Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hotel Loyalty Programs

All of the chain hotels have loyalty programs. However, all hotel programs were not created equal. There have been dozens and dozens of blog posts by other travel bloggers that have gone into deep detail about the programs. Therefore, I am going to keep this really simple and use my own experiences and opinions on how to rank the hotel programs. This is a ranking of the loyalty programs, relative value of their points, and the availability and quality of properties.

1. Starwood Preferred Guest – there is nearly 1200 properties within the SPG network. Hotels include Sheraton, Westin, Four Points,  W, St. Regis, to name the most commonly well known. I have stayed at Sheratons, Westins, and Four Points and been very comfortable with my family. I have not yet had the pleasure of staying at any of their higher end properties. Categories are from 1 -7, 1 being Four Points at non-popular locations, and 7 being a high end St. Regis-type hotel in New York City, or the Mystique in Santorini, Greece. For categories 3 and above, you can book four nights on points and receive a 5th night for free. SPG has the best redemption for points on low to mid-category hotels. Redemption starts at 2000 points on weekend night at category 1 property. By comparison, the lowest available Marriott redemption is 6000 points/night.   

Mystique, Santorini, an SPG property

2. Hyatt Gold Passport – only 370 properties worldwide, this program has the best redemption for high end properties. Their categories are also ranked 1-7. The redemption for a standard room at a category 7 property is 30K points. This is a great redemption of points as many of these properties have per night rates $600+, providing a 2cpm rate. Hyatt points are also easier to attain than SPG points. Hyatt is a transfer partner with Chase UR. Hotels include Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Andaz, and Park Hyatt, to name a few. Sample category 7 properties include Park Hyatt Tokyo, Park Hyatt New York, and Park Hyatt Paris –Vendome.  

Park Hyatt Paris - Vendome

3. IHG Rewards Club – over 4600 properties worldwide, the Intercontinental Hotel Group is the largest hotel group in the world. Properties include all of the Holiday Inns, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and Intercontinental. They group their properties into nine categories, ranging in redemption from 10K/night to 50K/night for their top properties. Two redemption options increase the value of this program: the cash and points and the PointsBreak options. 

Intercontinental Bora Bora


4. Marriott Rewards – over 4000 properties worldwide, there are Marriott’s in most tourist destinations. Properties include Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, Courtyard, Marriott, Renaissance, and Ritz Carlton. The availability of Marriott’s is the biggest pro for this program. The award chart is not the best. The mid-category hotels range from 15-30K/night at the PointSavers reward redemption levels. They also have the 5th night bonus when you redeem four nights with points.  

Ritz Carlton - Half Moon Bay, CA

5. Hilton HHonors – over 540 properties globally. Includes Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and Waldorf Astoria. This program has seen massive devaluations in award value over the past year. Used to be that one could reserve a top tier property at 50K points/night. Now that same property costs 80K points/night. That’s a 60% inflation rate. There are some aspirational properties including Conrad and Waldorf Astoria. 

Conrad Maldives

6. Club Carlson – over 1000 hotel properties. Includes Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn and Suites, and the Radisson Blu. Not many choices within the US, but can be useful internationally. Their brands typically are not as nice as the other chains in my rankings, but they are comfortable enough. The best benefit of this chain requires having their co-branded credit card. CC holders get one free night with any award booking. This can effectively double the value of your Carlson points.

7. Choice Privileges – their brands include Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Clarion, Econolodge, and Cambria Suites. Not the best properties, but they provide the basic necessary needs of a traveler. The best use I have found of this property is to book the Comfort Suites in Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas. By booking at this property, you are allowed four all-property access passes to Atlantis. This is such a great deal that I have booked a night at the Comfort Suites during a daytime cruise excursion just so I can have the Atlantic access passes. I would even pay for a stay versus buying access passes from Atlantis for my family of four. The other note for this chain is that their points expire after a certain period of time. You cannot refresh the account by adding points or using them, as with most other programs. With the expiration date, these points lose a lot of their flexibility, therefore their value.

There are some chains I have not included in my list, e.g. Wyndham Rewards. But the above are the brands that I typically look for when I am traveling and needing a hotel stay. Typically, when I travel with my family, I look for vacation rentals as they are more accommodating.

Any thoughts on my hotel chain rankings?

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