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

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This is the third of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes. Each scheme will be covered over two posts on consecutive days. One will list the basic facts of the scheme – basically ‘How does Le Club AccorHotels work?‘ – and the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.

Le Club AccorHotels covers 3,400 hotels globally. These operate primarily under the Sofitel, Pullman, M Gallery, Novotel, Mercure, Rixos, Adagio and Ibis brands, plus Orbis in Poland. Accor also owns for Formule 1 / F1, Banyan Tree and Jo&Joe brands but these do not participate in the programme, and neither does Ibis Budget. It recently acquired Raffles, Swissotel and Fairmont and these will be integrated into Le Club from mid 2018.  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 (Sofitel St James, their most upmarket UK hotel until The Savoy is integrated, is pictured below) at all price points. The Sofitel at Heathrow Terminal 5 is connected directly to the airport and is an impressive hotel. Liverpool also gained a new Pullman.

The chain is poorly represented in North America and, globally, it is not well represented in the luxury market. This should change when the Swissotel, Raffles and Fairmont properties are fully integrated.

Do I use them?

Not much, although when I was young and poor I found ibis to be a decent compromise between quality / security and value. A few years ago Accor had a promotion offering easy-to-earn €40 vouchers. I collected five and used them at the Sofitel in Luxembourg. I did book into the very impressive new-style Novotel Blackfriars on an exceptionally cheap offer rate in order to review it – see here.  The new Novotel at Canary Wharf also looks very good.

We are visiting the Pullman London St Pancras this week and will review it.  We also reviewed the new ibis Styles at Heathrow and found it very impressive.

Le Club AccorHotels logo

Elite membership levels

On 1st January 2017, Accor made some major changes to Le Club. Bringing themselves in line with other major loyalty programmes, only base points earned from hotel stays now count towards status.

Before 2017, ALL points – however you earned them – counted towards status progression. This meant that it was easy to reach top-tier status by timing your stays around a couple of generous bonus point promotions each year.

Accor did reduce the number of points required to earn status from January 2017 – Platinum dropped from 25,000 points to 14,000 points for example – but anyone who took heavy advantage of Accor promotions now needs far more nights to retain their status.

Accor has three elite levels to the programme:

Silver – requires 10 nights or 2,000 points. Benefits are free internet, a welcome drink and a 25% point bonus.

Gold – requires 30 nights or 7,000 points. Benefits are free internet, a welcome drink, room upgrade, late check-out or early check-in and a 50% point bonus.

Platinum – requires 60 nights or 14,000 points. Benefits are free internet, a welcome drink, room upgrade, lounge access, late check-out and early check-in and a 75% point bonus.

Some Accor brands offer specific extra benefits to different tiers.

Platinum status is no longer given free to American Express Platinum card holders. This was a major loss for Amex as Accor was the only chain to offer free top tier status.

Suite upgrades are NOT an elite benefit.

Full details of elite benefits can be found here.

Accor does not offer lifetime status.

Sofitel St James 350

Earning and spending points

Accor does not have a typical ‘earning and burning’ structure. Spending is totally revenue based with no opportunity for arbitrage.

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. The primary use of these is to redeem in Accor hotels. You can redeem these online which allows them to be used against cheaper prepaid rooms.

As long as you avoid Ibis and Adagio properties, you are effectively receiving cashback (in Accor vouchers) of 5% as base member, rising 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 such as Europcar and Club Med holidays. Sports tickets (for example French Open Tennis) are also available for points but this appears to be on an ‘invite only’ basis. Accor also offers tickets for events at the arena it sponsors in Paris.

Note that Accor has some weird exceptions to points earnings. At Ibis and Ibis Styles you earn 1.25 per €1, with Ibis Budget earning nothing at all.  Adagio is 1 per €1.  At Adagio Access you earn 0.5 per €1. In China, you earn nothing at all Ibis hotels, every day.

There are also a few other partners where you can earn points but the only relevant ones for a UK resident are Europcar, a subscription deal for The Economist and ClubOpinions market research surveys.

Accor has a partnership with Finnair and another with Qatar Airways which allow you to transfer your Finnair or Qatar Airways miles into Le Club AccorHotels points. The exchange rate is very poor (7:1 for Finnair, 9:2 for Qatar) and as these transfers no longer count towards status it is not an option for earning Gold or Platinum quickly. You can generate Finnair miles, but not Qatar Airways miles, by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points.

