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, split of the scheme into two is messy
The longer version:
I find some value in Radisson Rewards. Whilst I rarely pay to stay in their hotels (the main exception is at European airports where Radisson is one of the dominant ‘connected to the terminal’ airport chains), I often transfer over Amex Membership Rewards points for reward stays. They are a solid option 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 75,000 point five-star redemption would only require 25,000 Amex points at 1:3 – no other hotel transfer is anywhere near as good. An 80,000 point Hilton Honors stay in London, for example, requires the transfer of 40,000 American Express points.
The Park Plaza properties in London are relatively low profile but surprisingly modern and high quality. Many readers have booked them via their heavily discounted promotions in recent months, with rooms as cheap as £89. 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, excluding VAT, to earn 75,000 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.
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?!
The split of the scheme into two – for North America and the Rest of the World – will cause admin issues for members. You can match your status across both programmes, and transfer points, but it takes time and effort. For UK members, stays at North American hotels will no longer count towards earning status.
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 a couple of years ago 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.
I had high hopes for Radisson RED to inject a bit of life into the chain. Unfortunately, a dash for growth means that it seems to be making tactical errors. Funky hotels in city centres are good. A converted Travelodge on the outskirts of Gatwick Airport? Perhaps not.
You get free Radisson Rewards Gold status if you have an American Express Platinum charge card. The benefits of Gold are not huge – you don’t get free breakfast for example – and my status has been virtually ignored on recent stays. I didn’t get anything at the impressive Edwardian in Manchester, the Radisson Blu Zurich Airport, the new Radisson RED at Heathrow or the dumpy Royal Viking in Stockholm.
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 entirely.
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. I have always been happy with the experience.
We would be willing to give it more coverage on HfP, but the company does not liaise with us directly. The sponsored coverage we run occasionally is commissioned by a marketing agency in Spain, oddly.
I would have no qualms about staying in a Radisson Blu property on a business trip. My status via Amex should keep me away from the room overlooking the bins. I know that I can always top up the points I will earn with additional American Express Membership Rewards points and redeem for a decent European hotel somewhere.
You can find out more about Radisson Rewards on their website here.
How to earn Radisson Rewards points from UK credit cards (August 2021)
Radisson Rewards does not have a dedicated UK credit card. However, you can earn Radisson Rewards points by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards. These include:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 60,000 Radisson Rewards points. This card is FREE for your first year and also comes with two free airport lounge passes.
- The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 90,000 Radisson Rewards points
- American Express Rewards credit card (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 15,000 Radisson Rewards points. This card is FREE for life.
Membership Rewards points convert at 1:3 into Radisson Rewards points which is a very attractive rate. The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 3 Radisson Rewards points.
Even better, holders of The Platinum Card receive free Radisson Rewards Gold status for as long as they hold the card. It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Marriott Bonvoy Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)