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Pros & Cons of the Best Hotel Rewards Program

If you’re looking for the best loyalty program to be a part of, there’s no doubt that the Best Hotel Rewards Program InfoGraphic is a great data driven resource. However, sometimes what makes a program is not the data, it’s the nuances.

For example, a hotel program that has great promotions wouldn’t show up in the InfoGrahpic. Plus, not everyone is visual. So I wanted to give a run down of each hotel rewards program and the benefits they have, or don’t have.

Skip ahead:

 

Hyatt Rewards Pros & Cons

Hyatt Rewards is a geniunely good rewards program. As far as I can tell, Hyatt is the only hotel rewards program where the people at the top don’t wake up and say to themselves, “now we have enough members, how do we cut back the benefits?”. They’ve continued to add benefits even… but then again, they’re probably still in a growth period.

 

Hyatt Pros

Best status sweet spot. Hyatt has this super inticing sweet spot of having relatively low qualifications for their top tier status, while still giving tons of benefits. I don’t like paying for hotels, but if I did Hyatt would be a temping chain to have elite status with. You just need 50 nights or 25 stays.

And Cash & Points nights count toward elite status.

Status gives all the normal goodies like lounge access and breakfast, plus a few extras.

 

4 Suite upgrades. The best hotel benefit in terms of suite upgrades is Hyatt’s 4 confirmed suite upgrades as a benefit for reaching Diamond status. Apply these to paid stays.

 

Upgrade to a suite with 6,000 points. Upgrade a paid night (including cash & points) to a suite for only 6,000 points.

 

Use points for Club rooms and Suites. So many people want this benefit and yet it’s rare and no doubt that Hyatt does it the best. Just as you can use points for a normal room, you can use points to book a club room (with club lounge access) or even a suite. These nights are priced accordingly. Here’s the chart:

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 11.58.30 AM

 

Hyatts are consistantely nice. Park Hyatts are always incredible and basically every Hyatt I’ve stayed at is nice. Even the Hyatt Place hotels we’ve stayed at have been really nice.

 

Hyatt Cons

Few hotels. Unfortunately Hyatt has way fewer properties than all the other chains. I often hear people complain about how few properties they have in Europe. I imagine they know this and are trying to break into that market soon enough. But if you stay a lot for business travel, make sure Hyatt actually has properties in the cities you frequent. If so call and ask to do a challenge. If you’re coming from SPG or Marriott… I think you’ll be quite pleased.

 

Points are hard to earn. This is being really picky, and if the points were easier to get they would probably be less valuable… but I want it both ways, I guess. I have a very hard time transfering from Chase. Transfer out $200 worth of points for a $200 hotel? Just doesn’t seem smart.

 

Hyatt Conclusion

For business travelers Hyatt is my number 1 pick if you’re just looking for someone else to pay the bill and you get all the benefits. Rather, if you are looking for things like lounge access and nice hotels, it’s a great way to go, and the points you earn are pretty valuable.

Hyatt might not be the best for earning free nights as quickly as you can, but the best for status benefits given how quickly you can earn status.

To learn more about Hyatt, check out the Complete Guide to Hyatt Rewards.

Hilton Hhonors pros and cons

 

Hilton Pros

There are at least 15 different credit cards that earn Hilton Hhonors points.

I did post on the 15 credit cards that earn Hilton Hhonors points and so you can see that it’s really easy to rack up those Hhonors points. The Virgin card for example, gets 90,000 miles and then you can transfer 1:1.5 to Hilton. An easy 135,000 Hilton Hhonors points for the price of the annual fee.

 

The Hhonors card is a high earner. Of the 15 cards, there are 4 different Hilton cards and one earns 3 points per dollar everywhere or 6 points per dollar at grocery. Again, earning points is easy.

 

Status is easy to come by. Some cards give Gold status and have the option to spend up to Diamond status.

 

Gold status gives breakfast. Many properties give lounge access for Gold members but at the very least you’ll get breakfast included, which is way more than most programs do for mid-tiers. Especially mid-tiers that come with credit card.

