Forget The Magnetic-Strip Keys, Starwood Hotels Expands Use Of Virtual Hotel Room Keys

Starwood Hotels now allows preferred customers to use keyless room entry at 10 hotels around the world.

Starwood Hotels now allows preferred customers to use keyless room entry at 10 hotels around the world.

Nearly 10 months after the owner of a chain of boutique hotels announced it would begin implementing the use of virtual keys to open guests’ rooms and streamline the check-in process, the plan is finally coming to fruition at 10 Starwood hotels around the world.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. revealed back in January that it planned to begin implementing technology to allow guests to skip check-in and open their hotel rooms with a virtual key on their smartphone at two hotels in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and Cupertino, Calif.

After revisions to its pilot keyless card system, Starwood announced in a news release that it would expand its newer, Bluetooth-enabled version, SPG Keyless, to additional Aloft, Element and W hotels starting this week.

The SPG Keyless system, which works through an app on consumers’ smartphones, is only available to Starwood loyalty members who book a room through specific hotel websites,, the SPG app or customer contact centers.

To use the system, guests must register their phones through the SPG app and allow push notifications. After booking a reservation at a participating hotel, and approximately 24 hours before arrival, SPG members are invited to opt-in to SPG Keyless, Starwood officials say in a news release.

At that time, guests will receive a push notification noting that they are checked in and the SPG app will update the guest on their room number and provide a Bluetooth key when the room is ready.

Upon arrival at the hotel, the guest can bypass the front desk and go directly to their room. To actually open the door, guests must activate the SPG app, hold their smartphone to the door lock and wait for the solid green light to illuminate indicating the door is open.

Guests staying at the following hotels can begin using SPG Keyless tomorrow: Aloft Beijing, Aloft Cancun, Aloft Cupertino, Aloft Harlem, W Doha, W Hollywood, W Hong Kong, W New York-Downtown, W Singapore and Element Times Square.

Officials with Starwood say they plan to rollout the service to 150 hotels by early 2015.

Starwood isn’t the only hotel chain to attempt a revamp of traditional check-in systems with technology.

In July, Hilton announced it would rollout an initiative allowing guests at 4,200 properties to enter their rooms with smartphones.

Marriott International Inc. introduced mobile check-in, which allows loyalty program members to check-in using their phone, at 350 of its hotels, with another 150 hotels to be added this year.

While the new technology may be convenient for some guests, streamlining the process hasn’t worked out too well of some chains. Check-in kiosks at two Holiday Inns were pulled after guests showed a preference with talking to an actual person, which could mean we’re not quite ready to digitize everything.


Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.