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Review: 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 full series of articles can be found here:

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 limited in UK, no credit card partner, no free breakfast for Platinum unless there is a lounge, no free breakfast for Diamond midweek

How does Accor Live Limitless work?

The longer version:

I have taken a far stronger interest in Accor Live Limitless in recent years. I earned Diamond after a pricey stay at Fairmont Royal Pavilion in Barbados (review here) in 2021 and I just earned it back for 2024 after a couple of Fairmont Windsor Park stays.

What I have found is working for me is:

  • earning status points on two rooms per night (only Accor does this) which is great as we normally take a separate room for our children
  • being able to earn Suite Night Upgrades and redeem them online, locking in the upgrade at the time of booking
  • being able to use points for Accor Experiences redemptions – I don’t necessarily need more hotel nights, even if they are free!
  • getting a soft landing if I don’t renew status – Accor is a chain where we seem to drop a large sum in one go every couple of years at a resort, and I can leverage that to get a year of Diamond and then a year Platinum (and even the year of Gold after that isn’t totally useless)
  • getting a handful of Avios in my Qatar Airways Privilege Club account after each stay – ON TOP of my Accor points

This is why it works for ME though. There are many reasons it might not work for YOU:

Fairmont Windsor Park

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 (2,000 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 not yet 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 and require 2-3 night minimum stays which makes them tricky to use. 

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. It is slowly improving but bugs are still there – some points I earned at Bicester Village last Autumn disappeared into the ether. As I found last week, heaven help you if points arrive in 2024 for a stay you did in late 2023 ….

However, I know the scheme works well for many and is working for me

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 (this is a fact – I’ve done the maths).  If you have a family and tend to book two rooms whilst travelling, you’re laughing – spend on both rooms will count for elite status.

Gleneagles Accor Live Limitless

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. A Diamond member would get 10% back.

The benefits – for ‘sweet spot’ 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. Even a Diamond only gets free breakfast at the weekend. (The Asia-Pacific breakfast rule is different – Platinum and Diamond members get free breakfast every day.)

The new ALL PLUS discount cards are a way of making elite status easier to earnsee here – by giving you free elite night credits. This doesn’t help people like me who earn status via spend, however.

There is little value in pushing for Diamond status if you are a regular Accor guest. 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. 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. I used another two at Fairmont Windsor Park in December 2023, paying £500 per night for a suite selling for £1,000.

Sofitel St James hotel

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. I am now back at Diamond for 2024 and will happily accept Platinum status for 2025.

(Marriott Bonvoy did offer soft landings in 2023 and 2024 but it is not policy and you can’t rely on it for future years.)

What do we think of the network?

My experience of Accor properties in the last few years is not extensive. 90% of my spending was on three recent Fairmont stays at Barbados, St Andrews and Windsor Park and a couple of Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5 trips.

However, the UK network is surprisingly good with Novotel and Mercure hotels in most major business cities.  The Sofitel St James in Mayfair (above) is a UK flagship and a decent place to spend your vouchers if you wanted a break in London, and you’ve obviously got The Savoy and Raffles Old War Office for a real splurge.  Gleneagles (also above), a recent acquisition, will become the top UK hotel in Accor Live Limitless if it is ever integrated.

We have reviewed three new build UK Accor hotels in recent years and all 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. Rhys enjoyed his stay at the new Municipal Hotel in Liverpool (MGallery, review here).

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 (review) but very expensive, as is the new Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh (review) – but neither are part of the programme.  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 AKI Hong Kong (MGallery, reviewed here), Fairmont Austin (review) and Fairmont Royal Pavilion Barbados (review).

Is Accor Live Limitless the best hotel loyalty scheme?

Conclusion

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 value 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, especially as it is currently working for me.  If you manage to earn ‘sweet spot’ 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 – June 2024:

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.

Comments (25)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dev says:

    I use FlyingBlue extensively, and live in a ALL dominated country. The partnership between FlyingBlue and ALL allows me at least a few hundred euros worth of free stays every year.

    Whether I will go the other way and proactively put hotel stays on ALL instead of Bonvoy is a question for another day in the future…

  • lumma says:

    This is easily my most used hotel chain loyalty scheme, mainly due to the fact that they seem to have competitive prices and the member rate is usually slightly cheaper than the same hotel on something like hotels.com

    My account automatically sends all the points I earn straight to Iberia after each stay so I don’t have to worry about both the accor points expiring and keeps my Iberia points alive too

  • Tania says:

    Clarifying the breakfast note: If you are Platinum and stay in an Accor hotel you receive free breakfast on weekends when you book via one of the Accor channels.
    In Asia-Pacific region, Platinum status onwards receive free breakfast all week at Accorhotels and resorts. If there is a lounge, it’s generally in the lounge but not always otherwise it’s in the restaurant. T & C’s apply.

  • Toma says:

    Based on previous runs of this article it looks like Rob has warmed to programme a bit more. Interesting I have also for the same reason.

    I’ve made diamond from my regular stays at the Sofitel Heathrow and Raffles Warsaw.

    As I have little ones in tow on the raffles trip the suite night upgrades have been useful and are very powerful at that specific hotel. However value does seem to vary between hotel based on dummy bookings.

    Sofitel St James is marked as the UK flagship but with The OWO now open and the Savoy wouldn’t these trump the Sofitel at St James?

    Side note: Suite night vouchers don’t seem work at all hotels. The OWO being one of them (although this might be because the hotel is relatively new and accors IT is rough at best)

    Second side note: Some hotels seem to never post points and you have to request them 7 days after your stay.

    • Rob says:

      Correct, OWO would not technically be the flagship – but arguably it sits in a league of its own. I have reworded that bit though.

  • Patrick says:

    Had a lovely stay at the M Gallery in Pau, a perfect location for a stop on a drive to Eastern Spain

  • Mike says:

    As I discovered recent there is a way to avoid the end-of-year points ‘shortfall’, but it depends on the co-operation of the hotel. If you are staying at a hotel towards the end of the year and you prefer/need the points assigned to the current year, ask that they assign the points as soon as possible.
    I recently stayed 12 nights at an UK Accor hotel over Christmas and New Year. I asked for points for the first 10 nights to be assigned on New Year’s Eve, but they were allocated to 01 January, meaning I dropped a status level. I queried this with Accor, and they re-assigned the points to 2023, which means, for example, I won’t have to pay for breakfasts during stays in Pacific-Asia region!

    • Rob says:

      This worked in my favour though – my stay at Fairmont St Andrews in Dec 2022 ended on 2nd Jan, so all the points for 5 nights x 2 rooms went into 2023. We then did Fairmont Windsor Park 28-30 December, so obviously all in 2023. This was enought to trigger Diamond.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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