 

Free nights start at 5,000 points. I just explained how to get 135,000 points from one credit card and free nights start at 5,000 points. There aren’t a ton of hotels I’m excited about for 5,000 points – although there are a ton in Egpyt. But there are a ton of category 2 hiltons for 10,000 points. We just stayed at the DoubleTree in Beijing for 10,000 points. And we’ve previously stayed at others like the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur, which is super nice, for 10,000 points.

See Map of Category 1 & 2 Hilton Hhonors hotels.

 

5th night free. Other programs do this but rarely do I have enough points with those programs to do 4 nights. Hilton gives a 4th night free. So a category 1 hotel would cost 20,000 points for 5 nights. Awesome deal.

 

Hilton Cons

Cost of top tier hotels is insane. Top tier hotels are as high as 95,000 points. The bonkers part is that Hiltons and Conrads in nice cities that might only run $200 a night are now 70,000+ points. There is no middle ground here. The bottom tier hotels have a decent value, but after that the amount of points it takes vs the cash rate… is just off. I mean, maybe in a city I like I’ll see 60,000 points for a $200 hotel… but it’s still terrible. For 60,000 points I better be getting the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong. And that’s not the case.

 

Hilton Conclusion

Hilton points are only good for people chasing low category redemptions. If you just rely on using your points in every city… your points will go away quickly.

Easy to earn, quicker to burn.

Club Carlson Rewards Pros & Cons

Club Carlson Pros

Best points earning program. Factually, Club Carlson offers the quickest regular earning of points toward a free night. They start you out earning 20 points per dollar and free nights start at 9,000 points. It’s an incredible earning rate compared to all its partners.

If you have gold status (which comes with the credit card) your earning rate is bumped up to 30 points per dollar. The best points per dollar, even when accounting for the cost of award nights.

 

Great promotions. The only promotions that are better in terms of free nights would be IHG, but Club Carlson is usually competitive. In the past they’ve done 50,000 point bonuses, and very often they do triple points, giving 60 points per dollar (or 70 points per dollar for elites).

 

2-for-1 rate for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Basically, this allows you to pay half price on weekends, but you’re getting 1 elite night credit. There’s also a version where you can do 4-for-2, where you start a 4 night stay on Wed or Thur and pay half price. The problem is that these rates are fickle. Sometimes they don’t show up in advance, and/or don’t show up in peak times at all.

Currently there are 2-for-1 award rates. Currently if you are a credit card holder you get a free night per award booking. However, it is going away at the end of May. So if you don’t already have the card, it might be too late.

 

Club Carlson Cons

The free night awards are going away soon. If you already have the credit card, book your club carlson free night before the end of May.

 

There is no real elite status. The hotels aren’t nice enough to offer such a thing as lounge access, most of the time. And if you stay 75 nights with them in a year and get concierge status, you get a free breakfast. I actually laughed when I read that they give a free breakfast. If there are two of us, one of us gets breakfast. I don’t think there’s a way to fully convey how absurd that is. It’s like they need to add a status above gold but didn’t want to give anything. Gold gets more points. And concierge gets more points, plus a breakfast.

 

Hotels are rarely 5 star. Radisson Blu is known as a nice hotel chain, but I assure you that I’ve been to a number of Radisson Blu hotels that wouldn’t meet Best Western brand standards. Yet, I always read about bloggers surprised that a Radisson Blu isn’t up to “brand standard”. No, that is the brand standard. My experience in London, Vienna, and Sydney are exceptions. (Read my post about my odd suite at the Radisson Blu Budapest). If you’re looking for a rewards program because you like nice hotels… try Hyatt, or anything not this.

 

Award nights at certain hotels can be hard to get. I gave an example earlier how the Radisson Austin had basic rooms but nothing available for points, I find this unfortunately typical and very annoying.

 

Club Carlson Conclusion

If you care about earning free nights, the way to win with Club Carlson is to be opportunistic. When there’s a great promotion out, have a specific redemption in mind and run the math. I aim for $30 a night with those types of things, but it depends on the hotel.

It’s possible to get a great deal. Earning 70 points per dollar as a gold during triple points, and paying half price with a 2-4-1 rate to earn.

