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Discounted FoundersCard Sign Up – Worth It?

by on August 21, 2013 · 37 comments

in Elite Status, FoundersCard

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FoundersCard is a membership for entrepreneurs and small business owners that provides networking opportunities and also offers a bunch of discounts and travel perks. I used to be a member several years ago, but let my membership expire, though I’ve noticed within the last few years they’ve really upped their perk and benefit offering and I’m considering signing up again.

I already have a lot of airline and hotel elite status, but I know many travelers don’t have the time (or interest) to do what I do, and so I’m always on the lookout for tools that will make earning elite status and finding the best deals easier.

The FoundersCard allows you access to Elite Status on travel and special hotel rates.

The FoundersCard gives you automatic elite status and special hotel rates.

Founded in 2009 by Eric Kuhn and headquartered in Austin, Texas, the FoundersCard is a membership program that has worked out partnerships with various travel providers to fast-track its members to elite status, and to get special benefits such as discounted stays, negotiated hotel rates and VIP perks.

Along with the benefits program, membership to the club also allows access to networking events and an online networking community, which includes CEOs, presidents, company founders, innovators and entrepreneurs. FoundersCard currently has over 10,000 members around the world and plans to host events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris between September and December. The invitation-only FC Signature Events are complimentary to members.

FoundersCard Membership numbers

Once invited by a current member, you have to fill out an application and then pay an initiation fee and an annual fee.

How It Works
To join, you must receive an invitation from an existing member and submit an application. If approved (referrals have  70% success rate), you then pay a one-time initiation fee of $95 as well as an annual membership fee, which is usually $595.

However, I contacted the FoundersCard team directly and have been given a sign-up link that drops the annual membership fee to $395 when you use promo code FCPOINTS13 – a $200 discount – and it is lifetime guaranteed never to go up. I have been guaranteed that this is the best rate out there, but if you know of a better deal, please feel free to share and I’ll update this post. I do receive compensation for any approvals and appreciate if you use my link if you decide this makes sense for you.

So for year one, TPG readers will pay $490 ($395 + $95 initiation), then year two through as long as they continue their membership they will be able to renew at $395.

Before you do, though, let’s get into the specifics of all the benefits membership confers, and then you can decide if FoundersCard is right for you.

Benefits of Membership

FoundersClub offers a fast track to these travel perks.

FoundersCard offers a fast track to these travel perks.

Complimentary Elite Status: The FoundersCard opens the door to elite status with various hotel and airline programs such as:

Hilton HHonors: Complimentary Hilton HHonors Gold Status Membership, through March 2015, which includes:

  • Complimentary WiFi
  • Preferred Room Upgrades at select properties, subject to availability
  • 25% bonus on all HHonors Base Points earned
  • Complimentary Continental Breakfast at select properties
  • Late Checkout at select properties

Virgin Atlantic: Complimentary Flying Club Silver Elite Status, which includes:

  • An extra 50% of miles flown on qualifying Virgin Atlantic flights
  • Access to Premium Economy check in on every flight regardless of class of travel
  • Priority standby on all eligible flights

Members also receive:

  • Up to 20% off base fares of US-originating flights to the UK
  • Fast-track to Gold Elite Status, which offers additional benefits such being able to earn 100% bonus on base flown miles with Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines, receive a bonus 2,000 miles on your birthday and a supplementary Silver membership for someone 18 or over sharing your house address

Cathay Pacific: Complimentary Marco Polo Club Silver Tier Status, which includes:

  • Access to Business Class Cathay Pacific airport lounges
  • Priority Check-in
  • Advanced Seat Reservations
  • Extra Baggage Allowance
  • Recognition throughout your journey
  • Special invitations to Club events

In addition, members receive:

  • 5-25% off flights
  • Preferred Pricing for Businesses

American Airlines: Every few months, American Airlines will provide members a new offer or benefit. The current offer is a Gold status challenge with the usual fee of $120 waived:

  • Reach AAdvantage Gold status faster and keep it through February 28, 2015
  • Simply register for the Gold status challenge before August 31, 2013 and then earn 5,000 elite-qualifying points for travel on select airlines during the challenge period. To be eligible, you must first enroll your company in the American Airlines Business Extra program or link your existing account to the challenge

AVIS: Complimentary Avis First Membership, which includes:

  • Free one car-class upgrade on all rentals, subject to availability.
  • Ability to earn two-day weekend rental rewards with no blackout restrictions for every fourth qualifying rental of two or more days
  • Avis Preferred Service to skip the lines and go directly to your vehicle
  • Access to a members-only website to track rewards, rental activity and program information
  • Exclusive access to special offers and promotions
  • Up to 25% off rentals

Hertz:

  • Up to 15% off Hertz Daily, Weekend, Weekly, and Monthly Rates in the United States
  • Up to 20% Discount in Europe
  • Complimentary Hertz #1 Club Gold or #1 Club Gold FIVE STAR® membership

Preferred savings: Members also receive preferred rates with business brands AT&T Wireless (15% off most plans), Apple, and UPS (savings up to 32%), as well as discounts with several fashion and lifestyle brands.

