What is the best hotel scheme? – Le Club AccorHotels – The Facts

This is the fifth of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes.  Each scheme will be covered over two posts.  One will list the basic facts of the scheme, the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.

Le Club AccorHotels covers 2,700 hotels globally.  These operate under the Sofitel, Pullman, M Gallery, Novotel, Mercure, Adagio and Ibis brands, plus Orbis in Poland.  Accor also owns for Formule 1 / F1 brand but this does not participate in the programme.  The home page for the programme is here.

What is the geographic spread?  Accor has the largest number of non-US hotels of any chain.  The group is well represented throughout the UK at all price points.

Do I use them?  No – I think the last paid stay would have been the Ibis next to Nice train station 20 years ago!  The only exception was three years, when they had a promotion offering easy-to-earn €40 vouchers.  I collected five, I think, and used them at the Sofitel in Luxembourg.

Elite membership levels

Accor has three elite levels to the programme:

Silver – requires 10 nights or 2,500 points.  Benefits are free internet, a welcome drink and a 50% point bonus.

Gold – requires 20 nights or 10,000 points.  Benefits are free internet, a welcome drink, late check-our or early check-in and a 75% point bonus.

Platinum – requires 60 nights or 25,000 points.  Benefits are free internet, a welcome drink, lounge access, late check-out and early check-in and a 100% point bonus.

Some Accor brands offer specific extra benefits to different tiers.

Platinum status is given free to American Express Platinum card holders for as  long as they keep the card.  It is the only top-tier hotel card offered by Amex.

Suite upgrades are NOT an elite benefit.

Full details of elite benefits can be found here.

Accor does not offer lifetime status.

Earning and spending points

Accor does not have a typical ‘earning and burning’ structure.

Following an increase to the rates in July 2014, non-status members earn 2.5 points for every €1 spent at the hotel.  On the website, this is described as a 5% rebate.

For every 2,000 points you collect, you can redeem for a €40 Accor voucher.  These can mainly be redeemed in Accor hotels.

As long as you avoid Ibis and Adagio properties, you are effectively receiving cashback (in Accor vouchers) of 5% as base member up to 8.8% for Platinum members.

If you don’t want to spend your voucher in an Accor hotel, there are a small number of other options – Europcar, Club Med holidays or (if travelling to Paris or Cannes) Lenôtre restaurants.

Exceptions – Accor has some weird exceptions to points earnings.  At Ibis, Ibis Styles and Adagio, you earn 1 per €1.  At Adagio Access you earn 0.5 per €1.  In China, you earn nothing at Ibis hotels, every day.

There are also a few other partners where you can earn points but the only relevant one for a UK resident is Europcar.

Bizarrely, Accor has a partnership with Finnair which allows you to transfer your Finnair miles into Le Club AccorHotels points.  The exchange rate is very poor at 7:1, putting a very low valuation on your miles, but it may make sense if you are just a little short of what you need to qualify for the next status level.  You can generate Finnair miles by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points.

Bonus points

The group rarely runs global promotions, preferring to run a mix of regional offers.  It also runs regular private sales for Le Club members which offer cash discounts of up to 50%.  See our ‘Hotel Promos‘ page for any current global offers.

Accor has a Facebook app which offers bonus points if you activate it during your stay at an Accor hotel – see this article for details.

Points expiry

Your points will expire exactly 12 months from your last stay.  However, as I wrote in this article, there does appear to be a way of extending this.

Can you upgrade using points?

No – except to the extent that you negotiate a better room for cash at check-in and then use your Accor vouchers to pay for it.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

Yes, to the extent that you can part-pay your room with Accor vouchers whilst paying cash for the balance.

Airline redemption options

Accor points can be transferred to a number of airlines.

Uniquely among major hotel programmes, Accor has different exchange rates for different airlines.  British Airways is 2:1 whilst Iberia is 1:1, so you should ALWAYS move your Accor points to Iberia Plus.  You can then use ‘Combine My Avios’ to move them to your British Airways account.

Because you could use your points for an Accor voucher instead, you are effectively paying 2 Eurocents per Avios (2,000 Accor points = €40 or 2,000 Iberia Plus Avios).  This is very expensive and you would be better off using the points for a hotel stay if possible.

Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?

Yes, see ba.com here.  You can earn Avios by showing your British Airways Executive Club or avios.com card at check-in.  The amount will depend on which brand you are staying with, but is usually 1 Avios per €1.

You will not earn any Le Club AccorHotels points.  However, you must still be a member of Le Club Accorhotels in order to do this.