IHG Rewards Club Pros & Cons

Terrible elite benefits and great points earnings. In my opinion the earning points and good redemption benefits outweigh the program that’s ran by morons who hate their elite customers.

 

IHG Pros:

Earning points is very easy.

 

Promotions are great. Up until this quarter they ran a year straight of the best programs. Like actually the best promotions. One gave two free nights and bonus points for as little as 3 paid stays, and the 2 free nights could be anywhere.

 

The best hotel rewards credit card. There is a version floating around with 80,000 points and $50 (try booking a random hotel to see if it shows up at check out). But the card gives a free night at any hotel every year and only has a $49 annual fee (waived for the first year). Any hotel! Plus, the card gives 10% of your redeemed points back, which is great if you’re doing all the promos like me.

 

Redeeming points is the best with IHG. I find IHG to have the most fairly priced award nights of all the programs. But along with that they have generous sweet spots and promotions.

 

Great low category redemptions. There are a number of hotels that are only 10,000 or 15,000 points that are actually in great destinations. See unbelievably cheap hotel redemptions.

 

PointBreaks. If you read this blog and haven’t seen PointBreaks mentioned… you’re probably only “reading” the InfoGraphics. Every few months IHG lists a number of hotels that can be had for 5,000 points. Read more about IHG PointsBreaks here.

 

But it’s not just PointBreaks, they often offer sales on award nights. I don’t understand why more hotel chains don’t do this. They are willing to have discounts on paid nights, why not do it on award nights? They’ve already done half of Caribbean hotels a few times. Holiday Inn Aruba or InterContinental Cancun for 12,500 points.

 

IHG Cons:

The only way I can make sense of IHG is if you picture that the office is half filled with monkeys. Things like the promotions dependent on booking with app and the app not tracking the promotion would make sense if a monkey were in charge. Not having a functioning app at all, or a functioning promotion website after announcing the promotion… these things make total sense if you just picture a chimp.

Never rely on anything working with IHG.

The worst customer service in the hospitality industry. Seriously. Did your points not post because the app didn’t work? Well, IHG just might ask for proof that you booked on the app. Which… is what they were supposed to keep track of.

I actually started writing down insane stories of dealing with customer support. But I literally got “we’ll call you back tomorrow” for a week straight with one issue. One person told me the manager was out of town for the week. The next told me that the manager just stepped out and they’d call me back. Another told me that “we are all managers”.

 

No elite status benefits: This is the only program not to offer breakfast or lounge access as a benefit. They have an elite status. But all this gets you is someone greeting you with a funny title. Welcome “Royal Ambassador Drew”, uh, can we not? Can I have lounge access or breakfast instead? No. Nothing. The only hotel chain I’ll mention that doesn’t guarantee either.

 

Only program to not give benefits on award nights. They don’t hardly offer any benefits, but still have the option of opting out on award nights.

 

Their top tier status is “Royal Ambassador” status and it only applies at InterContinental hotels which only makes up something like 5% of their hotels. So of the benefits you get (not breakfast or lounge access) on paid stays (not on award stays), you only get those benefits at a few of the hotels.

 

No brand consistency. At Hyatt every stay is great. At JW Marriotts, every hotel is awesome. At InterContinental you may get an awesome brand new hotel, or you could get a very very dated hotel. But the worst is Crowne Plaza. I’ve stayed at Crowne Plaza hotels that wouldn’t meet the minimum brand standards for Best Western, and yet they advertise it as a 4 star hotel. Too many to list.

 

IHG Conclusion

To me, leaving the hotel to eat breakfast and never having club lounge access is worth it to have significantly more free nights.

 

 

Marriott Rewards Pros & Cons

Marriott runs the same program they ran 10 devaluations ago, taking away tons of benefits and adding none. Earning rates are the same but hotel points prices have gone up a considerable amount. They still give out free night certificates as a promotion for categories 1-4 and they’ve moved every decent hotel to a category 6.

Marriott Pros

Lots of hotels. They have a good rewards program because the hotels are decent and there are tons of them. They already have a big customer base and rely on having ignorant customers who don’t know that other programs can give more value.

 

Lots of nice hotels. They own Ritz Carlton; you have to pay for it… but it’s an option.

