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Best Hotel Loyalty Programs And Their Benefits

Best Hotel Loyalty Programs And Their Benefits

Choosing the best hotel rewards program hinges on a whole host of factors—where you travel and how often you travel being chief among them. But your travel style is a driving factor too: Are you the kind of person satisfied by free waffles at breakfast or are you not happy until you have your own butler? With these variables in mind, we evaluated all the major hotel groups to narrow down our list of the best hotel loyalty programs, the ones that offer the greatest perks, upgrades, and benefits in exchange for your loyalty. With many, it may be in your best interest to apply for the brand's credit card to maximize your hotel points and possible discounts. Read on for our guide to the five best hotel rewards programs around the world. 

Here’s What You Should Consider When Choosing A Hotel Loyalty Program:

  • How many properties the brand has: The more, generally, the better.

  • Where those hotels are in the world: Are they in places you plan to visit?

  • What it takes to achieve status: Will you have to stay a little or a lot to unlock perks?

  • What benefits do you get: Are we talking free Wi-Fi or free suites?

  • How easy it it is to earn and redeem points: In other words, how quickly can you earn free nights?

No brand is perfect in all these categories, and different hotels have different strengths. So consider this your guide to sorting out where you should spend your time and money. After all, choosing a hotel rewards program is a commitment: Once you start earning points, it’s best to stick with one brand over the long term to maximize your return. When you’re just starting out, your reward may be as small as a free bottle of water or free Wi-Fi. But over the long haul, it’s possible earn valuable status, which can improve every one of your upcoming stays—not to mention plenty of suite upgrades and free nights at some of the world’s best hotels.

Marriott Bonvoy

Why We Love It

The Bonvoy program offers you access to more than 7,000 hotels across 29 brands and 130 countries, so you can essentially throw a dart at a map and find a hotel where you can redeem your points for a free night. You'll earn 10 base points per dollar for booking at Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton properties like the Readers' Choice Award-winning St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach Edition. You can also earn points through ordering Uber rides and Uber Eats deliveries, renting a car with Hertz, booking cruises through Cruises Only, or spending in addition to your room, whether that's a round of golf, a spa treatment, or room service. If you'd rather rack up airline miles than Bonvoy points, you can do that too: Earn up to two miles per dollar on the same qualifying charges noted above, and the list of participating airlines is extensive, including Delta, JetBlue, Alaska, Virgin Atlantic, and more.

Signing up for the loyalty program automatically makes you a member; stay 10 nights and you'll be elevated to Silver Elite, where you'll earn 10 percent more points on hotel stays; 25 nights earns Gold Elite and 25 percent more points; 50 nights means Platinum Elite and 50 percent more points, and so on (the highest status is Ambassador Elite, which requires 100 nights per year and spending $20,000 on qualifying purchases).

Things To Note 

There are eight hotel tiers, and the points needed for a free night at certain hotels vary by the tier and the season (there's off-peak, standard, and peak). Marriott has published its reward chart so you can figure out exactly which hotels will cost what. Free nights at Marriott hotels start at 7,500 points for Category 1 hotels and go up to 85,000 per night for Category 8 hotels. Needless to say, there's a lot of range, but no matter what category you book, you’ll get your fifth night free when you book four consecutive nights.

The Credit Card To Help Maximize Your Points

If you plan to dive into Bonvoy, signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express credit card is essential to earning more points quicker. You'll earn six points per dollar at Bonvoy properties, three points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with the airline, and two points per dollar on all other purchases. Plus, as far as perks go, you'll get a statement credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, one free award night every year after your card account anniversary, and unlimited airport lounge access when you enroll in Priority Pass Select membership for yourself and two guests (enrollment required, terms apply). There's a hefty $450 annual fee, but the perks (and a hearty welcome offer of 75,000 points if you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months) more than balance it out.

Bottom Line

Even if you don't apply for a credit card, you have nothing to lose by simply becoming a Marriott Bonvoy member. Joining is free, and you'll get perks like free Wi-Fi, members-only rates (at least a two percent discount on weekdays and a five percent discount on weekends), and the ability to check in with your phone. Racking up points and moving to higher status levels is as simple as staying at a participating hotel, and given the sheer number of properties under the Bonvoy umbrella, this isn't hard to do.

World Of Hyatt

Why We Love It

Hyatt may be one of the “smaller” global players, with around 1,000 hotels, but it has a strong luxury hotel and resort portfolio around the world, including hotels like the Park Hyatt Sydney, one of Australia’s best hotels, the luxe Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, and the Hot List-winning Thompson Dallas. If you're looking to stay in luxurious hotels in major cities in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, or Asia, World of Hyatt should be on your radar.

The loyalty program is admittedly a bit complicated—particularly if you’re new to rewards programs—but there are solid rewards awaiting those who weed through the fine print. The program revolves around four levels of status: Member, Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalist. While Member status requires nothing but signing up, the other tiers are unlocked by booking nights at Hyatt properties. The more you stay, the higher your status—and the more points you earn. All World of Hyatt members earn five points per dollar on all Hyatt purchases. Discoverist status adds a 10 percent bonus to your point accrual, Explorist a 20 percent bonus, and Globalist a 30 percent bonus. 

