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CitizenM just launched a loyalty program that's breaking all the rules

April 20, 2022
10 min read
citizenM bowery
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It's not often that hotel companies come along and offer something that truly breaks the mold. It's even more rare when the same company does it twice.

CitizenM is a hotel chain focused on offering affordable places to work, stay and relax in popular cities around the world without paying for extras that people aren't likely to use.

Now, the chain is offering a loyalty program for the first time, and the approach breaks the industry norm. You don't have a required number of stays or annual spending thresholds to meet. Instead, the perks and benefits come when you pay a flat, monthly fee.

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But is the mycitizenM+ program for you? Let's take a look.

What is citizenM, and where are its hotels?

CitizenM New York Bowery Hotel. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

CitizenM launched its first hotel in 2008 in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). The brand now has 24 hotels in 16 cities: Amsterdam; Boston; Copenhagen; Geneva; Glasgow, Scotland; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London; Los Angeles; New York City; Paris; Rotterdam, Netherlands; San Francisco; Seattle; Taipei, Taiwan; Washington, D.C., and Zurich.

There are six new citizenM hotels opening in 2022 and five more in 2023, including locations in Austin; Chicago; Dublin; Miami; Menlo Park, California; and Rome.

What makes citizenM hotels unique is that the brand aims to place its hotels in central locations in popular cities, avoiding unnecessary perks and offering an affordable nightly rate. For example, its two New York locations are in Times Square and the Bowery with rates starting at $149 per night.

Related: Review: CitizenM Bowery in New York

CitizenM sees itself as "[n]ot just a place to sleep, but somewhere to work, relax and play – just like home. Somewhere with superfast free Wi-Fi, tech that makes life easy, and a great bed to crash in at the end of a long day." Founder Rattan Chadha called this concept "affordable luxury for the people."

While this is an interesting concept, the hotel chain has lacked something we've come to expect from hotels these days: a loyalty program.

Introducing mycitizenM+

The Living Room area provides an incredibly vibrant place to work. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

The rewards program from citizenM is called mycitizenM+, and it's definitely not like the hotel loyalty programs you're used to. First things first: There are no points.

Instead of keeping track of points to earn your way to a status level, you pay a $12 monthly fee. There are no other requirements for attaining this status.

You don't need to stay a certain number of nights each year or meet the required spending thresholds. In this respect, paying $144 over the course of a year is likely cheaper than what it costs to attain a similar level of status with programs like Marriott Bonvoy or World of Hyatt.

Key perks

Everyone can download the citizenM app to enjoy perks like checking in through the app and generating a mobile key. This saves you time at check-in, since you won't have to wait in line.

The main mycitizenM+ perks include free late checkout, upgrades to a premium-view room and a 10% discount on the lowest rate available. Of course, late checkout and upgrades are both subject to availability.

Elite members are also first in line for chat assistance and get early access to discounts and invitations to members-only events. Members also have guaranteed room availability on reservations made at least 48 hours in advance.

Related: Which hotel programs offer guaranteed availability benefits?

Since the main perks involve a 10% discount and room upgrades, it's worth investigating what value these provide. Do they offset the cost of paying for mycitizenM+ each year?

Consider this sample booking at citizenM Times Square. You could save $71.73 as a mycitizenM+ member on a two-night weekend stay, nearly half of the cost of an annual membership.

(Screenshot from citizenm.com)

In terms of late checkout and premium views, these add-ons don't come free for non-elite members. Late checkout on a three-night stay during the week in Los Angeles will cost $69 per room. And a premium room upgrade costs $20.19 per night, for a total cost of $60.57 on a three-night stay.

(Screenshot from citizenm.com)

Between these two stays, you could possibly recoup the value of your membership ($144 per year, paid as $12 per month) through discounts and perks. Since the upgrades on perks aren't technically "money saved," you could recoup the cost of your annual fee after staying approximately five nights in a year.

While you are charged monthly, enrollment is on a yearly basis. Thus, you commit for 12 months when you sign up for mycitizenM+. However, there is a 14-day cancellation policy after starting your membership in the first year.

