Becoming a member of a hotel loyalty program sounds like a status achieved only by the most frequent of travelers. But the truth is, anyone can sign up and gain instant benefits and rewards upon booking, and it won’t cost you a single penny. There also aren’t travel requirements you’d have to meet before you can start to take advantage of their perks. Whether you travel just once a year or jetset for business every month, hotel loyalty programs are beneficial to you. We’re here to help you understand them.
What Are Hotel Loyalty Programs?
Hotel loyalty programs are membership-only programs that almost every major hotel chain offers to all of their guests. These programs offer a number of benefits for their members (we’ll go into details in a minute) and are completely free to join. Hotels offer these programs to encourage their guests to book direct instead of using third party booking sites. (Read here for why this is a smart choice.)
But these programs really are a win-win for you as well. We’ve compiled a list of all the benefits you can receive by being a hotel loyalty member. You can take our word for it too… Everyone at Room Key is a member of at least 6 hotel loyalty programs. Consider us the experts!
1. Loyalty Rates Are Cheaper
Not many people are aware that hotels actually give lower rates to members of their loyalty programs. These rates are also the lowest rates you’ll find on the market, so this is easily the most valuable benefit to being a part of one of these programs. You don’t have to hit any stay or dollar minimums before being able to book a loyalty rate. You can even sign up as you book and still get that low rate. From then on, you’ll qualify for the lowest hotel rates available and start getting all the other perks that come with the territory as well.
2. Members Can Cancel for Free
Life happens, and things come up. That’s why free cancellations are very important for many travelers. Sadly, we’ve heard way too many stories of people not being able to cancel their hotel stays. Most of the time, it’s because they booked through a third-party booking site who actually has very little control over your reservation once they take your booking.
When you book using sites like Expedia or Priceline, your reservation isn’t directly with the hotel, so you’ll have to read each site’s cancellation policy carefully. If you do have to cancel, you could be tossed back and forth communicating with both the hotel and the online travel site, and you may never even get your money back.
Hotel loyalty members never have to worry about this because more flexible cancellation conditions come with membership. Members can rest assured that their reservations are covered, and they can speak directly to the hotel management team should something come up.
A while back, one of our team members was traveling with someone who had booked his hotel through Expedia. When the flight got canceled on the day-of due to bad weather, the Room Keyer simply called the hotel front desk and asked to cancel their stay. Because they were a loyalty member, the reservation was refunded in full. But the Expedia booker had no such luck. He was forced to pay the complete price of the room even though he would never sleep in it. Don’t let that happen to you!
3. Members Receive Additional Perks
Hotels love their loyalty members and treat them like royalty (loyalty royalty? Sorry… had to.) With that love, you’ll receive a ton of additional perks. Here are some special treatments you may receive by being a loyalty member:
Better Room Locations
Have you ever checked into a hotel room and noticed you’re right by the ice machine? Or the elevator that opens and closes all night? In some cases, those may be the only rooms available, but if there are better room locations, loyalty members are given priority. As a member, you’re even eligible for free room upgrades if the hotel isn’t sold out. Just ask the front desk during check-in!
Almost all hotel loyalty programs include flexible options for late check-out. If you often find yourself waking up last minute, throwing things into your suitcase, and running out the door to make the check-out time, you’ll really appreciate the flexibility of a late check-out.
Free Wi-Fi and Breakfast
Let’s be honest: In this day and age, Wi-Fi is everything. But not all hotels offer free WiFi to every guest. Some now require a loyalty login in order to get online for free. As a loyalty member, it’s nice knowing for certain you’ll have free Wi-Fi access in the comfort of your room.
Similarly, not every hotel offers free breakfast to everyone. Breakfast at the hotel is a go-to option for many travelers because it’s convenient and quick. If you frequent the breakfast buffet or like to indulge in the a-la-carte omelets, sign up for a loyalty program that gives you free breakfast.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make you feel pampered and special. Having exclusive access to a members-only lounge or a VIP snack bar in a hotel can give your trip an extra level of comfort and luxury.
While we can’t guarantee this every time, if you’re traveling for a special occasion, your hotel membership program may include a free dessert or a bottle of champagne in your room when you check in. Loyalty programs are all about making you feel special in every way that a hotel can, especially on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
The minute you sign up for a loyalty program, you can start racking up points with each booking. After that, hoard your points and redeem them for a free stay on a future trip. There’s something invigorating about getting free rewards for purchases you were already going to make! Once you really get in the traveling groove and stay multiple nights with one program, you can be bumped up to a higher level of membership status where you can get even more benefits.
Are Hotel Loyalty Programs Worth It?
There’s literally no downside to becoming a loyalty member. You don’t have to book a certain number of times to become a member, you’re not required to travel a certain amount of days per year, and you don’t have to pay anything to become a member. You just do you and gain instant benefits.
Sign up for as many loyalty programs as you want to as well (we did!) This way you can reap the benefits no matter which hotel you stay at. If you’re worried about getting bombarded with emails from multiple hotels, remember you can always customize your email settings to fit your preferences.
How Does Room Key Fit In?
Explaining the benefits of becoming a hotel loyalty member is easy; the hard part is deciding where you’ll go next with your new rewards. Compare rates for your next destination at roomkey.com.
Room Key is a unique hotel search experience because we’re the only site that allows you to search across multiple hotel loyalty program rates all at once. See this example:
The red rates on the right are loyalty member rates from our partner hotel brands. Depending on how long your trip is, you could save a few dollars per night or a lot. Savvy travelers know that booking loyalty rates is the best way to secure the lowest rate available. Join the savvy travelers club. It’s a good place to be!