Shangri-La will be relaunching its Golden Circle rewards programme on 28 April 2022, and it’s a sign for existing members to burn their points stash ASAP.
|New Shangri-La Circle|
The new Shangri-La Circle (which drops the “Golden” label, perhaps a tacit acknowledgement of the reverse Midas they’re pulling) will devalue members’ points by up to 47%, and replace its current award chart with dynamic pricing.
Members will no longer be able to qualify for elite status by stays (only nights or spend), and the programme effectively becomes a glorified cashback scheme.
As expected, Shangri-La is describing the gutting of its loyalty programme as an “enhancement”.
“Shangri-La Circle’s new elevated offerings was designed with our members in mind. We listened to their feedback, went back to the drawing board, combed through the knots, and enhanced the features they love.”
You know they’re scraping the bottom of the PR barrel when they talk about “combing through the knots”…
Shangri-La Circle: Points devaluation
Under the current Golden Circle programme, one of the best uses for points (assuming you don’t have the minimum 1,000 required for a room redemption) is to burn them for F&B credit. Members can offset their dining bills with points at the following rates:
|🍽️ Redeeming GC Points for F&B Credit|
|Value per 10 GC points||US$1||US$1.25||US$1.25|
|Redemption available regardless of whether member is staying at hotel|
From 28 April 2022, Shangri-La Circle will adopt a fixed rate of 15 points per US$1 towards hotel stays, dining or spa experiences, regardless of tier.
- Jade or Diamond members will suffer a 47% devaluation
- Gold members will suffer a 33% devaluation
|❓ Voucher Redemptions|
All Shangri-La members can redeem their points for spa or dining vouchers at a rate of:
I generally don’t recommend these, because they’re fixed denomination (spend less than US$50 and you don’t get any change), and there’s no Jade/Diamond member bonus. However, if you’re a Gold member and your only concern is preserving the value of your points post 28 April 2022, you could redeem a spa or dining voucher before that date and hold on to it until you’re ready to use.
Seriously though, you’re better off burning your points at restaurants where there’s no minimum redemption required.
Shangri-La would like you to believe it’s done you a favor, breezily referring to this as “more simplicity”. In a textbook example of corporate doublespeak, they say “Indulge in your favourite things without having to worry about different conversion rates!”
Gee, thanks, because one of my biggest pain points as a Jade was worrying how the 25% bonus would mess up my calculations. In fact, could you make it even easier for me and change it such that 1 point is worth US$1? I’m not good with recurring decimals.
Shangri-La Circle: Award chart replaced by dynamic pricing
Here’s how much free night awards cost under the current Golden Circle programme:
|🏨 Redeeming GC Points for Free Nights|
|List of hotels by Collection|
As a reminder, you can save 50% off awards booked and stayed by 22 April 2022.
From 28 April 2022, Shangri-La Circle will eliminate its award chart and move to fully dynamic pricing. There will no longer be blackout dates; instead, members can redeem points for any cash rate at a fixed value of 15 points per US$1, with a minimum requirement of 500 points. Partial redemptions are possible, i.e. you don’t need to pay for the entire stay with points.
Any bookings made under the existing award chart will remain valid. However, if you wish to change your booking, you’ll need to cancel the existing one and book under dynamic pricing. In other words, make whatever changes you need before 28 April 2022!
The earn rate remains the same at 1 point per US$1, with Jade and Diamond members enjoying a 25% and 50% bonus respectively. This means that Shangri-La Circle effectively becomes a cashback scheme with 6.7-10% rebates.
|🟡 Shangri-La Circle Effective Rebate|
|Points per US$1||1||1.25||1.5|
|Redeem points||15 points per US$1|
|All points are valid for 3 years|
That’s not terrible, to be fair, but it does remove the aspirational aspect of the programme. Dreaming of a night at an uberlux property like the Shangri-La Paris or Maldives? You’ll need to spend 10-15X the room rate before you can earn it as a reward.
Let’s not forget that award redemptions are normally flexible, and avoid taxes and service charges. With this new system, you’ll be subject to the cancellation policy of the rate you booked, and have to cough up extra for taxes and service charges.
When you consider how OTAs like Agoda or Hotels.com sometimes offer upsized cashback of up to 10% on portals like ShopBack (plus potentially lower rates), you really wonder if you’re better off abandoning Circle altogether…
Shangri-La Circle: New elite qualification criteria
Under the current Golden Circle programme, you can qualify for elite status either by stays or nights.
From 28 April 2022, it will no longer be possible to qualify through stays. Night requirements will remain the same, and members can also qualify through Tier Points. This is basically a spending requirement, since US$1 = 1 Tier Point
|🟡 Shangri-La Circle Elite Qualification|
|Qualification (Tier Points)||N/A||6,000|
This removes the incentive to do multiple one night stays to earn/requalify for status (not that Shangri-La’s small footprint lent itself to property hopping in the first place).
Any eligible nights and spend since 1 January 2022 will be carried into Shangri-La Circle and count towards earning status for 2022.
Shangri-La Circle: New membership tier and elite perks
Shangri-La Circle has introduced a new, invitation-only tier called Polaris, which offers executive lounge access (even when not staying at the hotel), check-in from as early as 12 a.m and check-out as late as 6 p.m, complimentary airport transfers and hotel car usage, and the ability to gift Diamond status.
That’s nice and all, but these are basically VIP perks the average Shangri-La guest is never going to enjoy.
With regards to existing tiers, members will be able to enjoy yet-to-be-unveiled Milestone Rewards, starting from 10 qualifying nights or 3,000 Tier Points. Diamond members will also be able to bring one guest to the lounge (even if he/she is not staying at the hotel).
Room upgrades have supposedly been enhanced, but I’m not quite sure how. The chart mentions an “upgrade to next room within the same category”, which is confusing to say the least. Upgrades are not available for suites, are subject to availability, and only apply to reservations of seven nights or less.
In the FAQs that Shangri-La released to accompany the changes, there’s this unintentionally hilarious bit:
Do I need to redeem all my GC Award Points before Shangri-La Circle launches?
- No, your GC Award Points balance will be carried forward to your Shangri-La Circle membership. Under Shangri-La Circle, your existing GC Award Points will simply be known as Points and will have a fixed redemption value of 15 Points to USD$1 for all Shangri-La products and experiences.
You should absolutely cash out your points now, because come 28 April 2022, whatever points on hand automatically lose up to 47% of their value. I know I’ll be making a few visits to the Shangri-La Singapore restaurants to burn up my four-digit balance.
Shangri-La Circle represents a significant devaluation, but the least you can say is that they’ve given three months’ notice. Moreover, a move towards dynamic pricing is just par the course for the industry now. Hilton and IHG have done it. GHA DISCOVERY has done it. Marriott is doing it.
Still, a fixed points valuation destroys any sort of aspirational value a programme might have. Sure, it’s easier for casual members to understand, but do you think casual members really choose hotels based on loyalty programme? All I know is that I’m probably not going to bother with Circle going forward, and it’s so long and thanks for all the free food.
Reverse Midas, indeed.
What do you make of Shangri-La Circle?