What is the best hotel loyalty scheme? – an introduction

Starting tomorrow and continuing over Easter, I am running updated versions of our overviews of the major hotel loyalty schemes.   Every single scheme has seen big changes since I last looked at this two years ago.  Each programme will be covered in two articles on consecutive days:

The first article will look at ‘the facts’, such as the number of nights required to earn status.

The second article will be a discussion of the best and worst aspects of that programme.

At the end, I will take another look at Hotels.com and its Hotels.com Rewards programme which may be an alternative answer for some people.

If you are looking for a simple answer to the question of which scheme to join, you will be disappointed.  Sorry!

Hotel logo

Different people want different things from a hotel loyalty scheme:

If your employer pays the bills, you are unlikely to bothered about free internet or free breakfast. (In fact, by lowering your nightly bill, such perks would be a hindrance as they would lower your points earning!)

If you want to redeem in luxury properties, you are going to struggle with schemes like Club Carlson which do not have much top-end coverage

If you want global coverage, you will struggle with World of Hyatt and its modest coverage in much of the world, including second-tier European cities

If guaranteed upgrades and status benefits are what you want, you are unlikely to go wild about IHG Rewards Club

If you have an American Express Platinum card, you will already have Gold or equivalent status in Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton Honors, Melia Rewards, Shangri-La Golden Circle and Club Carlson so you may be focussed more on the best redemption options rather than chasing tier points

…. and so on.

The other issue when comparing hotel schemes is that the points you earn are heavily skewed by bonus promotions which change every quarter. I could have done a complex mathematical table to show how much you need to spend in each hotel to get a free night. However, realistically, a large percentage of your points will come from the bonus point promotions I list on the Head for Points ‘Hotel Promos’ page.

The list of current bonus promotions may also encourage you to ‘hotel hop’, either between hotels in the same chain or different ones. For promos based on stays, you could swap between hotel A and B every night to maximise your stay count. This may be worthwhile based on the current promotions, but consider the inconvenience first.

There is one other issue which rarely comes up in these comparisons. Life is short, and it isn’t worth massively inconveniencing yourself purely for the points. If you have the choice of spending two weeks in a brand new Holiday Inn or a 20-year old unrefurbished Marriott, you should take the Holiday Inn, irrespective of points or status! Unless you were getting back late and leaving early every day, rarely being awake in the room.

(Despite having large amounts of hotel points, I tend to pay cash when travelling with my family unless the ‘cash to points’ ratio is extreme.  I don’t like to compromise on location, room size or hotel facilities when we travel together.  On the other hand, I very rarely pay cash when travelling on my own as the compromises involved are far easier to deal with.)


To set the stage for the discussion that will follow, here is my personal take on the major hotel programmes. It is hugely unlikely that you will agree with me!  I will be exploring these points in more detail in the coming days.

Club Carlson

The scheme is six years old now and has matured, to the extent that they were even confident enough to cut their ‘points to airline miles’ conversion rate overnight.  It has the most generous earning rate from ‘normal’ spending and runs some simple but valuable promotions such as the recent ‘5000 bonus points per night’ offer. Gold status is free to Amex Platinum holders. There is a surprisingly good selection of solid 4- and 5-star London hotels, although there are massive gaps in their high-end portfolio elsewhere in the world, in particular the US.  It has a very generous Amex transfer ratio of 1:3 – it is one of the best uses of Amex Membership Rewards points.

Main use for me:  for booking hotel rooms for visiting friends and family in London, using points transferred across from American Express.

Hilton Honors

The recent changes to Hilton Honors have yet to bed down so my view on the programme may change over the next year or so.  It is easy to obtain Hilton Gold status, either via a status match, from Amex Platinum or by spending £10,000 on the Hilton Visa.  Hilton Gold is still the best mid-tier card to hold as you still get free breakfast and an upgrade of some sort, albeit often just to ‘best view’ in category booked.  I value the ability to transfer in Amex Membership Rewards points and as a last resort Virgin miles.   It is now a more serious luxury player in Europe following Waldorf-Astoria Amsterdam and Berlin and, to a lesser extent, Hilton Paris Opera.  Don’t judge the chain by its often lacklustre UK regional hotels.