Bonus points

The group does not run the sort of regular, back to back, global promotions that we have come to expect from Marriott, Hilton and IHG. You cannot book an Accor property and automatically expect to be able to take advantage of an offer.

Recent promotions have focussed on large bonuses for members bookings numerous 2+ night stays. These deals can be tricky to maximise, however, as you need to book within a short window for stays at a later date.

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

In theory, your points will expire exactly 12 months from your last stay. In reality, earning points from an Accor partner will also extend them – but there are very few Accor partners out there. You can learn more about how to stop Le Club AccorHotels points expiring in this article.

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 – it is 1.25 Avios per €1 with the upper end brands.

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?  Not any longer. The American Express Platinum offer for free Platinum status ended in 2016.

Is there an Accor credit card in the UK?  No

Is Accor an Amex Membership Rewards partner?  No. In theory you could transfer to Finnair at 1:1 and then on to Accor at 7:1 but this is a massive loss of value.

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

Part Two of this article tomorrow will focus on my personal opinion of Le Club AccorHotels.

(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.)

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  1. Dwadda says:

    I like Accor. Their 4× hotels are very nice. They have a great footprint in Asia, where it is advantageous to be Platinum. Like many others I was downgraded to gold at the end of the Amex partnership.I noticed the difference.

    If you are an Accor gold and also a Fairmont Premier at July 1st the rules of the merger means you will become a Platinum until the end of 2019.

    You need 5 stays at Fairmont properties to become Premier. Problem is there’s not a lot of them. The only one in the UK is the Savoy.

    The easiest way to achieve premier is to go to Singapore where there is a Fairmont and a Swissotel next to each other (in the same building) and you can switch between them until you get 5 stays.

    I did this. To me it was worth it.

  2. Lumma says:

    I’ve always Accor Hotels to be good value personally, before I even begin to look at any reward scheme, so I find I use them quite often. This is opposed to IHG, which despite having free gold status with the free credit card and good points earning rates, always seem pricy compared to other groups and independents.

    During a recent trip around Morocco I found Ibis hotels to be a decent safe option for the first night in a new town, being located usually near the main train station, although that’s rarely where you’d want to spend a significant amount of time

  3. Brighton Belle says:

    Happy Monday’s promotion got me to stay in their London hotels a lot. It stopped, and so did I. Now I wonder what they do with those unsold rooms in the off peak season.

    • +1
      £40 for a night in London, including two free drinks vouchers- i always made flexible reservations elsewhere and then waited to see what I could get on the Monday through HM.
      In reality I doubt they miss it at that price – takes off VAT, and the cost of drinks vouchers, room cleaning and laundry cost, and they can’t have been making much contribution to fixed costs. Maybe secondary spends in bars would have helped.
      But agreed I haven’t stayed in an Accor hotel since.

  4. Henry Nicholson says:

    What about the dream stays option? I haven’t tried that so no idea if it offers extra value. I am hoping to in the future as I previously used points for cash value not knowing about dream stays but knocking a bit off the cost of a stay feels a bit of a let down.

    I should say I mostly stay in ibis as they offer the best price where I stay. Significantly less than travelodge and certainly better. Plus inseem to occasionally get breakfast included.

  5. There’s one small typo in the article: ibis earns 1.25 base points per euro spent.

    As for my thoughts on LCAH:

    – It used to be mainly points-driven, more specifically, bonus-point promo driven. E.g., in 2017, I collected 61 nights and 11.5k status points with Accor (just sufficient for Plat renewal), but I accumulated 42k award points.

    Obviously, one a small part of the extra award points is due to the “points accelerator” (i.e., the 75% bonus on base point earning for plats, particularly as no bonus is paid on promotional points). The discrepancy is mostly explained by their promotions. There was a 6k extra point promo last year, a 10k promo, several single nights with 1000, 500 or 300 extra points. And there was Facebook Places, which netted a few k points.

    In that regard, the program is similar to IHG with its Accelerate promos. With Accor, you can earn a huge amount of points which you can then use to book luxury hotels. Earn points at work-related stays in Mercures, burn at Pullman and Sofitels.

    – Status benefits are good for me. I know, they are not “hard” benefits which you despise, Rob, but it’s working pretty good for me.

