Sampling Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) thanks to Citi ThankYou Rewards

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Last year Citi ThankYou Rewards added Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) as a transfer partner. Points transfer 5 to 1 from Citi to LHW. And since LHW points are usually worth around 8 cents per point each, that results in an average Citi redemption value of about 1.6 cents per point. That’s hardly amazing, but it is pretty good.

This past weekend I had a chance to try out LHW for a two night luxury stay in southeast Florida. The results exceeded my expectations. To be clear, it wasn’t the hotel itself that exceeded my expectations, but rather the results of booking with LHW points turned out to be great.

Leading Hotels of the World

LHW includes over 400 hotels worldwide. Their online map makes it easy to browse locations.

LHW (Leading Hotels of the World) is a loose affiliation of over 400 luxury hotels around the world. It is comparable to Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) and Preferred Hotels, but my impression is that LHW tends to lean towards higher end hotels than those other programs.

Leaders Club

In order to use LHW points, you need to first join LHW’s Leaders Club. Since it’s free to join (and you might get 500 free points), you might as well do so! Simply being a member means that you get benefits during your stay. Here are the benefits that I found notable:

  • Upgrade priority upon arrival
  • Daily continental breakfast for two
  • Early check-in and late check-out considerations

How to book with points

1. Find the point price

a screenshot of a hotel

Log into your Leaders Club account at LHW.com and then search for hotels with “View with Points” turned on as shown above. Not all properties are available to book with points but with those that are, you can then see the number of points required.

2. Transfer required points from Citi ThankYou Rewards

If you have Citi points and either the Citi Premier card or the no-longer-available Prestige card, you can transfer points at a ratio of 1,000 Citi points to 200 LHW Leaders Club points.

To figure out how many Citi points you need, multiply the number of LHW points you need by 5 and round up to the nearest 1,000. For example, if the LHW price is 17,488 points and you already have 500 LHW points, then you need 16,988 LHW points. Multiply by 5 = 84,940 Citi points. Rounding up to the nearest 1,000 = 85,000 Citi points. You can now transfer 85,000 Citi points to 17,000 LHW points.

My Booking 

For my first test of using LHW points, I decided to splurge. I booked The Brazilian Court Hotel for two nights. Those two nights would have cost $3,161.74 if I paid cash. Instead, the stay cost 34,976 Leaders Club points (175K Citi points). Yes, that’s a lot. Yes, it was a BIG splurge.

I booked the lowest level room available: the “Luxurious Studio” shown above (not the one with a patio or terrace).

Assuming that the points covered the full cost of the $3,161.74 booking, I’d have gotten $3,161.74 / 175,000 = 1.8 cents per point value from my Citi ThankYou points. That’s very good! But the screen seemed to indicate that I’d be on the hook for $363.74 in taxes and fees. If true, that would bring my per point value down to 1.6 cents per point. Still good, but not great…

What about Taxes & Fees?

I’m happy to report that we were not charged taxes & fees for this stay.

When booking my stay with points, the website showed that I would be charged $363.74 in taxes and fees. I didn’t believe it. My understanding was that the points paid should cover the entire stay. But, LHW didn’t let up. On the check-out screen, it showed the taxes and fees again:

Further, there was nothing in my confirmation emails that settled the question. One confirmation email showed that I had paid 34,976 Leaders Club points for “2 Free Nights”. It was silent about taxes and fees.

The other confirmation showed the cash rate along with the taxes and fees. And this was the scary part (bolding is mine):

RATE DESCRIPTION
Leaders Club Points Redemption. Available to Leaders Club members only. Includes complimentary WiFi and daily continental breakfast for two guests. Points apply to room rate only. Taxes and service charges, when applicable, to be paid to hotel upon check-in.

Fortunately, we were not charged taxes & fees for our stay. The points really did cover the entire stay with the exception of any food we charged to our room.

