This is why you need to sign up for hotel programs before booking your room.

l’ve already posted about how you can sign up for hotel programs. Not surprisingly, I’ve certainly signed up for quite a few. When I look at AwardWallet, I see that I have accounts with these hotel programs:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Hilton Honors
  • World of Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Le Club Accorhotels
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • La Quinta Rewards
  • M Life (MGM Resorts)
  • Kimpton Karma Rewards

I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t enrolled in the last two programs on this list until this week. I signed up for them because I was staying, or thinking about staying, in hotels belonging to these programs. You are going to get some benefit if you are a member of that hotel’s program when you stay at their hotels, even if it is as simple as free wifi or not getting the worst room in the hotel.

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Kimpton Hotel Allegro – Chicago

Kimpton Karma Rewards

We are planning a stay in Chicago for a long weekend this summer, when we go to see “Hamilton” again. I’ve had my eye on a couple of hotels that would be good for our stay and finally got around to booking one. One of them was the Kimpton Hotel Allegro. The prices had gone up since the last time I looked and when I checked on TripAdvisor the the least expensive room now cost $279 a night, which is the rack rate. I did go to the hotel to search if there were any discounts and AAA prices showed a bit lower (this is one of the reasons I keep my AAA membership – lower hotel rates).

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AAA Rates for Hotel Allegro

Since this was a much better rate than any other website was offering, I signed up for a Kimpton Karma Rewards account and went to make a reservation. After signing up and logging into my account, this rate popped up.

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Kimpton Karma Exclusive rate

So not only was this rate $55 less than the rack rate, it is also $21 less than the AAA rate that I found. You know what it took me to get this lower rate? Less than five minutes to sign up for an account and now I also get free wifi and a “Raid the Mini Bar” credit upon check in. Not bad!

MGM Resorts – M Life

We are not gamblers and we really have no idea about Las Vegas. We depended on you to give us suggestions on what to do while were there, and you really delivered, with comment after comment on our Facebook page!  I also spent quite a bit of time deciding where to stay, finally choosing the Delano with the AMEX benefits I’ll get there. Since I was staying at an MGM Resort hotel, I decided to sign up for the M Life program.

I remembered a post I read a while ago on Heels First Travel about how having a M Life membership can save you on hotels. I signed up and was immediately granted Sapphire status, the lowest level in the program. Just for fun, I looked for rates at the Luxor, one of the hotels I was considering before.

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Regular Rate
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M Life Rate

Just for signing up for M Life, the rate I was offered is $16 a night less than before. And that’s with only having the entry level Sapphire status; if you are a higher level then you will get even better pricing than this! If you happen to have status with Hyatt, you can match that to M Life. Having the Hyatt Credit card grants you Discoverist level and you can match that to M Life Pearl which will get you free self parking. Mommy Points, one of the blogs I follow, gives a full description of how to match status (unfortunately, the best perks she mentions were eliminated in March 2017).

These lower rates at the Luxor will make me reconsider where we might stay in Las Vegas (I know Sharon is just thrilled about me having to go over all of these hotels again). (Edit from Sharon: just kill me now…)

These are just two examples of why you should always sign up for hotel loyalty programs even if you will never stay enough to earn status. The benefits of being a member far outweigh the costs (it’s free!) of signing up.

What’s the best thing you’ve every received for being a member of a hotel’s loyalty program? Share your experiences with us in the comments or write us on Facebook and Twitter.

The joy of being disloyal

When it comes to making travel reservations, I’m disloyal. There, I said it and truth be told I get a bit of a thrill in making that statement. You see, I am an Eagle Scout. Therefore, loyalty is part of the deal. Right here, second on the list behind being trustworthy. 

00000460 - Version 2A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy,
  • Loyal,
  • Helpful,
  • Friendly,
  • Courteous,
  • Kind,
  • Obedient,
  • Cheerful,
  • Thrifty,
  • Brave,
  • Clean,
  • and Reverent.

So why am I not loyal when it comes to my travel? Simply stated, I don’t travel enough to have anyone value my loyalty. Last year we stayed in hotels for 34 nights and flew 19,485 miles, which is a lot for us.
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Even if I had paid for all those hotel nights and flights (which I didn’t), I’d barely make it into the lowest level of loyalty with any major airline or hotel. It’s just not enough business for them to value my loyalty.

That’s not saying I don’t have status. I’m able to keep status with several hotel chains. I just didn’t earn it by staying in hotels. Instead, I have it by having credit cards.

  • Starwood Gold  – Provided by having the American Express Platinum Card
  • Access to Starwood club lounges – by having the SPG AMEX Business Card
  • Marriott Gold – Matched with Starwood post the merger of the two companies
  • IHG Platinum – Provided by having the IHG Credit Card
  • Hilton Silver – Downgraded from Diamond. I received that by a promotion that  matched my Starwood and IHG status.

We did actually earn Marriott Silver status last year based on stays, but we use our account with Gold status because of the increased benefits.

The problem is that while having this status is nice, I don’t have to do anything to keep it beyond keeping the credit cards that give me the status. I’ll take advantage of the status I have at those hotels when I stay there, which includes, possibly, a better room. I  just don’t have to go out of my way to stay with any specific brand.

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Not having hotel loyalty means that we are able to take advantage of a mistake offer at the Waldorf Astoria in New York before it closed for renovations.
The lack of loyalty to hotels and airlines is a very freeing experience. I have no hotel that I need to stay at to get enough stays to re-qualify next year, while I see people going through all this work for status just to get a free breakfast, a nicer room and possibly a upgrade to a suite (if the hotel feels like giving them one).

Let me look at my upcoming hotel stays:

  • Quality Inn – Dillon, SC (Close to South of the Border)
  • Hampton Inn – Charlotte, NC (getting 2X points by Hilton promotion  and saving $35 with an American Express offer.
  • Kimpton Hotel Allegro – Chicago, IL – saving $50 using American Express offer for HotelStorm 
  • Fitzpatrick Grand Central – New York, NY – booking through Travelocity earning 7% back through eBates and saving $47 with a 9% off coupon.
  • Candy Cane Inn – Anaheim, Ca – Saved $190 with Citi Prestige 4th night benefit.

I have stays with 3 different hotel chains (Choice, Hilton and Kimpton) and two independent hotels. I’m maximizing the offers that are available and I’m able to stay at a hotel that fits the need for each of my trips. I’m also able to stay at interesting locations that are not a part of any loyalty program, if I want.

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We had the entire attic level of the J. Palen House when we stayed in Cleveland. We couldn’t have booked this room if we were worried about gathering nights to qualify for status.
What about my flights? Since airlines award miles based on cost, I will never fly enough to earn status so I’m not compelled to work to give anyone my loyalty. I use my miles for flights when appropriate but will pay cash when necessary.

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Not needing to chase status with any airline has allowed us to enjoy JetBlue nonstop flights from Orlando to our vacation destinations like Austin and New York
If I want a nicer room at a hotel, I’ll pay the extra money for it. We fly different airlines to and from our destination more often than we fly the same airline (depending on price and schedule) because I can book the airline I want, flying the time that I want, and get the seat I’m willing to pay for. I never need to worry that I will not have enough stay credits or feel the need to book a room with points and cash instead of points. I will be able to stay at the independent hotel or the bed and breakfast if I want to.

I’m disloyal……… and I love it.

Do you feel compelled to stay loyal to a hotel or airline or are you a free agent?
Let us know how you feel in the comments or keep touch on Facebook or Twitter.