A Guide to Hotel Loyalty Programs

Keri Ann O'Riordan, December 03, 2014
Fares from Washington DC:

    Choosing a hotel loyalty program is tough. Some hotels offer plenty of free nights, but skimp on the in-hotel perks like complimentary breakfast and free parking. Other loyalty programs focus more on the hotel experience and provide devoted customers with things like golf clubs and VIP event tickets. How do you know which program is best for you? We're here to help. The Airfarewatchdog team has sifted through pages of program benefits, FAQs, and member contracts to bring you this detailed and comprehensive guide to the hotel loyalty programs of 10 major hospitality brands.

    We found that Airfarewatchdog readers are most interested in a hotel loyalty program that offers free-night awards that are easy to earn and redeem, freebies (including Wi-Fi, hot breakfast, and parking), upgrades, and guaranteed early check-in. Most of all, in return for being dedicated customers, readers want respect and loyalty from the hotel. In a recent poll, we asked Airfarewatchdog readers which hotel group had the best loyalty program, and Marriott Rewards ranked highest. Marriott Rewards requires a reasonable number of stays in order to move up to the next loyalty tier and also offers a dedicated customer-service line and exclusive offers and discounts to all members.

    Read on to see which hotel loyalty program is the best fit for you!

    Best Western Rewards

    Choice Privileges by Choice Hotels

    Fairmont President's Club

    HHonors by Hilton

    Hyatt Gold Passport

    IHG Rewards Club

    Kimpton Karma Benefits

    Marriott Rewards

    Starwood Preferred Guest

    Wyndham Rewards


    Program

    Best Western Rewards

    Brands

    Best Western

    Overview

    Members earn either 10 points or airline/partner rewards for every dollar spent with each hotel stay. Points never expire, and hotel-stay rewards have no blackout dates. Members have a dedicated guest-service phone number and receive a Best Western-branded key packet upon check-in.

    Gold Elite (after 10,000 points or 10 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 10% bonus points per stay and exclusive access to elite-only offers.
    Platinum Elite (after 15,000 points or 15 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 15% bonus points per stay, exclusive access to elite-only offers, the best available room, and a welcome snack and beverage or 250 bonus points.
    Diamond Elite (after 30,000 points or 30 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 30% bonus points per stay, exclusive access to elite-only offers, the best available room, and a welcome snack and beverage or 250 bonus points.

    Through its Status Match...No Catch program, Best Western will match a member's elite status in any other hotel loyalty program.

    Earning Points

    Members earn either 10 points or airline/partner rewards for every U.S. dollar spent (or the equivalent for other currencies) with each qualifying hotel stay (excluding taxes). Members can also earn points by making purchases through preferred partners. Points can be purchased for $10 per 1,000 points as well. Members can earn points even faster with the Best Western Rewards World MasterCard (15 points per eligible $1 spent on Best Western purchases and 1 point per eligible $1 spent everywhere else), available to U.S. and Canadian residents.

    Redeeming Points

    Points can be redeemed for free nights at Best Western hotels in more than 80 different countries worldwide. Free nights range from 8,000 to 36,000 points, depending on the property type and location. Points can also be redeemed on travel gift cards (including Best Western Travel Cards), global air travel, dining, shopping, entertainment, charitable donations, memberships (such as AAA), gas, and much more. See all the ways you can redeem your points here.


    Program

    Choice Privileges by Choice Hotels

    Brands

    Cambria Suites, Clarion, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Econolodge, MainStay Suites, Rodeway Inn, Sleep Inn, Suburban, Quality

    Overview

    Members earn points by staying at participating properties and/or making purchases through preferred partners. Hotel-stay rewards have no blackout dates. Members have access to exclusive reservations and customer-service phone numbers and receive express reservations and check-in, extended checkout (as late as 2 PM), high-speed Internet (excluding Rodeway Inn), free long-distance calls, and complimentary newspapers (excluding Econolodge, Rodeway, and Suburban).

