Why this camping loyalty program is worth its $33 fee

Aug 19, 2020

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I’m always looking for new loyalty programs to use and maximize. So, when I rented a relocation RV for $1 a day from Los Angeles to Dallas, I began searching camping loyalty programs. I quickly found that one of the major camping loyalty programs is the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Value Kard Rewards (VKR) program.

Most KOA campgrounds have tent sites, RV sites and cabins for rent. And, you can even stay in a teepee or caboose at select locations. So even if you don’t particularly like camping, KOA has other options for a socially distant vacation.

When you think of loyalty programs, airline mileage programs and hotel loyalty programs likely come to mind. But, there are many other underutilized loyalty programs, including dining rewards programs and fuel rewards programs. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the KOA Value Kard Rewards program.

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In This Post

Overview

Needles KOA sign
Entrance sign at Needles KOA on Historic Route 66 (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The KOA Value Kard Rewards program provides discounts, rewards and elite status when you stay at KOA campgrounds. Also, Value Kard Rewards members get discounts with select program partners. I’ll dive deeper into all of these aspects of the KOA Value Kard Rewards program and whether the $33 annual membership fee is worth it.

Related: 11 mistakes travelers make on their first camping trip

How to earn rewards

Earning points within the KOA Value Kard Rewards program is relatively straightforward. For most stays with KOA, you’ll earn points as follows.

KOA Value Kard Rewards status $20.01 to $40 daily site charge Daily site charge of $40.01 to $60 Daily site charge of more than $60
Base 600 900 1,300
Bonus 660 990 1,430
VIP 750 1,125 1,625

But, if you use a discount other than Value Kard Reward’s, you’ll earn fewer points:

  • Base member – 250 points per night
  • Bonus member – 275 points per night
  • VIP member – 312 points per night

If the nightly rate is $20 or less, you won’t earn any points. Meanwhile, if you stay at a specific KOA Kampground for more than 27 days, you’ll receive 75 points per day regardless of the rate you pay per night. So, for a 28-day stay, you’d earn just 2,100 points. Finally, the program terms and conditions note that you can’t earn more than 15,000 points each year from extended stays.

However, you can snag an additional 250 points when you make your reservation online. And, you’ll earn 1,000 to 2,000 extra points if you stay at a participating KOA on Care Camps Big Weekend or VKR Appreciation Weekend.

Related: Maximizing points and miles on road trips

How to redeem rewards

Sanger KOA RV site
Our rental RV at Sanger KOA north of Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Redeeming KOA Value Kard Rewards is pretty straightforward. Specifically, you can redeem them at a fixed value toward KOA stays of 27 nights or less. To redeem points, simply let the front desk know at check-in how many rewards you’d like to redeem.

Award chart info

  • 6,500 points for a $10 reward (0.15 cents per point)
  • 15,000 points for a $25 reward (0.17 cents per point)
  • 25,000 points for a $50 reward (0.2 cents per point)

As you can see, KOA Value Kard Rewards points are worth 0.15-0.2 cents per point. So, to get the most value from your points, you’ll want to save up your points to redeem for a $50 reward.

Your points will not expire as long as you’re a Value Kard Rewards member and KOA gives you a grace period. As long as you renew your membership within 59 days of expiration, you’ll keep your points.

Related: 5 lessons learned from taking a road trip in the age of coronavirus

Program partners

The KOA Value Kard Rewards program partners with select merchants to offer deals and discounts to its members. Currently, I see the following offers when I log into my account and go to the Exclusive Savings page:

  • 15% off Goodyear tires
  • 10% off parts and accessories at Route 66 parts store in North America
  • 5% off Outdoorsy RV rentals
  • $50 off a Dish portable satellite antenna and receiver
  • Deals on Geico insurance for your RV
  • $30 off your first year of KOA RV Road Help membership (operated by Allstate Motor Club)
  • Competitive interest rates and deals when you use the KOA Loan Center (operated by Essex Credit)
  • Pay $16-$25 per month for KOA Health +. This program provides virtual access to doctors and mental health professionals as well as discounted dental and vision care.
  • Exclusive offers from Weber grilling
  • $10 off Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) membership dues plus a welcome gift for new members

Many of these offers require a promo code, which you can find on the Exclusive Savings page once you’ve logged in to your account. But, some of the offers require you to click through from the KOA savings page. So, you may not be able to get the KOA discount and use an online shopping portal for some of these offers.

Additionally, you’ll also get some perks if you travel to Australia. Specifically, you can get 10% off camping at Discovery and Big4 Holiday parks. To get your discount, simply prove that you have an active Value Kard Rewards membership at check-in.

