“enhances” the Welcome Rewards program. Again.

As far as non-brand hotel loyalty programs go, the Welcome Rewards program is my favorite. That’s based mostly on the RoI level it presents versus my travel habits and budget. Yes, it is "only" a fixed 10% but getting another 5% cash back on top of that isn’t too hard. And, quite frankly, it suits my needs way better than the traditional brand-specific programs. So when I got an email this week announcing some changes to the program I was a bit apprehensive. Fortunately it seems that the changes are mostly OK, though there are a couple specific things worth paying attention to.

At the end of February I received an email informing me that I had achieved FIVESTAR Silver status with I assumed that this was part of the Welcome Rewards program. Apparently it wasn’t. I say that because this week I received another email announcing the merger of the two programs. I really don’t understand it at all but that’s what the email says:


I still have Silver status based on my 10+ nights last year. And I thought I was close to on pace for 25 nights and Gold status this year. Turns out that’s one of the changes involved. Gold status now only applies to members with 30 nights or more, up from 25. Here’s what the new program details say:

To maintain or re-qualify for Welcome Rewards Silver status, you simply need to book and stay ten or more nights at any of our partner hotels during your current membership year*. To maintain or re-qualify for Gold status, you need to book and stay 30 or more nights at any of our partner hotels during your current membership year*. If you do not meet the loyalty credit requirements for your current level in a membership year, you will be assigned to the next Welcome Rewards level down for the following membership year until you qualify again.

Also, the definition of "current membership year" has changed slightly. Qualification for Silver or Gold status is now based on a rolling year rather than a calendar year. Mine is almost identical, with a January anniversary date but I would imagine there are a few people who will not be so lucky. Also, once the qualification point is reached the status will change within two weeks rather than only at the annual renewal point.

Between the rolling annual qualification period rather than calendar year and the guaranteed "soft landing" for missing requalification I’d say that the changes are mostly positive. The increase to 30 nights from 25 is annoying but ultimately something that I’m not too worried about, mostly because I’m still not convinced that the elite status is worth all that much. And I don’t know that I would have made it to the eight more nights I need anyways, much less 13 more at this point.

I still love the program, especially with the extra 5% cash back on top of the everything else. And this merger appears, overall, to be reasonable. Status is granted more promptly when it is achieved and the rolling qualification window is easier. The main negative is the change from 25 to 30 nights for Gold. I’m getting over that pretty quickly.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.