Kimpton Inner Circle: the next hotel elite status level I’m going for

I know, the last thing I need is to maintain another elite status level with a hotel chain. Having status with multiple hotel chains is great because it allows you to pick the best properties in each city instead of blindly staying at the hotel that belongs to your preferred loyalty program. But at the same time at a certain point it also backfires, because you’re constantly in a struggle to keep up with requalifying, and don’t stay at the best hotels, but the ones with which you need the most elite nights.

I have Hyatt Diamond status and Starwood Platinum status, which I gladly requalify for each year. I’m also Hilton Gold and next year plan on going for Diamond status with them by putting $40,000 of spend on the Citi Hilton Reserve card.

But there’s one loyalty program that intrigues me, because every single elite member of their program that I’ve spoken to is literally delighted. Kimpton Hotels, the largest boutique hotel chain in the US, has their InTouch Rewards program, which I’ve heard a ton of positive things about. The basics are that you earn one free night after every seven stays or 20 nights, whichever comes first. But it’s not the rewards that they’re famous for, but the amazing service.

Here are the basics of their elite program:

As you can see, their entry level elite status is InTouch (which requires seven stays or 20 nights), and gets you:

  • Complimentary wifi
  • A $10 minibar credit ($15 credit in New York) whenever you stay at one of their hotels
  • Passport Rewards, which means that if you stay at 10 different Kimpton properties in a year you get a certificate for an additional free two night stay.

Then there’s Inner Circle status (which requires 15 stays or 45 nights), and gets you:

  • Complimentary wifi
  • Passport Rewards, which means that if you stay at 10 different Kimpton properties in a year you get a certificate for an additional free two night stay.
  • A customized welcome amenity consisting of your favorite drink and snack. Apparently they want you to be as specific as possible, and they’ll do everything in their power to accommodation the request. This could be as specific as the color of M&Ms you like or types of nuts you prefer.
  • A complimentary night at every new hotel. They open at least a handful of new hotels every year, and as an Inner Circle member you get a free night at each of them.
  • A room upgrade based on availability, and based on what I’ve heard these upgrades can be pretty generous, regularly to suites.
  • Direct access to the CEO. Okay, this sounds like a gimmick, but it’s still kind of awesome.

What really seems to set Kimpton apart from other loyalty programs is the personalized service they provide. They genuinely seem to want to “wow” you with every stay. For example, take a look at this email chain that was posted online between a guest and a Kimpton property.

I think what it comes down to is that at a certain points hotels get jaded about elite status. Elite status doesn’t get you a truly VIP experience, but a published list of benefits, and that’s about it. I have hotel stays where I get a suite upgrade, club access, etc., but the agent doesn’t even thank me for my loyalty to the chain. That’s where Kimpton seems to be different, as Inner Circle members seem to get true VIP treatment.

Best of all Kimpton status matches. If you have equivalent status in another program just email them at GuestLoyalty@KimptonGroup.com with a copy of your credentials and they’ll match your status.

Anyway, I’ll start staying with them next year, and will be sure to share my experiences.

To those of you that are frequent Kimpton guests, what are your thoughts?

Comments

  1. Yep, this is a good choice. Kimpton is the best hotel chain for the money… By far. I used to be an inner circle member and it’s great.

  2. They’ve hired one of the biggest mystery shopping companies in the industry to evaluate their hotels every month. I assumed it was because service needed work, but I guess it’s just the opposite – they want to ensure their service stays up to par.

  3. Love the Kimpton hotels! Recently stayed at Alexis in Seattle and got upgraded to a huge suite. Overall the service can’t be beat and the properties are not sterile and conventional. Have received great treatment as an InTouch member.

  4. This sounds very interesting. Have stayed with them only twice but had but had good experiences. I’m not going to requalify for Hyatt diamond this year but a status match before it expires sounds like it might be in order. Thanks.

  5. I’ve been considering the same. They don’t have a ton of properties, which is why I haven’t made the effort yet. A couple years ago I was staying at one of their SF properties for work and had tweeted them with a simple “Looking forward to my stay.” In my room was a bottle of wine and a selection of fruits and cheeses with a note simply saying, “Thanks for the tweet!” They didn’t know me from a hole in the wall. I’m confident if you have status with them you’ll feel special. They definitely go out of their way to earn your business.