Related: 6 things you should know before you rent your first RV

Elite status

Grants KOA RV sites
RV sites at Grants KOA in New Mexico (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

There are three elite status levels within the KOA Value Kard Rewards program:

  • Base level
  • Bonus level
  • VIP level

You’ll start at the Base level each enrollment year. Then, you can advance to the Bonus level and VIP status based on the points you earn during your enrollment year. Note, your enrollment year is defined as the 12 months from when you purchase your membership.

You’ll reach the Bonus level once you earn 6,500 points within your enrollment year. At this level, there are no perks except you’ll earn points 10% faster.

You’ll earn VIP status each enrollment year that you accumulate 20,000 points. VIP status in the KOA Value Kard Rewards program provides the following perks:

  • Earn points 25% faster
  • Earn a free year of membership
  • No cancellation fees when you call to cancel your reservation for a tent or RV site more than 48 hours in advance or for a cabin more than seven days in advance
    • Excludes some special weekends and events
  • Bring a friend and they receive 10% off the daily rate on one KOA stay of up to four nights

Once you earn VIP status, you’ll get VIP perks for the remainder of your current enrollment year, as well as the next year. So, if you reach 20,000 points in the tenth month of your annual enrollment year, you’ll obtain VIP status for a total of 14 months. You can maintain VIP status by earning 20,000 points each enrollment year.

Related: 9 things to know about visiting a national park right now

Is it worth joining?

Needles KOA main building
How many nights will you spend each year at KOA campgrounds? (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You may be wondering whether joining the KOA Value Kard Rewards program is worth it. So, let’s take a closer look at the benefits you’re likely to use, as well as how much you’ll need to spend with KOA to make the membership worthwhile.

First off, some partner offers provide enough benefits to justify a KOA Value Kard Rewards membership on their own. For example, the 15% off Goodyear tires will recoup the $33 membership fee if you just spend $220 on tires. Likewise, the 5% Outdoorsy discount will justify the membership fee if you spend $660 on an Outdoorsy RV rental. But, these offers only provide value if you’ll use them.

Second, you’ll get a free night of camping during the Value Kard Rewards Appreciation Weekend each year. This year, you can get a free night on Sep. 19 when you stay as a paying guest on Sep. 18. But, only select sites at participating KOA Campgrounds qualify. So, you may not get any value from the free night.

Third, you’ll get a 10% discount off daily site rates and earn points on each night. If you simply want to consider the value provided by the 10% discount, you’d need to pay $330 in daily site rates over 12 months to justify buying a membership.

You’ll also be earning points. So, let’s consider examples on two ends of the spectrum to determine how frequently you’ll need to stay to justify a membership if you’re only interested in the value provided by the 10% discount and points.

$25 per night example

Let’s assume you generally book online, stay for two nights at each campground and reserve a campsite with a daily rate of $25. You’ll get a 10% discount on this rate, which equals $2.50 per night. And, you’ll earn 600 points per night as a Base level member as well as 250 points per stay for booking online. At this rate, you’d earn a total of 1,450 points per stay.

After five stays, you’d earn 7,250 points, which is enough to reach the Bonus level. And, you’d save $25 across these five stays due to the 10% discount. Assuming you’ll save up to redeem for a $50 reward, the points earned across these stays would be worth about $14.50. As such, given the assumptions in this example, the KOA Value Kard Rewards membership would justify itself after ten nights across five stays.

Related: Don’t make these 5 mistakes when buying your first RV

$65 per night example

Now, let’s consider a case where you’d be paying a higher daily site rate of $65. I’ll still assume you will book online and spend two nights at each campground per stay. And, you’ll still get a 10% discount on the daily site rate, which equals $6.50 per night.

Since the nightly rate is higher than $60, you’ll earn 1,300 points per night as a Base member as well as 250 points per stay for booking online.

With these assumptions, you’d earn 2,850 points per stay. So, after just two stays, you would save $26 due to the 10% discount. And, you would earn 5,700 points worth $11. So, after just four nights across two stays, the rewards and discounts would justify buying a KOA Value Kard Rewards membership.

Related: 5 epic road trips across America

Bottom line

A KOA Value Kard Rewards membership can make sense even if you don’t stay at KOA campgrounds frequently. In particular, it’s an easy decision if you’ll spend more than $330 with KOA in a year. But even if you spend less, you may benefit from becoming a member if you’ll use the other membership perks.

Featured image of a cabin at Needles KOA by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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