Choosing the Best Hotel Rewards Program 2013

This is my best attempt at a comprehensive comparative look at the top Hotel Rewards Programs. Hotels are ranked based on Travel & Leisures Top 500 Hotels in the World list and by things like number of points to redeem a free night.

The lists hotels are compared by include…

  • The # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500.
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel.
  • Points to redeem best hotel.
  • Discounts on rewards nights.
  • Points you earn per dollar.
  • Promotions for earning.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status.
  • Perks of top tier status.
  • Number of properties.
  • Credit card value.
  • Other ways to earn.

 

Here are the results:

Hyatt

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank out of the 9 compared hotels)? 22 hotels (2/9).
  • 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 (Club room category 6) (1/7).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Never/Rare
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (2/8).
  • Promotions for earning? 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 (2/8). Sometimes possible to do a challenge for status.
  • Perks of top tier status? 4 suite upgrade certs; 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)? 492 properties (9/9).
  • 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 1:1.
  • Other perks? The ability to pay extra for club rooms or suites is a great benefit and can be of great value.

Starwood Preferred Guest

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 15 hotels (3/9)
  • 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 (2/7).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Cash + Points option is of real great value and you get your 5th night free.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 2 points/$ (7/8).
  • Promotions for earning? They often run good promotions giving bonus points, typically a thousand or so or double points with registration.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 50 nights/25 stays (2/8).
  • 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)? 1,100 properties (7/9).
  • 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. Annual fee waived first year, and then $65.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

Marriott

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 44 hotels, though 36 of them are Ritz Carlton. (1/9)
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 7,500 points (4/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 70,000 points (7/7).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Point Savers gives 33% off, but rarely helps me out.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (2/8).
  • 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 (7/8). It is very easy to do a “Challenge” for Platinum status.
  • 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)? 3,700 properties (5/9).
  • Credit card value? 80,000 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 and then $85. Every year you get a free night a category 1-5.
  • Other ways to earn? Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards but it is not your best option.
  • Other perks? You can use points for upgrades, typically 5,000 points at a time. And starting at 200,000 points you can get 7 free nights and 50,000 miles to your favorite airline - an awesome perk.

Hilton

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 4 hotels (6/9).
  • 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. (4/7).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? A very good discount for gold members or card holders.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ and also allows you to earn miles simultaneously (2/8).
  • 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 (5/8).
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points; free internet; lounge access (give to Diamond and Gold); room upgrades.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 3,900 properties (4/9).
  • Credit card value? 60,000 points and Gold. Although there are many credit cards for earning HHonors Points. One has no annual fee.
  • Other ways to earn? Interestingly enough you can transfer from Hawaii miles at a 1:2 ratio(Hawaii:Hilton).
  • Other perks?

Priority Club (aka InterContinental Hotel Group)

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 8 hotels (5/9).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 10,000 points (7/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 50,000 points (4/7).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Many. They run PointBreaks 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 on weekends. Or just 24 hour sales.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 10 points/$ (5 points/$ at Candlewood Suites & Staybridge Suites) (2/8).
  • Promotions for earning? There are often over a dozen promotions being shared online and you can enroll in all of them at once. I explain it all in the post, Everything About Priority Club.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 50 nights or 60,000 points (5/8). However, it is extremely easy to earn via points.
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points; room upgrades. Unfortunately you have to buy Ambassador status for InterContinental properties.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 4,500 properties (3/9).
  • Credit card value? 80,000 points, a 10% rebate on points and a free night at any hotel every annual fee. Fee waived first year and then $49 a year after than.
  • Other ways to earn? Transfers 1:1 from Ultimate Rewards, though I wouldn’t recommend it (except on PointBreaks).
  • Other perks?

Club Carlson (aka Radisson)

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 0 hotels (8/9).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 9,000 points (6/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 50,000 points (4/7).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? It’s known to happen but don’t hold your breath.
  • Points/$ (rank)? 20 points/$ (1/8).
  • Promotions for earning? Great promotions lately. The last two were 50,000 points after 1 night and currently triple points. The 50k for one night has ran twice now, and was even better the second time – amazing promo.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? Concierge 75 nights/30 stays (7/8).
  • Perks of top tier status? Room upgrades; breakfast; 75% bonus points on stays; 3,000 points for booking online.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 1,000 properties (8/9).
  • Credit card value? They just came out with a great Club Carlson credit card that not only gives 85,000 points but gives a free night on every redemption stay! $75 annual fee but other versions available, including a no annual fee.
  • 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.

Fairmont

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 13 hotels (4/9).
  • Discounts on rewards nights? Rare/never.
  • Points/$ (rank)? They do not have a points based system. Instead, after you’ve earned Platinum status, you earn 1 free night certificate every 10 nights.
  • Promotions for earning? 
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 30 nights/10 stays (1/8).
  • Perks of top tier status? One free night cert; two room upgrade certs; two suite upgrade certs; 4 $25 dining certs; a “Passion” benefit (ranges from sports, spas and philanthropy); amenity; wifi and etc…
  • Number of properties (rank)? 5,827 properties (2/9).
  • Credit card value? You get two nights for two at any hotel (includes breakfast). Has $95 annual fee. If you already hold status you will receive a few extra perks or you will have the opportunity to spend your way to Platinum. I’m confused as to what the Fairmont points you earn do? Perhaps they will start a points system soon.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

Accor

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 3 hotels (7/9).
  • 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/$ (8/8).
  • Promotions for earning? Rare.
  • Nights/Stays to top tier status (rank)? 60 nights or 25,000 points (5/8).
  • Perks of top tier status? Room upgrades, late check out.
  • Number of properties (rank)? 2,500 (participating) properties (6/9).
  • Credit card value? None.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

Choice Hotels

  • # of hotels on T+Ls Best 500 (rank)? 0 hotels (9/9).
  • Points to redeem cheapest hotel (rank)? 6,000 points (3/7).
  • Points to redeem best hotel (rank)? 35,000 points (2/7).
  • 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 (who cares?).
  • Perks of top tier status? 50% bonus points and room upgrades.
  • Number of properties (rank)? over 6,000 properties (1/9).
  • Credit card value? Low value – few nights at lowest category but it is Barclay.
  • Other ways to earn?
  • Other perks?

 

What this list does is makes you look at how easy it is to earn points and compare it with how much a night cost (high or low) with those points. And then adding the T&L Top Hotels, it gives per perspective on the value of those points. For example Choice Hotels gives free nights at their best hotels for 35,000 points. But they are a budget chain and the value is much lower for a similar price.

So I put Hyatt first. Why? Because you can earn points 5 times faster than SPG but spend them at a similar rate, they have similar promotions and more hotels on T&L’s list. However, some may value the number of properties a hotel has more and lean towards Marriott or Priority Club.

If chains are tied, both hotels get that rank and the next number is skipped. Also this year I’ve added Fairmont and for some reason have kept Choice Hotels.

 

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3 Responses to Choosing the Best Hotel Rewards Program 2013

  1. mike says:

    I did a pretty good deal with Choice hotels last year. I earned a bunch of Amtrak points by the Amtrak Chase card then I transferred them to Choice hotel (not using any on actual train travel) and the transfer is very favorable I think at least 5 nights or more just from the Chase Amtrak bonus.

  2. Kent says:

    I really appreciate you putting this together, but you list Fairmont as having 5,827 properties. According to https://frhi.com/destination-map/ I only count 150 properties. Am I missing something?

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