    Gold (after 10 stays in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 10% elite bonus points per stay, a 50-day extended booking window for reward nights, and exclusive access to elite-only offers.
    Platinum (after 20 stays in a calendar year): Members receive the above PLUS 25% elite bonus points per stay, a 75-day extended booking window for reward nights, exclusive access to elite-only offers, exclusive partner-offer inserts, and elite luggage tags.
    Diamond (after 40 stays in a calendar year): Members receive the above PLUS 50% elite bonus points per stay, a 100-day extended booking window for reward nights, exclusive access to elite-only offers, exclusive partner-offer inserts, elite luggage tags, and complimentary room upgrades.

    Earning Points

    Members earn points based on the room rate actually paid for each qualifying hotel stay. Members can also earn points by making purchases through preferred partners. Points can be purchased for $11 per 1,000 points as well (up to 20,000 points per year). Members can also earn 2 points for every U.S. dollar spent on everyday purchases using Choice Privileges Visa (U.S. only) and MasterCard (Canada only).

    Redeeming Points

    Points can be redeemed for free nights at Choice hotels. Points can also be redeemed on gas cards (a $50 gas card for 16,000 points), air and other travel, shopping, dining, experiences, magazine subscriptions and memberships, music downloads, charitable donations, and much more. See all the ways you can redeem your points here.


    Program

    Fairmont President's Club

    Brands

    Fairmont, Raffles, Swissôtel

    Overview

    Members earn 500 airline miles per stay. They also receive access to Fairmont Moments (once-in-a-lifetime vacation experiences) and Passion Packages (packaged getaways based on travel interests), high-speed Internet, free local and toll-free calls, health-club access (excluding spas), shoe shines at city-center hotels, daily room delivery of local or national newspapers, 10% savings on Willow Stream Spa treatments and products, 15% savings at The Fairmont Store, exclusive savings on Fairmont getaways through the Great-Rates-Great-Dates program, use of TaylorMade golf clubs at select hotels, in-room delivery of Reebok shoes and apparel, yoga mats, and stretch bands through the Fairmont Fit program, access to BMW bikes at select hotels and resorts, a private reception desk offering express check-in and checkout, a personalized room-preferences profile, and exclusive member services including a dedicated reservation line and online personal profile. Members are also able to enjoy savings through partner perks.

    Premier (after 5 stays or 10 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 250 bonus airline miles, one complimentary room upgrade, one complimentary suite upgrade, a $50 dining or Willow Stream Spa e-certificate, Stay Credits and Benefits at Ruffles and Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts, one complimentary third night on a three-night stay, priority wait-list status, two-for-one rounds of golf at select golf resorts, a personalized membership kit with membership card, and exclusive concierge reservation service.
    Platinum (after 10 stays or 30 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 500 bonus airline miles, two complimentary room upgrades, two complimentary suite upgrades, a $100 dining or Willow Stream Spa e-certificate, Stay Credits and Benefits at Ruffles and Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts, one complimentary night, guaranteed room access, enrollment in the Stay More - Earn More program, guaranteed early check-in/late checkout, two-for-one rounds of golf at select golf resorts, a personalized membership kit with membership card, exclusive concierge reservation service, a personalized welcome amenity, and turndown service.

    Earning Points

    Members earn 500 airline points (plus bonus points for elite members) with each qualifying hotel stay. They also receive a ton of other membership benefits (see above).

    Redeeming Points

    Airline miles can be redeemed through preferred frequent-flyer programs.


    Program

    HHonors by Hilton

    Brands

    Conrad, Curio, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations, Home2, Homewood Suites, Waldorf Astoria

    Overview

    Members earn base points and bonus points or airline/rail miles for every dollar spent with each hotel stay. Hotel-stay rewards have no blackout dates. Members receive quick reservations and check-ins based on their hotel-room preferences, as well as late checkout and express checkout. Plus, the second guest stays free.

    Silver (after 4 stays or 10 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above PLUS 15% bonus on all base points earned, every fifth night free on standard room-reward stays of 5-plus nights, complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs, and two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton Hotels, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hilton Grand Vacations hotels).
    Gold (after 75,000 base points, 20 stays, or 40 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above PLUS 25% bonus on all base points earned, every fifth night free on standard room-reward stays of 5-plus nights, eCheck-In, and high-speed Internet at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton Hotels, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hilton Grand Vacations hotels. My Way Gold membership benefits differ based on hotel.
    Diamond (after 120,000 base points, 30 stays, or 60 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above PLUS 50% bonus on all base points earned, a 48-hour room guarantee, every fifth night free on standard room-reward stays of 5-plus nights, complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs, two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton Hotels, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hilton Grand Vacations hotels), eCheck-In, and high-speed internet at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Curio, Hilton Hotels, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hilton Grand Vacations hotels. My Way Diamond benefits differ based on hotel.