Main use for me:  high-end redemptions in London for family, New York (Conrad is all-suite and so a great choice) or in Asia, using points earned from cash stays or Amex transfers.

IHG Rewards Club

This is my favourite redemption option due to the number of very good InterContinental hotels in places I like to visit, and costing no more than 60,000 points per night.  I also value my Ambassador membership because of the guaranteed benefits such as 4pm check-out and the free weekend night certificate.  The group has fantastic coverage almost everywhere and runs regular bonus point promotions such as Accelerate.  However, you will receive almost zero status recognition with an IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite or Platinum card except at some Crowne Plaza hotels.  The bottom line is that you are trading off higher points earning for weaker status benefits.

Main use for me:  InterContinental, Crowne Plaza or Holiday Inn redemptions, using points I pick up from cash stays (I am in the IC Hong Kong tonight for cash), the UK credit card or Virgin Atlantic miles transfers.  This is my core hotel programme.

Le Club AccorHotels

This scheme has little interest to me from a points perspective, and it will get worse when my Platinum status via Amex Platinum ends in December (Accor has withdrawn this benefit).  Their points scheme only rewards you in money off vouchers or a modest amount of miles.  This allows no ‘arbitrage’ – on an expensive night or in an expensive city, there is no benefit is using points as you only get a fixed Euro value for them.  I must applaud their ‘Happy Mondays’ promotion which sells UK rooms on a Monday or Tuesday for the coming weekend at £25-£60.  £25 for a hotel in London (the Ibis in Excel is often available) is astonishing.  They also have some decent promotions which earn a large number of Avios points.

Main use for me:  nothing!  The lack of ‘gaming’ on spending and the lack of earning options apart from stays means that the programme doesn’t work for me.  Remember the secret tip about Accor: you get 100% more Avios if you credit to Iberia rather than BA.

Marriott Rewards

On the face of it, this is a decent scheme. They have lots of hotels, a solid points earning structure and regular promotions. Somehow, though, Marriott Rewards has never stirred my heart nor that of the wider frequent flyer community. Is it the lacklustre UK credit card (no longer available anyway)?  The lack of points transfer opportunities from Amex?  You can at least now get free status via Amex Platinum (you get SPG Gold which matches online to Marriott Gold).  The lacklustre hotel portfolio? Only the ‘flight and hotel’ reward packages seem to generate any excitement and these require a huge number of points.  However, the acquisition of Starwood at the end of 2016 means that all this is up for grabs.  A new Marriott / SPG programme will be launched in 2018.

Main use for me:  I used to totally ignore Marriott Rewards but I am warming up to the (improving) Ritz-Carlton portfolio and will be staying in their Kyoto hotel next week, using points transferred across from Starwood and from the Marriott UK credit card

Starwood Preferred Guest

In some ways my views on this don’t matter.  The end is night with a new Marriott / SPG programme to be launched in 2018.  For now, though, Amex Platinum gives me SPG Gold. The ability to transfer SPG points 1:1 to airline programmes is fantastic.  They have some super luxury hotels but the redemption rates are excessive – although some of the SPG properties which used to refuse ANY redemptions now do so.  It is possible to generate SPG points via the SPG Amex card and Amex Membership Rewards transfers.  Suites are available on points but only 5 days prior to arrival, which doesn’t help your planning.

Main use for me:  mid-tier and high-end redemptions (including European airport redemptions where Sheraton is very strong) and SPG Moments events in London, through which we have enjoyed some fantastic nights out.  I use points from cash stays, the SPG Amex and Amex transfers.