Credit card partnerships

Can you get elite status with a UK credit card?   Yes, American Express Platinum members receive Platinum status for as long as they retain Platinum.

Is there an Accor credit card in the UK?  No

Is Accor an Amex Membership Rewards partner?  No

Purchasing and transferring points

You cannot purchase Accor points.  This is not surprising, given that they can only be redeemed for a fixed cash value.

My opinion

Read my other article today for my overall opinion of Le Club AccorHotels.

The top UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value
What is the best hotel scheme? - Le Club AccorHotels - The Opinion
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  1. I thought Iberia and BA were both 2:1 now (even though the website suggests otherwise) https://www.headforpoints.com/2013/09/29/accor-devalues-its-avios-points-conversion-rate-again/ or has the Iberia rate changed again?

  2. Tim Millea says:

    I feel well behind here. The question begging to be answered but has not been is why stay in one of these chain hotels in the first place? I simply don’t understand it. Their rates are far from cheap and at those rates there is a massive choice of more individual, stylish hotels. What am I missing?

    I can understand Travel Lodge and Premier Inn because they are cheap and near UK airports but why go overseas to stay in a global bland brand of hotel?

    This is the first question to answer. The nuances of their loyalty schemes are way down the list.

    • Although i see your point, the article (and the entire blog) is about loyalty schemes and maximising value through points and status. There are always alternatives as you mention, it’s just they are not really discussed here as you cant play the points game with them.

      I stayed 4 nights in Hong Kong last week at an IHG hotel, it cost me nothing but points and my Plat status got me a corner room on the top floor. This in a city with some of the highest room rates in the world. In terms of accruing the points in the first place it was all very easy, in fact too easy!

    • Thank you. We are making some progress. The next question is therefore why won’t business travellers stay in independent properties?

      I used to book hotels for my department at university and always looked for value in the open market. The university had its preferred suppliers for everything but when the drastically lower costs justified it, I was allowed to go off-piste. Is this a question of businesses being slow to catch up with trends in the independent travel market? Even city banks use low-cost airlines now. I can’t help but feel the days of the global hotel chains are numbered, at least in their present form and cushy rates.

      • Nope. US is now 70 per cent branded, Europe will catch up. For a start, it is almost impossible to borrow money now to open a hotel which is not going to be part of a global chain.

        Your logic doesn’t work, though. If it was possible to increase prices so much by joining a chain, why doesn’t everyone do it? You only pay 5 per cent in royalties after all. It is often more about the reluctance to sign up to the 500 or more ‘service standards’ which are required.

        • The vagaries of hotel pricing reek of a totally inefficient market. It is easily possible to pay 10 times the rate for the same room in the same hotel on the same date by a casual look at booking sites. The global chains tend not to appear on the discount sites – surely a strategy to maintain artificially inflated rates?

          I understand that a typical, non-chain, 5 star hotel has over 2,000 ‘service standards’ which are secret and essentially the hotel’s intellectual property and differentiator in the market.

          The U.S. market is wholly different. If you read the reviews, there is utter horror if iced water is not free with meals, if CNN is not available, if the service is not ‘fake friendly’ etc.. It makes sense for branded, homogenous hotel offerings in the U.S. and for a certain proportion of U.S. travellers globally. I have good U.S. friends who would be horrified at the blandness of a global chain hotel while travelling.

          To suggest that Europe is somehow ‘behind’ denies centuries of Europeans travelling the World, admittedly on the backs of empires, and adapting to local cultures and traditions. I will remind readers that gin was only added to Indian tonic water to make the latter a more palatable protection against mosquitos. Nope, we are ahead. We have adapted and continuously adapt.

          Before writing this, I was just reading about Lonely Planet’s inaugural list of the world’s most extraordinary places to stay. I cannot imagine a cave hotel in Cappadocia ever being part of a global hotel brand.

          McDonalds has been an extraordinary successful brand but it could hardly be the first choice for a pleasant restaurant when pleasant restaurants can be had for less money.

        • You are making the very lazy assumption that all chain hotels are bland. It’s not the case. Not a lot bland about the Savoy

      • Andrew S says:

        As a business traveller I have autonomy to book wherever I choose provided it is not too far away from the “market rate” of a branded hotel in the location.

        Certainty is important to me, so with a chain hotel you can be reasonably confident that the experience you receive in one hotel will be similar to the next. I do not want to take the risk of an independent hotel if I have an important meeting the next day.

        Case in point, I was making a presentation in London a few years ago, and there was an independent hotel next door to the venue. I took a punt as the reviews looked reasonable but the bed awful and the room had paper peeling from the walls. Needless to say I did not have a restful night’s sleep, and as a result was not as sharp in my presentation. The cost saving certainly did not make up for my poor performance that day.

