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ASmallWorld – An Introduction
ASmallWorld(ASW) is a membership-based online community that has been on the fringes of the miles and points radar for a couple of years now. What originally started as a fee-based social network focused on networking and social events globally has evolved to having a visible focus on luxury travel.
The program is a “global community with a shared passion for the good life.” It offers a tier-based membership model that unlocks benefits with some hotel and lifestyle brands and – depending on the tier you choose – potentially a tidy chunk of airline miles (Lufthansa Miles & More, Etihad Guest or Emirates Skywards) as well – all coming at a not insignificant cost as we’ll see below.
To be clear – this is a niche program that will not have mass appeal to the casual PMB reader – instead, the program is meant to be for a particular demographic where perhaps the overall value proposition of the program will hold appeal. That being said, there could be some unique situations/ life events where the cost of potentially acquiring a large amount of Emirates Skywards points (“EK miles”) or Lufthansa Miles & More points (“M&M”) by way of ASW could be worth considering. First, though – let’s take a quick look at the program and then we can dive a bit deeper into circumstances where it makes sense to consider signing up.
Overview of Membership Tiers and Benefits
ASW has been around for some years and has maintained the model of what they offer – though over the years, the airline partners and bonuses have rotated occasionally. Currently, the program provides three tiers – Asmallworld, Prestige and Signature. The following table compares the benefits and costs across the three tiers:
As shown in the chart, the cost of two higher tiers (only ones that come with airline miles) is high, with an annual Prestige membership costing $5,490 (USD) and a Signature membership costing $9,990 (USD), with the main difference being the number of miles received. The remaining tangible benefits are more or less mirrored across these two tiers.
Prestige membership comes with a choice of 250,000 miles in Lufthansa Miles & More, Emirates Skywards or Etihad Guest, essentially akin to buying a point in any of those programs for USD ~2.2 cents per point (“cpp”). Similarly, the Signature membership comes with a choice of 500,000 miles in Etihad or EK miles (no M&M option), resulting in a USD ~2 cpp cost.
With the basic membership and costs covered, I did want to highlight that until August 15, 2023 – ASW is running a promotion for the mid-tier Prestige membership in which new signups will receive 50,000 additional miles and a lower price of EUR 5,200 (reduced from EUR 5,490). The notable restriction here is that this promotion is only valid for new subscribers who elect to receive Lufthansa Miles & More points only. For this promo – the cost of acquiring M&M drops to USD ~1.92 cpp.
A word on the currency and price. For the standard offers, users can select a toggle to display the price in either USD or Euro. While the price for the lowest tier changes to account for the FX rate between EUR/USD, the same does not occur for the Prestige and Signature selections meaning that payment in USD would be the way to go now. That also means that the EUR 5,200 ‘promotional’ price is more expensive in USD terms (~USD 5,750) but still represents a better deal for acquiring M&M when compared to the standard offer.
Is the cost of miles a good deal?
The obvious question, of course, is whether or not acquiring points via an ASW membership represents a deal at all. Here is a quick comparison of the cost to buy miles at the standard pricing, the price through the most recent public promotions that the airlines ran and the ASW options.
Straight away, we can put the question to bed for Etihad Guest as points for the program are readily accessible via credit card transferable currencies, and purchasing directly from the airline is a considerably cheaper alternative over acquiring 250,000 or 500,000 points than via one of the ASW membership tiers.
Lufthansa’s Miles & More presents a more nuanced take. For several years before 2022, Lufthansa had not been in the business of selling miles due to some legal implications. However, they have recently re-started to sell bundles (not too dissimilar to what they were doing with ASW in partnership). Thus it’s no surprise that the most economical cost to purchase points is similar across both avenues.
A couple of things why someone would want to consider buying M&M miles through ASW would be:
- The ASW summer offer allows you to buy up to 300,000 miles, 50,000 more than the maximum permitted under M&M’s bundles.
- If an individual wants to buy significantly more than 250,000 miles, they could purchase up to 550,000 miles using both avenues.
