In a world of declining customer service and disappearing perks, being an Elite member of a hotels or airlines frequent traveler program is often a nice way to restore some comfort to your travel: An upgrade to a nicer seat, a free checked luggage, free internet or a nicer room. But for many people who only travel for business or leisure occasionally, the number of points or miles required to achieve even the lowest elite level seem unachievable. Do not despair – you can leverage promotion to help you score the points you need for a little more comfort in your travel.
My first example is Accor’s LeClub hotel program (review coming soon). While it is not the most generous program, it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye and Accor does have a huge number of hotels across Europe and Asia, often providing very nice hotels at reasonable rates in out-of-the-way places.
They have declared war on the booking portals who today provide most of their bookings for substantial commissions. Given the poor shape of LeClub in the past and the fact that most of the booking portals, like hotels.com (read review here) or agoda (read my review here) meet or beat Accor’s own rates regularly, there was never much need to book at Accor’s own site or collect points in their program. I would usually just book at hotels.com and get a 10% discount on Accors’ rate.
That is changing with aggressive promotions from Accor to get lower rates on their site or get points or status when booking through them. Some of the recent promtions were tied to their airline partners, offering you lots of miles per stay, like Air Canada (5,000miles/stay), Lufthansa (3,000 miles/stay) or Air Berlin (2,000 miles/stay). If you value those miles conservatively at 1ct/mile, that’s a $20-50 reward per stay. Now, if you are on a weeklong business stay or 2 week vacation at a $150/night hotel, that’s not much. But how about a one-night stay at a cheap hotel? For example, Accor has plenty of very nice hotels all over Europe or South East Asia for less than $60 – you can stay almost for free after considering the award!
What makes this promotion even better is how Accor’s IT systems process these promotion miles: Accor LeClub will award you their point currency, then convert them to airline miles and transfer them to your airline membership account. Because the conversion rate is typically 2 Accor points to 1 airline mile, they will post between 4,000 and 10,000 points to your LeClub account before transferring them to your frequent flier account. The nice side-effect of that process is that you very quickly reach the needed points for status in the LeClub program: A single stay under the Air Canada promotion will get you Gold Status and 3 stays will get you Platinum status! You would usually need 30 nights for Gold and 60 nights for Platinum! If you pick a hotel for under $50, you basically get Gold status and your stay for free, after considering the value of the miles with Air Canada!
While I’m not a big fan of Accor LeClub, I actually stay regularly at Accor hotels – they are reliable and usually good value across Asia and Europe. So, I had to try this out. I’m currently trying to get a free flight on AirBerlin without setting foot on one of their planes or getting a credit card. While it is the weakest of the current promotions, it works best for me and I decided to book three separate 1-night stays at their properties in Thailand to get 6,000 miles with Air Berlin (putting me over the treshold for a one-way Europe-SE Asia business class ticket) AND Gold Status with Accor Le Club. I will post reviews of the hotels as well as the results of the promotion (keep your fingers crossed) later.
There are promtions like this literally every week with different airlines and hotel chains. I recommend that you look at the airlines and hotels you are looking to stay with over the next year or so. You can get an idea of the type of promtions that come around here (insert loyaltylobby) or here (frequentflyerbonus) and sign up for the target airline/hotel marketing emails (I know, they are a drag, but really helpful in this case!). Once a promotion pops up that you can easily achieve and that give you something you’ll need for future travel, jump on it! Even if you end up doing a trip that you didn’t plan on, as my example shows, you might get the trip and the status almost for free after all rewards are counted!
Have fun with promotions and getting the status you never thought you could get!
Travel better, enjoy travel again!