Last year I matched to Kimpton’s loyalty program, InTouch, and made good use of it with stays at Hotel Vintage Plaza in Portland, EPIC Hotel in Miami, Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, and Alexis Hotel in Seattle. Alexis remains my favorite, though it didn’t hurt that my wedding party was giving them quite a bit of business. We currently have a reservation booked at Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara for our first anniversary.
The service we’ve received at this properties has been phenomenal, with suite upgrades on every stay and some impressive food and beverage welcome amenities. I found less success trying to use some other benefits, like a free night at new properties. But if you happen to frequent cities that have Kimpton properties I think it’s a good loyalty program. The catch is that you really needed to be a regular guest. Anyone who signed up got free Internet and a $10 “Raid the Minibar” credit. At 7 stays or 20 nights you got a few extra bonuses. Only those who had 15 stays or 45 nights would get Inner Circle status and the majority of benefits.
Yesterday Kimpton relaunched its loyalty program, changing the name to Karma Rewards and introducing additional intermediate elite tiers. Some of these changes are good. Some are bad. But on the whole they were probably changes that needed to be made. For example, Kimpton quickly modified the terms on its “free night at new hotels” benefit last year to first require three paid nights after The Points Guy wrote about it and prompted a wave of status matches.
New Elite Tiers
Tier 1 (all members) — Receive $10 “Raid the Minibar” credit and free Internet. This hasn’t changed.
Tier 2 (3 stays or 10 nights) — A one-time, one-category room upgrade upon request and availability at check-in, as well as a $30 credit for an in-room spa treatment. These are new benefits for people who previously would have received nothing.
Tier 3 (7 stays or 20 nights) — An additional one-category room upgrade, a one-time food and beverage welcome amenity, a one-time priority request for late checkout, and a treat from the chef if you dine in the restaurant. This is the former InTouch tier, and it’s a bit of an upgrade. It introduces you to what awaits if you reach Inner Circle.
Inner Circle (14 stays or 40 nights) — The qualification criteria have dropped slightly, but so have the benefits. You’ll get late checkout priority, a welcome amenity, and a one-category upgrade on all stays as well as a direct line to the CEO, a free night at new hotels, and access to greater award availability than other Karma Rewards members receive. These are the changes that require discussion.
Bad News for Inner Circle Members
Late checkouts and better award availability are good, but what I really liked about being an Inner Circle member were the suite upgrades. They have some amazing boutique properties with awesome suites. At Hotel Vintage Plaza I had a private deck with a hot tub. At Alexis my family had three different suites, with a fireplace, a kitchen, or sweeping views of the bay. Kimpton appears to have downgraded this benefit to a single-category upgrade.
I say “appears” because Kimpton’s PR team has been making several attempts to correct people commenting on the change, saying that a suite upgrade was never guaranteed under the old program. Certainly it was limited to availability. But I disagree about their claim this is a minor change.
You all know how picky I am about the language hotel loyalty programs use to define their suite upgrade policies, as I have regularly called out Marriott Rewards for promising an upgrade to just about any room including a suite. Just because a suite is listed among the options doesn’t mean your program promises suite upgrades. A higher floor with a view of an alley counts as an upgrade under Marriott’s rules.
Starwood is well known for promising an entry level suite to its Platinum members. And in my interpretation of the rules for InTouch, I have previously included Kimpton as the only other hotel to promise an entry level suite, if available, to its top tier elite members.
Kimpton says that individual properties may still choose to exceed the upgrade policy and place Inner Circle members in suites at their discretion (so can any hotel in any loyalty program), but this is clearly a downgrade in my mind. I haven’t been able to find the InTouch T&Cs using the Way Back Machine so I can’t confirm it independently. I can only say that I had good reason for believing something other than what Kimpton now claims. Perhaps I should go back and change my rankings to knock Kimpton down a peg.
Is the New Kimpton Karma Worthwhile?
I still believe Kimpton has a winning loyalty program. It’s not what it once was for top-tier elites, but it is still better than what many loyalty programs offer guests with similar stay histories. Marriott has a comparable upgrade policy. Hyatt technically promises the best room available excluding a suite, but it gives you a suite now and then and Kimpton claims it will do the same. The food and beverage amenity has always been outstanding, as is the service for all members. And — copying a benefit more common among budget motels — it is one of the few to offer an easy path to free Internet for all guests.
Adding new tiers to Karma Rewards may help encourage less frequent guests to choose Kimpton more often, as I think one of the biggest hurdles for InTouch was the huge commitment required to earn InnerCircle status with a chain that has relatively few properties. (You think Hyatt’s small at 500? Kimpton has 60.) Consider also that if you’re going to stay at a boutique hotel, committing to a chain of boutique hotels seems a bit ironic. Yes, I think these changes were necessary and will make Kimpton’s Karma Rewards attractive to more people.
For Inner Circle members, benefits have been diluted somewhat. Not by much, and you’ll probably still get regular suite upgrades. But who knows how that will play out if you now face competition from less frequent guests making all these new one-time redemptions? We’ll have to wait and see. As long as we can still look forward to welcome amenities like these (yes, I’ve gotten some that were nearly as elaborate) then I think we’ll come out alright 😉
Megan likes the dog commercial better, but they’re all good. Kudos to Kimpton for at least coming up with some amazing ads! I think they capture the hotel’s reputation for customer service pretty well.