As Marriott International announces the sweeping unification of its Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, it’s an excellent time to take a closer look at some of our favorite rewards programs offered by smaller brands, independent hotels, lesser-known hotel collectives, and even hotel booking sites. Because when it comes to points and perks, sometimes smaller is just right.
Club 1 Hotels
As a private wholesaler of hotel rooms, travelers can score some decent discounts by booking hotel rooms or car transfers through this member-only site. What’s even better is that one airline mile can be earned for every dollar spent.
Fans of M.O.
Mandarin Oriental has launched Fans of M.O. that comes with immediate perks for signing up, including free wireless Internet and welcome amenities with each stay. What’s more: When members book directly with Mandarin Oriental, they can choose two bonuses during their stay, including free breakfast, dining and spa credits, early or late checkout, and pressing services. And that’s without having to earn any elite status!
This is as straightforward a program as it gets. Stay 10 nights at any hotel booked through the website and receive one free night. Price or location does not matter, which makes this a lucrative offer for those who do not mind forgoing elite status perks. (Take note that many larger chains require you to book directly to receive such perks as breakfast, upgrades, or free Internet.) A fun insider tip for travelers: You can convert unwanted gift cards from most other retailers into money to spend toward stays booked through hotels.com. This could be a great way to drain gift cards with small balances or to stores that you don’t necessarily visit often. That Christmas gift card to “Sweater City” from grandma can be used toward a free hotel stay!
Preferred Hotels is celebrating its 50th anniversary and offering special bonuses at many of its hotels around the world for members of ‘I Prefer’ program through its Golden Anniversary promotion. For example, The Temple House in Chengdu, China is offering a 50-minute massage to guests who book this promotional rate. Located in the heart of the city, steps from the restored ancient Daci Temple, The Temple House (part of Swire Hotels) blends modern luxury with local history. The Qing Dynasty courtyard that is part of the hotel entrance is like stepping into a fairy tale. Over at The Opposite House in Beijing (another Swire property), the promotion offers guests booking the best available rate a $50 food and beverage credit. This is on top of free wireless Internet and comped minibars in both properties.
Shangri-La Instant Dining Rewards
Shangri-La offers a unique program called The Table from Golden Circle that allows travelers to redeem Golden Circle points for on-the-spot food and beverage credits. Travelers love that it is an instant rebate for their travel instead of the former system that required redeeming points for gift certificates in advance. Time to eat up!
Small Luxury Hotels of the World Invited
Recently relaunched, the Invited program by Small Luxury Hotels of the World brings a coordinated loyalty program to the 520 individually owned boutique hotels that make up its global portfolio. That’s great news for those who like to steer clear of big chains in search of something more local and authentic to the area. Joining comes with free breakfast and wireless Internet with your first stay, and those with six or more stays (or $6,000 more in spend at the group’s hotels) earn top “Indulged” elite status boasting free night vouchers, upgrades, and member-only invitations.
The Godfrey Passport
This new program for Godfrey hotels celebrates the independent brand’s continued growth with the latest opening of The Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa Bay. Guests receive a passport upon their first stay and can score a free night at any property if they stay at two other Godfrey hotels within 18 months. Plain and simple, this could be one of the easiest ways to obtain a free night in Boston, Chicago, Tampa, or soon, Hollywood.
Sonesta Travel Pass
On the verge of signing up its millionth member, Sonesta Travel Pass has recently restructured its program and now as few as seven nights or 15,000 points earns a free night for “member”-level travelers. A current promotion offers double points on rates of at least $99 and reservations booked between now and May 15 and stays between now and June 30.
“Stay Wanderful” offers a unique value proposition to independent hotel companies that want to provide guests with perks in exchange for booking directly. Hotel Hi-Ho in Fairfield, Connecticut, and the Menin Hospitality portfolio of hotels, for example, take advantage of the program offering guests instant rewards like Uber or Starbucks credits or vouchers for cash off future flights. And with Menin, the #MHPerks program offers special privileges and discounts at any of its properties.
It’s not just about racking up points but also taking advantage of discounts and perks for being loyal to the same brand. TTC Loyalty covers a host of travel brands, including Brendan Vacations and its Past Guest Program, which offers 5 percent off future travel on certain trips, and the River Heritage Club for Uniworld, which tacks on perks like complimentary onboard laundry, cabin upgrades, cocktail party invitations, and sailing discounts.
It never hurts to ask
If staying frequently at the same hotel, it never hurts to ask if the hotel offers any special perks for those who visit often. Even at larger chain hotels, some have special programs for their most loyal customers in addition to earning the normal points. For example, the InterContinental San Francisco has the Milestone program offering bonuses on guests’ 10th, 25th, and 50th stays at the hotel (and beyond). Free cocktails, suite upgrades, and dining credits are among the perks, but the ultimate prize is having one of the hotel’s top suites named for you after staying 250 times at the hotel. The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, an artsy boutique hotel in Honolulu, offers free valet parking and food and beverage credits for joining its Swim Club program and spending money at the property.
>>Next: Marriott Just Shook Up the Loyalty Game—Here’s What’s in It for You