The new system allows Leaders Club members to earn one point per dollar spent in the program. In return, members can spend points on free hotel rooms and enjoy typical perks like day-of upgrades and free Wi-Fi. Those who spend $5,000 with the program each year earn Sterling status, which effectively yields extra points and upgrades. That system and its rewards, of course, sound like every other hotel loyalty program on the planet — albeit with an annual fee. But the fee is intentional. Leading Hotels sees its program as more of a members club than an everyday loyalty program, perhaps like joining a country club versus earning free gas station points. And by setting a $175 barrier to entry, membership ends up being only for the true enthusiasts. Get the full story at Skift