I’ve just been on holiday in Thailand for 7 days – 1 night was spent in Pattaya, the rest in Bangkok. What was awesome about the trip was that I didn’t pay a single night for hotels! This was made possible thanks to a combination of my SPG points and Accor Advantage Plus membership. With my SPG points, I awarded myself 3 free nights at the Aloft Hotel Bangkok at 3,000 points per night. With Accor Advantage Plus, I made use of my 2 free nights, redeemable at any Accor Group hotel – one night was redeemed at the Novotel on Siam Square Bangkok and the other at the Sofitel Hotel Sukhumvit, Bangkok. The night in Pattaya was paid for in full using my Accor hotel vouchers.
Loyalty programs such as SPG and Accor are a way of getting you free nights and this post explains the difference between the 2. There are heaps of other hotel loyalty programs available such as Hilton HHonors, Shangri-la’s Golden Circle and the Priority Club Rewards, but I find the SPG and Le Club Accorhotels to be best suited for me.
SPG is the rewards program for people who stay at any of the 9 Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. It’s made up of The Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis, W Hotels, Aloft, Element by Westin, The Luxury Collection, and Four Points by Sheraton.There are 3 levels of membership: Preferred, Gold and Platinum.
Le Club Accorhotels rewards program is valid at Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio (except Adagio Access), Ibis, Ibis Styles and Thalassa Sea and Spa. There are 4 levels of membership: Classic, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
For either reward program, you will earn points per night’s stay at participating hotels. The higher your membership level, the more points you earn by the dollar. The more points you have, the sooner you can redeem free nights. As you can see from the list of SPG (Starwood) hotels I have mentioned above, they are mostly high end or expensive hotels (except for Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton). Starwood has over 1,000 properties throughout the world and every single property belongs to a category level from 1 through to 7. Basically, the higher the property’s category, the more points are required to redeem a free night. Note that the category levels are not determined by the hotel brand. For example, the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Hotel and Spa in Indonesia is a Level 1 category hotel (requires 3,000 points to redeem a free night on a weekday), but the Sheraton Kuta Bali Resort is a Level 4 category hotel, requiring 10,000 points for a free night redemption. If you stay often enough at a Starwood property and earn, say, 20,000 points, it can count as 6 free nights at a Level 1 category hotel or just 2 nights at a Level 4 category. So the decision is yours on whether you want to go for quantity (more free nights) or quality (stay at an uber fancy hotel that costs a lot points per night). When redeeming free nights with SPG, you therefore have to know what hotel is what category to work out your eligibility for free nights.
On the other hand, I find Accor’s rewards program to be much more straight forward: accumulate 2,000 points and you can redeem either a USD 60 or EUR 40 voucher to be used to pay for your stay at any Accor Hotel. Compared to Starwood, Accor has more hotel brands with more variety – from budget hotels costing around USD 50/night to luxury hotels matching that of Starwood’s hotel brands. This rewards program is valid at Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio (except Adagio Access), Ibis, Ibis Styles and Thalassa Sea and Spa. There are 4 levels of membership: Classic, Silver, Gold and Platinum. This rewards program is valid at Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio (except Adagio Access), Ibis, Ibis Styles and Thalassa Sea and Spa. There are 4 levels of membership: Classic, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Another difference between SPG and Le Club Accorhotels is the levels of membership, where SPG has less. I think anyone who has ever progressed from SPG Preferred to Gold membership would have noticed the benefits right away: enhanced room at check-in, late check-out (4pm) and a welcome gift of either extra points, in-room Internet access or complimentary breakfast. Gold SPG membership is achieved after 10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year; this is compared to Le Club Accorhotels where you reach Silver status first after 10 nights and then Gold status after 30 nights in a calendar year. It is annoying that unlike Accor, SPG differentiates ‘stays’ with ‘nights’, where if you book 6 nights straight, it would only count as 1 stay instead of 6. But when you reach 10 stays in a year with SPG, the benefits far outweigh reaching 10 stays/nights at Accor hotels. After reaching 10 nights with Accor (Silver status), the only benefit you get is an extra 50% points per dollar spent on your hotel bill. Le Club Accorhotels’ late check-out, room upgrade and free gift perks are only offered after achieving 30 stays, which is more than the requirement for SPG’s Platinum membership (reached after 25 stays or 50 nights).
I am a SPG Platinum member and an Accor Advantage Plus member (equivalent to Silver status). I definitely love the perks of being Platinum with SPG that offers upgrades to standard suites, club lounge access and so much more! I also genuinely feel that Starwood hotels provide better hospitality than pretty much any other hotel group out there.
These are some of the differences between the 2 rewards programs. I do favour SPG, but I see the 2 compliment each other nicely and accordingly with my travel habits. Because I travel frequently within Indonesia, Starwood hotels are not always offered in the various Indonesian cities I travel to, and so I look for Pullman, Mercure or Novotel Hotels. Starwood hotels can be pretty expensive and so outside of work, I may choose lower end Accor hotels such as the Ibis or Mercure, or I use my SPG points to stay in Starwood hotels. Either way, I try to stick to either Starwood or Accor hotel brands to maximise my reward earnings.
One thing that makes SPG unique is that it not only offers rewards for free nights or flights with participating airlines (as most hotel rewards provide these days), they also have redemption options for entertainment. SPG Moments provide members with the opportunity to bid starpoints for exclusive concerts (Coldplay, Elli Goulding or OneRepublic, to name a few), red carpet movie premieres or exclusive access to sporting events such as the PGA Tour or US Open. They are also pretty good with their annual promotion, like last year, they partnered up with Mastercard for the Two Days of Happy where members stay 5 nights and get 1 night free, or stay 9 nights and get 2 nights free stay at many Starwood properties. This year you get 2,000 points for every 4 nights stay and an extra 10,000 points when you reach 20 nights by April 15 (totalling 18,000 points for this Power Up promotion). That said, SPG offers a lot of ways to earn more points. SPG also has a better app for the iOS or Android, which you can learn about here.
Accor Advantage Plus
I did mention in the beginning of this post that Accor offers complimentary nights. However, this is not part of the free Le Club Accorhotels loyalty program. Instead, complimentary nights are offered under the Accor Advantage Plus program, where you pay around USD 150 to earn benefits such as a 10% discount off the best rate on accommodation, 50% discount when dining in participating hotels and restaurants and of course, complimentary nights at Accor hotels (the initial offer was 1 free night, but I negotiated for 2). There’s a lot of bad reviews out there for this paid program, particularly with the complimentary nights being difficult to redeem during peak season, but to be fair, I used mine just fine. For my review of Accor Advantage Plus, click here.