  6. I am a Kimpton Inner Circle member. I have received some of the best customer service from Kimpton as the staff take notice of all guests’ experiences not just the elites’. The staff truly enjoy their jobs and creativity is encouraged and rewarded. You will be amazed at the passion of the staff based on their efforts to present a welcome amenity far beyond the mundane beverage and snack offerings other programs offer. They are empowered to make your stays memorable. Kimpton appreciates my business and it shows. The hotels are not the only plus; each property has a restaurant that has the same commitment to its guests as the hotel. I appreciate Kimpton because they listen to their guests and strive to put these learnings into action. It is obvious that I am a fan, but I think Kimpton deserves more love from the travel community.

  7. Love Kimpton! They often go above and beyond, and if they ever make a mistake they go out of their way to correct it.

  8. @Daniel M — This was the biggest (and only) reason I’ve never went with Kimpton. Hyatt isn’t that much better but atleast they have a few great ones in the major cities (Singapore, Milan, Istanbul, etc).

  9. Are you going to get one of their animal-print robes to add to your PJ collection?!

    No experience with Kimpton status, but I do have a funny story that made me question their customer service.

    When we were getting married several years ago, we arranged for a block of rooms for our wedding party and guests. We had several guests inform us that they were quoted the incorrect rate when they called to make their reservations, even though they mentioned they were with our group. Took several calls to the hotel from us to get it sorted out.

    The day before the wedding, our wedding party started checking in. When two of the gals arrived at their room, they noticed that two other bags were already there. They figured the other bridesmaids had checked in earlier and the bags were theirs. Makes sense. After the rehearsal dinner as we were getting ready to head back to the hotel, we found out that the other bridesmaids had not checked in yet. So those bags that were in the room actually belonged to other hotel guests whom we did not know. The gals spoke to the front desk, they were apologetic, and moved the bags to a different room. Not sure why our party wasn’t moved as we had checked in later. Well apparently they forgot to inform the owners of the bags that they had been moved to another room. As we were getting ready for bed, we heard some banging and rustling at the door sounding like someone was trying to enter. Yup, the owners of the ‘mystery’ bags were trying to get back in their room but their keys no longer worked. More calls to the front desk to get the issue settled.

    I’m guessing our experience with Kimpton was an outlier, as other commenters seem to have had very positive experiences with them. Hope you enjoy your stays!

    Speaking of customer service, have you ever faced the situation where the room you booked was not available at check-in because the previous guest decided not to check out?
    I don’t seem to be quite as ‘lucky’ as you with my hotel stays =)

  10. I have been an Inner Circle member for years. The only downside is it can be hard to practice self control. I can’t help requesting wine and unhealthy snacks as my amenity. Then sometimes I hit the free wine hour on top of that. I’m sure you’ll make better choices than me.

  11. Kimpton always treats me like an honored guest…even before I joined their membership program. EVERY staff member is helpful enough and knowledgable enough to act as a concierge. Its like a Disney level of service…they want to make your stay memorable. The properties are fun and funky. Wine happy hour. Pets are welcome. Often there are parking discounts for hybrids or certain color cars. Sometimes breakfast rate is only $1 more.

    I’d really prefer others didn’t know about this gem of a hotel chair…I’ve always gotten an upgraded room and want to keep it that way!

  12. Ben– Just a clarification as the Kimpton chart is a bit confusing (b/c it doesn’t really make sense as written). They have only one elite level, which is Inner Circle. The “InTouch” benefits are available to ALL base members of the program, and the 7 stays/20 nights language on the chart is actually referring to accrual of free nights, not elite qualification.

    In a way, this makes the program even more attractive as all members get free wi-fi and a $10 minibar credit!

  13. As almost everyone, I have heard only great things about this chain. Too bad it is tiny and only in the US. I am surprised that Ben even considers it, hmmm…

    And NO points, what’s the point? 🙂

  14. Kimpton IC is definitely several notches above other, albeit larger, chains. In general, service is wonderful and out of 50 stays, I’ve probably not been upgraded into a suite on 5 of them. The welcome amenities are nice, as well, and you can load up on free nights pretty easily with their passport program (four free nights after 12 stays in at least 10 different properties).