- When comparing ASW and LH’s bundle partners and benefits, you will find that ASW’s partners are more beneficial for you.
- Lastly – and we are waiting for confirmation on this – ASW membership would code as a travel-related charge as opposed to M&M bundle purchases which are processed through points.com and therefore do not code as travel.
Looking back, though – why would someone consider buying M&M miles? A significant benefit of using the M&M program is the early access members get to Lufthansa’s first-class inventory as far out as a year. Compare that to a maximum of 15 days out that are reserved for partner airlines, and you could see why the allure of securing these coveted seats would be desirable.
In addition, the Miles & More award chart is pretty decent – no doubt having been insulated from obscene devaluations given the scarcity of its miles. The current award chart for round-trip redemptions is as follows:
Aside from a first-class return flight costing 182,000 points, business-class awards are also quite competitively priced. Granted, Lufthansa’s current business class product is nothing to get excited about, but whenever they do get their new cabins – this could be an excellent way to fly the new first and business class flights. Finally, M&M has a monthly program called Miles & More Mileage Bargains, in which they offer discounted mileage rewards on specific routes – often up to 50% off redemption rates. Currently, for example, a round-trip business class redemption to Washington Dulles can be booked for 55,000 compared to the 112,000 points it would usually cost – a fantastic deal and equal to almost six round-trip business class tickets for the price of a signup for the Prestige tier during the summer offer. One important thing to note is that award redemptions booked through Miles & More are often accompanied by ugly fuel surcharges, which should be factored into the value proposition here.
M&M miles are difficult to earn as they are not a transfer partner to any primary US or Canadian credit card currency. Aside from converting Marriott Bonvoy miles, the most common way would be through some old-fashioned flying.
If Emirates Skywards miles are what you’re after, you have the choice of raking in 250,000 or 500,000 for USD 2.2 or 2.0 cpp, respectively. Both options present a significant discount to the cost that Emirates sells miles for usually and often beats out the price offered during EK’s sales promotions. Furthermore, as mentioned above, having ASW purchases potentially code as travel could further unlock value for the savvy points maximizers amongst us.
In addition to that, Emirates has a relatively restrictive limit of being able to purchase up to 100,000 (not factoring in bonuses) miles in a given calendar year. Anyone following EK’s raft of devaluations over the past two years can tell you that 100,000 is barely enough for a one-way business class flight for most of EK’s routes. Another thing to note is that Emirates requires you to have had some activity in your account to be eligible for the ‘bonus’ portion when they offer points sales. However, the calendar year limit and activity requirement does not apply to acquiring miles through the ASW membership.
Unlike M&M miles, Emirates is a transfer partner of several major US credit card issuers. As such, it can be quickly accumulated and transferred for the miles and points community with access to US credit cards. For anyone else not engaged in the points landscape in the US or someone who urgently needs a large stockpile of EK miles, an ASW membership tier could make sense.
Emirates is best known for some of the premium cabin products it offers – namely its business class on its A380 which features the iconic bar, and its first-class products across all three widebody types (shower in the air? check; fully enclosed suite? check; unlimited caviar? check) – and using EK miles can be a great way to experience these flights. Nowadays, a first-class flight between Dubai to North America costs between 163,500-186,000 miles, while a flight from Dubai to most European cities will come to 102,000. Again, like M&M redemptions, carrier-imposed surcharges also make an ugly appearance here, as Emirates has significantly hiked up these charges in recent years – though there is variance between routes.
Hotel Benefits & Lifestyle Benefits
While the main talking point thus far has been the points element of the ASW membership, several hotel and lifestyle benefits come with both the higher tiers. Here’s a quick rundown of the most meaningful ones:
GHA Discovery – Titanium Status
Global Hotel Alliance (“GHA”) is a collection of independent hospitality brands comprising over 40 brands with 800 hotels spread over 100 countries and exceptionally well represented across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Some brands in the GHA program included Anantara, Kempinski, Leela, Lungarno and Viceroy. Titanium is the highest of the four status levels within the program. It has many benefits that one would expect for a hotel chain, including room upgrades (two levels), early check-in at 11 am, late checkout at 4 pm, status sharing (notably missing complimentary breakfast across all brands) etc. You may visit the page for a complete list of benefits.
