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I recently applied for the new IHG Rewards Club Premium credit card, and when it arrived, I noticed it was badged as a “World MasterCard”.
Being nosey as I am, I decided to Google what this meant as I hadn’t personally seen this in the UK before. I stumbled across a MasterCard website with a press release from 2007, proudly launching the World MasterCard as “specifically tailored to meet the needs of the financially savvy mass affluent consumer segment, by guaranteeing strong travel and rewards benefits on all World products”. Bold words right before the 2008 Credit Crunch!
Before I got side tracked into investigating the history of this MasterCard product and the impact of the Credit Crunch on rewards credit cards, I also stumbled upon something called MasterCard Priceless Cities, which I was surprised to learn hadn’t died in 2008, and is a current offering from MasterCard; it is available to all MasterCard holders, but according to the FAQ certain “exclusive” offers may be reserved for holders of World, World Elite, Platinum or Black MasterCards.
Where does it cover?
MasterCard has structured its offers across 7 geographic areas: Africa, Arabia, Asia Pacific, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America, and then split into cities where appropriate underneath.
The offerings vary by region, North America as you might expect has more offers and they’re spread across a larger number of cities (think New York, Miami, LA, etc.) whereas in Europe you’re more limited to capital cities – in the UK only London features – which those of us who inhabit the wild hinterlands outside the M25 are of course not at all bitter about, but some offers apply nationwide.
Once you have selected your country or city, you are presented with the “Best Of” the offers, or can browse by Eat, Play, Shop or Stay.
What’s on offer?
Taking “Stay” as maybe the most important category for readers of InsideFlyer UK, there are a number of offers that are common across the site, and others that are targeted to a specific city.
An offer that seems generic across the site for North & Latin America is 20% off Starwood Resorts and up to $100 resort credit. The offer is available for bookings made and completed before 31st December 2016 and you must use a MasterCard to pay.
Now this rate could potentially be beaten by other Starwood promotion codes such as Z6R which purports to offer “Buy 4 nights get 2 free” – but I’ve found availability of this rate to be patchy at best, and not everyone enjoys spending an evening entering endless different rate codes manually to try and get the best price.
Picking a random week in October, 8th to 14th, in Hawaii staying at the Sheraton Waikiki in the standard Oceanfront room, excluding taxes and resort fees –
- Buy 4 get 2 Free was unavailable,
- Normal “Members” prepaid non-refundable was $399
- MasterCard Rate was $405 plus a $50 stay credit.
While it may appear you’re paying $36 for a $50 credit (hey, you’re still up… marginally!) the important thing to note was this rate was fully flexible up to 3 days before whereas the cheapest headline rate was non-refundable.
Another random sample for a weekend at the St Regis Bal Harbour in Miami showed the MasterCard rate to be the same as the cheapest Best Available Rate at $589 per night, and both were flexible, but with a $100 stay credit – a small bonus which probably wouldn’t make me change hotels, but if I was considering the hotel anyway it’s certainly a nice perk that would probably buy a few drinks for the sake of clicking through a website!
Other notable offers that caught my eye are:
- JW Marriott Hong Kong – 10% off the regular rate, upgrade to a Premier Harbour View Room, breakfast, late checkout, an Octopus card and 20% discount at the hotel restaurants.
- 20% off twice a month on Careem across the Middle East region, and first-time customers get their first ride free when adding a MasterCard.
- 12% off Heathrow Express tickets – both Express and Business class fares.
- 10% off Q-Park pre-booked city centre parking rates – available NATIONWIDE (yes- in exotic locations including Birmingham, Glasgow and York).
- £25 off when you spend £150 at Moss Bros online.
How do I use the offers?
Each offer has its own terms and conditions and instructions for use, but generally the options boil down to either entering a special promo code on the vendor’s website (or quoting it over the phone), clicking through to a special website or printing a paper voucher (more likely for Eat/Play offers).
What’s the catch?
One potential downside to these offers is you have to pay on a MasterCard which typically have lower rewards rates than their American Express rivals, and many double pack reward cards have moved to Amex/Visa double packs rather than MasterCard it seems.
You would need to make your own judgement as to whether the resort credit/room upgrade/rate flexibility/discount are more important to you than the potential higher points/miles rate you might get from paying on an American Express or Visa.
The only other catch, as with all of these kind of offers, is you have to have scoured the site in advance of making your plans and found the code or printed the voucher. The website is good, but a little flakey around the edges and things are a bit muddled, for example a few Spa and Beauty offers have appeared under “Stay” rather than Play or Shop where you might expect them to be. Each city generally has under 100 offers in total however, so it’s probably just easier to scroll through them all and you never know you might stumble across something else of interest.
Whilst there are a load of obscure and random offerings on the site, there are some genuine offers on there that could be useful to the every-day traveller, be it discounts at luxury hotels or 2-4-1 entry to Sea Life.
The majority of offers are open to all MasterCard holders, which most of the credit card holders in the UK probably have at least one of, and the offers aren’t as specifically targeted as say the likes of American Express which tailor the offerings to individual card holders.
It’s good to see what on the surface seems to be good global coverage of offers, rather than being limited only North America for example, and they do seem to be genuine discounts. Some are available through other channels, but others are unique and I’m really surprised this isn’t more heavily promoted by MasterCard as a benefit to offset cuts in earning rates we’ve seen on non-Amex cards recently following introduction of the EU fee cap.
Whilst any spending from these offers potentially offers more limited rewards than using an Amex for the purchase, from the examples I’ve seen I would probably value the offer more than the difference in points, and I can still earn some rewards by using my IHG Rewards Premium Mastercard or Lloyds Avios Mastercard.
I will certainly be checking out the offers available for my upcoming trip to the USA in September – and I’ll report back my experience!