Lesser-Known Hotel Rewards Programs with Big Value

If you go beyond the main hotel chains, you'll find opportunities to earn rewards at boutique and luxury hotels.

Ramsey QubeinDec 25, 2020
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The big hotel loyalty programs out there, like Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, get a lot of attention due to the size of their portfolios and their ample ways to earn and redeem points. But sometimes there can be great value to unlock from a smaller program, especially if their hotel options fit your lodging preferences.

These hotel loyalty programs are small enough to fly under the radar but offer benefits big enough to be on your radar.

The Leading Hotels of the World Leaders Club

Photo courtesy of Palace Elisabeth, Hvar Heritage Hotel.

Leaders Club is the loyalty program of The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) and delivers benefits at more than 400 global hotels. Member hotels include luxurious properties like Palace Elisabeth, Hvar Heritage Hotel in Croatia and Villa Magna in Madrid.

While it carries a $175 annual fee, the program packs in benefits at high-end hotels from the moment you join, including free continental breakfast, wireless internet and upgrade priority at arrival. Even better, members get a complimentary pre-arrival upgrade to use every calendar year after completing one stay. There’s no requirement to reach a certain status level to take advantage of these built-in amenities.

How LHW points work

Members earn 1 point for every eligible dollar spent (on up to three rooms per booking), and points can be redeemed for a hotel night starting at 4,000 points. Leaders Club, like other programs, operates a dynamic pricing model, which means that the price in points varies by date and location.

Status upgrades

Those who spend at least $5,000 within the calendar year at participating properties earn Leaders Club Sterling status. This membership level costs the same but comes with five pre-arrival upgrades to apply to upcoming stays and a 5% renewal bonus on your annual qualifying spend from the previous year.

If you stay (and spend) enough with The Leading Hotels of the World program, you may be invited to join the Aurelian status tier, which gives you access to even more benefits.

Stash Hotel Rewards

Photo courtesy of The Marlin Hotel Miami Beach.

Stash Hotel Rewards appeals to independently owned hotels like The Marlin Hotel in Miami Beach that like being part of a large loyalty program while maintaining their individuality. Stash Hotel Rewards divides its properties between Stash Partner Hotels and Stash Approved Hotels.

Due to their dynamic pricing model, it’s difficult to determine the number of points you’ll need to book a free stay.

How Stash points work

Members earn 5 points for every eligible dollar they spend at a Stash Partner Hotel and 3 points per dollar at a Stash Approved Hotel.

There are more than 1,000 participating properties around the United States, the Caribbean and Central America. Interestingly, members can reserve stays — and earn 1 point per dollar spent — at other hotels via the Stash Hotel Rewards site, even if the properties are not part of their partner or approved list.

Status upgrades

The program is fairly simple with no elite status tiers or point expiration dates. Keep tabs on their deals page to find occasional bonus point offers.

VOILÀ Hotel Rewards

Photo courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels.

VOILÀ, a global grouping of independent hotels, has hundreds of properties where members can earn and redeem points around the world. Participating hotels include the carved-into-a-cliffside Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik in Croatia — which underwent a total renovation in 2019 — and Faena Hotel Miami Beach, located along the famous Collins Avenue.

How VOILÀ points work

For every eligible dollar spent, guests earn 10 points, which can be redeemed later for free hotel stays.

There is no award chart, but when you enter the dates for a desired stay, the program will give you the option to redeem your points for an award night. Members can also redeem their points for gift cards with numerous partners, including American Airlines, Amazon and Best Buy.

Status upgrades

Beyond the free Silver membership, the program offers two elite tiers, Gold and Platinum. Gold status is earned after 10 eligible stays during a consecutive 12-month period and awards members a 25% points earning bonus. Platinum is earned after 20 eligible nights and awards a 50% points earning bonus.

Other benefits of elite status include early check-in, late checkout and room upgrades. Platinum members will enjoy special welcome amenities and complimentary access to the executive lounge if the hotel has one.

Omni Select Guest

Photo courtesy of Omni Hotels & Resorts.

In addition to being part of the DISCOVERY loyalty program, Omni Hotels & Resorts also operates the Select Guest Loyalty program. Since this secondary program’s hotels are all within North America, members can enjoy benefits domestically with Omni Select Guest as well as internationally through DISCOVERY.

Members can access immediate perks like complimentary Wi-Fi and express check-in and checkout. Starting with the second stay, additional benefits like daily complimentary beverages, shoe shine and ironing services become available.