World of Hyatt

Hyatt Gold Passport turned into World of Hyatt in February.  The changes are still to bed down but the programme is definitely worse than it was.  If you live in Europe you are pretty stuffed, to be honest.  The crazy number of nights now required to earn top-tier status are virtually impossible from European travel.  The programme has been devalued for non-US members by the introduction of a US credit card and a transfer deal with Chase – European members are suffering from ‘points inflation’ whilst not being able to join in, as there are no non-US credit card options.  The upside is that this is is generally seen as the best programme for upgrades (top tier members get guaranteed suite upgrades a number of times a year) and Park Hyatt is easily the best luxury hotel chain that is part of a bigger group.  With Starwood merged into Marriott, Hyatt now has a very small footprint compared to the other big chains.

Main use for me:  the (very occasional) high end redemption in Europe or Asia, often upgrading a cash room to a suite, using points my wife and I earn on her work trips, and my odd personal trip, to Park Hyatt Hamburg which is very good.

From tomorrow we start our analysis, alphabetically, with a look at Club Carlson.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

A review of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island - on Hilton points (Part 4)
Bits: Avios Group CEO replaced, BA Buy on Board - just fancy that ...
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  1. Rob, the end is nigh, not night!

  2. Gareth says:

    I recently stayed at a radisson Edwardian and gold status not even acknowledged, I pointed it out at check in and despite rooms available for upgrade nothing given, no welcome gift! Pointless status!

    • Frenske says:

      Odd, I often got regularly upgraded even when I was no longer Silver member. That was actually with Radisson Blue.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Last time that happened to me, a quick mention to @clubcarlson yielded more than generous compensation. Personally, I’ve found upgrades at London CC properties to be some of the best I’ve had – more often than not a junior suite from an entry level room.

  3. Slightly ot – what is the least frustrating way to correct an IHG stay that has posted as non qualifying. Flexible rate booked via app with no special discounts or codes.

    Once fixed, will accelerate automatically pick it up or is further intervention required by me?

    • James says:

      There is an online form you can fill out to get it corrected. They were very quick to sort out an issue I had recently, make sure to mentioned Accelerate so that gets corrected too.

      • Genghis says:

        I need to contact IHG as for one of the offers (bonus point package stay) despite the accelerate dashboard saying I’ve met the offer, the points haven’t posted. Also ‘Use IHG credit card at IHG hotel’ hasn’t tracked despite multiple payments, first one being in early Jan for a stay mid Jan. Has anyone else been successful in this offer being recognised?

        • Optimus Prime says:

          Is it worth to pay with the hotel branded credit card abroad? – i.e. foreign exchange fees.

          I’ve used my new Hilton CC to book a stay in Europe but did pay through my Supercard so I guess that won’t track as spending on a Hilton hotel.

        • James67 says:

          I have a preference for presenting a credit card from a rival chain at check in, I see no harm in gently reminding them that I have a choice on where to stay.

        • Genghis says:

          It depends.
          If work are picking up the tab, I enjoy earning 4 IHG points per £ on all foreign spend
          If I’m picking up the tab, I’ll use whatever is cheapest which maximises benefit – so currently Lloyds Amex. It’s never worth paying 3p to get 2p worth of IHG points.

        • aliks says:

          Neither me nor my wife has had points credited for using the IHG/Creation card to book hotels. The stays were 3 weeks ago, and other things like booking these stays via the app have tracked onto our Accelerate Dashboard.

          Having said that the Ts and Cs say it could take 4-6 weeks so I guess there is a slow reconciliation process from Creation to IHG Rewards.

    • Martin says:

      Contact them via the website, I’ve never had any problems this way.

  4. Roger I says:

    I’d add a niche benefit of Marriott Rewards – earnings and redemptions at Protea hotels in Africa, particularly South Africa. Protea are now owned by Marriott.

    They are usually rated for redemptions at lower than US properties, i.e. ‘cheaper’ in points needed. Problems: Protea hotels are a bunch of existing hotels cobbled together for marketing reasons and vary in quality, think Trust House Forte; and Marriott status is not recognised, so no breakfast benefit.

    • Genghis says:

      I booked the Protea North Wharf in CPT (only 15k prior to the recent reval) for the location and not bad reviews and the Africa Pride Melrose Arch in JNB (only 15k after the recent reval), both for Feb 18. Seem like bargains for not bad hotels. Does anyone have any experience of staying at these properties?

