What is a hotel loyalty program, and why should I join one?
Hotel loyalty programs* are an excellent way for leisure and business travellers to accumulate points, frequent flyer miles and benefits by using their specific program.
There are multiple benefits to joining a hotel loyalty program such as:-
- Member-only offers, promotions and discounts
- Stays and other spending counts towards status, which can lead to benefits such as upgrades, free internet, free breakfast, discounts etc.
- Points or miles collected can be exchanged for free nights, or for transferring into or your favourite frequent flyer/airline loyalty program.
- Once you have earned status in a hotel loyalty program you earn bonuses, miles and points at an increased rate (often double or triple).
- Increased likelihood of a discretionary upgrade even at entry level status (such as this amazing suite at Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah Dubai)
Whilst is true sometimes hotel stays may be more expensive booked through a hotel loyalty program, the benefits and long-term value created often far outweigh any savings.
Here is a screenshot of my SPG loyalty program – with a lovely picture taken from the wonderful Sheraton Grand Dubai – showing an example of two great current offers:-
- One complimentary night when three staying consecutive nights.
- Double StarPoints promotion (on top of additional 250 bonus) and whatever earned during stay/eat/spending.
Should I try to earn status in a hotel loyalty program, or earn the points or miles?
The easy answer is, you can do both at the same time, but it depends on your goals.
If your goal is for points or miles, for instance to transfer to airline loyalty programs such as American Airlines AAdvantage, you can focus more on bonus spends and offers to increase your points earning.
If your goal is for status, although by stays you still earn points, you may wish to employ a few travel hacks to get your status quicker. I've earned Gold through Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) by ‘travel hacks' where I gamed the system to acquire my status without completing the required number of stays. More on these travel hacks in subsequent posts, so keep reading the blog!
As an example, it's perfectly acceptable to focus on just earning points, and then you can redeem them for flights, such as when I flew First Class on Qatar Airways from London to Dubai last year….
What hotel loyalty program* should I join?
These are the main worldwide hotel loyalty programs:-
- Club Carlson
- Fairmont President’s Club
- Hilton HHonors
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- IHG Rewards Club
- Jumeirah Sirius
- Le Club Accorhotels
- Marriott Rewards
- Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)
We will cover these in more detail in subsequent posts, but as this blog is focussed on Dubai travel hacks, the main one to consider is Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).
It’s relatively easy (and free!) to sign up for an account, just log in to the site and register your email, address, contact details etc. Ensure you spend a little time looking through the site, registering for any promotions and learning about the specific hotel loyalty program.
In fact, as it’s so easy, it’s well worth signing up for several different hotel loyalty programs, even if you only intend using one or two, as then you can keep track of benefits and offers on other hotels.
But I don't stay often in hotels – why should I join a hotel loyalty program?
This is the single biggest myth about hotel loyalty programs, and the first step for you to becoming a travel hacker.
It is worth joining a hotel loyalty program because the benefits do not just have to be stays. You can earn points during your weekly routine – dining at a SPG restaurant, a brunch or just having a few drinks in a SPG bar or lounge.
Once you have joined a hotel loyalty program, just ensure your spend at any venue is recorded against your member number. I've sat and watched excellent comedy shows by Dubai Laughing at Wavebreaker by Hilton and not only had a discount, but earned Hilton HHonors points.
Secondly, the other major reason why you should join a hotel loyalty program is you can earn even if you are not staying at a hotel, dining at one of their restaurants or even drinking in one of their bars. How? Simply by going about your daily activities – shopping at the supermarket, filling your car with fuel, having lunch or a coffee – and paying using a branded credit card which earns points.
Both of these travel hacks – how to maximise ‘on property' spend and normal spending routines – will be covered in subsequent posts here.
Which hotel loyalty program are you a member of? What do you like about it?
We’d love to hear your comments, thoughts or questions – just write a quick line or two below, thanks !
*note for the Grammar Nazis and Englishmen – The American and (more importantly) Google-friendly spellings of ‘Program and Programs’ are used rather than ‘Programme and Programmes’.
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