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INSIDE: Looking for the best hotel loyalty programs? We’ve done the research for you so you can easily choose the one you like best.
Staying in the same hotel chain over and over can save you money if you’re in its loyalty program … but limiting yourself to that chain can sometimes be an inconvenience. How do you know which hotel loyalty programs are worth it?
The best one for you depends on your personal and travel preferences. We’re sharing some of the most attractive options here so you can compare them and find what’s right for you.
Buyer Beware (Why Do Hotels Even Have Loyalty Programs?)
No secrets here: The reason hotels have loyalty programs is to try to get you to increase the amount of time that you stay with them.
At their core, hotel loyalty programs try to get you to make irrational decisions. You know you need only a few more nights to get that next tier of hotel elite status, so you stay with your preferred brand even though another hotel is cheaper / closer / more convenient. Or you are used to the perks that come with elite status at a specific chain, so you avoid staying at other hotels. (The same concept is at play with frequent flyer mile programs.)
It is certainly possible to extract value from hotel loyalty programs. My family and I have leveraged hotel elite status to get perks that have certainly saved us money. It’s just an important caveat to remember that hotels have loyalty programs to benefit THEM. So you have to be on your toes to outwit the bean counters back at the home office of the big-brand hotel!
The Best of the Best Hotel Loyalty Programs
Here’s a list of some of the best hotel loyalty programs out there (probably not comprehensive). I’ll cover the basics of each hotel rewards program and give my take on when it might make sense to participate in them.
Hilton Hotels offers the Hilton Honors loyalty program, with Silver, Gold and Diamond statuses. Hilton Honors Diamond is one of the easiest top-tier elite statuses to earn. With the Hilton Aspire hotel credit card, you automatically get Diamond status. Hilton Gold (which comes with a variety of other reward credit cards) is one of the most useful middle-tier hotel statuses because it comes with free breakfast.
- Perks: Easier to earn top-tier status, free breakfasts
Marriott is currently the largest hotel program in the world and offers a variety of different levels, from Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador elite statuses. You can get Gold status with a variety of cards with an avenue to Platinum status by spending on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card.
- Perks: Biggest global network of hotels
World of Hyatt
Hyatt’s World of Hyatt program has Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist statuses, making it one of the best hotel loyalty programs. Hyatt Globalist status is another top-tier status that is relatively easy to earn and quite useful. While there isn’t a credit card that outright conveys Globalist status (like there is with Hilton Diamond), you can earn Globalist status through spending on Hyatt’s credit card.
- Perks: Globalist status can get you perks like check-out as late at 4 p.m. and free parking (depending on the hotel)
IHG Rewards has a loyalty program, but it’s hard to get a ton of value out of it. The IHG credit cards offer a high sign-up bonus, but in my anecdotal experience, IHG has the worst upgrade and perks for mid-tier status out of any of the big 4 hotel chains. The IHG Gold status that comes with the IHG credit card is significantly worse than the statuses that come with the other hotel co-branded credit cards.
- Perks: Meh.
Other Hotel Loyalty Programs
Pretty much every chain or independent hotel has its own loyalty program. The other hotel loyalty programs have more niche value. It might make sense to sign up for the hotel credit card to have a stash of rewards points available if you need them.
- Best Western Rewards
- Choice Privileges
- Radisson Rewards
- Wyndham Rewards
- Drury Gold Key Club
- Accor Live Limitless
- and others!
Why You Should Sign Up for Hotel Loyalty Programs
As I said earlier, there is no one true best hotel loyalty program. The most attractive one for you may be different than the one for my family. However, it’s almost always a good idea to PARTICIPATE (i.e. signup) for each hotel loyalty program. Many hotels give some benefits (free wifi, for one) to members just for signing up. The question comes in deciding how much of your money (and time) you want to spend increasing your hotel elite status. And a lot of that can depend on which hotel credit cards you have.
Another thing to remember is that you can often status match your hotel elite status to other hotel loyalty programs. That can be a great way to parlay one hotel elite status into hotel status with another chain.
Other Ways to Enjoy Travel Perks
One final thought: Remember too that the best hotel loyalty programs may not be hotel loyalty programs at all. Milenomics first introduced the concept of Be Your Own Elite (BYOE) back in 2013. The idea with BYOE is that instead of spending time and money earning elite status and a reward for your loyalty, you can spend that money buying the food, upgrades and perks that you ACTUALLY care about!
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