    E.g., early checkin/late checkout is rarely an issue. Worst case is you are in a cheap hotel such as an ibis and they are fully booked. Then, they may not offer you more than 1-2 hours late checkout. Room upgrades are a bit of a mixed bag. Usually you get decent upgrades if staying at MGallery/Grand Mercure/Pullman and up. In Asia, also the less upscale Mercure and Novotel give good upgrades. In Europe, though, there are a lot of Mercure/Novotel which don’t or rarely upgrade.
    Welcome gifts can be very nice, even at MGallery which you can sometimes book for 100 Euro/night.
    Club lounge access is a guaranteed benefit for Plats, only exception being the Sofitel Berlin Kudamm. Problem is there are few club lounges in Europe. And there’s the guaranteed free breakfast in Asian properties without club lounge.

    – For the medium term, Accor has promised to make the program more recognition- and less points-focused. Makes sense with the integration of FRHI in July. 25hours hotels is also an upscale brand which I expect to be integrated by the end of the year. And then we can hope for the integration of Banyan Tree, another luxury brand.

  6. Harry Hv says:

    Agreed the Accor properties are usually quite nice even if the loyalty program is a bit hit-and-miss. Further complicated by a sort of glass ceiling on elite benefits because Accor is selling paid subscriptions to a higher elite status, Accor Plus. So the free benefits for, say Platinum members cannot be allowed to encroach on the paid benefits of Accor Plus. For example, Accor Plus gets a benefit of 50% off breakfast so they’re dragging their heels releasing free breakfast for Platinum despite this being the standard for the competition from Hilton and others.

    • Just the opposite – Accor Plus and free breakfast for Platinum both only apply in Asia Pacific atm, which I find odd.

  7. David says:

    It’s the revenue-based redemptions that kills Accor for me. €40 off another stay? What’s the point? I’d rather strategically place a few IHG stays to hit my Accelerate targets, and get a free night at a Crowne Plaza…

  8. Sussex bantam says:

    I also quite like LCAH – travelling with two young children I find that there basic properties – ibis and Novotel- both tend to have sofa bed in their rooms meaning that it is quite easy to find a room for 4. This is pretty tricky with the other chains whereas I can usually find a LCAH with a basic room for 4 in any city I want to visit.

  9. ZumoDeNaranja says:

    Surprised no-one has commented yet on LCAH’s atrocious customer service.

    I eventually gave up on Accor when i had to fight for every bonus point even though i was a Plat for YEARS 🙁

    Been with IHG ever since and perfectly happy with the Rewards Club – as honest and trustworthy as LCAH is not…

    • RussellH says:

      I have only needed to contact Accor CS twice, once was when I was unable to use 2 000 towards an online advance booking. I phoned (at no cost) and the woman at the end of the line sorted it all out for me very efficiently, after offering apologies for the IT failure that that necessitated the call.

      In the past, when I was entitled to super cheap travel trade discounts (not for selling on) I usually got points, which I am sure I should not have done. Once, even when I was in hospital and missed a rediculously cheap stay at Novotel Suites at Nice Airport I still got the points.

    • +1 for atrocious customer service.
      I find the places app particularly irritating – it should be a fun thing, trying to maximise your points by getting additional badges, but the number of times I have been refused a badge I was expecting to get for ridiculous reasons (Novotel London Brentford is not in London, so doesn’t count towards the “London style” badge, Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch – Hotel & Spa is not a spa hotel, so doesn’t count towards the “spa lover” badge, and have had those reasons explained to me rather rudely by customer services, is absurd. It’s only over a trivial number of points, but the rudeness of the CS staff is so off-putting. It just generates bad feeling and a lack of trust, which is just not conducive to brand loyalty.

  10. Is it possible to use the points for Virtuoso / Bon Vivant bookings? Do I simply redeem them on site? I’m planning to book a stay at Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg.

  11. I generally earn just enough points each year to retain Gold status. Just one point in the above article that I don’t believe is true: members (status or otherwise) get a reduction of 5% or sometimes even 10% at nearly all hotels but this is separate from earning points. You earn points on your stay as well as getting the price reduction.

    • Lady London says:

      I’m entitled to ‘up to 10% off’ due to my Accor status. But I’ve never ever seen more than 5% being offered on any booking I’ve tried. That’s the same as the lowest Accor status levels get which I am not.

      Due to their practically being no benefits I may not bother to renew status at anything but the lowest level for next year. I’ll make my decision based on whether I do get the early checkin/late checkout given to me, which I’m entitled to, on the rest of my stays booked this year. For early checkin and late checkout I can definitely live with only 5% off the room rate rather than the “up to 10%” that practically isn’t materialising.

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