Program features in four different hotel loyalty programs were eliminated or changed in the past 14 months resulting in a significant loss of hotel discount strategies for budget travelers.
This post is a recap of these program features that I used with great effect for room rate reductions. This is kind of a last look with an image from the last hotel location where I utilized the discounts and reward rate.
Club Carlson, now Radisson Rewards, eliminated its Gold elite 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 weekend rates at hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa in January 2017. This discount rate was a true 50% reduction in room rates based on best flexile rate. Best of all is they were generally flexible cancellation rates.
Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 Gold elite booking links gone (Jan 30, 2017).
Choice Privileges ended Points Plus Cash rewards in May 2017. This program allowed a member to buy a reward night using 6,000 points and pay $7.50 per 1,000 points for the remainder of points needed. This feature of Choice Privileges allowed members to buy points at nearly 32% discount to the regular $11 per 1,000 points rate. Thousands of hotels could be booked using Points Plus Cash for less paying published rates.
Loyalty Traveler – Choice Privileges Points Plus Cash bookings temporarily unavailable. Buy points 30% discount alternative. (May 25, 2017). This turned out to be the permanent end to Points Plus Cash.
IHG Rewards Club modified PointBreaks reward nights in January 2018. The program limited time promotion for 5,000 points reward nights added two higher levels at 10,000 points and 15,000 points. The program had limited value due to the small selection of hotels offering discount rewards each season, generally fewer than 100 hotels worldwide. The savings were significant with several hotels usually offered at deep discount to the regular 10,000 to 30,000 points per reward night for most of the participating hotels.
Loyalty Traveler – IHG PointBreaks restructured to 5, 10 and 15,000 points (Jan 28, 2018).
IHG Rewards Club offers many opportunities to buy points for $6 per 1,000 points through Points&Cash reward rates. The changes in PointBreaks promises to increase the number of hotel listings, yet most hotels will be at the 10,000 and 15,000 points levels. What were opportunities to book $30 hotel nights will be more opportunities to pay the equivalent of $60 or $90 in points for PointBreaks. This means a general reduction between the cost to book a PointBreaks hotel and the published rates to pay for the hotel night and earn points from the stay.
Wyndham Rewards changed its GoFast rewards program in March 2018 from a fixed copay rate to 65% of the best available rate. GoFast rewards were a good deal at a limited selection of hotels, especially given some Wyndham brand hotels offer higher category rooms on reward nights, even suites.
Loyalty Traveler – Program devaluation – Wyndham Rewards GoFast copay now pegged to room rate (March 26, 2018).
GoFree and GoFast rewards were first introduced in May 2015. GoFree reward nights offer any hotel worldwide at 15,000 points. GoFast reward nights require 3,000 points + a fixed copay amount per reward night.
15,000 Wyndham Rewards points is a good deal for some higher end hotels using GoFree rewards. The problem is Wyndham Rewards points are not that easy to earn and a small annual purchase limit of 5,000 points per member makes it difficult to buy reward points for GoFree reward nights. Plus, the vast majority of Wyndham brand hotels worldwide are generally under $100 per night and not worth 15,000 points.
GoFast Rewards were a game-changer for me when introduced in May 2015 making Wyndham Rewards points far more valuable for reward nights in my travels than I had found previously. I regularly saved around $100 per night on room rates at hotels where I redeemed 3,000 Wyndham Rewards points using GoFast nights.
Time for lodging independence?
These four hotel loyalty program features offered significant discounts in my travels over the past few years to keep my hotel rates relatively low. Most of my hotel stays in the past few years used one of these four discounts.
For years I found the best value was in the more mainstream loyalty programs of Hilton Honors, Hyatt, Marriott Rewards and Starwood. Continual reward category increases for the majority of hotels made these programs less attractive to me when I found better value putting my hotel spend into Club Carlson, Choice Privileges, IHG Rewards Club and Wyndham Rewards.
The four changes over the past 14 months in these lower market segment hotel loyalty programs reduces the value of these programs for my travels.
There are good value hotel rewards to be found. Just not as good as they were in past years.