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Author Topic: Guest Rewards "Payback"
Gilbert B Norman
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Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal had an interesting Middle Seat article regarding the "payback" of the various hotel rewards plans:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/hotel-rewards-programs-the-best-and-the-rest-1445407202

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  • The many travelers who have never bothered to play in hotel loyalty programs should take note. Marriott Rewards returned an average 9.4% from every dollar spent on hotel rooms when redeemed for reward stays later, a hefty bonus for travelers. That meant if you spent $100 at Marriott, on average you got back $9.40 in free rooms, the study found.

    Starwood’s SPG, the loyalty program of Sheraton, Westin and other brands, paid back 6.1% on average. IHG Rewards, which includes InterContinental and Holiday Inn, and Hilton HHonors were close to Marriott’s payout, at 8.6% and 8.9%, respectively. Starwood’s program, however, surpassed its rivals in its payback for credit-card loyalty points.

I must say I'm surprised by this article's findings. I simply "can't be bothered" with the airline's and their "fly on a Blue Moon" requirements to redeem points (miles), as well as their (this IS real life) routings such as ORD-MSN-SUX-DEN/DEN-RNO where obviously the travelers simply wanted ORD-RNO. This year, my United points - and I had about 20K of them having flown overseas - went to Wounded Warriors. I belong to the United plan only because I do most of my flying on them (real lot; four trips this year) and it makes it easier to book a flight.

Hotels have always seemed straight forward to me; you either have enough points, or you don't! But I have noticed, along with the article, that IHG has become more stingy, for hotels that always used to be 10K are now 15K a night. Marriott, I find, remains generous, for on a trip to Fredericksburg that I had to cancel account illness within my host's family and otherwise would have been on right now, Marriott would have allowed two nights at their TownePlace brand for 20K.

With all of this as preamble for those who are in the plan, how liberal is Amtrak Guest Rewards? It seems like there are a lot here who ride about in Sleepers compliments of the plan. Since I joined the plan, just as I did United's, to expedite the on-line booking process (and I guess to "be one of the boys" around here), and have never redeemed any of my some 15K points (if AGR offered a charity for donations, they'd be gone), what do those around here, especially those also in airline and hotel plans, think of AGR generosity, or lack thereof?

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
notelvis
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I am a member of 2 loyalty plans - Amtrak Guest Rewards and Choice Hotels (Comfort Suites among others).

Choice Hotels offers a pretty straightforward redemption plan of anywhere from 8,000 - 20,000 points per night depending on the quality of the property, the location, and seasonal travel patterns...... bookable via their website and the cost clearly identified up front. The earning of their points is a little murky because they have a myriad of promotions and always seem to be coming out of one or going into another...... but still, it isn't difficult to log in and determine how many points I have vs. how many points I need.

Because of this program, I take a look at Choice Hotel properties first when looking to book a room in a location I have not been to. I suppose that's the purpose of such a program in the first place. I have no qualms booking with another hotel brand though when the Choice Hotels property doesn't suit my needs for a particular trip.

With Amtrak I have always felt that the AGR program is generous in certain situations. Under the old 'zone map' redemption plan, 15,000 points for a roomette Portland, OR to Denver, CO meals included is a 'good deal'. On the other hand, 20,000 points for Chicago to Washington on the Cardinal with no full diner is not. By that same token, the sleeper line I would most likely use would be on the Silver Star from Raleigh, NC to visit the mother-in-law in Winter Park, FL. Even when (if) the full diner returns to the Silver Star, this is not a trip that I would consider 'good value' for my AGR points because the only meal that would be eaten on board would be breakfast. This is an example of where I would buy the transportation and accommodations outright rather than use points.

Looking ahead - I do have one sleeper trip booked going forward...... a March 2016 roomette on the Crescent from Atlanta to Philadelphia. Because I have already booked it, I paid 14,500 AGR points (that's 15,000 less 5% rebate for holding the AGR credit card). Using the online 'points estimator', this trip would run just a little south of 14,000 points on the new AGR plan. That 15,000 Portland-Denver ride would be more in the 27,000 point range with the new AGR plan.

So....... I'm coming to the same conclusion as many others have - the new AGR plan will be of great benefit going forward to day-tripper coach riders and of some benefit for shorter overnight trips such as ATL-PHD or for trips between Chicago and the east coast which are one night out rides falling into what used to be two redemption zones. Those of us who have relied on AGR points for long-distance rides on the western transcontinentals will be getting far less bang for our points. In my case it will mean either fewer trips (which is OK..... I rarely have the time to do everything I would like anyway) or doing my solo overnight trips in roomette as opposed to bedroom..... those bedroom trips being a solo luxury that I would otherwise not have splurged for were it not for a healthy collection of AGR points in my account.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

Posts: 4203 | From: Western North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
palmland
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I think that's a good assessment, David. It certainly makes business sense, not so good for railfans.

I'll try to give some 'live' reports on our next grand western tour in a couple weeks. First part is courtesy of Southwest starting Wednesday.

As to hotel loyalty programs, Marriott does seem to have a good program. Usually we get a free night each year as part of a promotional program and credit card of choice is chase Marriott. With a little shopping you can get a decent rate. Will stay in a Courtyard in San Francisco for about $150. Not cheap but it is a big city.

Posts: 2394 | From: Camden, SC | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
notelvis
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Considering that rooms (of the Hampton Inn variety) in our area run $189.00 on weekends in October, $150 in San Francisco sounds reasonable!

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

Posts: 4203 | From: Western North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:
Considering that rooms (of the Hampton Inn variety) in our area run $189.00 on weekends in October, $150 in San Francisco sounds reasonable!

About this time last year we went to San Francisco and paid something like $150 per night in a clean-but-basic Motel 6 (GBN, steady with that blood pressure) - and that was well away from the city. This year, when cousins asked if we wanted to take Amtrak to San Francisco from Los Angeles around Thanksgiving, we liked the idea but balked at the potential prices. Imagine our surprise when we were told that the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway was just $126 per night (2 blocks from the cable car) and Amtrak was $60 each way, roughly. Difficult to say no! Even roomettes were $109 at one point, 6 weeks before travel, virtually covering the 2x2 meals in the diner alone (so THAT's why they're losing money!).

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Geoff M.

Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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