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Some of the finest and most familiar luxury hotels are part of The Leading Hotels of the World collection. With more than 400 hotels in this elite group, well-heeled guests and those looking to splurge can wake up in palace hotels, boutique and design properties, urban retreats and beach resorts.
For years, LHW's Leaders Club loyalty program seemingly flew under the radar, but recent updates may be changing that. Previously, it charged members a $175 annual fee. The tradeoff was that the fee awarded immediate benefits, which made up for the cost (at least for frequent guests).
In 2021, Leaders Club made some sweeping changes that will make it more appealing to everyone. And those changes are not going away.
Here's what has changed and how you can maximize the perks on your next LHW stay by being part of the Leaders Club program.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
What are the big changes for Leaders Club?
The biggest change to Leaders Club is that it's now a free program.
There's no longer a $175 annual fee — yet you still get the same benefits that came with the paid program. For example, just by being a member, guests enjoy complimentary continental breakfast for two (limited to one room) each morning of their stay. At LHW properties, breakfast is typically an elaborate experience, making membership especially valuable.
If you’re curious about some of the haute cuisine LHW properties serve in the morning, many of its hotels have put their most popular recipes online. It’s a fun way to recreate your favorite travel memories back home.
Another change is that Leaders Club points no longer expire as long as your account remains active. But, just like before, members continue to receive one complimentary, pre-arrival upgrade each year, plus early check-in, late checkout and free Wi-Fi.
Which properties are part of Leading Hotels of the World?
The LHW portfolio is smaller than other hotel collections, but it does include some world-famous hotels. You won’t find many budget options on the list. Instead, LHW focuses on well-known hotels like Hotel Sacher in Vienna and the Ritz Paris in France.
You’ll also find LHW properties in the world’s ultra-luxe, see-and-be-seen destinations like Monaco and St. Moritz, including the swanky Kulm Hotel St. Moritz. In Asia, there’s the Palace Hotel Tokyo and the towering, modern Reverie Saigon in Vietnam.
» Learn more: Questions to ask before joining a hotel loyalty program
How to earn Leaders Club points
As with many other loyalty programs, to be eligible for benefits and the ability to earn and redeem points, you must book directly through the program. A hotel stay should be reserved on LHW.com, at LHW's reservations center or with a travel agent. This means that reservations made directly through a hotel (and not through an approved LHW channel) would not be eligible for Leaders Club perks.
Members earn 1 point for every dollar they spend on the room rate (on as many as three rooms per booking), but not on restaurant, bar or spa charges.
Fans of hotel elite status will appreciate Leaders Club Sterling, which is for members who spend at least $5,000 on qualifying stays within a calendar year. Once you earn Sterling, you’ll receive five pre-arrival suite upgrades annually and a points bonus equal to 5% of your room rate spend after a qualifying stay. Bonus points are earned at a rate of 1 point per $1 and may take up to 10 days to reach your account.
The suite upgrades at LHW properties can pack some incredible monetary savings, as LHM has some of the most elite hotels in the world.
Above Sterling is Aurelian status. Aurelian members are part of an invitation-only group reserved for the highest spenders in Leaders Club.
How to redeem Leaders Club points
Similar to before, a free night redemption begins at 4,000 points. Since there are no award charts, you will have to know your dates of travel first to search on LHW.com and determine the number of points needed for a redemption. For a member with no elite status, it would take $4,000 in spending to achieve 4,000 points.
Without an award chart, it can be hard to plan ahead for how many points you might need, and Leaders Club does not have any credit card transfer partners. The only way to accrue points is by staying at LHW properties.
Similar to loyalty programs like Hilton Honors, Leaders Club uses a dynamic pricing model that determines the number of points needed for a night by factoring in local demand and current rates of an individual property. Each hotel also determines its own blackout dates.
Leaders Club perks are available whether you pay with cash or points.
How Leaders Club compares with other hotel rewards programs
Credit card programs for boutique stays
Loyal readers may recognize some of the Leaders Club benefits as being similar to programs like the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. These two programs are reserved for members with affiliated credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Cardholders who book using these credit cards would receive an on-property amenity like a food, beverage or spa credit or a welcome gift, plus breakfast, space-available room upgrades and potential late checkout.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Since the AmEx and Chase programs are limited to those carrying a certain credit card, they may not be useful to everyone. To its credit, Leaders Club is free to join and useful no matter how you pay.
When booking directly with LHW, guests are assured the lowest rate, too. Not so when booking a hotel through the Chase or AmEx credit card programs, since they sometimes charge higher rates that may offset the value of the benefits received.
More traditional hotel loyalty programs
If comparing Leaders Club to more traditional loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy or World of Hyatt, the LHW program deserves high marks. All members — not just elite status members — are treated to breakfast and upgrade perks. It may take reaching a certain elite status with other programs to be treated to similar perks.
With Leaders Club, those perks are guaranteed. The main benefit of elite status with Leaders Club is earning upgrades and a 5% points bonus after each qualifying stay.
Of course, if your budget only allows a certain price range, Leaders Club may not be the best fit for you, as its properties tend toward the expensive side. But if you're an occasional traveler who likes to stay at high-end brand names like St. Regis or Park Hyatt without status, you might want to consider Leaders Club-participating properties in your next destination.
Is Leaders Club right for you?
The decision as to whether Leaders Club is right for you comes down to where you want to stay and how you like to travel. If you want to make a bold statement and bask in luxury, Leaders Club is a great option since it comes with some value-focused perks that can take the edge off of high rates. Free continental breakfast and at least one upgrade for all members (not just those with elite status) are benefits we can all appreciate.
While the rates at LHW properties tend to be on the high end, the immediate rewards that come with Leaders Club are great for less frequent travelers who like to splurge at the ritziest addresses in the world.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card