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4 Ways to Score a Free Hotel Suite Upgrade

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Suite

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Suite

Hotel suites aren’t just for those willing to fork over the cash. Smart travelers are able to leverage a few strategies to score suite upgrades without paying out of pocket. Regardless of which method you choose, getting a suite doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are four ways you can score a free suite upgrade:

1. Get free elite status through credit cards. Hilton has several credit cards that offer some level of status with the program, but the best option is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve. Cardholders get mid-tier Gold status just for having the card, which offers many perks that other programs reserve for their top tier elites: Complimentary room upgrades upon availability, free daily breakfast and internet, late checkout, bonus points, and more.

Perhaps the best part of having Gold status with Hilton is that you can use it to request a status match with another program. Hyatt, for example, will give you their top-tier Diamond challenge for 90 days if you show them proof of status with another program (in this case, Hilton Gold status will suffice). During this trial period, you have all the benefits of a regular Diamond member, including complimentary breakfast and wifi, and access to four annual suite upgrade certificates. If you complete 12 nights during the Diamond challenge, your status is extended through the following year. Keep in mind that challenges like this are technically available on a one-time basis only, so only pursue them if you’re going for the win.

2. Book through a program like American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts or Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. It’s not for nothing that the American Express Platinum card has a $450 annual fee. Among the many travel perks is access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, a program that offers significant discounts and perks at luxury hotels. In addition to discounted rates, cardholders receive elite perks like complimentary room upgrades, breakfast, and dining or spa credits.

If you don’t have an American Express Platinum card, Visa Signature cardholders have access to a similar program. Cardholders who book their hotel stays through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website receive the best available rate, complimentary room upgrades upon availability, free internet, continental breakfast, wireless internet, food or beverage voucher, and late check-out.

Benefits vary by property, but combining one of these programs with hotel elite status increases your chances of a room upgrade and if nothing else, you may save a few hundred bucks on food and internet.

3. Contact the hotel ahead of time. If you have a special occasion coming up or are just plain excited about your upcoming stay, send the general manager an email. Some have reported that a simple, “I’m looking forward to my stay” got them complimentary upgrades or a welcome gift like a bottle of wine at check-in. You can also try negotiating a paid or complimentary upgrade ahead of time. There are varying degrees of success with this method, though having status increases your chances of scoring an upgrade ahead of time.

4. Use points. If you don’t have enough points for a free night, you may still have enough for a suite upgrade. Hyatt Gold Passport requires 6,000 points per night for a suite upgrade. Suite upgrades at Starwood hotels (i.e. Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels) start at just 3,000 points per night.

You can also use points to book directly into a suite. The amount will vary by hotel chain, but usually it’s 50% more points than a standard hotel room. This method isn’t entirely free since you’ll have to earn points either via credit card sign-up bonuses or manufactured spending, but you’re not paying cash out of pocket.

Bonus: $20 trick. This isn’t going to be “free,” but it’s worth mentioning. The $20 trick is pretty common in Las Vegas, due to the city’s tipping culture, with various levels of success reported outside as well. You walk up to the check-in desk, fold a $20 bill in between your credit card and ID, place it on the counter and ask, “Do you have any complimentary upgrades available?” If the rep is unable to find an upgrade, he/she will let you know and hand back the cash. Some folks have reported getting rooms with better views, while others have gotten the Presidential suite. On a longer stay, you can increase your chances of an upgrade by offering a bigger tip.

There is a website dedicated to the $20 trick, where readers report their experiences. Currently, the site reports a 85.1% success rate for those who have tried the trick in Las Vegas. It’s important to be clear about what you want so that you don’t fork over the cash and end up in just a regular room with a slightly better view.

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Ariana Arghandewal

2 Comments

  1. Great point on the 20 dollar trick about being specific on what you want. Wish I had read that 48 hours ago. Last year at the same time we were upgraded to the fortuna suites at the Venitian with the 20 dollar sandwhich. This year we were just upgraded to a room with a view. We went down last night to the IHG check in, let em know it was our anniversary and tried to “suite talk” her into an upgrade – after checking they offered the fortuna suites at an extra 50 dollars a night. Bummer. Thanks for the post!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Leigh! It’s always nice to hear from someone who’s actually tried it. My sister gave this a shot a while ago and not only did she not get an upgrade, the person checking her in kept the cash!

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