        For foreign travel my company has vetted a number of hotels in the vicinity of offices/suppliers and greater importance is put on security (in room safe, locks etc) , safety (fire alarm, security guards) and amenities (e.g clean restaurant, filtered water). Invariably the large chains are most likely to conform to these criteria and my employer would expect me to stay in them.

        Despite working for a profitable global company, there HAS been restraint on travel spend on a “common sense” basis. If I’m staying out of the city centre or near business parks – especially in my home country or western Europe – I would be expected to stay in budget brands (HI Express or Ibis or even Premier Inn all are now on the approved list). Luckily for my needs I find them perfectly satisfactory.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      I stay quite a a lot of nights for both business and leisure – perhaps 70 for business and 30 for leisure. Of the business nights, all but a couple were chain and the leisure ones were about 50:50, So I certainly do stay at independent hotels as well as chains.

      Business reasons have already been well answered by my namesake, so why stay at a chain for leisure? Three reasons really:

      1. Sometimes a chain hotel is preferable property at a location based on price/quality. You seem to have already decided that this is never the case, but there are good and bad independent options just as there are good and bad chain ones and sometimes the chain wins out. Aside from airport hotels, examples for me in the last year include Edinburgh Sheraton which gave me a great castle view room, free access to a good spa and a good lounge and impeccable service and Pullman Berlin, which had great rates available for the dates I wanted. Equally, I’ve had some great stays at independents.

      2. Status means being treated like a regular on my first visit. Staying away a lot for business means that I have elite status with a couple chains. This gets me room upgrades, free internet, free breakfasts, lounge access, free drinks, welcome gifts etc. I generally only get what I pay for if I stay at an independent hotel. This can really narrow any price differentials. You could definitely argue that status recognition within a chain can be patchy between different properties, but remember that anywhere I’m staying for leisure has probably done well on criteria 1 so I’ve probably had a look on FT to see how I can expect to be treated.

      3. Marketing programmes for chains (inc. loyalty schemes) are designed to maximise profit in the average case and we aren’t average. We take full advantage of promotions and exploit loopholes. As an (admittedly extreme) example, in 2012 I booked a room in a Park Inn for ~£30 and from that stay earned points that I used to redeem a night in the May Fair. The May Fair isn’t perfect but there isn’t a comparable independent hotel in central London for £30! Most examples of the edge-case value you can get from chains are less extreme (although nb that people getting vast amounts of bonus points from IHG stays at the moment), but hopefully that gives an idea of the sort of arbitrage and exploitation you can do with chains that simply isn’t possible with independents.

  3. Guesswho2000 says:

    I very occasionally use Accor properties and have platinum status which they regularly give away for free for no apparent reason.

    The one real bonus here is that there is the option to auto convert to iberia plus Avios with no minimum balance. Ibis styles kingsgate in Melbourne recently got me 583 Avios for a one night stay, which in the absence of anything else, and since I’d be unlikely to hit the 2000 point threshold for a voucher anytime soon, was better than nothing!

  4. The only exception was three years, when they had a promotion offering easy-to-earn €40 vouchers. I collected five,

    I have fond memories of this Le Club Accorhotels Birthday Promo , I took advantage of the fact it was not limited to one per household. I used 3 at the Novotel York and sold the other 103 for £25 each.
    Happy days

    • 103! I thought I was pushing it with, I think, 5, all of which I used for a one nighter at Sofitel Luxembourg as mentioned in the post.

  5. There’s a triple avios promotion on right now…


  6. My wife and I spent 5 days at a Pullman in Melbourne last December. My Plat status (via Amex) got us internet, room upgrade, access to exec lounge (which also gave us an excellent daily breakfast worth £35/day – either in lounge or main restaurant) – all instantly offered at check in. I also have about 4750 points to convert (probably into vouchers). If you look at the FT Accor pages
    and dig around a little you will find that generally that the Asian Accor hotels get a good chit (eg Bangkok) if you stick with the Sofitel and Pullman brands. To extract best value you need to do some research to ensure that the hotel has a club floor/lounge as not all of them do.

  7. Quick question-
    If I redeem my points for the €40 voucher would my points balance decrease by 2000 and thus put me further away from the next tier?

  8. I recently used a soon-to-disappear US$60 voucher at the Adagio in Liverpool. (An awful hotel, but that’s another story.)

    The value in GBP was calculated using an exchange rate of 1.85 rather than that day’s spot rate of 1.63.