CHOICE looked into hotel club memberships, comparing the loyalty programs of a few major players, to see how much bang for your buck you really get.
The schemes we looked at:
Vying for your repeat business, many hotels offer loyalty programs. As a member, you can accrue points through hotel stays and redeem them for room upgrades, dining and care hire discounts, air miles, merchandise and almost everything in between at participating hotels and with partners worldwide. It all sounds good, but are you really being rewarded for your loyalty.
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How are points calculated?
Signing up to loyalty or rewards programs – either free or for a fee – is relatively easy. However, calculating how you earn and redeem points is another matter altogether, and there are as many models as there are membership programs.
All but one (Priority Privilege) of the hotel loyalty programs we look at use the traditional points-based system to reward members, however each calculates how many rewards points you receive differently.
HotelClub.com member rewards, for instance, are calculated on the total cost of a confirmed booking. The rewards you earn from a booking are calculated at a percentage that ranges from four to seven per cent, depending on your membership level.
Alternatively, Le Club Accorhotels allocates one to two points for every euro or 1.4 points for every US dollar you spend at select participating hotels.
Where the crucial differences lie, however, is in how points are converted into useable rewards. And this is where things get confusing. For example, each HotelClub reward accumulated is worth $US1. And while the point-to-dollar ratio in this particular scheme is clear, with some programs the reimbursement ratio is skewed. For instance, when it comes time to redeem your points with the Le Club loyalty scheme, for every 2000 points you accrue you will receive a voucher to the value of either €40 or $US60.
In order to compare these two programs to determine whether one is better value than the other, we calculated how many dollars you’d have to spend in order to accumulate a dollar’s worth of value in return as a reward. When comparing both of the schemes in US dollars, Le Club members have to spend $US23.80 for a $US1 reward, whereas HotelClub members need to spend between $US14.29 and $US25 for a $US1 reward, depending on their membership level.
And just when you thought you had your head around the points-based programs, InterContinental’s Priority Privilege program doesn’t even use a points accrual scheme, but instead offers members one-off concession certificates as well as ongoing discounts for an annual membership fee of $299.
Globetrotters may find Priority Privilege restrictive as it only allows members to claim discounts at select participating hotels in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu. InterContinental’s Priority Club Rewards program, on the other hand, uses the more traditional points-based rewards model, is recognised at participating outlets worldwide and has no joining fee.