Kunesh has Delta Diamond, Kyle Olsen has United Premier 1K and I have American Airlines Executive Platinum.
When asked about the most valuable perks of United Premier 1K status, Kyle said:
In addition to enjoying Economy Plus seating (with up to eight companions), a phone line that seldom has a hold time that’s over five minutes and a complimentary snack and drink in economy class, each year, Premier 1K members are entitled to 320 PlusPoints which can be used in whichever way a member decides (e.g., 16 domestic upgrades or upgrades to Premium Plus or eight long-haul Polaris upgrades).
Meanwhile, Andrew said he values Delta Diamond status for the first-class upgrades it has provided him on more than half of his domestic flights this year. He said he appreciates these upgrades as a taller passenger because of the extra room to work and relax.
But as you might already know, neither Delta nor United won our Editors’ Choice Award for Best U.S. Airline Elite Status. Here’s why we instead picked American Airlines Executive Platinum status.
Winner: American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum
ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
While Andrew values complimentary first-class upgrades when flying domestically as a Delta Diamond, I’ve snagged a decent number of domestic upgrades this year as an American Executive Platinum member. Executive Platinum members get access to complimentary space-available first-class upgrades on American-marketed and -operated flights within the U.S. and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America.
Additionally, Kyle values earning PlusPoints for upgrades as a United Premier 1K, but American loyalists can earn Loyalty Choice Rewards (including systemwide upgrades). United’s PlusPoints are better if you value confirming upgrades on shorter flights. However, systemwide upgrades are certainly better for longer journeys, as they let you enjoy a confirmed upgrade to the next class of service anywhere American flies.
You can use each systemwide upgrade for one-way travel of up to three flight segments on American Airlines-marketed and -operated flights. Plus, you can now use systemwide upgrades on select British Airways flights when your itinerary includes at least one American-marketed flight. Of course, actually using PlusPoints and systemwide upgrades can be difficult.
American Executive Platinum status gets you Oneworld Emerald status, Delta Diamond gets you SkyTeam Elite Plus and United Premier 1K gets you Star Alliance Gold. Each of these statuses can unlock lounge access and other perks when traveling with alliance partners in any class of service.
When it comes to lounges, Oneworld Emerald wins due to the first-class lounge access it provides. Although Qatar Airways skirts the alliance lounge access policies by creating separate lounges for Oneworld travelers, most Oneworld partners let Emerald members access first-class lounges regardless of their class of travel.
The following are just some of our reviews of these lounges:
Japan Airlines First Class Lounge, Tokyo Narita.
Qantas International First Lounge, Los Angeles.
Malaysia Airlines First Class Golden Lounge Satellite, Kuala Lumpur.
Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Star Alliance Gold and SkyTeam Elite Plus members typically get lounge access regardless of their class of travel, but the access often isn’t quite as high-quality as Oneworld Emeralds enjoy. Not to mention, Delta’s new Sky Club access policy will decrease Sky Club access for Delta Medallion members.
Finally, the AAdvantage program lets its members earn Loyalty Points toward elite status in many ways besides flying. For example, you can also earn Loyalty Points through spending on American Airlines credit cards, clicking through the American Airlines shopping portal and using the Simply Miles program.
Best Hotel Elite Status
Alila Fort Bishangarh in India. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY
Several top hotel elite status tiers provide perks like complimentary breakfast, lounge access and suite upgrades. When tasked with determining which program should win the Best Hotel Elite Status honor, it was relatively easy for our team to reach a consensus.
Winner: World of Hyatt Globalist
It isn’t easy to earn World of Hyatt’s top-tier Globalist status, but if you can accrue the required 60 nights per calendar year, TPG staffers almost unanimously agree that World of Hyatt Globalist is the Best Hotel Elite Status.
TPG’s Summer Hull effectively wrote a love ballad when I asked her about Globalist status:
Hyatt Globalist, how I love thee, let me count the ways. Amaze breakfast that would cost me over $100 (get the crispy french toast at the Thompson Central Park New York). Late checkout. More points. Good service. Great property options.
Kyle agreed with Summer regarding breakfast and compared it to what other programs offer high-tier elite members. While you need a flow chart to understand Marriott’s breakfast benefits and Hilton currently offers a food and beverage credit at U.S. properties, Hyatt provides its Globalist members with Club Lounge access or full breakfast for each registered guest. “It’s not hard to get more than $60 per night from this benefit at full-service properties,” Kyle said, adding that some Hyatt properties offer complimentary room service breakfast.
Meanwhile, TPG’s Ryan Smith said he believes the Globalist concierge perk is unparalleled. Ryan told me:
I have Diamond status with Hilton and Titanium status with Marriott, yet neither offers the ability to contact someone who can handle everything like requesting suite upgrades, notifying hotels of late arrivals or answering questions I may have. Rather than hunting for emails or phone numbers, I just contact one person.
I’ve also enjoyed some impressive upgrades as a Hyatt Globalist this year, including to a suite at Hyatt’s Alila Fort Bishangarh in India. I appreciate that Hyatt hotels often provide Globalist upgrades before check-in. I also love that Hyatt Globalists get guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout at most properties.
Best Hotel Loyalty Investment/Enhancement
InterContinental Phuket Resort in Thailand. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY
There have been various hotel loyalty changes this year, including Marriott’s removal of award charts and Hyatt’s investment in expanding its footprint. However, one program’s loyalty investment and enhancement made it an easy choice for this award.
Winner: IHG One Rewards
Many IHG loyalists were skeptical yet hopeful when IHG introduced its new IHG One Rewards program this April. Most perks of the new IHG One Rewards program went live about six months ago, and travelers have noticed the improvements.
The new IHG One Rewards program introduced another elite status tier (Silver Elite) and milestone rewards. The introduction of milestone rewards is particularly important because now IHG loyalists can choose perks like confirmable suite upgrades and an annual lounge membership when they reach specific milestones for nights stayed each year.
Plus, the new program boosted the perks of top-tier Diamond Elite status to make it competitive with other top hotel loyalty programs. Diamond Elite members can now select breakfast for two guests as a welcome amenity at full-service brands. Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members now get more opportunities for complimentary room upgrades, too. Additionally, all members can request up to a 2 p.m. late checkout, though this request is based on availability.
The IHG One Rewards program isn’t perfect, though. I would have liked more modest requirements for top-tier Diamond Elite status (you currently need more elite qualifying nights for IHG Diamond Elite than for World of Hyatt Globalist). I would have liked IHG to offer guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout to Diamond Elite members as well.
But even with these downsides, IHG One Rewards still easily claims the title of Best Hotel Loyalty Investment/Enhancement for 2022.
Every traveler values different aspects of elite status and loyalty programs. Just because we’ve awarded the honor of Best Hotel Elite Status to World of Hyatt Globalist and the title of Best U.S. Airline Elite Status to American Airlines Executive Platinum doesn’t mean these are necessarily the best elite statuses for you. Similarly, you may not get as much value out of IHG One Rewards despite it earning the Best Hotel Loyalty Investment/Enhancement award.
For example, you should consider how well an airline connects your home airport with destinations you frequently visit before deciding to go all-in on its loyalty program. Additionally, you won’t want to choose to be loyal to a hotel program if it doesn’t offer hotels you like in places you regularly visit.