 

Nights & Flights. If you’re an unlucky fool with half a million points, there is one awesome redemption with flights & nights. Transfer out a bunch of points to an airline (sadly the best use of Marriott points).

 

Marriott Cons

They run a rewards program with an incredibly devalued currency. You earn points slowly and free nights cost as much as 70,000 points. Yet, earning remains decently slow.

 

No hotels of interest to me on a category 1 or 2 list. Plus 15,000 points is $150+ of Chase points. Why would anyone ever do that to consider booking an $80 hotel?

 

Marriott Conclusion

They’ve taken away status challenges too. Marriott: Taking away benefits and adding nothing. Points are devalued. Marriott pesos. The Delta of hotels.

Starwood (SPG) Rewards Pros & Cons

I’m actually most cynical about SPG, even more than Marriott. I don’t get the appeal. If you’re going for nice hotels, there are fewer Top 500 hotels with SPG than Marriott or Hyatt, which is a smaller brand. Which also goes to show that their consistency level isn’t Hyatt. I’ve stayed at some poor SPG hotels. If you’re going for nice or consistency go elsewhere.

You’re clearly not going for most free nights with SPG as they have the lowest free night earnings, period.

 

SPG Pros

10 upgrades. Like Hyatt SPG gives 10 confirmed suite upgrades. Unfortunately, they add a restriction where you have to apply the upgrade last minute. I understand why they do it, not as good as Hyatt, but you get more of them and it’s still nice a benefit.

 

Transfer 1:1 to airline miles. You can transfer points to airlines at a 1:1 ratio. This made the credit card hot, back before the days of 5x.

 

 

SPG Cons

The least rewarding program for free nights. Look at the Best Hotel Rewards Program InfoGraphic. Dollars to a free night is by far the highest with SPG. Way more than any other chain. It just feels like your points have a great value because they price their free nights from 3,000 to 35,000 points, lower than anyone else. Yeah, because you earn less. You’re earning 2 points per dollar with SPG. It’s a joke. To earn enough points from paid stays for a free night at a top category hotel, you need to spend $17,500. Everyone does better than that, even the much nicer Ritz Carlton.

“Drew you’re missing it, if you add up the credit card spend, and elite status, then it’s not that bad.” No, every chain has a card and gives more points for elites. This isn’t an SPG invention. It’s still the worst for free nights, and not the best hotels, nor the most consistent.

 

SPG Conclusion

To me, SPG has been very disappointing. It’s for people who have more cents than sense. They aren’t the nicest hotels and you get nothing in return. Points are too hard to earn. I was going to add 3,000 point hotels to the Pros… but points costs are relative to earning.

 

 

Best Rewards Program Conclusion

Given that I wrote all 3,000+ words of this post on my flight back from Beijing (minus pictures and links), I’m sure I missed something. So please, feel free to add in some pros or cons.

The thing I know I left off is Choice, because I only really know the redeeming side of Choice. See Best Use of Choice Points for more info.

In terms of an actual rewards program I do again think the Best Hotel Rewards Program InfoGraphic gives a great display of info. How many top 500 hotels there are compared to number of properties would show consistency, there’s a section on earning/burning ration, status, and global reach.

 

Free nights from program

What I would add is that IHG and Club Carlson are above and beyond earnings because of promotions. Promotions on the earning side, promotions on the redeeming side. If you’re just looking for free nights from paid stays, IHG is the best if you combine earning promos and PointBreaks. No doubt.

 

Free nights from free points

The most number of points you can earn for free is the nearly unlimited number from Hilton credit cards. Club Carlson also offers 5 points per dollar everywhere with their card. Those are the two best for earning… Probably Hilton.

 

Best program for status

If status is the goal, Hyatt is the best. It’s more rewarding than SPG or Marriott with their points program and thus also offers free night benefits. But the real benefit is the lounges, breakfasts, and the nice hotels that all come from 25 paid stays.

 

 

 

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36 Comments

  1. Great analysis. Best Western and Wyndham are other big hotel chains. Where do their loyalty programs lie relative to the others?

