In my previous article, I reviewed ‘the facts’ of the Radisson Rewards loyalty scheme. This article is my personal opinion, highlighting areas where I think you might want to focus.
The 10-second summary:
Strong points – very few stays needed to get Premium status, free Premium status via Amex Platinum, good spread of properties in Europe and Middle East including excellent London coverage, ‘Discount Booster’ offers genuine savings
Weak points – move to revenue based redemptions has removed all upside from the programme, 2022 devaluation has destroyed member trust, Americas redemptions will disappear this year, lack of ‘wow’ luxury properties
The longer version:
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Last October, Radisson Rewards devalued its points with no advance warning. You lost at least 40% of their value and – for those who were smart and only redeemed when they were getting outsized value – the loss would easily have been 50%.
If you had 100,000 Radisson Rewards points, which on a good day could have got you £500 of free rooms (our standard valuation was £333) you now had points worth a flat £200 off your next booking.
Even worse, Radisson Rewards failed to properly explain what it was doing. We still get regular queries in our comments, forum or by email from members asking why they can’t find reward nights on the Radisson site any longer.
This wasn’t even the first time that Radisson Rewards had screwed its members with overnight changes although this was by far the worst.
In 2013 it devalued the ‘points to miles’ conversion rate overnight, with no notice. This was especially unfair because the rate improved as you collected more points, meaning that collectors were encouraged to hold off redeeming points for miles until they reached a high balance – only to have the rug pulled out. The June 2015 changes were announced online in advance but members were NOT emailed about them. The removal of the 241 deal for Gold members in early 2017 also happened with no notice.
If you lost hundreds of pounds of value from the devaluation, I can understand why you would never want to go near a Radisson hotel again.
However, for those who come to the programme fresh or, like me, had a zero points balance because they knew how Radisson behaves, we need to take an unbiased look at what is on offer.
Is there still value in Radisson Rewards?
You need to separate out the loyalty programme from the hotels. There are, certainly, many hotels in the Radisson Rewards portfolio where I would happily stay. Whilst weak in many markets, it has a broader high end portfolio in London than IHG, potentially broader even than Hilton and perhaps even stronger than Marriott. There are parts of Europe, especially in Scandinavia, where a Radisson is the only decent branded option.
Is there still value in Radisson Rewards though? Yes, of course.
If you are staying in a Radisson Rewards property for work then you should take the points. It’s a no-brainer.
After just three stays or five nights in a year you will move up to Premium. No other scheme makes their mid-tier status so easy to earn. This gives you a 3x increase in points earned (Premium gives 5.4p of points per $1 (83p) spent) and potential upgrades.
Alternatively, Premium members can earn a lower points level and turn on ‘Discount Booster’. This gives an extra, roughly, 10% off the lowest existing rate. You can’t argue with this – you get value in your pocket for your loyalty when you book, not months or years later when you spend the points.
If you are spending your own money, there is little value in Radisson Rewards points
If you have Premium status, turn on ‘Discount Booster’ and take the extra saving. You’ll get a puny handful of points on top which you can redeem immediately on your next stay.
Don’t take full points instead of activating ‘Discount Booster’ if spending your own money. Whilst 27 points per $1 may sound a lot, it isn’t when they are worth a fixed 0.2p each. You’d actually be better off – if the rate is the same – booking via Hotels.com and getting 10% of your rate back in Hotels.com Rewards credit.
Is it worth pushing for the VIP top tier? You only need 20 stays – or 30 nights – and you’d get free breakfast on all stays. You don’t get the bells and whistles of other schemes though.
Arguably, for someone who was doing one hotel night every fortnight on their own money (leisure or self employed), putting them to Radisson, earning VIP status after a year and getting free breakfast, upgrades and ‘Discount Booster’ access is a better result than you’d get from other chains.
What about revenue based redemptions?
Radisson Rewards has joined Accor Live Limitless in giving their points a fixed value (c 0.2p for Radisson, exactly 2 Eurocents for Accor).