FoundersCard travel partners.

FoundersCard travel partners.

Premier travel partners include:

  • Avis
  • American Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Carey
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EmpireCLS
  • GroundLink
  • Hertz
  • Hilton Honors
  • JetBlue
  • Virgin America
  • zipcar
FoundersCard lifestyle partners.

FoundersCard lifestyle partners.

Premier lifestyle partners include:

  • Bliss Spa
  • Bonobos
  • David Barton fitness
  • Exhale Spa
  • J. Crew
  • John Varvatos
  • MR PORTER
  • rag & bone
  • Soul Cycle
  • Wine Library
FoundersCard partners with over 200 hotels.

FoundersCard partners with over 200 hotels.

Access to member-rates and privileges at over 200 hotels: FoundersCard individually negotiates rates and upgrades or amenities for members with carefully selected properties at both major brands such as Ritz-Carlton or The Standard Hotel, as well as boutique hotels around the world, with ongoing privileges throughout the year and flexible cancellation privileges – so having to pre-pay your entire stay to get the lowest rate out there.

Among their most popular properties are The Clift, the W and the St. Regis in San Francisco, the Ace Hotel and the Mondrian in New York, and the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires.

The program’s hotel partners include:

  • Ace Hotel
  • Andre Balazs
  • Kimpton
  • Joie de Vivre
  • Hilton
  • Gansevoort
  • Morgans
  • Mandarin Oriental
  • Park Hyatt
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Taj
  • SLS
  • Waldorf Astoria
FoundersCard business partners.

FoundersCard business benefits.

Benefits with new and innovative companies: As the FoundersCard targets entrepreneurs, they cross-promote many of the companies launched by current members to offer benefits to their other FC fellows, such as a complimentary membership with Tripit Pro ($49 annual value), HotelTonight, and Getaround.

FoundersCard hosts events all over the world.

FoundersCard hosts events all over the world.

Complimentary access to networking events: FoundersCard regularly hosts events at venues around the world such as London, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles – at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills – and Paris.

Cost Comparison

With the annual fee of $395, I wanted to do some cost comparisons to see when and why getting a membership with FoundersCard might be worth it and what you could expect to earn or save with the membership.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Save $67 per night at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

A Park room at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo costs 35,000 JPY ($360) per night plus a 24-hour cancellation policy with FoundersCard, as opposed to the standard rate of 61,000 JPY ($627).

The same room was $427 on Hotels.com.

The same room was $427 on Hotels.com.

I found a reduced non-refundable rate of 41,530 ($427) per night in September on Hotels.com, but you are still saving of $67 per night with FoundersCard and have the option to cancel up until 24 hours ahead of time.

A deluxe king at the Standard Soho in New York would be

A deluxe king at the Standard Soho in New York would be 15% cheaper with FoundersCard.

At The Standard in New York, the FoundersCard offer is 15% off best available rate plus a complimentary room upgrade upon availability and 4 p.m. late checkout. When booking through the hotel’s website, room rates start at $595 per night in September, so the membership rate would be $505.75, with the option to upgrade to a deluxe room.

SLS Hotel

A room at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles with FoundersCard is $279 per night.

A Superior room at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles with FoundersCard costs $279 with a 24 hour cancellation policy. The cheapest I found on Hotels.com at that property was a non-refundable rate of $349 per night in September, so you would be saving $67 and have added flexibility.

Virgin Atlantic

FoundersCard members get Silver status and 20% off transatlantic flights on Virgin Atlantic.

I also wanted to check out the club’s airline partnerships.

FoundersCard members enjoy complimentary Flying Club Silver Elite Status with Virgin Atlantic, which normally requires having 15 tier points. Benefits that include priority booking, use of the Premium Economy Check-in area no matter what class you are flying, and you will earn 50% extra base flown miles on every flight you take with Virgin Atlantic or Delta.

FoundersCard members also get up to 20% discount on the base fares of US-originating flights to the UK. For example, an Upper Class roundtrip flight from New York JFK to London in mid September costs $4,452 through the Virgin Atlantic website, so a member would pay $3,793 – over $650 in savings – plus get the Silver status perks.

