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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.

Comments (11)

  • 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.

    • Rob says:

      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.