Feb172016

Choice Privileges 2016 program changes

I wonder if Jennifer, Choice Privileges representative on FlyerTalk, knew the trap door she was standing on when she used the dreaded phrase: “We’re really excited about our program enhancements”?

There are several new changes announced today for Choice Privileges hotel loyalty program. The jury of frequent guests in Choice Privileges is still out on whether these enhancements are overshadowed by the takeaways some of us see in the website. Takeaways may not actually be a real issue, but it is too soon to tell if Choice Privileges points can still be redeemed for Nordic Choice Hotels in Scandinavia. No availability is showing for hotels in the Nordic Choice Hotels system since the enhancements were announced. The high value I place on Choice Privileges is a result of thousands of dollars in free night hotel stays in Norway, Sweden and Denmark over the past two years. I will be greatly disappointed if my Choice Privileges points can no longer book hotel rooms at Scandinavian Nordic Choice Hotels since I have another summer trip planned to Sweden and Norway in July.

The Choice Privileges website has even locked me out of my account today, stating my password is incorrect and my email address is unrecognizable to Choice Privileges.

I am a Choice Privileges Platinum elite member.

Choice Privileges Enhancements (February 2016)

  1. Your Extras. Get an extra reward when your qualifying stays include at least one midweek night! (This means stays that include any Sunday through Thursday night.) U.S members can choose one of 5 options, including Amazon.com credit and Fuel Rewards savings at participating Shell locations. International members can select one of 2 options: 500 bonus points or 100 airline miles from participating airline carriers.
  2. Keep Your Points. Keep your points when you stay an active member! Complete a qualifying activity at least once every 18 months and keep your points.
  3. 10 Points per Dollar. Earn 10 points per dollar at over 5,500 Choice hotels – now including our economy and extended stay hotel brands, such as MainStay Suites, Suburban, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn. And, during our award-winning promotions, it is now easier than ever to qualify since you no longer need to stay two consecutive nights at these brands.
  4. FlexRewards. Get to a free night faster— redeem your points for free nights at discounted point levels! We lower the redemption point levels at over 1,500 hotels either during weekdays or weekends, varying by season. Get your free nights with fewer points.
  5. Digital Gift Cards. Redeem your points for digital gift cards on our website or mobile app to use immediately! There are over 80 options available at favorite retailers and restaurants.

I numbered the Choice Privileges enhancements to point out that 1, 2 and 3 are real program improvements.

1. Weeknight Stay Welcome Amenity Extra

Weeknight stays at Choice Hotels earn some kind of credit with a Choice Privileges loyalty partner like Shell Gas or Amazon and a choice of bonus points or airline miles. International members get only bonus points or miles.

Choice Privileges Your Extras Link

CHOOSE FROM ONE OF THE FOLLOWING EXTRAS:
  • 500 Choice Privileges points
  • 100 airline miles with participating carriers
  • $0.20 per gallon in Fuel Rewards savings at Shell1
  • $2.50 Amazon.com credit2
  • $5 coffee card

*Some benefit options such as the Amazon credit, coffee gift card and Fuel Rewards savings, are not available at all Choice Hotels locations.

NOT A U.S. RESIDENT? SEE YOUR EXTRAS OPTIONS BELOW:
  • 500 Choice Privileges points
  • 100 airline miles with participating carriers

 

2. Keep Your Points – No More Automatic Two Year Expiration

Choice Privileges points no longer expire as of February 1, 2016. as long as you have Choice Privileges account activity every 18 months. Account activity is earning and redeeming points or buying points. Friend referrals to Choice Privileges is also qualifying activity,

One of the major program impediments in the old Choice Privileges loyalty program was any points earned expired on December 31, two calendar years after the date earned. This meant points earned for a hotel stay last week would expire on December 31, 2018. The new Choice Privileges program is now like most other hotel loyalty programs by allowing points to remain in your account as long as you have Choice Privileges account activity every 18 months.

3. All Choice Privileges hotel brands now earn 10 points per dollar

Choice Hotels has ten hotel brands and members now earn 10 points per dollar at every Choice Hotels brand:

  1. Comfort Inn & Suites
  2. Quality Inn
  3. Clarion Hotels
  4. Ascend Collection
  5. Cambria Suites
  6. Sleep Inn
  7. EconoLodge*
  8. Rodeway Inn*
  9. MainStay Suites*
  10. Suburban Suites*

*The old Choice Privileges program limited points earning rate to 5 points per dollar for the low market segment hotel brands of EconoLodge and Rodeway Inn and the two extended stay brands of MainStay Suites and Suburban Suites.

Another change is Choice Privileges recurring promotion for two stays earns 8,000 points used to require two night stays to be a qualifying stay at the four budget market hotel brands. The 2-night stay requirement is eliminated in the current Choice Privileges promotion for 8,000 points after two stays.

Choice Privileges Stay Two Times March 3 – May 5, 2016 and Earn One Free Night (8,000 Points) registration link.

 

4. Choice Privileges Flex Rewards

Currently this is the change getting the most feedback from members.

What is FlexRewards?

With FlexRewards, free nights are flexible!  The number of points needed for a free night at a hotel can now fluctuate, depending on whether it is a weekday or weeknight stay, – members can redeem points for a free night at discounted point levels on specific days of the week, which will vary during the year, at participating locations. At least 2,000 hotels will be discounted at any time!

Choice Privileges FlexRewards

This sounds like an enhancement, however, anecdotal evidence on FlyerTalk indicates some hotels have actually increased in price and the lower FlexReward discount rate is the former standard rate, while the weekend or weeknight rate is now higher than it was for reward nights at the hotel last week.

Since I am currently locked out of my Choice Privilege account, analyzing these new FlexRewards rates was not possible for this article. Here is a FlyerTalk thread on the FlexRewards topic.

5. Digital Gift Cards

I don’t care about this option. Hotel points have their best value when redeemed for hotel stays. Redeeming points for gift cards is almost always a poor redemption value relative to the value of points for hotel stays.

Conclusion

Choice Privileges has made changes to its program. The weeknight bonus gift and changes to points expiration are real program enhancements. 10 points per dollar for all brands is a real enhancement. Flex rewards might be an enhancement, but too soon to tell.

For me, my primary question is whether there has been a change restricting the use of Choice Privileges points for hotel reward nights at Nordic Choice Hotels in Scandinavia? These are the hotels where I have found unparalleled value with the Choice Privilege program over the past two years.

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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Comments

  1. I totally agree with Ric — loss of the ability to book Scandinavian Choice hotels with points will substantially lessen their value. in my opinion.

  2. This is not bad as far as reward program “enhancements” go… The change of expiration is especially helpful, if you are not a very frequent guest!

  3. Great news everyone. I received an email from Choice Privileges loyalty manager and he said the inability to see reward availability for Nordic Choice Hotels is a technical glitch of the new website. They are working to resolve it. Nordic Choice Hotels will still be available for reward nights using Choice Privileges points.

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