Besides the earning potential, World of Hyatt includes a few valuable perks at higher status tiers—all of which have lower stay and points requirements due to the pandemic. Explorist, which requires 15 qualifying nights or earning 25,000 points in a year, includes free room upgrades and access to club lounges at various properties. Globalist status, which requires 30 qualifying nights or earning 50,000 points per year, nets you suite upgrades upon availability and 4 p.m. late checkout, plus all the perks of the Explorist tier. 

Things To Note

While low-end hotels start at just 5,000 points per night, Park Hyatt hotels don't come cheap. The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, for example, will run you 30,000 points per night, meaning you’d have to spend at least $6,000 in a year at Hyatt properties to earn a free night, discounting any other partner programs or welcome bonuses that pad your points balance.

Hyatt also partners with nearly 30 airlines, including American, Qatar Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. You can choose to earn Hyatt points or partner miles on your stays, though you'll earn miles at a rate different from Hyatt points. You can also convert Hyatt points to any airline partners' frequent flier miles.

The Credit Card To Help Maximize Your Points

The quickest way to earn status and points is by applying for the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which automatically catapults you to Discoverist status. Plus, cardholders get five “qualifying night credits” every year, which count toward the total number of nights you’ll need to stay to earn status. To reach the Explorist tier, for example, you’d need to stay just 25 nights instead of 30.

The card also helps you earn points faster when you use it to book Hyatt stays, with four bonus points per dollar spent on top of the existing five-for-one structure. In other words, you’ll get nine points per dollar when you book a Hyatt with this card, something that helps you achieve status faster. You'll earn two bonus points per dollar spent at restaurants, flights booked directly with the airline, on local transit, and on gym memberships—perks that help you earn points with purchases you're already making.

Bottom Line

World of Hyatt is a great option if you spend a lot at hotels and want free nights (and upgrades) at high-end hotels. But this program isn’t as flexible as some others—and you’ll need to earn your way to higher status levels to really start unlocking big benefits.

Hilton Honors

Why We Love It

This program is top-tier thanks in part to Hilton’s massive geographic footprint. With more than 5,000 hotels in 100 different countries, the brand has places to stay pretty much everywhere, including excellent luxury options, including the Conrad Tokyo and the Waldorf-Astoria Beverly Hills, and plenty of mid-tier choices in just about any city you'd want to visit.

Like Hyatt’s program, Hilton’s revolves around four levels of membership: Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Member benefits are pretty minimal, like free Wi-Fi and earnings of 10 points per dollar spent on Hilton bookings. To hit Silver, you'll need to complete four stays or 10 nights and you'll earn 12 points per dollar—plus you get the fifth night free on reward bookings. Gold status gets you a little more, adding space-available room upgrades and complimentary breakfast. You'll have to complete 20 stays or 40 nights in a calendar year, or earn 75,000 base points in a year to reach this tier, which earns you 18 points per dollar on Hilton bookings.

To get all the way up to Diamond, you'll need to stay 60 nights or earn 120,000 base points, which equates to spending $12,000 with Hilton. That’s a lot of spending. Luckily, there’s a hack, in the form of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which comes with complimentary Diamond status. With Diamond status, you earn 20 points per dollar; but when using the Aspire card, you get a bonus 14 points per dollar. That adds up to 34 points for every dollar spent at Hilton, a killer earn rate. Diamond guests also get a ton of other perks on every stay, including room upgrades, access to Executive Lounges at hotels, guaranteed rooms even on last-minute bookings, and even the ability to gift a friend Diamond status. Downside? There's a $450 annual fee.

Things To Note

Hilton Honors doesn't publish a reward chart, meaning you can't look up how many points you'll need to get free nights. Instead, you'll need to start a booking to check rates or use Hilton’s tool that searches the maximum standard room reward price for a particular property. It’s a lack of transparency other programs don’t suffer from.

You'll need a ton of points to stay at any of Hilton's higher-end hotels, too. Places like the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island will run you 95,000 points per night on average. (You’d have to spend at least $2,800 with Hilton to earn that many points.) 

The Credit Card To Help Maximize Your Points

If a $450 annual fee is too much, know that Hilton and American Express have partnered for another card that has no annual fee: the Hilton Honors American Express Card. Cardholders earn seven points per dollar on Hilton stays, five points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and three points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. While you won't get automatic Diamond status, you'll be starting at Silver. 

Bottom Line

Hilton's lack of a reward chart is annoying, but if you’re a true loyalist to the brand, you’ll get serious perks once you achieve Diamond status. Pick up the Aspire card, and you’ll get there instantly, with enough benefits that the card pays for itself. Those seeking more flexibility, though, may find other programs more rewarding.