    Reply
    • There loyalty program isn’t going to offer things like lounge access or suite upgrades, so it’s mainly a focus on free nights. And it’s a pretty what you see is what you get. If you can rack up points, it’s likely because of a big promotion and the programs themselves aren’t high earners. I haven’t followed the Wyndham changes well, but still, it’s low earnings and low cost redemptions. I’ve looked at best westerns because some have been in locations I like (like Zakynthos) but they are always 20,000 – 30,000 points, for the ones I want.

      For me, they are just promotion based. Just gotta make sure you price out some hotels first.

      Reply
  2. Great article. I always love reading your descriptions of the management at IHG, so spot-on.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I doubt it’s actually accurate, but it can feel that way.

      Reply
  3. Wait, Club Carlson earn rate is 10 pts/$, no?

    Reply
    • I believe the above statement is right, that you start out earning 20 pts/$

      Reply
  4. haha – I don’t pick on typos, but I do think it’s funny that you wrote, “that’s ran be morons who hate their elite customers.” There would be a typo in the sentence that’s referring to other people as morons. :-)

    Reply
    • Thanks. Fixed to by*.

      Just so I’m clear, I never claimed not to be a moron. 😀

      Reply
  5. Love your blog Drew! I read your linked post on Choice Hotels and I have to disagree with your analysis of the card. 32k sign up bonus isn’t amazing, but if you can use it on a good redemption (see below) then it’s not bad. But the real appeal to me is that if you don’t use the card much, Barclays does these offers to try to get you to use it (they do almost exactly the same thing for US Airways cards). My parents each applied for the card in August, used it for a single stay and then sock-drawered it. In Nov they got an offer in the mail– spend $750 each of Dec-Feb and get 16k bonus points. Now I would guess that if you were to keep the card for years (and why not, there’s no annual fee) and sock-drawer it, you would probably get one of these offers every 12 months or so (no proof of this though). I just got the card this month, and I’m hoping that by doing the same thing my parents did, I can get one of those offers in the fall.

    Also, a few other great values to add to your list (price given for May 3-4):
    10k Cambria hotel & suites New York – Chelsea ($199)
    10k Cambria hotel & suites Washington, D.C. Convention Center ($249)
    12k Clarion Collection Hotel NO13 ($250)
    Lots of other four-star hotels throughout Scandinavia for 8-16k points

    Reply
    • To clarify, Clarion Collection Hotel NO13 is in Bergen, Norway

      Reply
    • Well I’ll remain firm. With the logic of choosing the lowest redemptions check out the unbelievably cheap hotels and compare them to the best bonus. http://travelisfree.com/2015/03/30/unbelievably-cheap-hotel-award-redemptions/

      32k choice points (which isn’t the sign up bonus, it also requires a stay) would get you 3 nights with the card bonus.

      But 80k hilton would be 16 free nights at the Hyatt’s in Egypt.
      Or the 80k IHG card gets you 16 nights on PointBreaks.

      Ideal vs ideal, it’s still bad, imo. Is three nights after one paid stay better than not having the card? Probably. But as good as other cards? Not in my opinion.

      If the bonus was actually a sign up bonus, I would consider the hard pull. But there are lots of Barclay cards.

      Reply
    • Fair enough! I agree that most people will do better with IHG, Hilton etc. The reason my family signed up for it is that we are planning a trip to Scandinavia. The only chains with significant coverage in the area are Choice, Best Western, and Club Carlson, and I already have a Carlson card so Choice seemed like the logical next choice (heh). But I agree; I wouldn’t have signed up if I wasn’t planning for Scandinavia.

      To go off on a tangent, I think that the Barclays offerings are much less impressive with the loss of USAir. Arrival+ is a winner, but other than that and Choice, there’s none that waive the AF the first year (and the bonuses are pretty skimpy too). I am curious to see whether they will either revamp their offerings (like Citi seems to be doing) or introduce new partners in the near future.

      Reply
    • I have 80k Choice points I’m sitting on doing a number of places I could blow the points – like Italy and Scandinavia. Can’t decide yet what to use, but I’m certainly glad I have em.

