When you check into hotels with elite status, you often receive or get asked about your preference for a welcome gift.
These come in a lot of different forms and also bring you a lot of different levels of value. You might get points, a breakfast, or some other type of food and beverage credit.
In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about hotel welcome gifts including how to receive them and the different types you can expect.
How to get hotel welcome amenities
For the most part, you will only receive a welcome amenity if you have elite status with that hotel.
This is because hotels want elite members to feel a little bit special when they arrive at the hotel. If everybody received a welcome gift there would be no exclusivity.
In those situations you can get a welcome amenity regardless of your status and often it comes at a valuation of $100.
Plus, you can receive other perks like:
- Noon check-in, when available
- Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Daily breakfast for two people
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Also, the higher your elite status the sweeter the welcome amenity may be. You might be offered more points or a higher food and beverage credit, for example.
Sometimes, when booking online, you can find packages that include some sort of welcome amenity so you can be on the lookout for those.
If you want a welcome amenity via elite status you may have to book directly with the hotel. If you book with a third-party (OTA) such as Expedia there is a chance you won’t receive your welcome gift.
You can always increase your odds of receiving your welcome gift if you call in and add your loyalty number to your OTA reservation.
Indeed, I have received my welcome gift on OTA booked stays many times so it can be done.
Ask for it
Major chain hotels are usually pretty good about telling you about your welcome amenity but sometimes you may need to ask for your welcome amenity at the front desk.
If you have selected a preference within the hotel’s app the front desk agent may assume you want that preference and not even mention the possibility of you receiving something else.
So it is a good idea to ask the front desk agent about your options.
Just say something like, “As a Platinum member do I receive any type of special welcome gift?”
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Different welcome amenities
Let’s take a look at some of the amenities that a hotel may offer you as a welcome gift.
Points are probably the most common welcome gift people are familiar with.
There are different scenarios for getting points as a welcome gift.
Some programs may give you an “either or” option with points as one of the options.
For example, Marriott offers an outline of the welcome gifts and the policy for brands like: Marriott Hotels, JW Marriott, and Renaissance Hotels in the US is that you’ll be offered 1,000 points per stay or a $10 Food & Beverage (“F&B”) credit per stay.
Other programs like Hilton may offer you points in addition to a welcome gift. For example, if you’re a Diamond member you can receive 1,000 bonus points plus free breakfast (or a dining credit).
It doesn’t sound like Hyatt offers points anymore.
I generally find that points are not as valuable as other gifts like beverage credits or breakfast but I’ll talk more about those below.
Food and beverage credit
Food and beverage credits at your standard hotel are often limited to something like $10 but at higher-end hotels they may be a good amount higher ($25).
The biggest thing you always need to clarify is can you get this credit on a nightly or stay basis.
That will obviously make a dramatic difference in the potential value based on how long your stay is.
You also need to ask if this credit is going to be good for you AND a plus one.
While breakfast is almost always given for two people as a default, food and beverage credits sometimes are only issued for one person.
Hotels have not been good about explaining this in my experience.
I recently stayed at the AC hotel in DC which was a great stay but they did not explain to me that I would be given a $10 beverage credit for me and my additional guest.
If I had known that, I probably would have tried out the restaurant at the hotel.
But if I had looked at Marriott’s terms and conditions a lot closer for AC Hotels I would’ve seen the following:
United States, Canada, Europe:
500 Points per stay or $10 USD F&B credit per night of stay for Member +1**
**The U.S. $10 F&B credit per night of Stay is for the Member. An additional U.S. $10 F&B credit per night of Stay is given for one (1) guest staying in the same guestroom as the Member.
Almost every food and beverage credit that I’ve been given cannot be rolled over to the next day.
So if you don’t use it within a 24 hour period, you lose it. I’m not sure about the exact cut off time for using this but I would think it would be midnight local time. It’s still worth it to clear that up though.
The other thing you need to clear up is where exactly can you use this food and beverage credit.
Sometimes they can only be applied in the hotel’s restaurant but other times they can be used at other stores within the hotel such as the mini-market or even a cafe. Usually, you can use this credit on room service.
With the pandemic forcing hotels to close down restaurants or operate them in limited hours hotels may be more willing to allow you to use these credits more liberally.
A lot of the mid to lower end properties will offer you one free market item.
This just means that you can take something like a snack or bottle of sparkling water from the market free of charge. It doesn’t always have to be a food item though because we have used this to get random toiletries at times.
The value of this item will typically be something ranging from three dollars to six dollars.
I’ve also stayed at properties like the Hampton Inn in Salem that had random snacks available for elite members at the time of check-in.
Welcome bags are another type of amenity gift you might encounter. Sometimes you will have the option to choose these but other times the gift bag will be waiting for you in your room.
Holiday Inn Express hotels now offer a Spire Elite Exclusive Welcome Bag of 1 soft drink and 2 snacks when you check in the hotel.
If you are traveling with a dog you might also get a special doggy bag when you check in.
Whenever the choice is between points and breakfast, breakfast is almost always going to be a much more valuable option to go with.
And here’s why.
First, you often get breakfast for two people so you can instantly double your value.
Second, you get that breakfast every day of your stay so if you are on a longer stay you might be able to get exponentially more value than the points.
Typically, the points are only given on a flat rate regardless of how long your stay is.
Sometimes when you are given the choice between points and breakfast, the hotel will still give you welcome points in addition to the breakfast.
This has happened to me several times over the past few years and I’m not sure why or when it happens but it’s just another reason why going with breakfast is smart.
The only time that I would take points over breakfast would be the following three scenarios.
- I know the breakfast is crap.
- I know that I am going to be out super early in the morning and can’t take advantage of breakfast.
- I was traveling for business and my employer was covering the bill; I would take the points and then pay for breakfast so that I can earn additional points on breakfast.
Random welcome gifts
Some hotels will have welcome gifts that you may not expect.
For example, a hotel may offer you a discount for on-site parking. Once again, I usually find these type of perks to be much more valuable than receiving points.
Another type of surprise welcome amenity is something like a bottle of wine and/or a cheese platter, box of chocolates, plate of macaroons, etc. These surprise gifts tend to be given when you have higher levels of elite status and are staying at higher-end properties.
Things to keep in mind about your amenity gift
Have a points valuation
Having an accurate points valuation is essential for being able to make a quick decision at check-in about your welcome amenity.
It’s really easy to do the math and make the decision based on value.
For example, I value Marriott points at .77 cents per point.
So if I’m offered 1,000 points or a $10 food credit, this would be like deciding between $7.70 worth of points and $10 in food and beverage credits.
Obviously, if you have no intention of using a food and beverage credit then you should take the lower value because at least you’re getting something.
But the key is to always have a point valuation in mind so that you can quickly do the math and make this type of call.
It’s a good idea to do a little bit of research to see what the standard is for the brand you are visiting.
Don’t think that just because you were staying at a Marriott property you would be entitled to the same type of welcome amenities at all Marriott properties because things can be drastically different between brands.
Remember that the policies for a lot of hotels are also different based on the region of the world you are visiting.
What if a hotel doesn’t give you your welcome gift?
If a hotel does not give you your welcome gift you may be entitled to some type of compensation. For example, Marriott is very clear about compensation that you can seek if you are not giving your welcome gift.
Welcome amenities are nice value additions but they can sometimes be a little confusing.
Some chains like Marriott have different policies for all of the different brands and even specific locations. And a lot of hotels don’t always make it clear exactly what you are entitled to.
So it’s best to do a little bit of research before your hotel stay so that you can hold the hotel accountable if they fail to deliver what you are entitled to.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.