1. To get the magic keycard, simply sign up with SPG, fill out the application online, and the keycard will show up within 3-4 weeks.
2. The reason we call it "magic" is that the keycard is embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that allows it to be customized with each guest's personal info and preferences.
3. On the day of your planned stay, a text message will be sent to you with your room number so you can skip the check-in desk and head straight to your room upon arrival. (Though if texting isn't an option, the hotel can email it too.)
4. Worried about missing out on an upgrade? Starwood says most of the card-users are frequent travelers, so they "generally know guests' room preferences in advance." However, should you need to request one, simply call the hotel beforehand, or ask at the front desk.
5. Though the program has taken a while to catch on since it was first announced in 2010, Starwood says it has finally "perfected the program" and "worked through potential flaws" in order to implement Smart Check-In across all Aloft hotels by the end of 2013.
[Photo: Aloft Hotels]