Our very own Sash recently had a fantastic stay at Qasr Al-Sarab – the magnificent hotel in the depths of the Wadi desert and enjoyed excellent treatment as a GHA Platinum member (one level below Titanium) while staying at this Anantara property. In Sash’s case, he managed to get GHA Platinum via a subscription to Business Traveller.
Jumeirah One Gold Status
The Jumeirah chain of hotels may not have the number of properties like the more prominent programs – but the ones they do have are generally excellent hotels – one such example is the famous Burj Al Arab. With their footprint heavily concentrated in Dubai, they have a broader presence in the Middle East, along with a couple of properties in the Asia-Pacific region and some iconic properties in Europe. An ASW membership grants you Gold status, the second highest tier in the program.
Gold status in this program comes with many of the usual perks reserved for top-tier holders, such as complimentary breakfast and late checkout. In addition to that, it does seem to offer an impressive selection of more unique benefits- especially considering that Gold is not the highest status tier. These benefits include complimentary pressing during stays, a daily free mini bar for soft drinks, a 5th-night free on award stays, and a “Chef’s Welcome” when dining on the property. For a complete comparison of benefits, please click here.
DragonPass Prestige Membership
DragonPass is a lounge access program with a Prestige membership that allows unlimited free visits for the member. With access to over 1300 lounges worldwide, the program functions similarly to Priority Pass.
Sixt Platinum/Diamond Status
Typically requiring ten rentals for Platinum status, with an ASW Prestige membership, you instantly receive this status, making you eligible for free upgrades, free additional drivers and up to a 15% discount on rentals. An ASW Signature membership grants you Diamond status – typically an invite-only status level which gives members access to a Diamond lounge (at a car rental facility?) and guaranteed upgrades, the most notable benefits.
Lastly, as a member, you are part of the ASMALLWORLD Community, which allows you to participate in events across major cities globally. This includes events such as meeting up with local community members at restaurants for drinks and canapes or meals, and other activity-based events such as hikes or outdoor socials at a Christmas Market, for example – the idea being to get likeminded individuals who enjoy travel/dining to come together and build up their respective social networks.
Who could this make sense for?
The apparent value here lies with the airline miles component of the benefits, with the Emirates Skywards or Lufthansa Miles & More miles being the most logical option. For most, the significant cash outlay is a deterrent which is to say nothing of the non-zero opportunity cost of holding miles and risking further devaluations.
Still – as with many things in this hobby – everyone’s circumstances are different, and there are some situations where the numbers/ convenience of an ASW membership could make sense. Consider the example of a significant life event for a newly married couple in Canada (i.e. no access to Emirates transfer partners) who are planning a honeymoon/babymoon in the Middle East/Asia and have a budget to splurge a little. Acquiring 250k-500K EK miles can cover the cost of some business or first-class flights on a typical bucket list item. Additionally, if they’re looking at flying on Emirates on the way to their final destination, they could consider some GHA properties to take advantage of their newfound elite status at one of many Middle Eastern properties by a GHA brand or Jumeirah One (Burj Al Arab anyone?) property.
Alternatively, consider a situation where a family of 5 would like to travel between Europe and North America during an upcoming popular travel season. The Prestige summer promo netting 300K M&M miles could make sense if paired with an M&M Mileage Bargain promo in which they can fly between Germany and an East Coast US city for ~55,000 M&M mile return. Not only would collecting the miles be a convenient one-step process, but it would also come with the peace of mind that award space for so many will be relatively easy to come by using miles in Lufthansa’s frequent flyer program.
The upfront cash investment is significant, and for a currency that could get devalued on the whims of an airline, it warrants careful consideration before pulling the trigger on a membership. However, if you can benefit from the elite status on offer, a large haul of miles and membership in a well-established networking community, then it may be worth looking at the value on offer here. As a reminder, the summer offer for 300,000 Miles & More on a Prestige membership must be purchased by August 15, 2023.