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Choosing a Hotel Rewards Program

This is a post comparing the 8 best hotel rewards programs. It is not a complete list of all hotel programs but these are the main ones and this is designed to help you decide what hotel program to start using, to transfer to points, to sign up for a credit card or it may teach you something about a program you already have points with. (I just want to note that credit cards giving frequent flyer miles are way more valuable than hotel points but for those of us who have all the airline credit cards, well… hotel points are a lot of fun).

Hyatt

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank out of the 8 compared hotels)? 23 hotels (2/7).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 5,000 points (2/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 22,000 points (Park Hyatt category 6), 26,000 points (Regency Hyatt + Grand Hyatt category 6) (1/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Never/Rare
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (3/6).
  • Promotions for earning? In the past Hyatt has been the most giving for their rewards program, and used to run a promotion that gave a free night at any hotel for two paid nights at any hotel. Typically they have a promotion to enroll in that gives you bonus points per stay, usually of good value. Diamond members receive 1,000 per check-in. Platinum member receive bonus points for every 3rd stay. You get 2,500 points when the club lounge is closed and 5,000 when you don’t get your bed type.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 50 nights/25 stays (1/6).
  • Perks of top tier status? 30% bonus points; best room (excluding suites); lounge access; breakfast; welcome gift (choose 1,000 points); internet and 4pm check out.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 375 properties (8/8).
  • Credit card value? Two nights at any hotel and Platinum Status. $85 annual fee is waived for first year, but is worth keeping for the annual free night at a category 1-4. If you are already a Diamond member (even if you fast-track) you will get two suite nights in any hotel (with a few restrictions) and 2 suite upgrades.
  • Other ways to earn? Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Other perks? 

Starwood Preferred Guest

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 15 hotels (3/7)
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 3,000 points on weekdays and 2,000 points on weekend (1/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 35,000 points (2/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Cash + Points option is of real great value and you get your 5th night free.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 2 points/$ (5/6).
  • Promotions for earning? They often run good promotions giving bonus points, typically a couple thousand or double points with registration.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 50 nights/25 stays (1/6).
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points; Best room including suites; welcome gift (points, breakfast or amenities); lounge access; 4pm check out. At 50 nights you get 10 suite upgrades.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 942 properties (7/8).
  • Credit card value? The signup bonus is particularly weak but its value is extended to transferring to miles programs 1:1 and an extra 5,000 miles when you transfer 20,000.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

Marriott

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 32 hotels, though 26 of them are Ritz Carlton. (1/7)
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 7,500 points (4/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 70,000 points (6/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Point Savers gives 33% off, but rarely helps me out.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (2/6).
  • Promotions for earning? They run a Megabonus, typically a free night at category 1-4 for two nights or bonus points. Also, they have a refer a friend bonus giving 2,000 points per night up to 5 nights per person (10,000 points to you and your referrer).
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 75 nights (6/6).
  • Perks of top tier status?  50% bonus points; lounge access; room upgrades (excluding suites); free internet; breakfast; free local calls; Hertz Gold; arrival gift (I always choose points because the lounge already has everything else they offer) and a bunch of little extras.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 3,178 properties (5/8).
  • Credit card value? 60,000 points, 15 elite nights; a free night at a category 1-4, no foreign transaction fee and the annual fee waived for the first year. Every year you get a free night a category 1-5 (totally makes it worth it).
  • Other ways to earn? Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards but it is not your best option.
  • Other perks? You can use points for suite upgrades. Typically 5,000 points. And starting at 200,000 points you can get 7 free nights and 50,000 miles to your favorite airline.

Hilton

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 4 hotels (4/7).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 7,500 points (4/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 50,000 points for a category 7. Resorts have separate pricing. Typically 60,000 points in peak season and 50,000 points in low season. A few reach 80,000 a night. (5/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? A very good discount for gold members or members with surpass card.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ and also allows you to earn miles simultaneously (2/6).
  • Promotions for earning? Quarterly promotions giving bonus points. Typically double points.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 60 nights/28 stays or 100,000 points (1/6).
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points; free internet; lounge access (give to Diamond and Gold); room upgrades.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 3,265 properties (4/8).
  • Credit card value? 40,000 points and Gold.
  • Other ways to earn? Interestingly enough you can transfer from Hawaii miles at a 1:2 ratio(Hawaii:Hilton).
  • Other perks?

Priority Club

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 4 hotels (5/7).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 10,000 points (6/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 50,000 points (4/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Many. They run PointSavers every quarter, giving you a list of hotels you can redeem for 5,000 points. I saved 35,000 points a night on my last stay. Also, they run flash sales, typically by email or even by twitter, giving 50% of selected properties. Sales last 24 hours.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (5 points/$ at Candlewood Suites & Staybridge Suites) (2/6).
  • Promotions for earning? There are often over a dozen promotions being shared online and you can enroll in all of them at once. It’s insane.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 50 nights or 60,000 points (4/6). However, it is extremely easy to earn via points.
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points; room upgrades. Unfortunately you have to buy status for InterContinental properties.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 4,186 properties (2/8).
  • Credit card value? 60,000 points.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

Club Carlson

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 0 hotels (7/7).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 9,000 points (5/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 50,000 points (4/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? It’s known to happen but don’t hold your breath.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 20 points/$ (1/6).
  • Promotions for earning? Great promotions lately. The last two were 50,000 points after 1 night and triple points.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? Concierge 75 nights/30 stays (2/6).
  • Perks of top tier status? Room upgrades; breakfast; 75% bonus points on stays; 3,000 points for booking online.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 1,013 properties (6/8).
  • Credit card value? None.
  • Other ways to earn? 
  • Other perks? Cash + Points option. I booked a suite with points because it was available. Also, they are an easy status match.

Accor

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 3 hotels (6/7).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? An odd system where you redeem points for vouchers. 2,000 points gives you a $60 voucher (7/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)?
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Rare/never.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 1-2 points/$ (6/6).
  • Promotions for earning? Rare.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 60 nights or 25,000 points (5/6).
  • Perks of top tier status? Room upgrades, late check out.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 3,982 properties (3/8).
  • Credit card value? None.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

Choice Hotels

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 0 hotels (7/7).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 6,000 points (3/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 35,000 points (3/6).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Rare/never.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (4/6).
  • Promotions for earning? Yes. They are small and of low value because it is a low value chain.  Current promotion is 8,000 points (not bonus points) for two stays.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 40 nights (3/6).
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points and room upgrades.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 5,827 properties (1/8).
  • Credit card value? Low value – few nights at lowest category but it is Barclay.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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