      Reply
    • You’re so right about the Hiltons in Egypt being killer deals! I just finished a 3 night stay at the Ramses in Cairo. As a gold, I get the free awesome breakfast buffet. Plus good evening snacks in the Exec lounge, and all day desserts and beverages. Checked out, once again, with a zero balance on my bill and a full stomach! Good rooms, great views, nice pool, awesome weather–for 10K HHonors points a night!

      Reply
  6. Check also the Program from Accor Le Club. They are not that popular in the US but there are many Promotions in Asia.
    For example there is a Promotion next month whitch gives you Gold Status after 3×2 Stays

    Reply
    • I forget the exist. I’m just not a big fan of % based programs. You can only game it so much. They’re never going to give me 100% back.

      Reply
  7. Regarding Hyatt:

    “Upgrade to a suite with 6,000 points. Upgrade a paid stay (including cash & points) to a suite for only 6,000 points.”

    This is false. Points can only be used for suite upgrades on the Hyatt Daily Rate. And it’s 6000 points per night, not per stay.

    Reply
    • Thanks. I changed the word stay to night.

      Reply
  8. loved the piece and the analysis.

    Although I will never understand your cynicism against SPG. It may be a diffence in intended audience.

    You mentioned that if someone else is footing the bill, people should stay at a hyatt. But really, I work for a place that travels 90% of the time, and everyone is a Starwood loyalist. Every one of our competitors also uses Starwood almost exclusively. And bear in mind, we can stay at any hotel we want on business. There is good reason spg has the highest % of high value business travelers (from their 10k)

    It offers the perfect mix of hotel breadth, quality, and earnings. Because starwood hotels typically charges more than their competitors for cash, a week (4 days or so) of traveling nets you ~ 12 to 15k points w the credit card, status, welcome bonus, promos.

    For redemptions, spg works because it treats it like a paid stay, breakfast, lounge access, suite upgrades, which is what really business travelers care about.

    Lastly hotel quality, even the lowest of the low category 1 Starwood is better than the majority of marriotts, and the vast majority of ihg properties. I have yet to stay at a poor property in almost a decade of traveling.

    The kicker are the great mid tier properties, mostly out of the U.S. That are absolutely amazing, and redeems at less than top tier. Examples – sls in Beverly Hills, all the hotels in Peru, st Regis singapore.

    For the business traveler on an expense account, spg has a stanglehold on us.

    Disclosure – I did branch out to hyatt and IHG for their last few promos. Found the earnings Mediocre, and the redemption choices lacking. Except in NZ where ihg has the only hotels

    Reply
    • I don’t think popular opinion has any relevance to how good a program is. Delta has the biggest number of business travelers, period. It is objectively the worst frequent flyer program when you run the numbers.

      When you run the numbers, SPG is objectively the worst program in terms of points earned. (See the infographic).

      Charging more does earn you points, but I’m saying factually, you will get even more Hyatt points. Hyatt points can be used for suites and all kinds of things. You will get more suites, more free nights, and more perks at Hyatt for the same stay once you run the numbers. Especially at top tier hotels, which is apparently the goal.

      Every single hotel chain gives benefits on award stays, including Hyatt and Marriott. The once exception is IHG which doesn’t have lounge access anyways.

      Again, the quality of the hotel is no competition. Yes, Marriott has some worse hotels… but they also have like 6,000 hotels when SPG has 1,000 and you can choose any hotel you want. So when on average there are 6x more Marriott hotels, you wouldn’t have to choose the fairfield inn, you could choose Ritz Carltons… which also charge a lot, earn more points and would earn more free nights.
      By the objective ranking I gave of nice hotels, Hyatt and Marriott have more than SPG.

      Nicer hotels, earns more points, and gives all the same benefits plus way more with Hyatt. These programs are marketing tools to keep people roped in. But again popular opinion bandwagoning has no relevance on the numbers.

      Reply
  9. Drew, thank you for the great analysis, i might have to look into the Hilton program a little more for low level redemption.

    I think you are too critical of SPG though. SPG with manufactured spending is incredible (you can argue MS UR points for Hyatt is more worth it, but you should be doing that for airline transfers anyway).
    Hotels at category 1 & 2 are absolute steals (at 3000-4000 points, $25-$35 a night).