    This all being said, I think they’ve begun to struggle as they expand. I can’t consistently get a NY Times delivered to my door (missing 5 out of 15 stays this year), and I’ve had a couple experiences this year (including a 3-day stay without hot water) that have me questioning my stays for next year.

  15. @Lucky,
    every year, i have extra 40+ hotel nights (after I satisfy my marriott 60 nights and starwood 21 stays plat status) to choose hotel. in the past years, i choose hilton to earn diamond, too. this year, i gave it up to gold status. so, your posting is very helpful to give me one more choice to consider. thanks for sharing this vaulable hint.
    after reading, my impression is kimpton’s reward program is not as good as marriott or starwood. its major edge is comfortableness for my stay. i care more on rewards points and free nights for my future personal/family trips. so, i guess kimpton is not my best choice. i am seriously considering that club carlson would be an excellent choice for club carlson visa card holders, because its reward stay of 2 or more nights gets one night free.

    did i misinterpret your statement? i will do more research on kimpton to compare. fortunately, there is a moroco hotel near my marriott/hilton hotels so that i can stay there conveniently.

  16. @Erndog,
    I stayed at Omni for one week. Their reward program is straightforward and is inferior to almost all other hotels: 1 free nights for 10 nights. so far, they still remind me of 4 nights credit and invite me back for another 6 nights to earn one free night. but, marriott gives one free nights for 2 stays. (the good thing with omni seems my previous credit with them almost 2 years ago does not expire. so does hyatt.)

    did i miss anything important in omni reward program?

  17. Even base members in their program get free wifi and a minibar credit, 10 bucks in NYC, IIRC. And free shoe shines. Service is absolutely fantastic.

  18. Requested a status match to my Hyatt Diamond and within minutes, had a response. I now have Inner Circle membership til Feb. 2014. Doesn’t mean *too* much except I have heard that just normal InTouch members regularly get suite upgrades, so looking forward to what an Inner Circle member might get!! It seriously has me considering changing my stay in February from the Grand Hyatt Seattle (which we loved this year) to the Alexis.

  19. @ Andy — Yes and no. 14 stays at 10 different properties, for example, gets you two free nights plus an additional two free nights through Passport Rewards. Four free nights after 14 stays is pretty good, in my opinion.

    That being said, I don’t think this program is quite as rewarding as some others if all you’re after is free night rewards. They have a decent return on free nights, though my primary motivation in going for status with them is how awesome stays seem to be.

  20. @Lucky,
    Thanks for clarification. 14 stays for 4 nights are pretty good in generaal (not in comparison with other hotels’ promotion offer). Unfortunately, it seems not easy to find 10 different properties. I will search for their properties in metro-NY and metro-DC, where I frequently stay.

    Btw, I did not find on their website how many hotels they have in total throughout the world. I don’t expect they can compare with Marriott (3.6K) and Hilton (3.7K), but can they compare with Starwood (1K) or Hyatt (~500)?

  21. @ Andy — There’s no doubt that’s the major downside. They only have hotels in the US, and only a few dozen at that. So they’re a VERY boutique chain.

  22. I believe that wity the addition of seven hotels last year, they are up to almost 50 properties. I am status-matching today, as Kimpton has a presence in many of the cities I visit in the US: SF, San Diego, DC, Miami, NYC, Denver, Seattle. I am very much looking forward to it!

  23. Amending my previous post: Kimpton now has 56 hotels. Couldn’t be happier with the status match. Spoke with Lana, who further customized my profile and gave me valuable feedback about the vibe at a few of the properties I’m considering making reservations with. Very happy so far.

  24. The number of Kimpton hotels is somewhat limited and they are only in the major cities but I cannot say enough positive about this chain. I have never had a bad stay and if I did, I know they would rectify it. Versus bed bugs (Holiday Inn) or a naked man (Omni Parker) in my room. Everything is perfection and the Inner Circle status is great! Upgrades, amenities, dinners, gifts, etc. LOVE IT

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