HfP readers tend to hate these structures because they know how to play the system and maximise the value of points when there is a reward chart. There is some upside though:
- you can use points for any hotel at any time
- you can use points for any room category – you can get suites or larger rooms with no issues
- you can use as many points as you have and pay cash for the balance – no need to save up to get to a certain level
To be honest, these three factors don’t excite me. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t build loyalty when you can cash out your points on your next stay. For the brand, revenue based redemptions mean that it can’t maximise the value in unsold rooms at premium hotels.
Let’s do some very rough sums. A £350 five star room in London would cost you roughly 175,000 Radisson Rewards points. This is totally off the scale compared to what other schemes require, albeit earning rates are not identical so it isn’t a clear comparison.
Radisson recently opened a Maldives resort, for example, image above. This was great value for points under the old fixed price reward chart. It was the sort of resort that would encourage people to move a lot of business to Radisson in the hope of a Maldives redemption in a year or so. This dream is now dead – you get the same ‘pence per point’ in the Maldives or Manchester, and the points cost of the Maldives stay is now huge.
There is no value now in moving Amex Membership Rewards points to Radisson. At 1:3, one Amex point gets you 0.6p off your next Radisson booking. You can do far better than that via other American Express Membership Rewards partners.
The fact that Radisson Rewards is still selling points at $7 per 1,000 when they now have a fixed value of roughly $2.50 per 1,000 is beyond belief.
Let’s look at the hotels for a second
I don’t want to make this article entirely about the changes to the Radisson Rewards programme in 2022.
Of course, the split of the scheme into two – for North America and the Rest of the World – will cause issues. Whilst you can, at the moment, match your status across Radisson Rewards and Radisson Rewards Americas, it takes time and effort. For UK members, stays at North American hotels no longer count towards earning status. By the end of 2023, we expect Radisson Rewards Americas to be fully integrated into Choice Privileges, closing options to earn and spend points in the US.
What about hotels elsewhere?
The Park Plaza properties in London are relatively low profile but surprisingly modern and high quality. The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London is very pleasant as I reviewed here (image above). There are now four Park Plaza hotels in the area around Waterloo station. Weirdly, the Park Plaza brand is not actually owned by Radisson but all of their hotels are part of the programme.
The Radisson Blu Royal Viking in Stockholm where I stayed a couple of years ago had depressingly small rooms even though I was theoretically in a refurbished Business Room. I ended up cancelling a second stay a week later and moving to a brand new Scandic across the road. I was more impressed by the ‘new’ Radisson Heathrow and Radisson RED Heathrow, carved out of the old Park Inn – image below.
The brand desperately lacks ‘wow’ properties (or even ‘impressive’ properties) in many places although you will usually find a hotel of some standard if you need one. There are few properties of any sort in Asia.
I had high hopes for Radisson RED to inject a bit of life into the chain. Unfortunately, a dash for growth means that it seems to be making tactical errors. Funky hotels in city centres are good. A converted Travelodge on the outskirts of Gatwick Airport? Perhaps not.
You get free Radisson Rewards Premium status if you have an American Express Platinum card. The benefits of Premium are not huge but it does let you access ‘Discount Booster’ and get a further 10% or so off your stays.
What do I think of Radisson Rewards?
If Radisson Rewards was not an American Express partner (offering me a free Radisson Rewards Premium card via my Amex Platinum), I would probably ignore it entirely.
As it is, I am happy to know that I can get an extra cash saving via ‘Discount Booster’ on any stays I need to make.
I certainly won’t be building up a points balance or transferring in any American Express Membership Rewards points. Any points I earn will be redeemed for a tiny cash discount on any subsequent stay, and the £1-£2 saving I get for those points certainly won’t influence moving business to Radisson.
I cannot, under any scenario, recommend that HfP readers keep a Radisson Rewards points balance. Irrespective of whether you ‘trust’ the company or not – and history shows you can’t – the value won’t improve beyond 0.2p however long you wait or however many points you build up. Earn and burn.
You can find out more about Radisson Rewards on their website here.
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