    And unlike many other programs, there are ACTUALLY a ton of category 1 & 2 hotels (even in expensive areas like SoCal and Germany). I hopped at around 12-15 low SPG category hotels earlier this year during my around-the-world trip and i’m happy with every SPG hotels that I stayed at. I was also upgraded to suites EVERY TIME (~10 stays) since I became a Plat, on both award and paid stays. If you really want to “juice” your points, you also choose to get 500 starpoint back as Plat, so the cost of category 1 & 2 stays become even lower. (Your Category 1 and 2 only cost 1500 and 2500 starpoints, respectively)

    Of course, Starpoints suck for high category redemption, but then again, which hotel program other than Hyatt doesn’t?

    Reply
    • I actually agree on the value of the Cat 1 & 2 SPGs. I’m too broke to MS on the SPG card, it costs more than I’m willing to spend. But it’s a great value. I always see low SPG properties and wish I had more points.

      Still, objectively the earn rate is the worst.

      Reply
    • Nooo. Please don’t look beyond Hilton low end. Leave those horrible top tier redemptions to us dummies who don’t know how to run the numbers or take advantage of the perks.

      FYI, it’s a 5th night free benny, not 4th night free.

      Reply
  10. Very curious to understand your aversion to using UR points for Hyatt stays as i happen to think them to be their best value proposition. United’s devaluation and close-in booking fee make UA worth less than MR (via Aeroplan) and the alternative transfer partners are either a waste (Marriott) or otherwise accessible (KrisFlyer via TYP, Avios via MR). 5x on Ink/Freedom makes most Grand Hyatts easily attainable.

    Reply
    • I personally will never transfer to Hyatt. Maybe if I was short 1,000 points. But I don’t choose nice hotels, I chase deals. So that’s probably why. I have way cheaper ways to get hotels than transferring $200 worth of cash out to get a single hotel night.

      Reply
    • Where are you getting your $200 point valuation from? I would argue that Hyatt transfers is one of the best deals from the UR program. A few weeks ago, I stayed at a Hyatt for 8,000 points when the rate was about $250 per night. That’s over 3 points per dollar and if that’s not a deal, then you must have the holy grail of award redemptions up your sleeve.

      Reply
    • Well I agree on that. Any category 1+2 that’s a great deal with any chain… is just a great deal. There aren’t a ton of cat 2s worth $250. PH Mendoza, Grand Hyatt Santiago, Amman, Sao Paulo… Not a ton, out of hundreds of hotels in the Hyatt name. There aren’t even a ton of cat 3s or 4s worth $250 and now we’re talking 15,000 points. But I’d agree that they would at least get good “value” in the sense that many bloggers use the word “value” (where you take the cash rate of the hotel and divide by points).

      Via Chase 8,000 would be worth $100. I’ve written many many times how I average $20 to $30 night, depending on the chain and where we’ve been traveling.

      My goal isn’t to take the arbitrary math of value and get the highest number possible… It’s to pay as little money as possible. I don’t think it’s wrong to do so. Nor do I think it’s wrong to have arbitrary rankings in anything else from sports to video games. It’s just that the goal of the site is the little money goal, and it’s inherently against the math-formula-value goal.
      And the cheapest thing for me to do if I had to use Chase points to book a hotel, it would be to cash them out and use them to book a different hotel where I can average <$30 via IHG rewards or something.

      Reply
  11. SPG Cat2(1 night/Plat) for 100 USD = 200+100 starpoints
    plus 500 starpoints for plat = 200+100+500 = 800 Starpoints / 100 USD
    /1 night stay
    SPG Cat2(2 nights/Plat) for 200 USD = 400+200 starpoints
    plus 500 starpoints for plat and Make a green choice (500) =
    Total points = 400+200+500+500 = 1600 Starpoints / 200 USD
    SPG is really suck for high cat redemption
    SPG is very complicated program more than other chain

    Reply
    • I agree it’s more complicated. But I think you can run the same numbers with any program and get the same results. I disagree on the $100 spg hotel being realistic 😀

      Reply
  12. Very nice post, thank you

    Reply
  13. Hej, Drew.

    Do you think buying Ambassador status, as a form of rewarding yourself, for 32k ihg points is worth it? We will use it 4 times this year.

