Priority Club Launches Discounted Last-Minute Awards

InterContinental announced in March that it planned to introduce Last Minute Reward Nights—discounted rates on award stays during the first full weekend of every month.

They delivered on that promise this week, making available almost 130 U.S. hotels for booking this weekend—Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night—for 50 percent fewer points.

It's an idea that traces back to the early days of the Internet, when airlines first began promoting heavily discounted airfares for travel on selected routes the following weekend.

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Late last year, United applied the concept to last-minute award tickets, but abruptly cancelled the feature several months later. US Airways, however, picked up on the idea and Dividend Miles MileSaver awards—selected weekend flights discounted 40 percent—are now a regular part of its program.

So while Priority Club can claim to be the first hotel program to offer discounted last-minute awards, they're hardly ground-breakers.

Deal or No Deal

To take advantage of the discounted rates, Priority Club members must book on the Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday prior to the weekend when the stays are used. That would have been difficult in this case, since many program members, myself included, received no advance notice of this round's Last Minute Rewards.

Let's just write those glitches off as technical issues that inevitably affect feature launches and focus on the long-term value of Last Minute Rewards.

For the first weekend, around 130 hotels were discounted, ranging from a host of Holiday Inn Expresses at 5,000 points (normally 10,000), to the Chicago O'Hare InterContinental at 15,000 points (normally 30,000).

A reasonable number of hotels, offered at a significant discount.

But as with last-minute airline fares and frequent flyer awards, the specifics are all-important. Is there a hotel you fancy, in an area you want to visit? If not, the discount is moot.

There's also the larger question raised by last-minute discounts.

Most travelers simply aren't disposed to making trip plans in haste. And the chances of a hotel you were already planning to use appearing on the Last Minute list are remote at best.

So this adds value only for what I take to be the very small segment of travelers who are willing and able to travel opportunistically and cobble together a trip with no advance planning, solely because it's affordable.

It's worth mentioning that there's a theory circulating in the frequent traveler community that the last-minute awards will supplant Priority Club's popular PointBreaks discounted awards. If true, that would be a significant setback to the program. Stay tuned.

Reader Reality Check

Do you consider this a compelling addition to the Priority Club Rewards program?

Which is more valuable to you: Last Minute Reward Nights or PointBreaks?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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