Complete Guide to Sonesta Travel Pass

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Sonesta is a hotel program that’s tended to fly under the radar for most points and miles folks (including me). It’s been around since the 1930’s, but remained fairly small for several decades. That’s changed in the last ten years or so and it’s now become one of the fastest-growing hospitality companies in the US. In 2020, Sonesta had a total of 80 properties. Today, it’s grown to over 1100, in part due to its acquisition of Red Lion Hotels.

The company’s growth, as well the current best-ever offer for its credit card, left us feeling like it was high time to dig into the program a bit…and here’s our spankin’ new guide to world of Sonesta Travel Pass.

Sonesta Travel Pass Overview

Sonesta Travel Pass now covers thirteen brands which are grouped into three different tiers:

Luxury & Lifestyle

Premium

Value

Travel Pass shares several traits that are common to many hotel rewards programs:

  • You can earn points from paid stays, but not when they are booked through online travel agencies (such as Expedia).
  • You can use Travel Pass points to book free night awards.
  • Travel pass has four elite status levels that range from Bronze to top-tier Platinum.  The higher your status, the more perks you get.
  • Its branded credit card can be used to earn points and to help earn elite status.

Sonesta also has a few traits that are unique from other programs:

  • Travel Pass no longer has an award chart. You have to look at a booking for a specific property (when logged-in) in order to find out how many points it costs.
  • Unlike most hotel chains, many Sonesta properties allow you to book several different room types for the same points price, including suites.
  • Sonesta allows you to earn top-tier status from credit card spend
  • Members aren’t allowed to earn more than five elite nights per stay, regardless of how long that stay is.
a pool with palm trees and a beach in the background
Royal Sonesta Kaua’i

Sonesta Travel Pass Awards

Although Sonesta no longer has a published award chart, properties do have set award levels that range in price from 10,000 points/night to 50,000 points/night.

Award prices are good for standard rooms only in some properties, but many allow you to book multiple room types for the same price in points, including suites and view/oceanfront rooms.

Resort and facilities fees appear to be waived on award bookings at most, if not all, properties.

Sonesta Elite status

*Benefit may not be available at all locations.

Sonesta has four elite status tiers:

  • Bronze: None
  • Silver: 10 nights or 10,000 points per year
  • Gold: 20 nights or 20,000 points per year
  • Platinum: 40 nights or 40,000 points per year

Things to know about Sonesta Travel Pass Elite Status

  • Elite nights are earned with both cash and award stays. The terms and conditions state that award stays may not be a “qualified rate,” but it appears that they do earn elite nights in practice.
  • Elite nights are not earned with online travel agency bookings. For example, if you book through Expedia, you will not earn elite night credit (or points) for your stay.
  • Elite status can be earned based on spend. Each status tier requires qualifying nights in a hotel or elite qualifying points. These points are earned through paid hotel stays or credit card spend.
  • On-property benefits:
    • Complimentary Room Upgrades (Silver, Gold and Platinum): This is one of many Sonesta elite benefits that are poorly defined. Not all hotels participate and it’s not really spelled which do and which don’t. It appears that most, if not all, of the luxury and premium properties do. Upgrades are “subject to availability,” so it there’s no negative repercussions for a property not offering upgrades.
    • Complimentary Continental Breakfast (Gold and Platinum): This also isn’t clearly defined, but it again seems like most luxury and premium properties offer it. The terms state only that the “Complimentary breakfast benefit may vary by brand.”
    • Early Check-In and Late Check-Out (Silver, Gold and Platinum): This could be valuable if hotels would honor it, but since it’s “subject to availability” it’s hard to know whether not it will be honored at a specific property.
  • Missing stays: It may take up to 1 week after checkout for your stay to post to your account. If your stay still hasn’t posted after a week, contact the Sonesta Travel Pass support team.
  • If you book multiple rooms for the same dates, you’ll earn elite night credits for only one room. Oddly, Sonesta also won’t give you more than five elite night credits per stay, even if you stay more than five nights.
  • You can earn points on up to three rooms, potentially making Sonesta a good choice if you regularly plan travel for a group. However, a member can only earn a maximum of 100,000 points/stay, including the two additional rooms.
  • If you have a stay that begins at the end of one calendar year, but ends after January 1 of the following year, the elite nights and points from that stay will credit towards the new calendar year.
Royal Sonesta New Orleans

Shortcuts to elite status

Those who have the Sonesta World Mastercard get automatic Gold Elite status. However, if you have Gold status from the credit card, you’re still just as far from Platinum as someone with no status at all — either 40 nights or 40K elite-qualifying points.

That said, points earned through spending on the Sonesta card do count towards elite status. The card offers a 30,000 point anniversary bonus for spending $7,500 on the credit card during the cardmember year, so Platinum Status would be quite easy to earn by spending $7,500 with at least $2,500 of that spend done in one of the card’s 2x categories.

Sonesta also offers status matches to elite members of other hotel programs. To request a match, you must enroll in Travel Pass and e-mail customer care with your Member ID and a copy of a statement or card that proves your elite status in another loyalty program. It seems to be very generous with which statuses it will match to Platinum.