    Reply
  14. Drew: I think you made a mistake–SPG starpoints transfer to airlines at a rate of 1.25:1 (not 1:1). That’s what makes them incredibly valuable to some folks–they would not use them for hotel stays. And the transfer partners are attractive to some as well.

    Reply
  15. Actually, I meant to say 1:1.25.

    Reply
  16. Drew, I just want to let you know that you are, hands down, the best blog writer in this topic space! I’ve been reading all the major blogs on this space starting in 2002, and you’re the most succinct and entertaining and well-written blog in the crowd! Keep up the great work!!

    Reply
  17. @Drew – Your otherwise reasonably balanced rundown of the major hotel loyalty programs’ pros and cons gets tripped up, yet again, by the myth that the “cost of top tier [Hilton] hotels is insane.”

    Here is how I have easily and repeatedly debunked that claim that keeps being bounced off the walls of the travel blogophere echo chamber.

    A. First, one must consider the relative “redemption rates” side of the mile/point equation:

    — Awards for top category Hyatt hotels cost 30K Gold Passport (GP) points.
    — Awards for top category Hilton hotels cost 95K HHonors (HH)points.

    B. Then, one must consider the relative “point earning” side of the mile/point equation:

    Excluding credit card points and considering only points earned through revenue stays but the same would be true for points earned through co-branded credit cards or a combination of the two,

    — A Hyatt GP Diamond earns: 5points/$ + 30% of 5points/$ = 6.5 GP points/$

    — A HH Diamond earns: 10points/$ + 5ponts/$ + 5points/$(double-dipping)= 20 HH points/$.

    C. Lastly, one can meaningfully compare different programs by taking into account the relative redemption and earning sides of the mile/point equation:

    — From the info in A&B above, it should be clear that a HHonors Diamond earns 20/6.5 = 3.1 times more HH points a clip than a GP Diamond earns GP points.

    Therefore, 95K HH points that one would pay for a top category Hilton hotel are equivalent to 95K/3.1 = 30.6K GP points, which is exactly the same as the 30K that one would pay for a top category Hyatt hotel!!!

    If you are going to claim that the “cost of top tier [Hilton] hotels is insane”, then you must claim the same thing about the cost of top-tier Hyatt hotels, because when one takes into account the two sides of the mile/point equation [required to be able able to compare different programs], it is clear that top-tier Hilton and Hyatt awards are priced exactly the same!

    What is demonstrably true, however, is that awards for top-tier SPG hotels are, BY FAR, the highest priced of any program in the business…by.far!

    All of the above should be indisputable since the math is quite simple.

    G’day 😉

    Reply
  18. @Drew claims: “Best program for status
    If status is the goal, Hyatt is the best. It’s more rewarding than SPG or Marriott with their points program and thus also offers free night benefits. But the real benefit is the lounges, breakfasts, and the nice hotels that all come from 25 paid stays.”

    The claim that if “status is the goal, Hyatt is the best” is another a falsehood that’s been perpetuated by travel bloggers.

    As I showed above, Hyatt awards are priced about the same as Hilton’s. Second, as a HHonors Diamond I get “lounges, breakfasts, and nice hotels” BUT with 8x a larger “footprint” than Hyatt’s.

    I have always made HH Diamond after about 10-12 paid compared to 25 stays to make Hyatt Diamond. In fact, last year I made HH Diamond after just 7 stays long and relatively expensive stays that cost me more than $12K thus earning me 120K or more base points, which were enough to requalify for Diamond (another plus of HHonors is that it enables elite qualification 3 ways: on spend or base points, on the number of stays or on the number of nights). Lastly, I was upgraded to a suite 12 times out of 12 stays as a HH Diamond last year, which were 8 more suite upgrades than a Hyatt Diamond can have using their 4 “confirmed” suite upgrade certificates. I wrote “confirmed” because they too still depend on availability like the complimentary but UNLIMITED HHonors Diamond suite upgrades. However, unlike the former, the latter suite upgrades also are good even on reward stays!

    So, you can understand why I must take issue with your characterization of Hyatt as the “best” program for status.

    Reply

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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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