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The Leading Hotels of the World is a collection of more than 400 of the world’s finest hotels, including palace hotels, boutique and design properties, and beach resorts.
Its loyalty program is called Leaders Club and, like other hotel loyalty programs, it offers a range of perks. But one notable difference sets it apart from other programs: Leaders Club charges a fee for membership. Still, the $175 annual fee comes with instant benefits that can make it worthwhile if you’re staying more than a couple of nights at LHW properties in a year.
Members earn points for their stays, which they can redeem for stays later. Here are the details on the Leading Hotels of the World's Leaders Club.
What hotels participate in Leaders Club?
You won’t find bargain-priced hotels in the LHW portfolio — the property list includes some of the world's famous hotels, appealing to well-traveled, well-heeled guests looking for luxury and style.
The well-known hotels in Europe include Hotel Sacher in Vienna and the Ritz Paris, while LHW hotels in the ultra-luxe destinations of Monaco and St. Moritz include the swanky Kulm Hotel St. Moritz. In Asia, there’s the Palace Hotel Tokyo and the towering, modern Reverie Saigon in Vietnam.
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How do you earn points?
Once you pay the annual membership fee and join, the Leaders Club benefits, and the ability to earn and redeem points, kick in for one year.
To be eligible for benefits and to earn and redeem points, you must book a hotel stay online via LHW.com, its reservations center or with a travel agent. You cannot book directly via a hotel website since it isn't an approved LHW channel.
Members earn 1 point for every dollar they spend on the room rate (on as many as three rooms per booking). Unlike in other programs, charges such as food and beverage or spa don't count toward points earning. However, the ability to earn on up to three rooms is great for families or friends traveling together.
There’s an elite status category, known as Leaders Club Sterling, for members who spend at least $5,000 on qualifying stays within a calendar year. It comes with five pre-arrival suite upgrades and a one-time points bonus equal to 5% of your qualifying annual spend in the previous membership year. An invitation-only level, known as Aurelian, is given to the group’s highest spenders and comes with special benefits (as well as a higher annual fee).
Elite status qualification is based on earnings during the calendar year, rather than your specific joining date in Leaders Club.
How do you redeem points?
A free night redemption begins at 4,000 points, which means you would have to spend $4,000 before achieving enough points for an award night.
There are no award charts. The number of points needed for a night is based on the dates and current rates of an individual property, with blackout dates being determined by each individual hotel. The only way to see availability and rates is by searching for your preferred dates.
When you pay for your stay with points, you receive the benefits of being a Leaders Club member, just as you do when paying cash.
If you choose not to renew your Leaders Club membership, any points in your account will no longer be valid for redemption. But if you have a change of heart within 30 days of membership expiration, you can recoup those points by renewing for another year.
What are the benefits?
During the first year, members receive a pre-arrival upgrade with their first stay. In the next calendar year of membership, they receive another. To use it, members must request it when making a reservation, and if available, it will be confirmed online within three days of their stay.
Members get early check-in and late checkout privileges (based on availability), daily continental breakfast for two (only for one room) and free wireless Internet as well as members-only rates and discounts.
At check-in, guests are eligible for a one-category room upgrade based on availability if they haven’t already requested a pre-arrival room upgrade at the time of reservation.
How Leaders Club compares with other hotel rewards programs
These benefits are similar to programs like the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. These program rates often come with an on-property amenity like a food, beverage or spa credit or a welcome gift. But for the AmEx and Chase programs, you qualify by carrying a certain credit card. In Leading Hotels of the World, instead of having to carry a specific credit card, members pay the $175 annual fee.
Another difference: Booking directly with Leading Hotels of the World assures the lowest rate. Booking a hotel through the Chase or AmEx credit card programs sometimes leads to a slightly higher rate, which can be offset by the value of the benefits received.
Member hotels sometimes gift first-year Leaders Club memberships, presumably to high-spending or frequent guests (the company doesn’t publicize the how or why of free memberships). For example, The Reverie Saigon in Vietnam has taken care of the one-year enrollment fee for select guests.
Is the Leaders Club right for you?
If you stay at LHW properties, Leaders Club could make sense. Upgrades, free continental breakfast, the best room rates and other perks will, for some travelers, more than outweigh the $175 fee. Plus, you get to wake up in some of the most luxurious 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 2021, 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