The qualities that make for the best hotel rewards programs are somewhat subjective. You might focus on how many points you’ll earn for each hotel stay, while someone else might be more interested in the number of points it takes to redeem an award. In truth, the best hotel rewards program is probably the one you use most often and have the most points with – but if you haven’t yet started accumulating points with any program, then it’s definitely worth it to compare several before you become a loyal customer.
Since it’s challenging (if not outright impossible) to rank hotel rewards programs in a way that will please everyone, here’s the criteria I’ve used in this article to rank the following hotel rewards programs:
- Number and variety of ways to earn points
- Number of points awarded for hotel stays
There is also, as I alluded to earlier, a fair amount of personal opinion in this ranking, too, but I’ve tried to stick to objective criteria as much as possible. In any case, I encourage you to use this list to narrow down which programs you might want to research further, and then do that additional research. There’s more information linked below for each hotel rewards program listed, so you can choose the program that will benefit you most.
Best Hotel Rewards Programs
- Hilton HHonors Program – The Hilton brand is a big and famous one, and there are Hilton hotels all over the place, so that’s one advantage of the Hilton HHonors program. In addition to that, the list of air partners is long, and there’s a nice variety of other ways to earn points (including train travel on both Amtrak and Deutsche Bahn). You’ll earn 10 points for every qualifying $1 US spent, which is on the high end for reward amounts. But it’s the unique program Hilton calls “Double Dipping” that puts it over the top – depending on the version of “Double Dipping” you choose, you can earn varying amounts of both hotel points and air miles for each qualifying $1 US spent. The program’s main drawback is that it’s not going to earn you free air travel as fast as some other programs. But if your goal is to earn free hotel stays, this is an excellent program to enroll in. (Learn more about how to earn Hilton points)
- Marriott Rewards – Because there are so many hotels in the Marriott family, there’s a long list of hotels to choose from with which to earn Marriott points. The list of airlines is also extensive, and there’s a goodly amount of variety in terms of other points-earning methods, too (including a vacation club and event planning services). You can earn up to 10 points per qualifying $1 US spent, or up to 2 air miles for every $1. The “up to” part is because some hotels and airlines give you more points than others, so be sure to read the details. (Learn more about how to earn Marriott points)
- Wyndham Rewards – Wyndham ranks highly because of the number of hotels and air partners with which you can earn Wyndham points (both lists are long). And although there isn’t a long list of other ways to earn points, this is another hotel chain that has a partnership with Amtrak so that train trips will earn hotel points, too. You can also book vacations and cruises through Wyndham for points. You’ll earn up to 10 points for each qualifying $1 US spent, or 500 air miles per stay. One thing that could make Wyndham a good choice for many different kinds of travelers is that there’s a nice combination of mid-range and budget-end hotels in the Wyndham family, so your options aren’t all in one budget range. (Learn how to earn Wyndham points)
- InterContinental Priority Club – Although the list of hotels under the InterContinental umbrella is short, the chain does partner with an impressive number of airlines. There’s also only one car rental company and one credit card connected to InterConteinental, but you can earn points for things like shopping, dining, event planning, and even booking cruises. You’ll earn as many as 10 points for every qualifying $1 US spent. (Learn more about how to earn InterContinental points)
- Hyatt Gold Passport – Hyatt ranks highly with business travelers, but my guess is that has more to do with the hotels themselves and the amenities available to travelers withe expense accounts than it does with the numbers – because the numbers just don’t compare with some of the other programs. There just isn’t a long list of hotels, airlines, or any other points-earning methods under the Hyatt program, and you’ll only earn 5 points for each qualifying $1 US spent (there are different levels of the rewards program, and members at higher levels will earn more points per $1 US, which is another reason business travelers probably like it – they’re at those higher levels). (Learn more about how to earn Hyatt points)
- Choice Privileges – The Choice hotels family is actually quite large, so the list of hotels in the program is a long one – but the rest of the points-earning methods aren’t as extensive. It’s a pretty short list of airlines partnered with Choice, and only a few other partners besides (although this is another hotel chain partnered with Amtrak). You’ll earn between 5-10 points for each qualifying $1 US (it varies depending on the hotel you stay in). One interesting feature is that rather than earning points for hotel stays that you’d have to convert to air miles later on, if you know you’re more interested in earning air miles than hotel points you get to cut out the middleman – you’ll just need to show your frequent flyer number for your chosen airline when you check in and you earn miles directly with that airline. (Learn more about how to earn Choice hotel points)
- Best Western Rewards – Despite the fact that you’ll earn 10 points for each qualifying $1 US spent at Best Western’s chain of hotels, the fact that there are only Best Western hotels in the hotel partner section is enough to drop the chain down this list. That and the short list of airline partners, not to mention the distinct lack of much variety for other points-earning options, makes it far from the best hotel rewards program out there. However, for budget travelers who still want a way to rack up points for their travels, Best Western’s quite a good option – it’s a budget hotel chain that’s just about everywhere, and the points awarded for a stay are really generous. (Learn more about how to earn Best Western points)
- Starwood Preferred Guest – Frequent business travelers may scoff at Starwood’s low ranking on this list, because it’s regularly rated quite highly by business travelers. But even with the long list of hotels in the program, there’s only a handful of other ways to earn points (and it’s a small hand at that), and you’ll only earn 2 points for each qualifying $1 US you spend. Again, there are different levels to the program, and members who get to higher levels can earn more points – so it’s likely that frequent business travelers who are presumably at those higher levels are the ones who’d rate the program so highly. But perhaps most surprising is that there are no airlines partnered with Starwood – so you’d better want to use those points for something other than a plane ticket. (Learn more about how to earn Starwood points – including with the Starwood Preferred card from American Express)
>> Also check out Frequent Flyer Hotel Bonuses
photo by donielle