In January this year, Shangri-La announced a major overhaul to its Golden Circle rewards programme that takes effect from 28 April 2022.
The new programme is simply known as Circle, and brings with it the following changes.
|tl;dr: Shangri-La Circle|
While the marketing materials talk about additional flexibility, greater simplicity and no blackout dates, make no mistake: this is a devaluation, plain and simple.
There may be situations where an award night costs less under dynamic pricing than the award chart, but the shift to fixed value redemptions creates a hard and fast relationship between spend and rewards, destroying any opportunity for outsized value and aspirational redemptions.
It’s for that very reason I’ve been religiously visiting the restaurants at Shangri-La Singapore over the past few weeks, trying to finish my points stash. Anyone who still has points in their account come 28 April will see them lose up to 47% of their value.
|❓ Can’t burn your points in time?|
Shangri-La Golden Circle 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 unable to burn your points by 28 April 2022, you’d still be better off redeeming one of these vouchers and using it later, rather than letting your points sit idle.
In any case, Shangri-La has now reached out with further details on what the Circle programme will look like.
Shangri-La Circle welcome offer
From 28 April to 31 July 2022, existing Shangri-La Circle members can earn up to 1,500 bonus points by making qualifying transactions at Shangri-La, Kerry, JEN and Traders hotels worldwide:
|Qualified Transactions||Bonus Points||Value|
|5 or more||1,500||US$100|
A qualifying transaction refers to either a:
- Spend of at least US$20 on rooms, dining, spa, or boutique
- Redemption of at least 300 points
A maximum of two qualifying transactions can be made per day (probably to stop people from gaming by splitting up a transaction into five smaller ones).
New Shangri-La Circle members who enroll during the promotion period will receive 300 points after making one qualifying transaction, in addition to the 1,500 points offer above.
Given the mechanics of this offer, the best option is to go for five transactions. If you somehow manage to clock US$20 on the dot or redeem 300 points each time, you’re getting a 100% rebate in terms of points (I suppose the other way of viewing this is that you enjoy a 50% discount, since you can’t exchange the points for actual cash).
Bonus points will be credited within 2-4 weeks after the promotion period.
Shangri-La Circle Members’ Day
Shangri-La Circle will run a monthly Members’ Day, the first of which will take place on 6 June 2022.
No specific details have been provided, other than there will be a limited number of special offers available for redemption from the 6-8th of each month, including “special deals, double points, and more limited-time promotions”.
If I had to guess, I’d say this might be things like discounted F&B/spa vouchers, or perhaps dining experiences at Shangri-La hotels.
Recap: Shangri-La Circle
|New Shangri-La Circle|
The new Shangri-La Circle programme will abandon its award chart in favour of dynamic pricing, where 15 points commands a fixed value of US$1.
Shangri-La hails this change as “greater simplicity”, which gives me a bad case of the eye rolls.
We don’t confuse members with multiple points conversions- it’s one fixed redemption value of 15 points to US$1- so it is always clear what their points value is, and what they can use them towards
This is just flat out disingenuous. If simplicity is the goal, why not just keep it at 10 points to US$1, like it always was? Or even better, make it 1 point to US$1; I think people would find that the most intuitive!
For reference, 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|
From 28 April 2022, the award chart will be scrapped, and the number of points required per room will vary dynamically depending on revenue rates. A minimum of 500 points are required for redemption, and cash + points redemptions are possible.
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|
I’m not saying the changes are all bad. In fact, there may very well be situations where dynamic pricing will result in lower redemption costs than under the award chart. However, this change removes the opportunity for outsized value and aspirational redemptions. Dreaming of a night at an uberlux property like the Shangri-La Paris? 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 it’s worth the effort staying loyal to Circle.
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.
New membership tier and 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, with Jade and Diamond members enjoying an “upgrade to next room within the same category”. What that means exactly is unclear, but what we do know is that upgrades:
- Aren’t available for Suites
- Are subject to availability
- Only apply to reservations of seven nights or less
The new Shangri-La Circle programme goes live from tomorrow, and if you’re still sitting on a load of points, my advice would be to burn them ASAP. Even if award prices for certain hotels drop under the new dynamic pricing model, you’ll still be getting less value (15 points= US$1) than if you spent them for F&B credit (8/10 points= US$1).
That said, the welcome offer might be worth trying for, since it’s basically a 100% rebate for anyone who can clock 5x US$20 transactions (protip: that’s roughly the cost of a fish soup or beef rendang at the Shangri-La Singapore Lobby Lounge).
What do you make of the new Shangri-La Circle programme?