Leaders Club Benefits at the Brazilian Court Hotel

I had figured that LHW hotels would only minimally honor Leaders Club benefits, but this hotel exceeded my expectations in this area. To be clear, though, other than the breakfast benefit, we might have received the other perks anyway. I simply don’t know. Still, it was impressive. We were given a welcome gift, an upgrade to a suite (I didn’t even have to ask), free full American breakfast or $40 off daily (we did the latter), and were easily granted late check out.

Welcome gift

Oh wow. These were so good. Yum….

Upgrade to a suite

Breakfast: $40 off per day or free “All American” breakfast for two

The Chicken and the Goat Sandwich. This was amazing.

Mini Review of The Brazilian Court Hotel

The Brazilian Court hotel offers free yacht rides for guests!

As you can see in the previous section, the Brazilian Court Hotel knocked it out of the park in terms of providing Leaders Club benefits (suite upgrade, breakfast benefit, etc.). Further, the hotel’s single restaurant which provides all meals and rooms service is the awesome Cafe Boulud. Unfortunately, there were issues with our stay that makes me lean towards a “not recommended” rating. But you should decide for yourself with the pros and cons listed below…

Pros

  • We were proactively upgraded to a suite
  • Free 2 hour yacht rides along the Intracoastal once daily (9:30 am) Thursday – Saturday; and 3 times daily Sunday – Wednesday. We loved it.
  • The hotel’s restaurant, Cafe Boulud, is terrific!
  • The hotel’s buildings wrap around multiple beautiful outdoor courtyards.
  • Free local transportation, including to the beach

Cons

  • Very expensive: In my opinion this hotel is overpriced
  • Service did not come close to living up to what we expected from such an expensive hotel:
    • When we arrived by Uber, no valets met us outside to help with our bags, but we found four guys standing around inside waiting for something to do.
    • On the first morning of our stay we asked to have softer pillows and a coffee machine sent to our room. We asked again mid-day. We asked again in the evening and they finally brought those things. The desk manager apologized and took off our breakfast charges (which were tiny given that we already got $40 off per day) and gave us a candle (yes… a candle).
  • The rooms need work:
    • There were noticeable stains on the living room carpet
    • The room’s hydrotherapy bathtub would have been nice, but it didn’t work
    • A musty smell permeated our room
    • The bathroom sink had almost no space for our stuff and there was no shelving above it nor was there any kind of make-up desk outside the bathroom.
  • Some areas fall short on luxury (I wouldn’t normally mention these things, but this is not what we expected from a $1,500+ per night hotel):
    • When we finally got a coffee maker, it came with paper cups instead of ceramic mugs
    • Bath towels were fairly small and not plush
    • Turndown service included:
      • Tiny Ghirardelli chocolates (seems like a big miss not to feature a local Chocolatier or, even better, something from Cafe Boulud).
      • Plastic water bottles (high-end hotels usually offer glass bottles or carafes in my experience)
We loved the hotel’s outdoor spaces
The hotel has some beautiful common areas like this game room
Very little room to put stuff around the small sink

Bottom Line

Even though we had some issues with the particular hotel we chose, I was very happy with the results of my first experience in using LHW points transferred from Citi ThankYou Rewards! Compared to the cash rate, we got excellent value from our points (1.8 cents per Citi point) and we received terrific perks simply for booking through LHW. Unfortunately I didn’t think to comparison shop this hotel before our stay, but I picked another date to see how the LHW cash price fared. The price through LHW was exactly the same as booking direct with the hotel, and it was lower than booking through most other channels. One exception: when I logged into my Expedia account, Expedia showed a 20% discount due to me being a Gold member (which I didn’t even realize I was). After that 20% discount, Expedia still was only 5.8% cheaper than booking through LHW. Another site, Priceline, advertised 10% off after I logged in, but the final price there was still higher than booking through LHW.

The biggest positive surprise with the stay was that we got great perks due to my booking through LHW as a Leaders Club member. I certainly didn’t expect to get upgraded all the way to a suite! And, with the breakfast benefit, I was glad that we weren’t restricted to a continental breakfast.

This was just one stay, so I obviously can’t predict how future stays will go nor whether great value from Citi points will be likely. Still, I’m encouraged and I’m looking forward to trying out more hotels in the LHW collection.

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