As brands fight for our ever diminishing travel dollar, and travelers become more budget savvy, there has never been a better time to be a member of a hotel loyalty program.
While you can expect discounted room rates and a chance to earn points for free nights, not all programs are created equal – some offer more freebies for your membership.
Here are my top five loyalty schemes and what you can expect to gain from them:
Now these three giants of the hotel industry are in the process of merging, you can link your accounts for extra earning power as well as match status between them. Details are yet to be released about their mega merged loyalty program but for the time being, there are great benefits to be had. For the Ritz Carlton rewards, Silver members can expect priority late checkout. Gold and Platinum members enhanced in-room internet, late check-outs and room upgrades. Marriott Rewards members get special rates, free wifi and mobile check-in. Starwood’s program (this includes the W, St Regis and Westin brands) allows you to use your points for “experiences” like exclusive dinners, concerts and sporting events. This is in addition to free wifi and other perks.
Free internet and rate discounts are just the start from the excellent program. Unlike other programs, your reward nights actually count in your yearly total – making it easier to get to the next level. They also have regular promotions where you can “accelerate” your status. And, this program also has one of the best extended programs out there – Ambassador. For US$200 a year (or you can redeem 20,000 IHG points for membership), you score a free weekend night, a guaranteed upgrade (I’ve actually been given double upgrades) as well as refreshments on arrival, in-room welcome gifts and fresh mineral water. Additionally, you get complimentary pay TV film per stay,and a newspaper delivered daily. Sweeeeet.
Now this under the radar loyalty program comes with some excellent perks. the brand behind players such as Anantara, the basic Gold Member benefits include a 10 percent discount on room rates, free newspapers and wifi. Land yourself on Platinum or Black levels and you get free welcome amenities, room upgrades, late check outs and more. For example, the Black loyalty members get a 6pm check out plus a special luggage unpacking and repacking service, and three pieces of complimentary pressing daily.
I love this program, mainly because in Doha, you can score 20 percent of the hotel’s restaurants and spa. Also, points earned can be redeemed on the spot for your restaurant bill. the basic gold membership has some other perks when staying at their hotels around the world. This includes free local calls, welcome fruit baskets and a cash advance of US$250 per stay for when things don’t go to plan! Higher levels score free breakfast, room upgrades and access to the hotel’s Club Floors. Bonanza!
When this program relaunched last year I was a little disappointed, but I am very much back on board with their offering. The beauty of this program is that you can book hotel rooms for as little as 5000 points. Also, for medium tier membership, you can receive a free night once you stay at five different Hyatt brands plus free in room water and internet. Higher tiers score free access to their excellent Club Floors, suite upgrades and premium internet.
What about you? What do you look for in a loyalty program? What programs do you belong to?
*Please read my disclaimer here.