LHW removes Leaders Club membership fee (get free breakfast and room upgrades)

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LHW has made Leaders Club a free-to-join program, and even basic members enjoy free breakfast and upgrades. There's a catch, of course.

Leading Hotels of the World (LHW), a collection of luxury properties that includes Capella Singapore and Capitol Kempinski, will be making its Leaders Club membership free-to-join effective immediately. A US$175 annual fee was previously charged. 

What makes Leaders Club particularly interesting is that unlike many other hotel loyalty programs, even entry-level members enjoy perks like free breakfast and room upgrades. However, you will need to book a special LHW rate, which may not necessarily be the cheapest available. 

How does Leaders Club work?

Constellation Room, Capella Singapore
Constellation Room, Capella Singapore

Leaders Club has two membership tiers: Club, and Sterling. Here’s a rundown of the key benefits of each tier:

 ClubSterling
QualificationN/ASpend ≥US$5K per year
Free breakfast  
Free Wi-Fi  
Early check-inBased on avail.Based on avail.
Late check-out
On arrival upgrade
Pre-upgrades1 per year*5 per year
*Will be unlocked in Year 1 after first paid stay

You’ll notice that there are two types of room upgrades: on arrival, and pre-upgrades. The former are self-explanatory; the hotel will endeavor to provide a one-category upgrade at the time of arrival, based on availability.

The latter are guaranteed one-category upgrades that can be confirmed before arrival. In the first year of membership, Club members receive one pre-upgrade award after their first paid stay. In other words, a new Club member will only be entitled to an on arrival upgrade, but hey, some shot at an upgrade is better than none at all. 

What is guaranteed is a daily continental breakfast for two. Now, continental breakfast usually conjures images of stale pastries and weak coffee, but I previously confirmed that Capella Singapore will offer you the same breakfast menu as any paying guest. Capitol Kempinski offers a more “traditional” continental breakfast menu, with cereal, muesli, yoghurt and pastries. 

When travel does resume, you can look forward to LHW benefits at Capella hotels in Bangkok and Ubud, The Reverie in Ho Chi Minh, the Palace Hotel in Tokyo and many more. 

What’s the catch?

If being a Leaders Club member gets you free breakfast and a room upgrade, why wouldn’t everyone just book through this program? As always, it comes down to price. To enjoy Leaders Club benefits, you must book via the LHW website, and the rates here may not be the lowest.

For example, here’s LHW’s rate for the Capitol Kempinski for a 12-13 July stay. The Stay in Style package costs $395++ (S$465 nett).

And here’s the same rate on the Capitol Kempinski’s website. Note how it’s cheaper at S$370++ (S$435 nett), or S$333++ (S$392 nett) if you’re a member of the free-to-join GHA Discovery program. 

In fact, we shouldn’t even be comparing that rate, since there’s another breakfast-included offer (June Jubilation) available on the official website for S$308 nett. By booking through LHW, you’re paying S$157 more for the possibility of an upgrade- not exactly a good deal.

Likewise, the cheapest rate offered through LHW at Capella Singapore is S$920++ (S$1,083 nett).

But book through Capella’s website, and you can find a Sentosa Staycation package with breakfast included for S$736++ (S$866 nett). 

I’ve not looked at a wide range of dates so I can’t confirm whether this is a consistent pattern, but at the very least you should do some comparison shopping before booking on LHW. 

For what it’s worth, LHW does have a best rate guarantee (BRG), but I’ve never tried it before and the terms look very restrictive:

  • It does not apply to prepaid or non-refundable rates, which means that in the Capitol Kempinski example I wouldn’t be able to file a BRG based on the June Jubilation rate.
  • While other BRG programs offer you a reward for finding a cheaper rate (either a further discount, or points), LHW’s BRG simply matches the lower rate. 

Stick with FHR/Virtuoso

Many of the hotels in the LHW portfolio will also be bookable through luxury agent programs like AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) and Virtuoso. These may be better bets if you want to stay at a luxury hotel but don’t have any status. 

Through AMEX FHR (or Virtuoso), we could book a room at Capella Singapore for S$920++ (S$1,083 nett), inclusive of perks like a complimentary dinner, room upgrade, breakfast, and guaranteed late check-out. That’s the same price as booking through LHW, with more benefits. 

Virtuoso rates can be booked through platforms like Classic Travel and HoteLux (if you managed to snag a free membership earlier this year)

Conclusion

While there’s no harm in signing up for a Leaders Club membership just in case, I’m not completely convinced it makes sense to book LHW rates.

Always compare the rates on the official website to see how much more you’re paying for continental breakfast and a shot at an upgrade.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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