Is Radisson Rewards the best hotel loyalty scheme? (Part 2)

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In my previous article, I reviewed ‘the facts’ of the Radisson Rewards loyalty scheme. This article is my personal opinion, highlighting areas where I think you might want to focus.

The 10-second summary:

Strong points – high earnings rate, free Gold status via Amex Platinum, generous Amex Membership Rewards transfer rate, good spread of properties in Europe and Middle East including excellent London coverage

Weak points – fewer bonus promotions than some programmes, lack of ‘wow’ luxury properties, few or poor quality hotels in Asia and North America

Club Carlson review

The longer version:

I like Radisson Rewards.  Whilst I rarely pay to stay in their hotels (the main exception is at European airports where Radisson and Sheraton are the dominant ‘connected to the terminal’ airport chains), I frequently transfer over Amex Membership Rewards points for reward stays. They are my ‘go to’ first choice when we have friends or relatives coming to London.

Radisson Rewards compares favourably with other chains when you look at how much you need to spend to earn a free night in a luxury hotel. When transferring from American Express, a 70,000 point five-star redemption would only require 23,333 Amex points at 1:3 – no other hotel transfer is anywhere near as good.

You get free Radisson Rewards Gold status if you have an American Express Platinum charge card.  At a Radisson Blu, this can lead to a pleasant result – if you get upgraded to a ‘Business Room’ at a Radisson for being Gold,you also get free Pay TV, free mini bar and an in-room Nespresso machine.  You may even get free breakfast, although some hotels like to remove this benefit from the business class room benefits if they upgrade you.

The Park Plaza properties in London are relatively low profile but surprisingly modern and high quality. The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London is very pleasant as I reviewed here.  There are now four Park Plaza hotels in the area around Waterloo station!  Weirdly, the Park Plaza brand is not actually owned by Radisson but all of their hotels are part of the programme.

20 points per $1 spent means that points are very easy to earn.  The ability to top up with an Amex Membership Rewards transfer means that you shouldn’t end up with any orphan points.  Even if you have no status, you would only need to spend just over £3,000, adjusting for VAT, to earn 70,000 points for a free night in a London five star hotel – this is a return of around 10%.  Status bonuses and promotional points would bring this amount down even further.

Reward rooms are generally OK to find.  They do NOT have ‘last room availability’, so seeing cash rooms does not mean you will see reward rooms. The ability to spend more points for better rooms, available at some hotels, is good.  It is the only chain to have specific ‘family room redemptions’ which have the space for extra beds for children.

The 2017 loss of the 2-4-1 and 4-4-2 deals for Gold card holders was a shame and removed one of the really great benefits.  I remember a stay at a Radisson in Riga about 15 years ago, where I did a 2-4-1 stay. I got two nights for £40 in total AND got upgraded to a ‘Business Room’ with free mini-bar and breakfast!

Because the Radisson chain outside the US was owned by the airline SAS at one point, there are a lot of properties in Scandinavia.  A lot of major global chains ignore that part of the world so it is a good programme if you are planning a trip.  Did you know that IHG has NO hotels in Sweden or Norway and only one in Denmark?

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge

What don’t I like about Radisson Rewards?

Whilst there are some impressive ‘flagship’ Radisson Blu properties (Berlin, Chicago), many are old and tired.  The Radisson Blu Royal Viking in Stockholm where I stayed last year had depressingly small rooms even though I was theoretically in a refurbished Business Room.  I ended up cancelling a second stay a week later and moving to a brand new Scandic across the road.

The brand desperately lacks ‘wow’ properties (or even ‘impressive’ properties) in many places including North America, although you will usually find a hotel of some standard if you need one.  There are few properties of any sort in Asia.

The benefits for mid-tier Gold members, if you don’t get upgraded, are pretty much nil apart from the bonus base points.  I have generally done OK with upgrades but I am working off a very small sample set of stays.  I didn’t get anything at the impressive Radisson Blu Edwardian in Manchester, the Radisson Blu Zurich Airport or the dumpy Royal Viking in Stockholm, my only Radisson stays in the last couple of years.

I should throw in a shout-out for the Park Inn in Southend on Sea!  I ended up staying here a couple of years ago and it is better than you would expect.  It is, of course, still a three star at the end of the day but by British seaside hotel standards I was impressed.  My Park Inn Southend on Sea review is here.

Radisson Rewards has a nasty and long-established of changing the rules without notice.  In 2013 it devalued the ‘points to miles’ conversion rate overnight, with no notice. This was especially unfair because the rate improved as you collected more points, meaning that collectors were encourage to hold off redeeming their points for miles until they reached a high balance – only to have the rug pulled out.  The June 2015 changes were announced online in advance but members were NOT emailed about them.  The removal of the 241 deal for Gold members in early 2017 also happened with no notice.

