Reader Story: Get a suite upgrade with elite status

Today I want to share a story of my friend, Riley Shelby, who successfully leveraged his status to land an in-suite upgrade to a five-star hotel in Guatemala.

When Riley and I travel together, I’m always eager to “convert” it into one of the premier points programs with the bountiful benefits I’ve come to love through my Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite, World of Hyatt Globalist, and Hilton Honors Diamond. . But instead, it has stuck to its loyal status.

But after his recent leveling experience in Guatemala, I’m pretty impressed. For reference, has two status levels:

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  • Silver: 10 nights per year compulsory.
  • Gold: 30 nights per year required.
An aerial view of Casa Santo Domingo. RILEY SHELBY / THE DOT GUY

Being a Gold member myself since 2017, with around 140 lifetime hotel nights booked worldwide, let me let you in on a secret to status – it’s worth next to nothing.

While they may advertise room upgrades, early and late check-ins, priority customer service, and more, in practice you’ll rarely see these perks. When a hotel receives your reservation, it will enter as the booking travel agent under the name “EXPEDIA – VIP PREMIUM”. Usually this means nothing to the hotel, but every once in a while they roll out the red carpet.

In my experience, the outlook is better when booking boutique hotels that are not otherwise associated with a loyalty program. This is usually the only reason I would book with rather than one of the major hotel brands.

I recently had such a red carpet experience with a booking at the Hotel & Museo Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala, a beautiful 5-star property built in a former convent nestled in Old Town Antigua . The whole place feels like a museum, with Spanish art and antiques scattered throughout every inch.

Although I had booked a standard room, I was upgraded to a suite on arrival. Not expecting much, I was shocked to find an approximately 1,400 square foot suite waiting for me, complete with working fireplace, huge jacuzzi, and expansive living room.

After a week’s stay, I was delighted with the service and the food. When checking out, I happily encountered another apparent perk specific to the ownership of Gold status; a flat 20% discount on all my food and beverage costs.

While these types of discounts and perks at properties booked with status are often advertised, I rarely, if ever, see them delivered. It was nice to see the opposite for a change.

Although Riley acknowledges that her experience in Guatemala was not standard for booking stays on, her Gold status was certainly issued for this stay.

The main value proposition of is that the program is extremely easy to understand: stay 10 nights and earn money and stay 30 nights to earn gold.

Plus, when you book 10 nights through the website or app (must be logged into your account), you’ll earn a free night worth the average cost of your 10 paid nights (excluding taxes and fees) . This effectively gives you a 10% return on hotel stays booked with, and you’re not limited to staying at hotels within the same chain.

On paper, the benefits of Gold status are:

  • Priority customer service.
  • Price Guarantee Plus.
  • VIP room upgrades.
  • Breakfast, airport transfers and spa vouchers at select hotels.

In practice, however, if you’re looking for an easy-to-understand loyalty program, should be on your radar. But if you’re looking for perks like suite upgrades and breakfast, don’t expect much from, though occasionally you might be pleasantly surprised.

Editorial Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author alone, and not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.