Going beyond most hotel loyalty schemes to offer top guests anytime concierge services, private in-room check-in and complimentary suit pressing, the Shangri-La Golden Circle program brings luxury to business travel.
Members begin by earning Golden Circle Award Points during their stays at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Kerry Hotels, Traders Hotels and Hotel Jen, but again in contrast to the others, you can also earn points at hotel restaurants, bars and spa facilities even when you’re not staying in-house.
GC Award Points can then be swapped for free hotel stays and upgrades, for frequent flyer points with airlines such as Virgin Australia, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, or for other niceties like meals and spa treatments.
Covering over 90 hotels in key business destinations including Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai and London, here’s what you need to know about Shangri-La Golden Circle.
Shangri-La Golden Circle 101
Membership in Golden Circle is free – you can join on the Shangri-La website to start earning points, and will receive a physical membership card in the mail once your balance passes 50 GC Award Points.
Your points are kept alive for a little while if you don’t use them, expiring on December 31 three calendar years after the year in which they were earned.
For example, any points earned throughout 2015 will expire on December 31 2018, while points earned on any date in 2016 will separately expire on December 31 2019.
Also, any points credited to an airline frequent flyer program – either by converting GC Award Points into frequent flyer points or by earning frequent flyer points directly with an airline – will expire in line with each airline’s own expiry rules.
Shangri-La Golden Circle membership tiers
Joining the program gives you free and instant Gold status, which can be upgraded to the Jade and Diamond tiers as you stay more with Shangri-La and its range of hotels.
When you climb the ladder and progress to the next tier, your new status is also valid until the end of the following calendar year: so reach Jade in August 2015 to enjoy perks through the end of 2016.
But even at the basic Gold level, you’ll still enjoy fresh fruit in your room, free local calls, priority over non-members when waitlisted for a room reservation and can earn 1 GC Award Point per US dollar spent on room rates, food, beverage and spa treatments.
Hotels will also waive any normally-imposed cash advance commissions on credit card withdrawals up to US$250 at reception, although fees and charges may still be payable to your own bank.
Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade
Ten stays or 20 nights at Shangri-La hotels and its range of brands in a calendar year gets you an upgrade to Jade status, which begins by boosting the number of points you’ll earn by 25%.
Further, Jade members can use hotel priority service desks for a speedy arrival or getaway, can sometimes receive free room upgrades to the next available room category and may be able to check-in from 11am and remain until 4pm on their check-out day.
The doors to each hotel’s restaurants also open to Jade members in the morning with free daily breakfast, complemented by a choice of three welcome amenities from a list that includes chocolates, beer, sparkling water and a local surprise.
Finally, room reservations made by Jade members at least 72 hours prior to arrival are 100% guaranteed in the event that the hotel is full or oversold, ensuring you won’t be bumped or ‘walked’ to make way for another guest.
Shangri-La Golden Circle Diamond
Diamond status trumps Jade at the top of the pecking order, offered to guests who spend at least 50 nights with the chain each year or make 25 qualifying stays: a useful alternate for travellers who make frequent yet short visits.
Atop the Jade privileges, Diamond cardholders begin by receiving 50% more points than Gold members and free Horizon Club and Traders Club lounge access during every stay – regardless of the room type booked or received.
There, members can skip even the priority check-in desks at reception in favour of checking-in at the lounge, or can opt to do so in the privacy of their room.
Choose the latter and you’ll also find hot Chinese tea in the room at the Pudong Shangri-La hotel in Shanghai, awaiting your arrival formalities.
The bed type you requested during booking is also guaranteed to be yours, while all bookings made at least 48 hours before arrival are also firmly locked in.
Selected resort facilities such as tennis courts and non-motorised water sports are free for Diamond guests, as is one suit pressing, a check-in from as early as 8am, a late check-out up until 6pm and use of hotel concierge services, even when not staying in-house.
Long distance calls and faxes are also discounted to cost price – in addition to the free local calls afforded to all Golden Circle members – free cash advances are boosted to US$300 per day, and the selection of welcome amenities is increased to include a bottle of red or white wine.
Earning Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points
At the group’s three Australian hotels – the Shangri-Las in Sydney, Cairns and the Hotel Jen in Brisbane – an overnight stay with a $300 standard room rate and $50 spent on room service would net around 259 GC Awards points for Gold members, based on the exchange rate at July 14 2015.
Using that same rate, Jade cardholders would pick up roughly 323 GC Award Points on the same spend, while Diamond guests would grab a higher 388 points.
By opting to earn frequent flyer points in lieu of Golden Circle points, you’re looking at 1,050 Qantas or Virgin Australia Velocity points on the same spend in Australia, or a flat 1,000 points per stay in each program when abroad.
For non-staying guests, only GC Award Points can be earned when dining, drinking or relaxing at the hotel – not frequent flyer points.
Redeeming Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points
If frequent flyer points are your ultimate goal, GC Award Points can be converted into points with most of Shangri-La’s airline partners on a 1:1 basis, requiring a minimum transfer of 2,500 GC Award Points at a time and then in further increments of 500 GC Award Points.
For example, a balance of 3,000 Golden Circle Award Points can become 3,000 miles with American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad and more, or 3,000 frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia.
For Qantas Frequent Flyer members, Qantas Points can only be earned when choosing these in lieu of GC Award Points at check-in, not when later converting an existing Golden Circle balance: so choose carefully.
Otherwise, 5,000 Golden Circle Award Points is enough for a free one-night stay in a standard room at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney, while just 3,500 GC Award Points gets you the same at the group’s properties in Brisbane and Cairns.
GC Award Points can also be used for room upgrades (rates vary from hotel to hotel and between the different room types), converted into instant dining awards at the rate of 10 points = US$1 (participating hotels only: excludes Brisbane and Cairns), or donated to charity.
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