FoundersCard members save big on small zipcar rentals.

FoundersCard members save big on small zipcar rentals.

To rent a zipcar  – the handy alternative to car rental – it will cost a $25 annual fee, which is 58% less than the normal fee of $60, the application fee of $25 will also be waived and 20% off standard driving rates. For example, to rent a Ford Escape SUV in the Westwood area of Los Angeles near UCLA would normally cost $8.50 an hour or $77 a day, costing $167 for the membership initiation and day rental. Instead, you could rent the same car for an initial payment of $86.60.

Worth It? As always, whether the FoundersCard is worth it to you depends on your travel habits and needs. If you are going to leverage the program’s specific partnerships by, for example, taking advantage of the Virgin Atlantic discounts, visiting Cathay Pacific lounges, staying at Hiltons with your Gold status privileges, and renting from Hertz and Avis, then you can easily reap many times more value than the annual fee from a few flights or hotel stays, as the examples above demonstrate- especially since many business owners can write off the annual fee, making it even more affordable.

That said, if you are loyal to other brands, only want top-tier status, or are unsure that your travel schedule will allow you to fully maximize these benefits, then you might want to consider before committing. I personally joined the program a few years ago when I was still a Wall Street road warrior and got tons of value from the program with a little strategic hotel stay planning, and the networking events can be valuable opportunities to meet other interesting entrepreneurs. I am not currently a member because I enjoy status with American, Delta, United, Hyatt, Starwood, Avis and Hertz based on my travel already. However,  I might just rejoin for the hotel and flight discounts the program offers – like other travelers, I am weighing my options and deciding what is best based on my individual needs – since I know I will be able to get thousands of dollars a year in value out of them.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • JB

    I have looked into this quite a bit, but truthfully for me, it does not seem worth it. Of course YMMV, but we already have status with Hilton and the others do not work for us. The networking events seem decent to me, but at the same time, seem superficial on the surface and not something that cant be done through other less costly avenues. Again, that is merely my opinion.

    My problem with the program overall is that it has an identity crisis. Is it a program that works with travel partners and helps with status and discounts? Is it a meeting grounds for small business? Is it a small club with helping hands? The problem is it is trying to be a jack of all trades, and succeeding in being a master of none.

    What used to need an invite, now only takes an email to the company asking for info. You will have your invite with in minutes. I think they are on to something special, but right now, are stuck trying to figure out what that is.

  • sfomsp

    Cathay Silver. That requires 30,000 miles flown. 2 roundtrips from New York to Hong Kong and you are there. So not so much value there…

    Stick to Soho Club.

  • Guest43

    ASmallWorld is a better value. $105 gets you Marco Polo Silver, discounts at similar hotels, gyms, spas, boutiques, there are monthly social gatherings (with complimentary cocktails), and a free five day vacation to St Kitts…

  • http://www.onesmartdollar.com/ Sean @ One Smart Dollar

    For frequent travelers this is a great deal. I actually just went to a FoundersCard networking event and found it to be really helpful to be able to meet with other like minded people.

  • Wandering Aramean

    Are you certain that the VS 20% discount is off the top rather than just off the base fare??

  • LCB

    As a member for a little over a year, I have enjoyed both San Francisco (w hotel) and New York (mondrian soho) networking events. They are complimentary for members (CEO’s/founders) and in very high end locations, so not like the typical startup meetups where you get hounded by salespeople. Not to mention, I get the best rates at the St. Regis when I travel to SF and am upgraded almost every time, even without starwood status. Events aside (which I got more value from than expected), a couple nights in a hotel, or one of the status offerings pay for my membership alone.

  • Trevor P

    I’m sure the free st. kitts trip with ASW is going to be on a private island and require you to fly in on a private jet. Ever hear the phrase “too good to be true?” ASW’s benefits are also all pretty worthless, as they all just say “VIP treatment,” without any real value explained. I’ll stick to my SPG Platinum

  • Guest43

    I’m not so sure. I do think it will be an off-peak time, but ASW raised $25M in venture seed money for its relaunch. The resort (St Kittian) will be opening next year, so it is good exposure for the hotel as well. I agree that it does sound too good to be true, but I also don’t think ASW (and its investors) will serve up a sh*t sandwich on something as heavily promoted as the vacation. More likely, the resort sees it as an opportunity cost (and I have no doubt there will be sales pitches to buy a vacation timeshare).

    As for the other benefits, I can’t really speak to them as I am not a member. I do know they offer Marco Polo silver status, 15-20% off various upscale hotels + room upgrades, discounts at gyms, spas, etc, and the networking events have been at high end lounges.