      • Not at these specific properties in S.A., but I did stay at the Protea Fire & Ice hotel in Cape Town for 5 days in March. A little bit out of the centre – 10 mins walk from Long Street – but very close to one of the most famous hotels in Africa (The Mount Nelson).
        The service was excellent, the hotel was spotless and the rooms were beautiful and well equipped (albeit modern/contemporary, which doesn’t appeal to some). I also received a room upgrade on the back of Marriott Gold status and late check out.
        i consider this one of the best hotel redemptions I’ve done, if not the best.

        • Genghis says:

          Thanks Azza. I’m thinking these hotels don’t seem the best but look like great value. Hopefully I’ll have a similar experience to you.

      • Pierre says:

        I’ve stayed at the African Pride Marble Arch – it is a really nice hotel. 15k points is an absolute bargain!

  5. James67 says:

    Very good article, look forward to reading the updated indepth analysis of each schene in the coming days. However, the one thing I just don’t get is your attitude and strategy to shelling out hard cash for high end hotels in the most convenient location when travelling with your family. I get it that you and your wife like a nice hotel, however, I find it difficult to perceive that your kids are all that bothered unless you are already raising them to be future HFP reporters 🙂 The hotels you choose tend to be high end but not often what meets my perception of aspirational. Therefore, the likely differences in hotel rooms with those a category or two less expensive are not that great.The rooms are fundamentally the sane across the chains and price range with differences mainly in quality of furnishings, toiletries etc. I get it that you often get, or try to get upgraded to a suite which provides extra space and often more sofas and a dining table sometimes too. What I don’t get is why all this is important to you and worthy of huge expenditure on a trip like your current holiday where you are presumably going to spend very little time in the room. If you are going to travel all over a city anyway, I on’t get that you might pay a huge premium for your perceived best location versus a much cheaper hotel of similar standard that is two or three metro stops or 10 minutes away from that location. Why pay the huge premium for the harbour view room in HK when you are rarely in that room and are infact outside immersed in that same and other fantastic views? I’m not criticising your choices, I know many with money to spend would make similar choices. However, I just don’t get your personal cost-benefit analysis in relation to your hotel choices and using cash versus points, it seems so counter-intuitive and contradictory with respect to what we have come to know of your attitudes and strategies to making your money work for you and maximising value as exemplied by HFP and your contributions elsewhere.

    • The IC has given us 2 huge Executive Suites so that worked out well. See Instagram photo.

      My Mrs has not been here before which is what drove that choice. Throw in one free night via the Ambassador voucher, the triggering of 80,000 Accelerate bonus points across our 2 IHG accounts, various freebies from my status and it works out ok.

      Everything after HK is on points.

      I’m also 46 (my father died at 47) and there is no real reason to cut corners unnecessarily to be honest.

      • Brighton Belle says:

        +1. I came to the same conclusion after a big health crisis at 40. So I decided there was no time to waste on trash in life. Fortunately that was 23 years ago and Easyjet + BA +LGW are second homes. Finding this site a 5 years ago has added so much fun.

      • Enjoy Rob, genuinely the most articulate service of any hotel I’ve ever stated in.

        It made the next few nights I spent across the harbour at the Conrad seek very average.

        Would thoroughly recommend the club lounge as an ambassador, a la carte breakfast there is fantastic, enjoyed it more than downstairs.

      • James67 says:

        Thanks Rob, I get it now, there’s a romantic in you and probably should have realised toom that even when paying huge amounts in cash there would still be a significant underlying points rationale. Sorry to hear about your father. Have a great vacation and don’t forget to take your kids up the central elevator in HK.

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Should I get my wife to sign up to the hotels loyalty schemes too? Do we both get points from paid-for stays?

        BTW we have a booking for Radisson in Stockholm done before the triple points offer. The booking is refundable. Should I cancel and book again?

        Last but not least :-), yesterday I received my new Amex Platinum and its welcome package. Haven’t had time to read through it, I guess I need to log in to my new Rewards account and enter my hotel loyalty numbers to get my Carlson and Hilton memberships upgraded to Gold?