Membership will automatically renew for subsequent years, unless you opt out or cancel at least 30 days in advance. This same 30-day policy applies to canceling your plan after the first full year, meaning you can cancel in year two and beyond at any point during the membership year. Simply cancel your plan, and payments will end after 30 days.

The full terms and conditions are here.

Evaluating the positives and negatives

The mycitizenM+ program is definitely not like other hotel loyalty programs. Depending on your perspective and your travel style, that could be a good or a bad thing.

In terms of positives, the path to status is simple and cheap. Even if you stay only at the cheapest properties in another hotel program, you won't get to a mid-tier status offering room upgrades for less than $144 in a year. You also don't need to worry about counting your elite nights or how much you've spent with the hotel. The simplicity and cost are definitely perks. There's no effort required, which may be refreshing for people who find the route to hotel status exhausting.

Of course, there are negatives to this approach too.

MycitizenM+ lacks some of the perks we usually associate with hotel elite status, like free breakfast and suite upgrades. Given that there's no points program, you also can't accrue points on your hotel stays and redeem them for an aspirational property later down the line. This is a big deal for road warriors who spend a lot of time on the road for work and use the points earned for family vacations.

There is also no cobranded credit card providing free nights or bonus points on spending. Since all of your stays will be paid stays, we recommend paying for your stays with a travel rewards credit card.

Related: Is hotel elite status worth it anymore?

Comparing mycitizenM+ to other 'pay to play' options

(Photo courtesy of the Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C.)

CitizenM isn't the first hotel program to sell elite status perks outright. For example, InterContinental Ambassador lets you buy status in the IHG One Rewards program without meeting any stay requirements or tracking any requirements along the way, and take advantage of extra perks when you stay at InterContinental hotels and resorts around the world.

At InterContinental properties, Ambassador perks include guaranteed room upgrades (not guaranteed on award redemptions), guaranteed late checkout, a complimentary weekend night valid on the second night of a paid stay, a $20 property credit for food and drinks during your stay, daily bottled water, a second guest in your room for no extra charge and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star status.

When staying at other IHG properties, you'll enjoy Platinum Elite status. This includes 60% bonus points earned on paid stays, reward night discounts, 72-hour guaranteed room availability, room upgrades (based on availability), welcome amenities and early check-in and late checkout (subject to availability).

InterContinental Ambassador status costs $200 or 40,000 IHG points per year. This is more expensive than mycitizenM+, and you won't save a guaranteed amount on your hotel stays. At the same time, it's a more generous suite of perks and there are far more IHG properties out there than citizenM hotels.

Related: Should you buy hotel or airline elite status?

Status via credit card

Another popular option for "buying" elite status is opening a cobranded credit card with a particular hotel group.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee, (see rates and fees) and offers automatic Gold status in the Hilton Honors program. With Gold status, you can enjoy perks like 80% bonus points earned on paid stays, free bottled water during your stay, a fifth night free on award stays, upgrades to preferred rooms, food and beverage credits and welcome gifts on each stay.

Likewise, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card offers automatic Platinum Elite status with IHG, and the card has a $99 annual fee. These are the same IHG Platinum Elite perks discussed previously, but you won't enjoy the InterContinental-specific perks.

You can easily attain status in these programs by having a credit card with a fee under $100, and the perks rival what mycitizenM+ offers. You would also earn points that could help you get free stays in the future, as long as you have paid stays or use the credit card to earn points.

Related: The best hotel credit cards

Bottom line

MycitizenM+ is a unique take on hotel status. Gone are the suite upgrades, white-glove treatment and other concepts of luxury. The idea of points and free nights is completely absent. Instead, the focus is on simplicity, based on key perks like guaranteed discounts, upgrades and late checkout.

For people who have a lot of paid hotel stays or like staying at smaller properties with fewer frills, this could be exciting. It should also appeal to people who don't like tracking their stays throughout the year; instead, they might want something simpler. On the flip side, citizenM has a smaller footprint, so this may not appeal to you if you find yourself heading to lesser-traveled destinations. It also won't appeal to people who want the royal treatment as part of their hotel status.

But for travelers who frequent citizenM properties, it's worth doing the math to see if you can come out ahead with a mycitizenM+ membership.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass please click here.

Featured image by CitizenM Bowery New York Modular Hotel Living Room and Lobby Area (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases