Is Accor Live Limitless the best hotel loyalty scheme? (Part 2)
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In my previous article yesterday I outlined ‘the facts’ of the Accor Live Limitless loyalty scheme. This article is my personal opinion, highlighting areas where I think you might want to focus. Next weekend we will move on to Hilton Honors.
The 10-second summary:
Strong points – big global network except in the Americas, decent Platinum benefits including lounge access, elite members generally treated well, luxury options improved with Swissotel / Raffles / Fairmont / Mondrian / Delano acquisitions, Avios (via Qatar Airways) and Air France KLM partnerships lets you earn Accor points whilst flying, Accor Experiences offers interesting new redemptions, Suite Night Upgrades for elite members can now be booked online, soft landings if you do not retain status
Weak points – points have a fixed monetary value so no opportunity for arbitrage, Accor Experiences redemptions very London-based and limited, no credit card partner, no free breakfast for Platinum unless there is a lounge
The longer version:
We don’t find Accor Live Limitless exciting
I think that Accor gets a slightly tough time from Head for Points. Why? Because part of the skill of the miles and points game is arbitrage – redeeming points at places which offer an oversized return. Because Accor has a ‘points equal cash’ structure (2000 points = €40 off), you can’t beat the system.
Things are improving a little via Accor Experiences – using your points for tickets to cultural and sporting events – but the UK selection so far has been limited and is very London focussed. It is nowhere near on a par with what Hilton and Marriott offer.
It’s hard to get bonus points via promotions
Accor runs very few big global promotions making it harder to build up your points. The promotions it does run often have very narrow booking windows which makes them tricky to use. Taken together, it means that Accor doesn’t get much editorial coverage.
The website is an IT nightmare
The website is, by far, the buggiest of any major hotel group. It genuinely makes ba.com look like Amazon. I’m not talking about speed, I’m talking about finding errors at every turn. Just last week it took me 30 minutes and multiple browsers to submit a missing stay claim.
However, I know the scheme works well for many
For the regular guest, though, Accor Live Limitless works well. It is easier to earn Platinum, whether via nights or spend, than top tier in any competing programme. If you have a family and tend to book two rooms whilst travelling, you’re laughing – both will count for elite status.
Once you are Platinum, which is not the top tier but is the sweet spot, you are getting 8.8% of your room bill back in Accor vouchers. Spend a few days in a Sofitel running up a £750 bill, before VAT, and you will ‘earn’ £66 for yourself – albeit £66 you need to spend in another Accor hotel.
The benefits – for Platinum members – are also pretty decent at the right properties. At a Sofitel (such as Heathrow Terminal 5 pictured below) you will get lounge access (ie free breakfast, snacks and drinks), an upgrade, late check-out, early check-in AND 8.8% of your room bill back in vouchers. You can’t complain about that. The lack of free breakfast at hotels without a lounge is a negative, however.
For the average Head for Points reader, the programme got less valuable when American Express Platinum stopped giving out Accor status as a benefit. One modest loophole is to buy an ibis Business Card for £65 (£119 for two years). This gives automatic Gold status.
There is little value in pushing for Diamond status. The benefits above Platinum are few, with even the ‘free breakfast’ benefit restricted to weekends only.
Anecdotally, hotels seem to be good at delivering elite benefits. You can’t ‘game’ elite status with Accor – it’s not given away free as a credit card perk – and the hotels know that status guests have earned it via ‘heads in beds’.
Suite Night Upgrades, which can now be booked online, are attractive. Having to call made them almost worthless, given that the pricing mechanism is quirky and only some hotels take part, but I am now keen on them as this article shows. Indeed, I used four at Fairmont St Andrews over New Year 2022/23, and ended up with my big suite being upgraded to a frankly huge one.
Accor looks after you if you don’t requalify
Accor is unique in having soft landings. Whilst normal in the airline world, it is rare in the hotel sector. If you don’t requalify for your status, you will only drop down by one level. On 1st January 2023 I fell from Diamond to Platinum, whilst other chains would have dropped me back to the bottom tier. This is one reason to go for Diamond – because, including the soft landing year as Platinum, you will have two years of lounge access and upgrades.
What do we think of the network?
My experience of Accor properties is not extensive, apart from my New Year stay at Fairmont St Andrews. I literally spent more in five nights than I have in the last 30 years with Accor UK.
However, their UK network is surprisingly good, with Novotel and Mercure hotels in most major business cities. The Sofitel St James in Mayfair (above) is a very impressive UK flagship and a decent place to spend your vouchers if you wanted a break in London. Gleneagles (also above), a recent acquisition, will become the top UK hotel in Accor Live Limitless when eventually integrated. Hoxton Hotels will also add some sheen to the programme when added.
We have reviewed two new UK Accor hotels in recent years and both were impressive. Novotel Blackfriars (review) has the new contemporary look being rolled out across the chain, and a swimming pool. The ibis Styles at Heathrow (review) is also showcasing a new, modern design – despite “only being an ibis” I think any HfP reader would be happy there.
The new Novotel at Canary Wharf looks impressive. Whilst not reviewed, I enjoyed my stays at Mercure St Paul’s in Sheffield in 2019 and again in 2022. Gleneagles, of course, is outstanding but very expensive. When I was in Dubai in 2020, we did one night at the new Sofitel The Obelisk near the airport which was exceptionally good.
The last international Accor hotels we reviewed were Fairmont Austin (review) and Fairmont Royal Pavilion Barbados (review). Neither excelled.
If Accor Live Limitless was a ‘normal’ loyalty scheme then the addition of Raffles, Fairmont, Gleneagles, Mondrian, Swissotel etc to bulk up the luxury portfolio would have been hugely exciting. Imagine being able to redeem a handful of points for a night at The Savoy in London.
In reality, the revenue-based redemption model meant that these acquisitions were welcomed with little more than a shrug, since the number of points required for a free room is huge. You get the same value per point as you’d get at an Ibis, so there is no point blowing them at a luxury venue unless you happen to be there anyway.
The ability to earn Avios on every stay – on top of your Accor Live Limitless points – due to the Qatar Airways partnership is a decent perk. I don’t recommend converting Avios INTO Accor Live Limitless points due to the weak transfer rate.
All that said, it would be unfair to criticise the scheme too much. If you manage to earn Platinum status, stay in brands which have lounges (where you’d have free access), can take advantage of the Suite Night Upgrade vouchers and are happy to use your points for hotel room discounts or the Accor Experiences events in London, it can work out well.
The Accor Live Limitless website is here if you want to find out more.
Accor Live Limitless update – May 2023:
Earn bonus Accor points: Accor is not currently running a global promotion
New to Accor Live Limitless? Read our review of Accor Live Limitless here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our analysis of what Accor Live Limitless points are worth is here.
Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from Accor and the other major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.