        I’ve become an addict to this blog!

        • Genghis says:

          Only the person booking the hotel stays gets the points. However, I sign my wife up to the different hotel schemes just in case offers come along etc – but I hold most of the point balances.
          Have a look on the benefits tab on your Amex Plat account to upgrade hotel statuses.

        • Sundar says:

          IHG definitely will make sense to signup due to differing accelerate offers.
          Hilton maybe….

    • James, I tend to agree with you which is why I can’t value the Hilton or IHG free nights at £250. I spend very little time in hotel rooms so HIex and IC is really the same to me. I used my barclays free night at IC ANA tokyo and as Spire non-Amb, despite the irritating platitudes about being a loyal member from 5 different staff, I got a worse room than HIex Antrim where I am staying tonight on pointsbreaks.

      Neither do i have any interest in returning to the Maldives to maximise the potential value of a voucher. I went on a school trip when I was 16, and you can infer what you will from that.

      I think the best way to put it is that I value a Raffles £ at 40p given that he happily pays £25 to upgrade on VTEC whereas my threshold is £10. This would make my free nights £100 and an avios 0.3-0.4p, which is actually kind of right as that is more or less what I would pay for 1 although I value at 0.6p min for redeeming.

    • James67 says:

      @John, please don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t making a judgment on Rob or anybody else’s hotel choices, I was just curious to understand better Rob’s rationale. Personally, the most important factors for me are cleanliness, confort of the bed and convenience. Budget hotels can meet those criterion oftentimes so I am happy to make do with them. However, if I can get a mid tier hotel at much the sane cost in cash or points I’ll always take the better hotel. So too will I splash out for a special occasion. At the moment I’m using Hilton group most as I feel I’m getting great value from being diamond, promotions etc. Our European tour next month comprises 1 Ibis, 1 HIE, 1 Indigo, 3 Hilton, 2 CP , 1 Courtyard and 1 Mercure. All are flexible so may yet change. Total expenditure is just under £400 with the rest in points.

      • Genghis says:

        A good mix of brands. Where are you off to @James67?

        • James67 says:

          Whistlestop Milan, Venice, Rome, Florence, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Copenhagen. A mix of old favourites and a few newbies. Will be mostly a case of walking around, eat, drink, people watching and enjoying the atmosphere and watching tbe scenery pass by than any heavy sightseeing. Two easyjet, one Air Berlin and one Brussels Airlines flight and the rest by train. All three airlines a first for us. Needed to liquidate IHG points that we were otherwise finding difficult to spend, accor credit came from crazy days of 12000 points for 3×1 night stays a couple of year back when we exploited it by £15/night mattress runs in Bangkok. Hilton a combination of paid stays, credit card and Virgin trabsfers.

        • Genghis says:

          Sounds like a very whitelestop trip! Enjoy.

        • James67 says:

          @Genghis, thanks. 2 or 3 full days in each city except Venice which is a day trip only.

        • Genghis says:

          @James67. Is Zurich an old favourite or a newbie? I go frequently for work and whilst it is a nice place to walk around and there are a few decent restaurants (try Restaurant Eisenhof for its horse meat steaks cooked on a hot stone – Pferdesteak auf dem heissen Stein), it gets a bit boring and I’m certainly pleased that work pick up the tab!

        • James67 says:

          Thanks Genghis. Zurich, along with the Italian cities and Berlin, are the newbies. I have only been to the south and west before and the bills remain painful in my memory. We will take early train from Paris and spend the day in Zurich. Day after we will likely explore Lucerne and Zug. The next morning we leave around 10am for an 8h train trip to Vienna. We opted for CP in Zurich as it seemed to offer the best value on points at 30k IHG points/night. We might yet change to accor credit at the Continental. Keeping all the hotels flexinke until late in the event I need to cancel. Also allows flexibility if any useful pointsbreaks or sales come up.