Earnings points from Sonesta stays

Status Points per US$ at Royal Sonesta, Sonesta, The James, Classico, Mod, Sonesta ES Suites, Red Lion  Points per US$ Sonesta Simply Suites, Signature Inns, America’s Best Value Inns, Canada’s Best Value Inns
Bronze 10x 5x
Silver 15x 7.5x
Gold 17.5x 8.75x
Platinum 20x 10x

 

  • Points are not earned with online travel agency bookings. For example, if you book through Expedia, you will not earn points for your room charge.
  • You can earn points on up to three rooms at once.  If you book three rooms with the same Sonesta Travel Pass account number, you’ll earn points on all of the rooms but you’ll earn elite night credits for only one room.
  • You can only earn a maximum of 100,000 points per stay. Like elite nights, Sonesta also caps the maximum amount of points that members can earn in one stay…including any additional rooms booked. Because of elite bonuses, this actually means that Platinum members reach that maximum twice as fast as Bronze members.

How to keep points alive

Sonesta points expire after 24 months of inactivity. Fortunately, almost all points activity will reset the clock. Points remain alive and available as long as you earn or use points at least once every 24 months. This includes points earned via the credit card.

Sonesta Credit Card

Sonesta has only one credit card, issued by Bank of America:

Card Offer and Details
Up to 125K points ⓘ Non-Affiliate
Up to 125K points: 120K points after $2K spend in 90 days plus 5K points for adding an authorized user within first 90 days
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $75
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
FM Mini Review: Best for those who stay often at Sonesta hotels
Earning rate: 3X Sonesta ✦ 2X airfare, car rental and dining
Base: 1X (1.06%)
Travel: 2X (2.12%)
Brand: 3X (3.18%)
Card Info: Mastercard World issued by BOA. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: 30K bonus points with $7.5K cardmember year spend
Noteworthy perks: Instant upgrade to Sonesta Travel Pass Elite (free club access or continental breakfast plus other perks)
The James Nomad, New York City

Sonesta Travel Pass Pros & Cons

Pros (where Sonesta Travel Pass is better than average):

  • High point earnings from paid stays
  • Automatic credit card elite status
  • Continental breakfast at most (?) properties for Gold and Platinum members
  • Many hotels allow more desirable rooms to be booked at the same price as base rooms
  • Resort fees are waived on award stays

Cons (where Sonesta Travel Pass is worse than average):

  • Elite benefits are very poorly defined and aren’t guaranteed at any set of properties
  • Portfolio is heavily-oriented towards value properties
  • Caps the maximum amount of points and elite nights that its members can earn per stay
  • Limited footprint when compared to other major chains
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18 Comments
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[…] afternoon everyone, I hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend.  A few days ago, I was reading Frequent Miler’s post Complete Guide to Sonesta Travel Pass and read in the comments by McGeoffroy that Sonesta was offering a status match to their top tier […]

Grant

Combining points or transferring points is allowed.

Buying, Gifting and Sharing Sonesta Travel Pass Points
The Sonesta Travel Pass program does not offer any opportunities to purchase points. Sonesta Travel Pass points can be transferred to immediate family members—parent, child, spouse and siblings—by submitting a transfer form with the assistance of the Sonesta Customer Care Desk.

joremero

after you guys talked about it, I checked out a hotel in Puerto Rico and they were about $500 per night or 30k points. They don’t have anything for a family of 5, so I had to pass, otherwise I would need 2 rooms.
With hyatt I could get 2xhyatt place for 12k each

Michael

I cannot see the number of points required for a stay on the Sonesta website. I’ve made an account, and the only options I see when I search are “Lowest Regular Rate,” “Package,” etc. I don’t see a “Pay with Points” button that is on most hotel websites.

How do I see the point price for a stay?

CericRushmore

Click into the next page.

Michael

Ahh, there it is. Thanks! Not as easy as Hyatt, but interesting new possibility to explore.

joremero

but with hyatt you can see the points only to tell you it’s not available lol

McGeoffroy

I was able to status match my hyatt globalist status to Sonesta Platinum status by emailing travelpass@sonesta.com and sending them a screenshot of my Hyatt status and membership info.

Grant

Thank you for the tip. I sent them an email asking what statuses they will match to since I don’t have Hyatt Globalist status. I’ll report back.

James

Regarding “How to keep points alive” — it seems that you could just book an award reservation (such as the Sonesta Simply Suites Dallas Galleria for 10k points) and then cancel it shortly afterwards. This would count as using points, and you would be good for another 24 months, right?

Michael

I stayed at the Royal Sonesta Dupont Circle in DC in summer of 2023. The Gold Elite breakfast benefit was only a $10 daily credit at the attached restaurant.

joremero

getting hilton vibes

Jim F.

So, if I’m reading this correctly, if someone with Sonesta’s credit card were to book 3 $160/night rooms (family vacation) for 5 nights, they would earn platinum status…interesting.

BOS

You just entitled to earn on 1 room

Lee

Tim, it’s worth noting that Sonesta is controlled by a large corporate owner of hotel properties. This hotel owner had a fair number of properties in one or two major hotel networks and was notorious for not providing tier benefits. After receiving pressure from one hotel network a few/several years back, the owner pulled all of its properties and moved them to Sonesta (and acquired a controlling interest). Given this owner’s history, I would be curious to hear to what extent Sonesta members *actually* receive promoted benefits.

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