Oct202014

Comparing hotel reward value in London among different hotel programs

In this article I look at the room rates and reward cost for 14 hotels in London comparing hotel reward value across six different hotel programs with Club Carlson, Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Elite status, credit card payment and hotel loyalty program promotions all play into the equation. Keeping it simple, I ignore promotions and to some degree elite status and even credit cards. These are simple factors to include if they apply to your hotel stays.

Loyalty Traveler – London hotel rates and competitive set hotel pricing (October 19, 2014)

My article yesterday showed how London hotels tend to be in discrete competitive sets for hotel pricing. Different chains rank their hotels comparably to other chains and together they maintain a price fence for hotel rates that mirror each other. Hilton is going to charge nearly an identical room rate to the nearby Marriott it sees as its competition, if both hotels are comparable quality in terms of stars and review ratings. This competitive set pricing is easy to see in London.

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This is a great screenshot from Kayak.com showing how four different chain hotels in London price out within $15 of each other. These hotels are in the competitive set I called the second tier high-end competitive set for London hotels. There are two levels of luxury hotels in London in the $400 to $450 per night range and a handful of hotels in the $500+ range. The $320 to $380 per night range is a good value range for hotel points reward stays in London.

Comparing hotel reward value in London among different hotel programs

Comparing hotels in London across different chains looks at room rates and reward night cost for 14 hotels and reveals reward nights are far easier to earn in Club Carlson than the other chains. Hilton has some good value rewards, but Hilton also uses Premium Room Reward dynamic pricing, which can mean a hotel at 50,000 points one date as a Standard Reward may be over 100,000 points on another date when only Premium Reward Nights are available. Club Carlson also has premium reward prices at 50% higher rates, but these are not nearly as prevalent as Hilton Premium Rewards.

London Hotel reward comparison 10-2014

The table shows 14 hotels in London with room rates and reward cost for a 2-night Tuesday and Wednesday night stay in November 2014.

Club Carlson is the fastest earning program for three of the four London hotels in this competitive set meaning it requires the least hotel spend to earn a free night. Hilton offers one London hotel at 50,000 points that also makes the best value in this high priced set of hotels. This sample of 14 hotels is a subset of more than 100 hotels available in London through these six chains.

Marriott Rewards has several category 9 hotels available for 45,000 points in London. This works out to $4,500 in hotel spend when earning 10 points/$1 for Marriott hotel stays. The cost goes higher if you frequent Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites where stays earn only 5 points/$1.

Hyatt requires a bit more spend at $5,000 to earn 25,000 points for their two hotels.

Factoring credit cards

Starwood Preferred Guest requires the most spend to earn a free hotel night. That assumes you earn 3 points/$1 as a Gold elite member. SPG is a program that is poor value without elite status or high credit card spend. With the SPG American Express card and Gold elite status you will earn 5 points/$1 at Starwood Hotels and spend drops to $4,000 to earn 20,000 points.

Cobranded credit cards reduce the spend for all the other hotel chains too, so this is not particularly a competitive advantage for any specific chain, except Club Carlson where the free reward night and Gold elite membership as card benefits reduce the spend needed for a free night at the hotels in this table by more than 50%.

In general, I find hotel credit cards to have minimal value compared to airline credit cards where bag fees are waived. Hotel credit cards offer bonus points when using the credit card for hotel stays and several offer one free night annually with Hyatt, IHG and Marriott cards. Hyatt and Marriott limit their free night to category 1-4 (Hyatt) and 1-5 (Marriott).

In recent years the value of one free reward night with Hyatt and Marriott has been more restrictive as hotels rise to higher reward categories of 5 and 6 in Hyatt and 6 and 7 in Marriott. Over 200 hotels moved up from Marriott Rewards category 5 this year. Marriott Rewards hotels geographical list for category 5 to category 6 reassignment April 8, 2014 (March 20, 2014). I have several Marriott category 5 hotel reward nights and far fewer hotels to use them in California and other locations after the past two years of category creep in Marriott Rewards. Hyatt credit card members receive complimentary Platinum status with its benefits of free internet worldwide and access to 20% discount My Elite Rates. Loyalty Traveler – Tutorial Hyatt My Elite Rate 20% off (Oct 10, 2014).

IHG Visa is more valuable since the free reward night is valid for any hotel worldwide. Yet, planning a trip to InterContinental Bora Bora or InterContinental London Park Lane based on one free hotel night is not exactly a big travel budget savings. The free night has more use for a city like London, Paris or Tokyo where one free night can be a gap night between stays at other hotels.

Club Carlson Visa – Will the Benefits Last?

Club Carlson Visa with one free reward night on every stay is an incredible value.

Carlson Rezidor Hotels Group is in the final months of a five year corporate redesign they called Ambition 2015. At the time Ambition 2015 was launched in early 2010, Radisson and Country Inn were not a hotel choice consideration at all for me as a Californian. These brands have limited hotels in the western states.

In five years, I now find myself planning a two week London and Dublin vacation primarily using Club Carlson. Last month I showed the great value of Choice Privileges points for Norway. Club Carlson has great value for Norway and Sweden too, but London is where this program excels due to the large number of hotels in central London and the low acquisition cost for Club Carlson points relative to other hotel loyalty programs.

Ambition 2015 was meant to launch Carlson Rezidor Hotels Group as a global hotel industry player comparable to the other chains of Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Starwood Hotels. Club Carlson Visa, launched in December 2012, played a big role in brand awareness. There is great competitive value with Club Carlson as shown in this analysis of London hotels and that value is better with Club Carlson Visa.

The past couple of years has seen some hotel loyalty program add benefits, mostly for elite members. There have been far more takeaways and reward night cost inflation in hotel loyalty programs.

I picked up more than 500,000 Club Carlson points in the past three years with only a few stays per year. I plan to burn through most of those points in the next six months. Club Carlson and Club Carlson Visa offer a compelling value for free hotel nights; especially for Americans traveling to Europe.

I wonder how long that compelling value will continue?

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Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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