        • Genghis says:

          Good plan. I stay at Ni-Mo Hotel on Seefeldstrasse which I think is great as it’s really convenient for our office but it’s independent. Bookable through hotels.com so allows me to get quite a few nights though at c. £200 a night I wouldn’t stay there for leisure and would most likely try to book a place on points.
          If you’re looking for traditional food, try Le Dezaley. Decent fondue (with pickles) and good meats (though game probably limited this time of year)

        • the real harry1 says:

          I lived in Florence for a year & have a squillion tips

          try I’cchè c’è c’è https://www.yelp.com/biz/icch%C3%A8-c%C3%A8-c%C3%A8-firenze

          & get bistecca fiorentina if you generally fancy a bit of beefsteak

        • James67 says:

          @Harry, thanks, sounds great. I’ve been in south of Italy before and adored the food, Since you and Genghis are dropping foodie tips today I’ll drop in one of my own favourites too… La Fermette Marbeuf 1900 for those in or headed to Paris.

        • Genghis says:

          Thanks @James67. I head to Paris a few times a year for work so will check it out.

    • Don’t you know that Rob’s wife calls the shots (and pays the bills)?

      The hobbyist blogger is not going to get any content unless it’s on his, or his concubine’s own time.

      • I have got a deal with the wife now whereby I can disappear on my own to “review exciting new hotel and airline products” for a time period roughly equivalent to the number of work nights she spends away each year 🙂

        • the real harry1 says:

          Raffles might end up doing a Martin and upstaging her, you never know 🙂

          No problem personally with higher earning wives lol – they do need our valuable support, though

        • James67 says:

          Delectable Deal!

  6. OT but hotel related.

    Thought this might help someone in similar position. I asked about it last week…..just before our trip we got new Hilton credit card. Our stays were already paid for with Amex.

    We charged our incidentals to the Hilton cc. I am happy to report two lots of 2500 cc bonus have posted so far. Still on trip so hopeful the rest will post. (We are hopping around Uk theme parks and staying in Hilton).

    • James67 says:

      Yes, when I held the card a few years ago I got all my points in this way. This past year I’ve had problens getting my 4×2500 credits on my current card. After much discussion with both Barclays and Hilton the explanation Hilton provided was that this offer has to be triggered by Barclays for each new card but they hadn’t done so for mine. So if anybody else having problems with their 4×2500 points call Hilton (nof Barclays) and ask if Barclays have applied the offer. You may need to be patient and persistent though as most agents know nothing about the UK credit card and need to make enquiries.

    • mark2 says:

      My, obviously limited, experience was that UK stays posted immediately but those in Canada had to be chased (many times).

  7. Wally1976 says:

    Quick question – as a Marriott gold member (via Amex Platinum), if I book a room for my family of 4, do we ALL get free breakfast (at eligible hotels)? Thanks

    • Sprout7 says:

      No, I believe it’s just for the Gold member plus one guest. However, I think if you get a supplementary Platinum card for Mrs Wally (assuming Wally is a male?) I believe she to would be eligible for Gold status and would therefore be entitled to a free breakfast for herself plus a guest. (ie all 4).
      Just be careful though, as I don’t think the benefits extend to all Marriott residences eg I think Courtyard hotels are excluded.

      • Wally1976 says:

        Thanks Sprout7, yes Mrs Wally has gold status too so sounds like it’s good for the 4 of us :-). Appreciate that not all Marriott’s offer it, though, definitely Courtyards are excluded as you rightly say.

  8. Mark e says:

    In case anyone is interested, I can confirm that Virgin to IHG points transfers are still counting towards IHG status, as I transferred some a couple of weeks ago and they have counted towards my status.

  9. Yes I have transferred points in the last couple of weeks.

  10. Which loyalty program would be best if I’m looking into staying at eastern african lodges, primarily tanzania / kenya / rwanda?

  11. Glad to see Marriott look like they’re going to boost their hotel count in Scotland soon! (presume plans for elsewhere in the UK too)


    • James67 says:

      I hope at least one of them will be in Inverness. Prices there are outrageous due to insufficient supply. It would not surprise me if HIE Inverness is one of the most profitable hotels in the UK.