IHG Rewards

Why We Love It

You have tons of choice when it comes to IHG's 6,000-plus properties. You can go ultra-luxe at Six Senses Hotels & Resorts and Regent Hotels, go for boutique hotels and villas through Mr & Mrs Smith, or make a Kimpton your home base for a city stay. (Tried-and-true basics like Holiday Inns are also in the mix here.)

As for the IHG Rewards program, there are five levels starting with Club, which mainly offers free Wi-Fi during stays and access to exclusive member rates. You'll earn 10 points per dollar spent on IHG's main brands, and five points per dollar on Staybridge and Candlewood Suites stays. One level up is Gold Elite, which includes late check-out and a 10 percent bonus to your point accrual. Platinum Elite bumps that bonus up to 50 percent and add perks like complimentary room upgrades, while the Spire Elite level includes a 100 percent bonus on point accrual, early check-in, and an automatic bump to Five Star in Hertz's Gold Rewards program. The highest level of IHG rewards is the invite-only Kimpton Inner Circle, which is extended to Kimpton-loyal, high-status IHG Rewards members, and includes the same perks as Spire Elite, but with a free night at new Kimpton properties and a complimentary appetizer or dessert at most Kimpton restaurants. 

When it comes to spending those points, know that IHG doesn't have a fixed amount of points to book any of its hotels, so you'll find out exactly how many points you need when it comes time to book. For reference, an overwater bungalow at Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives typically costs around 100,000 points per night, while the Kimpton De Witt Hotel in Amsterdam usually costs around 40,000 points per night. 

Things To Note

If you want to skip to the front of the line, IHG offers a pay-to-play status level: InterContinental Ambassador membership. For $200 a year (or 40,000 points), you'll get automatic Platinum Elite status, guaranteed one category room upgrades at InterContinental properties, and a complimentary weekend night at InterContinental, Kimpton, and Regent hotels. If you stay at a Six Senses resort, Ambassadors also get both complimentary breakfast throughout their stay and a complimentary 50-minute massage. It's particularly useful if you're loyal to InterContinental hotels or are planning a stay or two at a Six Senses Resort (honeymoon, anyone?). 

The Credit Card To Help Maximize Your Points

Compared to other hotel co-branded credit cards (or the cost of the InterContinental Ambassador membership), the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has a relatively low annual fee of $89 and tons of perks. Firstly, cardholders get automatic Platinum Elite status and are given both an annual free night to be used on properties worth 40,000 points and under and a fourth night free when redeeming points for stays four nights or longer. Plus, you'll get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit to cover the application fee. Cardholders earn a whopping 25 points per dollar spent at any IHG property, two points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. 

Bottom Line

You can easily make IHG Rewards work for you—especially with the help fo the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, with its 25 points per dollar earnings on IHG properties. Plus, despite the nebulous nature of redeeming points, you can find plenty of deals and good uses for your rewards points to make this loyalty program a worthwhile investment.

Wyndham Rewards

Why We Love It

Wyndham doesn't have quite the luxury offerings of other hotel chains, but don't let that dissuade you from diving into Wyndham Rewards. This loyalty program's greatest asset is its flat-rate redemptions: Whether you stay at a Days Inn in Topeka or at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort, free nights cost just 15,000 points each. If you can find the right place to stay—like the Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay in Phuket—you can score incredible deals on high-end hotels. 

In the United States, you'll have about a dozen Wyndham Grand hotels to choose from, along with a variety of vacation rentals in places like Palm Springs, California; Aspen, Colorado; and Charleston, South Carolina. And thanks to a partnership between Wyndham and Caesars Entertainment, 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points let you book a night at any Caesars property, including places like the Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace.

Earning is straightforward too: You'll earn 10 points per dollar spent on Wyndham Rewards hotels, or 1,000 points per stay, whichever is greater. You can also earn 100 points per day on car rentals with Avis and Budget. As with most hotel rewards programs, you can earn elite status by staying frequently at Wyndham Rewards hotels. Wyndham Rewards tiers include Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Platinum and Diamond come with amenities like free Wi-Fi, early check in, and late check out.

Unlike other hotel loyalty programs, there isn't a credit card to help you maximize points, as the Wyndham Rewards Earner Card will only set you up with Gold status and minimal points earnings, like five points per dollar on Wyndham stays and gas, and two points per dollar on dining and groceries. 

Things To Note

While you can convert Wyndham points into airline miles the same way you can Bonvoy and Hyatt points, you shouldn't: The conversion rate is bad, at five Wyndham points to one airline mile. Wyndham's not great if you're looking for high-end options in Europe; there are fewer than 10 Wyndham Grand hotels in the entire continent. And a huge number of the company's hotels are lower- or mid-tier properties, like Days Inn and La Quinta.

Bottom Line

Wyndham's program doesn't require any number crunching or spreadsheet gymnastics. It makes a lot of sense if you want to bounce around China, as there are almost 20 Wyndham Grand resorts around the country, and there are enough around the U.S., especially once you factor in the ability to stay for free at Caesars properties.

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