Whilst I don’t like saying it, history shows that you cannot trust them and you should not leave more points than necessary in your Radisson Rewards account.  Earn and burn.

What do I think of Radisson Rewards?

If Radisson Rewards was not an American Express partner (offering me a free Radisson Rewards Gold card via my Amex Platinum and a generous points transfer ratio from Membership Rewards), I would probably ignore it.

As it is, I am happy to pick and choose the best properties from their redemption list for friends, family and myself whenever I need to, and I have always been happy with the experience.

I would have no qualms being told I had to stay in a Radisson Blu property on an occasional business trip.  I know that I can always top up the points I will earn with additional Amex points and redeem for a decent European hotel somewhere.

You can find out more about Radisson Rewards on their website here.

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  1. My experience of Radisson Blu extends to a couple of their hotels in Cape Town, staying on business. I liked both of them, more so the one at the V&A Waterfront than the one in the CBD.

    I don’t have an Amex but got to silver pretty quickly thanks to the length of my stays. Looking at potentially a Scandinavian stay to use up the points as that’s where they’re strongest in comparison to my usual chains.

  2. The Savage Squirrel says:

    “It is the only chain to have specific ‘family room redemptions”. The standout feature for me. As long as this continues they will continue to get a lot of our leisure business (and Amex transfers) – other loyalty schemes take note. Not only that but the family rooms are often exceptionally well priced vs what you get (classic example – Manchester airport – family room was basically two interconnecting premium rooms … but cost fewer points than just booking one premium room. Twice the room for less than half the price!).

    Manc, Manc Airport, Mercer St and Westminster Br have all been good this year; no duffers although I completely avoid the old Park Inns and don’t use the group at all in America where they’re much more of a mid/lower end chain. Park Plaza Cardiff may be the best of the lot – looks like a Glasgow council high-rise scheduled for demolition on the outside – completely redone a few yrs ago and beautiful on the inside; in my view the best hotel in central Cardiff.

  3. I’ve got Gold from Amex Platinum. I’ve found Radisson to be pretty consistent on upgrades. The business rooms have always come with breakfast, although the checkin staff have not always been proactive in saying so.
    The scheme advertises late check out for Gold, although the reality of that is a mixed bag. I met with an outright refusal in Birmingham; Cape Town (near the railway station) said ask again on the final morning which I took to be a fob off. I probably won’t stay at either one again.
    To echo Rob’s article, a shout out for Park Inn (Peterborough in this case). A room upgrade (such as they could offer) and complimentary breakfast.

  4. Do Radisson Reward airport hotels in the UK offer free breakfast?

  5. Only if you have platinum status, e.g. attained on 30 stays.

  6. RussellH says:

    Redemptions seem to have become very expensive over the last ferw years.

    We stayed at the Park Inn in Walsall a few years ago, and it was certainly OK for what we paid. At the time a redemption there would have cost 9 000 points, which was a decent deal. But after two price increases, first to 15 000 and this year to 28 000 the price has become silly, particularly when you realise that room rates in a weeks time are just over £50. The jump from 15 000 to
    28 000 is ridiculous.
    We stayed at the Radisson Blu in Bucharest in June and it did rather fit into the tired category. As it was part of a package deal no room points, though I did get a very few from having to raid the minibar – the hotel bar was closed because the Pope was in town!
    The Manchester Airport one is very convenient, with reception attached to the walkway, but only once has the price been even vaguely acceptable. Points rate is 50 000.
    I have 30K points and just need to find somewhere sensible to spend them, then forget about this scheme.

  7. We’ve just checked out of the Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street following a two-night redemption stay. Complimentary upgrade to an exec room (very spacious and quiet – but the trade off was the view which was not great… although with London rickshaws now blaring out music at all hours, I’d rather have quiet-and-no-view!).

    Excellent service, great REN-branded toiletries in 300ml wall-mounted containers, and a £15 bar credit due to Radisson Gold status (via Amex plat) which brought the two (excellent) cocktails we had in the bar down to £6 in total, including service.

    Overall an excellent stay (and the air conditioning on a swelteringly hot London weekend was brilliant!).

  8. Mark Lee says:

    Park Inn’s by Radisson are often very good or exceptional such as the co-located Park Inn and Radisson Blu Bucharest.

  9. Dominic says:

    Rob, I would say your review of the Park Inn in Southend needs updating.

    Dirty shower (black mould around the bottom), dirty mirror, no truly clean glasses at breakfast.

    This is as of 1 week ago – unfortunately, if you want a chain hotel, your options in Southend are horribly limiting.

    • The HI at the airport is really nice, stayed there too.

      • Dominic says:

        Indeed, the HI is an option. The only thing putting me off there is the daily train into Southend (business).

        The redeeming factor for the Park Inn (plus the HI) is the gym. That’s a rarity in Southend.

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