      • I’m amazed there’s no Hilton/DT/Hampton presence in INV, esp with the plans for revamped airport train station and new flights

        • James67 says:

          I was exploring KLM out of INV, was hoping to find business class to Asia around £1350 in light of APD but very disappointed to discover they are way higger than other KLM regional departures which include the tax. I now think SG should be wary of cutting APD, airlines will likely be the only winners.

        • I had Etihad flights out of INV via MAN to SIN/CGK £70 cheaper than EDI last week i.e. APD free

          For a family of 4 it is tempting to drive up the new A9 if it ever happens as promised by the Shortbread Senate..

  12. OT

    I flew business with Emirates last week where after getting on board a hostess tripped whilst carrying a tray of champagne which soaked me. The crew were apologetic (i also appreciate it was an accident) and gave me a blanket to try and dry off but It wasn’t pleasant with no spare clothes to change into. I was told I would be contacted shortly after my flight but this hasn’t happened. Is it worth pursuing? What would the likely outcome be?

    • James67 says:

      On AY HEL-LHR a FA accidently spilled about half a glass of orange juice on my shoulder. I wasn’t that bothered and told her not to worry about it as I had spare shirts in my cabin bag. However, she was very apologetic and later presented me with duty free vouchers (€60 IIRC) which I used the next time I was in transit.

    • Mark LLL says:

      Don’t hold your breath waiting for Emirates to get in touch with you.
      A friend and I were flying EK (economy) in June last year. Inflight entertainment screens down throughout entire cabin. We were moved three times (Before take-off -to view safety video in another cabin, then during the flight -to seats with working IFE, and finally moved again for landing -no explanation given- assume to place us closer to exit). Flight Crew took our contact details twice during the flight. Both of us members of Skywards but have not been contacted since.

      • Kinkell says:

        We had issues with IFE and my seat on 3 of our 4 EK legs about 18 months ago. Asked the Cabin crew to report them as we would be doing also. On return home, contacted Emirates with flight details and seat numbers and within a week we each got additional 40k skywards miles. We were travelling ( paid) business . intact them with details. Good luck

        • Mark LLL says:

          Thanks, Kinkell.
          I don’t want to take the thread (further) off topic, sorry Rob.
          At the time I deliberately let a senior flight steward overhear me say to my friend that I thought we may be in line for a few Skywards points in compensation. He was at pains to take our Skywards details, noting boarding pass and seat numbers etc.
          Also, two weeks later I was very disappointed with long delays serving refreshments on return journey (Try 100 minutes from serving a special meal to the seats immediately ahead of us to finally reaching us. Yes, I timed it.) I was too exhausted/ dehydrated to complain.

        • Thanks for the advice guys, I will definitely chase it up and I will post back with any results!

  13. 1nfrequent says:

    I completely agree with your comments about Le Club Accor and the worth of the points (I generally autoconvert them into Iberia avios because I get more value from that than the discount voucher) but I have to say that as a leisure traveller, I find their Gold and Platinum status to be worth having because I get a room upgrade about 90% of the time and 99% of the time I get the other smaller perks like the free drinks vouchers, late check out and early check in.

    I also find Le Club Accor useful because my employer’s travel policy only gives you the choice of Premier Inns, Ibis, Novotels or Mercures (the last 3 all being Accor brands). Booked through a corporate travel agent, I get the points on Novotel and Mercure stays (although not on Ibis stays) and my status is again recognised 90% of the time – even in the Ibis hotels. Given that Accor have a good range of properties from basic to the more luxury end Sofitels, it allows me to use my work stays to improve my leisure stays.

    On that basis, I wouldn’t rush to dismiss Le Club Accor but as always, YMMV.


  14. Billy says:

    I’m Accor Gold and the only hotel that regularly provides the Welcome Drink is Ibis.

    Beats me how Sofitel, Pullman and Novotel can’t seem to be consistent with this.

    I didn’t even know about the Happy Mondays promo, or the Iberia trick. Thanks!

    • Billy says:

      And I find their beds to be the most comfortable, whether Ibis, Novotel or Sofitel.

