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While hotel loyalty programs from big names like Hyatt and Starwood give you the opportunity to redeem for free nights all around the globe, some smaller brands offer properties with more character, along with their own rewards for frequent guests. TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele takes a look at three independent loyalty programs that offer intriguing properties and unique amenities.
If you travel enough, you may eventually get tired of staying at the typical hotel offered by the major corporate chains. Since these are the places where you earn and spend your loyalty points, most of us put up with uninspired hotels that can vary little from city to city.
If this sounds like your predicament, you need to learn about these loyalty programs that offer points for staying at non-cookie-cutter, independent hotels. These hotel collections are less standardized than than the larger chains, and each property offers unique amenities.
iPrefer (Preferred Hotels & Resorts)
Preferred Hotels is the world’s largest independent hotel brand, featuring more than 650 properties. The Preferred Hotels group offers five different hotel collections, each with its own level of luxury and service. Note that you need to be at least a Gold elite member to receive most of the welcome gifts mentioned below.
- The Legend Collection — This group includes properties that are designed to be a destination in and of themselves. Examples include The Opposite House in Beijing, where Gold and Platinum members get a welcome box of chocolates and The Beaumont in London, which offers elites a welcome cocktail.
- LVX Collection — A group of hotels offering additional luxury and convenience, with amenities such as 24-hour room service and turndown service. Properties include the Hesperia in Madrid, the Hotel Keppler in Paris and the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, which offers elite guests two complimentary cocktails at the Carousel Bar, which TPG Contributor Kelsy Chauvin happened to feature in her post on 5 of the Quirkiest Hotel Bars in America.
- Lifestyle Collection — These hotels are designed to be more connected to a city and feature a buzzing lobby and bar. Properties include the Chambers Hotel in New York, which offers elites treats from Momofuku Milk Bar, and the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, with an elite welcome gift of two complimentary drinks at the bar along with a wine key and stopper.
- Connect Collection — This group features properties geared toward business travelers, and not all of them offer amenities like 24-hour food and beverage services. Hotels in this collection include the Kinzie Hotel in Chicago, which welcomes elite guests with a box of chocolate truffles, wine and a free cocktail, and the Royal Park Hotel the Shiodome in Tokyo, which offers elites a welcome bottle of wine.
- Preferred Residence Collection — The final group of properties includes accommodations such as a four-bedroom penthouse and even a five-bedroom mansion. These properties are designed to offer the space and privacy of home with the amenities of a hotel. Examples include the Carneros Inn in Napa, which gives elites VIP tasting passes to The Vintner’s Collective, and the 26 Sunset Avenue Llandudno in Cape Town, which gifts elite guests with a safari amenity pack.
The iPrefer loyalty program offers guests reward points, elite status and special benefits. Guests receive one point per dollar spent on room reservations booked through eligible channels (not including online travel agents), and some hotels will offer points for non-room charges.
Points can be redeemed for reward certificates valid at properties in the Preferred Hotels & Resorts collection, starting at 1,250 points for a $25 certificate — exactly two cents per point. Reward certificates never expire and can even be given as gifts. In addition, most Preferred hotels (there are some exclusions) offer 2x miles with 16 different carriers including American, Alaska, British Airways, Air France/KLM Flying Blue and United.
As with traditional reward programs, the iPrefer program offers several levels of elite status for frequent guests. The three levels are:
- Silver — This entry-level status is offered to all members and includes complimentary internet service and priority early check-in and late check-out, when available.
- Gold — Guests earn this status after earning at least 5,000 points from participating properties within one year of your membership joining date. Additional benefits (on top of the Silver perks) include a welcome amenity and a complimentary room upgrade, when available.
- Platinum — Guests reach Platinum status by earning 15,000 points within one year of your membership joining date, and it offers all of the benefits of Gold status, plus an additional 10% bonus points per stay.
I recently had a chance to stay at one of the most remarkable properties in the Preferred Hotels & Resorts brand, Denver’s new Art Hotel. Part of the LVX Collection, this 165-room property sits in the city’s Museum District and true to its name, it’s full of original paintings and sculptures from notable artists such as Frank Gehry, Luis Jiminez and Clyfford Still. In fact, this is likely one of only a handful of hotels in the world that employs its own in-house art curator.
The basic Canvas Room starts at $289 per night, while the Capital Suite goes for $399 and up. And while many rooms offer spectacular city and mountain views, I mostly appreciated the small touches that exemplified the property’s emphasis on art and design. For example, the rooms are decorated with reproductions of the hotels original artwork, there were outlets with USB sockets on each side of the bed and guests receive a welcome gift that includes a selection of Colorado microbrews on ice. In addition, all of the snacks and beverages in the mini-bar are complimentary.
This program features 109 independent hotels in 24 countries and includes the Copley Square Hotel in Boston; the St. Giles Hotels in New York, London and Asia and Luxe Hotels in the Los Angeles area. In fact, this program has been around for a while, but it only entered the US market in 2011. The program has three elite levels:
- Silver — The base membership tier offers 10 points per dollar spent and includes priority check-in and a complimentary weekday newspaper.
- Gold — The next level of status requires 10 nights in a consecutive 12-month period. Additional benefits include a 25% points bonus, early check-in and late check-out (based on availability) and complimentary room upgrades and fitness center access.
- Platinum — Members earn this status after staying 20 nights within a consecutive 12-month period. Benefits include a 50% points bonus, no blackout dates on awards, 24-hour guaranteed room availability, complimentary Executive Lounge access and a special welcome amenity that varies by property.
Points are worth about 0.75 to 1 cent each toward award nights, but this program is offering a 25% discount through the end of the year. And while points do transfer to several airlines miles, the ratio is an unfavorable 10:1 — or less.
Stash Hotel Rewards is a loyalty program with more than 200 hotels in the United States and the Caribbean. Members earn 5 points per dollar spent on eligible room rates at any Stash Partner Hotel (base rate not including taxes). Points are generally worth about one cent each toward reservations at hotels in this program, but can be occasionally worth slightly more.
This program doesn’t offer elite status, but unlike other independent hotel collections, Stash also has its own co-branded credit card. The Stash Hotel Rewards Visa Signature Card from Synchrony Bank offers new cardholders 10,000 points after spending $1,500 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. Cardholders earn 3x points at Stash Hotels, 2x points at all other hotels, dining and gas and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. With this card, you also receive 10% of your points back after you redeem them. There’s an $85 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Maximize Spending at Independent Hotel Brands
Although Stash Rewards does have its own credit card, iPrefer and Voila do not. Instead, consider using a card that offers bonus rewards for hotel purchases, including:
- Chase Ink Plus Business Card — Offers 2x Ultimate Rewards points for purchases from hotels, in addition to 5x at office supply stores and on most television and telecommunications services.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred — Offers 2x Ultimate Rewards points for all travel purchases, including hotels.
- Citi ThankYou Premier Card — Offers 3x ThankYou rewards points for all travel purchases, including hotels.
- Citi Prestige Card — Offers 3x ThankYou rewards points for all airfare and hotels purchases.
- Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard — The no-fee version of the Arrival Card offers 2x miles for all travel and dining purchases, including hotels.
Redeeming Credit Card Rewards for Stays
You can always redeem miles from your Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for stays at these independent hotel collections at rate of one cent in value per mile redeemed. And while you could also redeem points for independent hotels using Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points, you won’t earn status in their loyalty programs by doing so, since these bookings are through a third party. In addition, points from these programs are generally worth more when transferred to travel partners and used to book travel directly.
Do you belong to one of these independent hotel loyalty programs? What has your experience been?
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards