Best Western Ups the Earn, and the Burn

Best Western Ups the Earn, and the Burn

What’s this? Best Western Gold Crown Club awards now require 10 times as many miles? Well, yes. But there’s no need to panic. In fact, the news is good.

For years now, Gold Crown Club has been one of the few major frequent traveler programs that didn’t artificially inflate its earning structure. Members earned one point per dollar spent, period. Even the GCCI credit card “seemed” on the low end of earning ability, as cardholders earned one point per $5 spent on the card, or one point per $3 spent on Best Western purchases.

But not everything is what it seems. As a result of this more straightforward structure, the actual value of a Best Western point was much higher than that of most competitors. Four thousand dollars of non-hotel spend on the Best Western card, for example, was worth an entry-level free night (800 points); by contrast, you’d need to spend twice that on a Priority Club card at one point per dollar for an entry-level award at an InterContinental Hotel.

But, as they say, nothing lasts forever.

Enter the 2006 Gold Crown Club changes.

In the words of Best Western: “To more clearly define the true value of its Gold Crown Club International loyalty program, Best Western International is introducing a new point earning/redemption structure, comparable to current industry practices.” Translation: everybody else inflates the apparent value of their earning structures, so we will too.

Beginning this year, members will now start earning 10 points per dollar spent on qualified room rates. Existing point balances will be multiplied by 10. And award levels will also reflect the change.

The structure change will pertain to all Gold Crown Club programs, including the AAA/CAA Preferred Gold Crown Club, and Speed Rewards.

And there’s more.

In March, a “no point expiration rule” will be rolled out for the North American Gold Crown Club. At present, points expire in a year’s time in the absence of any earning activity.

This month, Best Western will also roll out a new bonus structure for its Gold Crown Club elite members belonging to the North American club. Platinum Elite members will begin receiving a 15-percent bonus on base points (currently, they receive a 10-percent bonus). Diamond Elite Members will receive a 30-percent bonus on base points (currently, they receive 15 percent).

Best Western promises even more changes later this year, including automated promotion registration, and a larger variety of partner and award offers.

So again, don’t panic. Even though frequent travelers have come to regard “program changes” as marketing-speak for benefit cuts, Best Western hasn’t pulled a fast one here.

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