      • Sussex bantam says:

        Another vote for LCAH. My status is always recognised and I find the option to translate to cash very handy. I travel for leisure with my family and it is very hard to find suitable rooms available on points. With LCAH I can book the room I want and use the points for a real cash discount.

        • Alex W says:

          I have the opposite experience with Accor. Abysmal status recognition.

  15. Agree. Hotels. Com takes some beating, especially for those of us who don’t spend 50+nights a year in hotels and so who do not easily earn top status in any one programme. For me personally (approx 30 nights a year, almost all leisure) ihg is the standout programme, with hotels. Com filing in where there is no sensible ihg option.

  16. Melvin says:

    I appreciate that Rob’s perspective is from a family of four and that many other contributors here are couples or have similar sized families to Rob’s. My perspective is from a family of five which really alters the goal posts when it comes to holidaying. My hotels stay are purely leisure and nearly always as a family therefore I have fast become aware how this world is geared towards ‘ideal’ family of four.

    Note: By coincidence I grew up in a family of five but we never stayed in hotels. Plus I’m 41 so it was a different era then. The words ‘Health’ and ‘Safety’ were not commonly found together!

    Generally the only way that we can all stay together in hotels is in two interconnecting rooms (HiX are useful for this) or in a suite. The later tends to work our cheaper than two rooms, just not necessarily cheap. We have used the Hilton Hampton (Southampton) a few times in the last couple of years as their one bedroom suite can be cheap and with Diamond status I don’t have to worry about a B+B package.

    I accumulate points through credit card signups and spend only. My problem with reward nights (including Hilton’s credit card signup deal) is that you can generally only book a standard sized room and there doesn’t appear to be an option to ‘pay’ the difference.

    Although I have never stayed in a Marriott property, I am now focusing on collecting SPG points (to convert) for most of the reasons Rob stated in an article a couple of weeks ago:


    The fact that we can book a suite with points (that I do not already possess) is great news.

    I would love to hear the experience from other larger families in the same game. Maybe I’m missing a trick?

    P.S. Before anyone points out that this was all my own fault and I should have stopped after child number two, child two and three arrived together!

    • Lol @ child 2&3! We also travel as family of 5 (damn I should have stopped @2). It is indeed not easy as a family of 5. I have resigned to booking 2 rooms. As my kids are still young and all 3 can fit on a double bed sometimes I book a room for 4.

      I tend to use hilton as I am diamond and having free breakfast is good. Also hilton have “child eat free” which we made good use of in our recent trip. So far most hiltons we stay in have interconnecting rooms. Keen to know any other tricks I might be missing

    • The more rooms and nights you need, the more Airbnb makes sense. Routinely travel as party of six, and a larger Airbnb space is more economical than 3 or even 2 hotel rooms.

      When traveling as a pair for short stays, no problem with a hotel

  17. So Starwood Preferred Plus matched through to Marriott Silver. Marriott advised me that I was moved up to Silver when I merged my accounts. However I checked in at a Marriott last week and I had gone back from Silver to basic member. No indication why. I checked with SPG and they say there is no longer the Preferred Plus level (which I had earned through SPG Amex UK, so I have gone back to a Corporate Preferred level which gets same privileges, except Marriott see this as a downgrade to basic membership. The merger pages all say Plus still exists and matches to/from Silver. Something is broken at SPG and I hope the customer service depts of both schemes get it together ASAP.

  18. You’ve left out some, eg Leaders Club, sure you’ll have to pay $150 membership fee
    but if you can stay at some of their raither inexpensive hotels and redeem at Ritz Paris etc.
    it sounds like a good deal.

    “Simply make five or four reservations depending on your membership level and complete your stays before your expiration date and you may receive a free night at any Leading Hotel across the globe.”

    Do all Leading Hotels participate in Leaders Club Rewards?
    – Yes, all Leading Hotels participate in the program.


    • Redeeming those free nights can be tricky looking at the Flyertalk thread on this, at prime properties at least. Not a bad scheme though, I did a piece on it last year.

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