    I’d rather take my chances with a $105 membership than a $395 membership, if all things being equal the benefits are about the same.

  • Jason Armstrong

    I am a member of Founderscard, send me a PM or Comment and I will send you a invite into the program.

  • Ben L

    About two years ago I got invited by a friend and at the time it was a special discounted $199 / year rate locked in. Back then the AA benefit was 5% or 10% (don’t remember which, prob 5%) discount code. You could request one a month automatically but I believe you could ask for more manually if you needed it. That benefit went away when the bankruptcy started so I haven’t used my FC membership since, but I figured at the discount rate, I might as well keep it.

  • bumd

    Can you send me an invite? Does it beat the price of what they are offering here through the Points Guy?

  • disqust101

    You’re right about everything except being “something special”. It’s just a way to squeeze $ from desperate wannabes. Gold from Hilton? Crikey. Get a fee-free Amex for that. Want cheap Hyatt – get an Ink and churn at 5x. Silver for Virgin Atlantic? Who cares?

    A worthless pimp of a worthless program.

  • jammyjo

    this is absolutely not worth it. i had it for a year and it’s one of those things that you have to consciously keep track of and never use, which the founders (pun) hope you do so they dont have to pay out and you keep paying yearly and forget. what a joke.

  • sfomsp

    Bet you don’t get a $205 per night fully refundable rate at the Ritz or the Four Seasons in Palo Alto…have to be in a more exclusive club to get that :)

  • Goodday

    Interested to check this as well. Also do you have any further info on the Virgin “Fast-track to Gold Elite Status” program?

  • Matt C.

    I’ve had FC for a year and find the best value from the ongoing discounts (5% off on JetBlue, discounts on Zipcar). Still can’t decide if it’s worth the fee (mine is locked at $295), but overall I do have to say I’ve gotten a fair amount of value out of it.

    P.S. Zipcar benefits are nice, but the “20%” discount isn’t true, the actual discount varies by market and is only applicable during the week, not on weekends.

  • thepointsguy

    We got clarification and it is base fare, so we updated the post accordingly – we’ve also just been waiting to hear back on the Virgin Gold fast track, so stay tuned for more details.

  • Goodday

    Thanks for following up.

  • Mark

    Getting the membership is the issue.

  • Jason Armstrong

    Send me email

  • DP

    can you send me an invitation

  • Jason Armstrong
  • Leonard P

    The article mentions Virgin America as a travel partner but when I look the actual site they are not there. Since Virgin America is the domestic carrier I use the most, the card wouldn’t pay.

  • bk

    It’s a scam

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  • Eric

    Hey there Points Guy. I hope your 21 hours in steerage is passing as pleasantly as possible. Here’s a link that claims a 40% discount on the Founders Card, but it’s hard to tell if that rate is still going to be honored without going through the application:http://loyaltylobby.com/2013/01/31/update-on-founderscard-review/

  • Phildade
  • http://www.matthewferrara.com/ Matthew Ferrara

    I might be a little old fashioned but I couldn’t find the $595 fee mentioned anywhere on their site; checked the FAQ and Terms of Membership. The only remote reference was “Membership carries an annual fee and a one-time initiation fee of $95. ” which seemed conveniently unclear. Seems awfully sketchy for an organization not to be clear and up front about their costs to join a discount organization. I think I’ll not consider it, just on principle. I can get 10-20% of a lot of prices, through pretty easy affiliate benefits (like booking the car through the airline site)…. Hmmm.

  • LuxuryLover
  • gkbiiii

    On Flyertalk, there is new information that this now includes Harrah’s Total Rewards Diamond Status.

  • just looking
  • Guest44

    Not a fan at all. I signed up as a UK member and couldn’t take advantage of ANY of the benefits I wanted to because only US based people were allowed to, even when traveling in the US. I also called to cancel my membership when I found this out, since it was not clear when signing up, and not only was it impossible to get in touch with them, they never issued the refund and just charged my card for another year’s membership without my consent! Feel like I have been massively scammed.

  • http://jordanskole.com jordanskole

    Opportunity cost doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  • john

    not worth it. almost no benefits once year 1 is over (e.e., need to re-qualify for everything). customer service horrible. not many benefits and declining overall.

  • JuJu

    Does it work for Caesars Palace points like I have read on other

  • Jason Armstrong

    Yes it gives u automatic diamond status

  • LCB

    It actually depends which Ritz. There are a number FC has access to, but to be honest, the Ritz brand of hotels tend to be pretty dated and archaic, so $205 is probably overpriced for most in my mind. You also definitely wouldn’t have a $205 at the Palo Alto Four Seasons, hate to break it to.

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