American Express Now Competes With Defunct Radisson Hotel Program Through Fast Casual Dining Strategy

Radisson hotels uses the Club Carlson program for loyalty. Before that, it was Goldpoints Plus. Before Goldpoints Plus was just Goldpoints.

And Goldpoints were also the loyalty program for… TGI Fridays.

You could earn and redeem Goldpoints at Radisson’s family of hotels, and you could earn and redeem Goldpoints at TGI Fridays restaurants. (They also offered a great shopping portal, which once offered a holiday shopping promotion that allowed you to buy miles at less than a penny apiece with any of their transfer partners via purchase of magazines with Valumags. Though that wasn’t the only great deal through Goldpoints.)

What was especially strange is that some elements of the program were different for you depending on whether you signed up for the Goldpoints program through the Radisson website, or through TGI Fridays. If you were a TGI Fridays member your transfer rate from points to airline miles was much worse.

In 2008, Goldpoints became redeem only and the hotel loyalty program was transferred to Goldpoints Plus.

In 2011, Goldpoints Plus was ended in favor of Club Carlson. With it came the loss of one of my all-time favorite hotel benefits, >Our World, Your Lounge.

“Our World, Your Lounge” benefits in Europe, Middle East, and Africa: elite members are welcome any time in any hotel for a free coffee, tea or hot chocolate for two people and to use free wireless internet.

This is really a nice benefit that doesn’t cost the hotels much at all but really creates a feeling of belonging and a special relationship with the hotel chain for its elite membership.

It took this whole cycle for Radisson’s Club Carlson to devalue points-to-miles transfers to the original rate for TGI Friday’s members.

I’m reminded of the fast casual dining tie-in with more traditional loyalty programs now that American Express has now partnered with Chilis so that you can use your Membership Rewards points to pay your dining check.

Swipe your eligible American Express Card at the Ziosk tablet located on your Chili’s table.

You will be presented an option on the payment screen to redeem points. You must press the button on the payment terminal to indicate “yes.” You’ll see the option to use points along with the number of points you’ll need to use.

Press the blue button to use points for your order.

Just as Goldpoints were far less valuable with TGI Fridays than with Radisson hotels (even for transfers to airline miles), so too are American Express Membership Rewards points valued poorly for paying bills at Chili’s.

It does present an option to make use of a small number of points, of course you could use 1250 Goldpoints for a TGI Friday’s appetizer back in the day, too.

If you’re reading this blog you’re 99.99% likely to be someone who can do better. Please don’t redeem your American Express points for Chili’s — if you must have a Quesadilla Explosion, pay for it with cash. Or earn points in the My Chili’s Rewards program.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. TGI Friday’s participation in goldpoints made sense. TGI Friday’s was owned by Carlson until one year ago when it was sold.

  2. I went through a McDonald’s drivethrough yesterday. For fun (and to try and diversify the spending on my new AMEX gold, much of it is MS) I paid with my AMEX Bus card. $3.00.

    Later in the day AMEX sent me an email, thanking me for using my card at McDonalds, but offering to let me pay for charge off using MR points.

    I guess this is no different than applying points to your statement, but I thought it was odd that they picked my big $3 charge to make me this offer. Amex Mobile App is required.

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