How Select Guest works

There is no award chart or points to keep up with, which makes this free program simple and easy to understand. Members earn one credit for each night stay. Once members have stayed 20 qualifying nights / earned 20 credits, they will earn one free night certificate for any Omni property.

There are no categories or restrictions to navigate. Business travelers can rack up credits at city-center hotels and then redeem their free night at a resort — a nice break from worrying about points or award chart categories in other programs.

Status upgrades

All new members are automatically in the Gold tier for their first 0-9 stays. Starting with your 10th stay, you will upgrade to the Platinum tier, which includes all Gold benefits, plus new ones like Double Award Credits toward free nights and late checkout. Members who’ve stayed 30+ nights are part of the elite Black membership level. This tier offers all of the above and then some, including premium Wi-Fi, unlimited complimentary pressings and a DISCOVERY local experience award.

1865 Privilege by Langham

Photo courtesy of Michael Weber/Langham Hospitality Group.

The name of this hotel rewards program refers to the year when The Langham, London opened as Europe’s first Grand Hotel. Now, you can find eligible Langham and Cordis properties around the world.

How 1865 Privilege by Langham works

1865 Privilege by Langham membership is free with two elite levels and an exclusive, invitation-only top tier. The program doesn’t award points for a future free stay like many hotel programs. Instead, it focuses on immediate benefits to enjoy during a stay. The more nights you stay, the further up the membership ladder you’ll climb, unlocking new perks along the way.

Status upgrades

All members can enjoy late checkouts, free Wi-Fi and the ability to earn airline miles for your preferred qualifying frequent flyer account.

  • The next tier, Gateway, is earned after three eligible stays or nine nights within a calendar year, and members enjoy welcome fruit and priority waitlist for room upgrades.

  • Voyager members — five eligible stays or 15 nights within a calendar year — can choose an additional welcome amenity and receive one annual suite upgrade voucher in addition to potential room upgrades with each stay.

  • The invitation-only Destiny membership tier adds a one-way airport limo transfer, two welcome amenities and reservation assistance from the hotel managing director’s office.

Note that the benefits for each tier vary for the Chelsea Hotel, Toronto.

If you’re looking for some benefits to improve your stay, programs like 1865 Privilege by Langham are an easy way to tap into them.

Aqua-Aston Hospitality A-List

Aqua-Aston offers full-service resorts, hotels, budget properties and condominiums to travelers in Costa Rica and the U.S. Their A-List rewards program stands out for a few key reasons.

How Aqua-Aston’s A-List works

Aqua-Aston’s A-List program is unique — instead of earning points to redeem for hotel stays, members are eligible for discounts and priority access to promotions before they become available to the public. This gives members the chance to secure the best room categories, especially during peak season, before others book them. Other times, there are promotions only open to A-List members.

When checking in, all A-List members are eligible for a space-available room upgrade and receive a free “eco-kit” containing a reusable tote and water bottle, hand sanitizer and reef-safe sunscreen to enjoy during their stay and back at home.

Status upgrades

While the A-List program doesn’t have any tiers, members can unlock bigger discounts for longer stays. Members can receive more than the typical 10% discount when they stay for a week or more, with even bigger discounts on stays 30+ days in length.

Fiesta Rewards

Photo courtesy of La Coleccion Resorts by Fiesta Americana.

If you’re traveling to Mexico, Fiesta Rewards has a lot of options in store for you. Its brands include Live Aqua, Grand Fiesta Americana, Naay Tulum, Fiesta Americana, The Explorean, Fiesta Inn, Gamma Hotels and One Hotels.

How Fiesta Rewards works

Members can redeem points for a night, convert them to airline miles for a handful of qualifying partner loyalty programs or trade them for products in their online store (including Amazon gift cards). Award nights follow a dynamic pricing model, which means the number of points required for a night depends on general demand, plus your preferred location and dates.

Status upgrades

All members are automatically in the Classic tier and earn 10 points per dollar spent and free night certificates at beach hotels (valid on your second stay whether a paid or award reservation), but the elite levels raise the perks. The first elite tier, Gold, is achieved after earning 15,000 points within a year. It comes with a 10% bonus earned per stay and discounts on food, beverages and spa services.

Platinum status, earned after accruing 40,000 points within 12 months, sweetens the deal with lounge reservation access, a 15% points earning bonus and room upgrades at participating hotels.

Those who earn 125,000 points within 12 months achieve Black status. This comes with a complimentary massage, 20% bonus points accrual and even steeper discounts on services.

The bottom line

Just because a loyalty program isn’t a household name doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth pursuit. These lesser-known hotel rewards programs offer big value and can sweeten your next vacation if you play your points right.


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