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Recently, the Preferred Travel Group relaunched its I Prefer Hotel Rewards program. Although not as well-known as bigger programs like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, the question remains: Is it a hidden gem or just another hotel rewards program? If you prefer to stay at mid-tier and higher-end properties, then the I Prefer Program may be worth a closer look.
- What Is the I Prefer Hotel Program?
- I Prefer Hotel Properties
- I Prefer Hotel Rewards Elite Status
- How the Status Stacks Up
- Earning I Prefer Hotel Rewards Points
- Do I Prefer Hotel Rewards Points Expire?
- Redeeming I Prefer Points
- Award Night Availability
- Final Thoughts
What Is the I Prefer Hotel Program?
The I Prefer program is the loyalty program for the Preferred Travel Group, which operates various hotel brands worldwide, including:
- Preferred Hotels & Resorts
- Beyond Green
- Historic Hotels of America
- Historic Hotels Worldwide
In terms of footprint, while the I Prefer program is a global brand with 650 properties in 85 countries, they are not evenly spread out. Most of the properties are in North America, Europe, and Japan. However, there are multiple resorts and hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico.
When it comes to the type of property, a glance through the portfolio shows that most of the properties are middle to high-end. Although there are a couple of lower-end offerings sprinkled around here and there.
Joining I Prefer Hotel Rewards
Joining the program is straightforward. Head over to the website, click on the join option, and you will be guided through the process like any other program. You'll provide your name, email, and so forth.
I Prefer Hotel Properties
A quick look around the I Prefer property portfolio shows there is something for virtually every taste. Although, as mentioned above, the properties tend to be on the mid to high end of the scale.
For instance, lovers of the outdoors will feel at home at The Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection in Saratoga, Wyoming.
On the other hand, if you are into golf, look no further than the home of golf at the Old Course Resort and Spa, St. Andrews, Scotland. The opportunity to play the course where the game was invented more than 250 years ago is on many golfers' bucket lists.
If you are more into city breaks, then the I Prefer Program still has lots to offer in various locations worldwide, from Paris and London to New York and Tokyo. These include stays at the stunning Baccarat Hotel in New York City.
I Prefer Hotel Rewards Elite Status
The I Prefer Hotel Rewards program has three levels of elite status as follows:
Insider is the entry-level tier. However, it still has a substantial list of features and benefits, including:
- Complimentary in-room internet access or enhanced access
- Access to exclusive member rates
- Late checkout and early check-in when available
- Enhanced room upgrade when available
- Access to partner offers
- Access to Rewards Suite, I Prefer Auctions, and points bookings
- Digital Preferred Travel Magazine
Once you earn 25,000 points in a 12-month period, you will receive Explorer status. Explorer status provides all the befits of Insider, plus:
- A welcome amenity, which varies by hotel
- 20% bonus points on paid stays
Considering the earning rates per dollar spent (see below), reaching Explorer status is not too difficult. It only involves spending $2,500 on stays.
Elite is the top status tier with the I Prefer Hotel Rewards program, and you will need to earn 50,000 points or more to reach it. Benefits of Elite include all those with Explorer, plus:
- 50% bonus points on paid stays
- Access to special offers and experiences
- Food and beverage voucher (varies by hotel)
- Digital anniversary gift
How the Status Stacks Up
How the status stacks up against the other big brands is a bit of a mixed bag. On the downside, elite status with I Prefer Hotel Rewards does not provide as many perks and benefits as top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond Elite or Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite.
There's no “fifth night free,” lounge access, or complimentary elite status with an airline. Achieving I Prefer top-tier status is substantially more straightforward in some aspects. For instance, Hilton Honors Diamond Elite requires 60 nights, 30 stays, or 120,000 Base Points. At an earning rate of 10 base points per dollar, that requires spending of $12,000.
Things are even more challenging to hit top-tier Ambassador Elite status with Marriott, requiring 100 nights plus $20,000 in annual spending.
If you are willing to spend, top-tier status with I Prefer is straightforward. At an earning rate of 10 points per dollar, you only need to spend $5,000. Furthermore, there is no minimum night or stay requirement, so staying at high-end luxury properties can substantially boost your status.
For example, the stunning Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California. Stays are expensive, and a two-night stay will earn you enough points for Explorer status. However, a three-night stay will earn enough points for I Prefer Elite Status.
However, “how much you spend” isn't the full story in other programs. You can achieve status with inexpensive stays at budget hotels, spending low dollar amounts while you meet the required stay thresholds for elite status tiers.
And then there are status match opportunities. Plus, certain credit cards provide elite status in other programs automatically, such as complimentary Hilton Diamond status from the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card or complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. This feature is absent in I Prefer Hotel Rewards.
If you have status in another program, you can email email@example.com to request a status match.
Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.
Earning I Prefer Hotel Rewards Points
The earning structure with the I Prefer program is straightforward since the program is less developed than others. There are no options to earn through shopping, co-branded credit card, spending, and so forth. To earn points, you must book your stay via an eligible booking channel, including:
- IPrefer.com, PreferredHotels.com, PreferredGolf.com, and StayBeyondGreen.com
- Preferred Travel Group call centers
- Direct bookings with the hotel online or by phone
- Travel agent bookings, excluding online travel agents likeTravelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, and Hotels.com
You'll earn points on reservation expenses but not other expenditures, earning as follows:
- 10 points per dollar (or equivalent after conversion) at I Prefer Brands, except for Vermejo A Ted Turner Reserve or The Brando.
- 5 points per dollar at the Vermejo A Ted Turner Reserve or The Brando
To muddy the waters a little, some properties may allow you to earn more points on items like spas, restaurants, gift shops, and resort charges. However, these vary from property to property, so you must keep an eye out for the details when booking or visiting a property.
AARP I Prefer earning bonus
AARP members receive exclusive rates and deals when booking stays at I Prefer Properties, including:
- Receive 2,500 bonus points on their first completed stay
- Exclusive I Prefer member-only rates
- Receive a 20% bonus on earned points for your stays
- Welcome amenity and complimentary upgrades when available
- Free Wi-Fi
Notice that these perks mirror much of what you get with I Prefer Explorer status (the middle tier).
Do I Prefer Hotel Rewards Points Expire?
Your I Prefer Hotel Rewards points will expire if your account has no activity for 24 months. Eligible activities to reset the validity of your points include an eligible stay or reward redemption.
Once you have reached the 24-month threshold, your points balance will be forfeited, and your status will be downgraded to the appropriate level.
Redeeming I Prefer Points
When it comes to redeeming your I Prefer Hotel Rewards points, you have two options. You can redeem them for a Reward Certificate or a free night at a participating hotel. One thing to note is that you can book free nights for friends and family.
I Prefer Reward Certificates
You can redeem your points for a set-value Reward Certificate that can be used as cash at a participating hotel. You can redeem points for five denominations of certificates as follows:
|Certificate Value||Points Required|
Interestingly, unlike I Prefer points that expire after 24 months of inactivity, Reward Certificates do not expire and are valid until they're redeemed at a participating property. This offers you a great way to have your cake and eat it, too, in terms of validity. Cashing in some points for a Rewards Certificate extends the validity of your remaining balance while preserving some of the value (not much) of the points you redeemed.
One unique and interesting aspect of the Reward Certificates is that you can gift them to friends and family members. All you need to do is forward the email with the certificate. Then, they can use the certificate against their booking at a participating hotel.
Value against others
Unfortunately, when redeemed for Reward Certificates, I Prefer Rewards points stack up incredibly poorly against other hotel brands. Redeeming your points for Reward Certificates, you get the less-than-stellar rate of 0.2 cents each. There is no extra zero there; your points are worth two-tenths of a cent, which is a shockingly poor value.
Consider World of Hyatt points that AwardWallet members have, on average, been able to leverage for 2.19¢ of value. That is more than 10 times the value of I Prefer points. On average, even the less-valuable Marriott Bonvoy points have been redeemed for 0.95¢ by AwardWallet members, which is five times the value of I Prefer points.
I Prefer Rewards free nights
When using your I Prefer points for award nights, the deal is somewhat better than Reward Certificates. We found a night at NoMo Soho, New York for 75,000 points.
Paying cash for the same night at the same property will set you back $524.
That's a redemption value of nearly 0.7¢ per point, which is substantially better (nearly 3.5x) than redeeming your points for Reward Certificates.
In the future, if this level of value is replicated at many other properties, it will virtually never make sense to redeem your points for certificates. Instead, focus your redemptions only on free nights.
Award Night Availability
One thing to note is that award availability appears rare. We searched for awards in Chicago, New York, London, and Paris. We explored several properties at the low and high ends of the spectrum. At each property, we searched multiple dates over the next four months. All in all, we found zero additional award nights available (other than the example above), searching both weeknights and weekends.
Only time will tell whether this scarcity of award space is a policy or simply a sign that the I Prefer program is still finding its feet. However, if it is a policy, then it substantially devalues the program (what is the point of points you can’t use?) and its points.
The I Prefer Hotel Rewards program seems like a somewhat niche program, depending on whether you like the kind of properties on offer and the levels of perks and benefits. The program could be very interesting if you happily pay for most of your stays and prefer more high-end properties. However, if you are purely interested in maximizing value and more budget-oriented travel, then you are best served elsewhere.
Have you used the I Prefer hotel program before? Let us know in the comments below.
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