    Earning Points

    Members earn base points and bonus points or airline/rail miles based on the room rate actually paid (and other eligible charges, like phone calls and room service) for each qualifying hotel stay. Members choose which My Way earning style they'd like to follow:

    Points & Points: Members earn 10 base points plus 5 bonus points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent with each hotel stay. For stays at Home2Suites, members earn 5 base points plus 2.5 bonus points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent with each hotel stay.
    Points & Miles: Members earn 10 base points plus 1 airline/rail mile for every eligible U.S. dollar spent on most hotel stays. For stays at Home2Suites, members earn 5 base points plus 1 airline/rail mile (up to 100 miles per stay) for every eligible U.S. dollar spent with most hotel stays.

    Members also earn by making purchases through preferred partners. They can earn points even faster with various HHonors credit cards.

    Redeeming Points

    Points can be redeemed for free nights at Hilton hotels. Points can also be redeemed for on-property activities, airline/rail miles, car rentals, cruise certificates, and much more. See all the ways you can redeem your points here.


    Program

    Hyatt Gold Passport

    Brands

    Hyatt

    Overview

    Members earn 5 points for every U.S. dollar spent at Hyatt (on hotel stays, on spa treatments, or at restaurants). Members receive free-night awards with no blackout dates and can convert points into miles with participating travel partners.

    Platinum (after 5 stays or 15 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 15% point bonus, preferred rooms (including larger rooms or those on higher floors), high-speed Internet access, expedited check-in, a dedicated elite-member area, available rooms with a 72-hour guarantee, extended stays until 2 PM with a late checkout request, a dedicated Platinum guest-service phone number, and a 20% discount on the daily standard room rate with My Elite Rate.
    Diamond (after 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 30% point bonus, the best room available upon arrival (excluding suites), access to the Regency Club or Grand Club lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d'oeuvres (or daily full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge), suite upgrades at the time of reservation four times per year on eligible paid nights, a special welcome point bonus or food and beverage amenity during each stay, a nightly room refresh, internet access, an expedited check-in at a dedicated area for elite members, available rooms with a 48-hour guarantee, extended stays until 4 PM with a late checkout request, a dedicated Diamond guest-service phone number, and a 20% discount on the daily standard room rate with My Elite Rate.

    Earning Points

    Members earn 5 points for every U.S. dollar spent at Hyatt (on hotel stays, on spa treatments, or at restaurants). Members can also earn 1 bonus point for every eligible U.S. dollar spent on eligible meeting revenue. Points can be purchased in increments of 1,000 (up to 40,000 points per year). See the full list of ways to earn points here, how to earn points with meetings here, and ways to earn miles here.

    Redeeming Points

    Points can be redeemed with cash for a free-night award. The amount of points needed for a free night depends on the property type and location. Points can be redeemed for free nights, upgrades, meals, spa treatments, and much more. Points can be converted into miles with more than 30 participating travel partners. See all the ways you can redeem your points here.


    Program

    IHG Rewards Club

    Brands

    Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, EVEN Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resort, Hotel Indigo, Hualuxe, Intercontinental, Staybridge Suites

    Overview

    Members can earn points at more than 4,700 hotels and can redeem them for free nights, airline tickets, and more. Points never expire and there are no blackout dates. Members receive extended check-out, complimentary weekday newspaper delivery, exclusive toll-free service line, and free internet.

    Gold Elite (after 20,000 elite points, 15–49 nights, or stays at 3 different IHG brands and 10 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 10% bonus earnings on top of base points and priority check-in.
    Platinum Elite (after 60,000 elite points, more than 50 nights, or stays at 4 different IHG brands and 40 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 50% bonus earnings on top of base points, priority check-in, elite rollover nights, complimentary room upgrades, and guaranteed room availability.

    Earning Points

    Members earn 10 points for every $1 spent at Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resort, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, and Even Hotels. Members earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. Members earn rewards even faster with the IHG Rewards Club Select credit card. Members can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account. Members also receive one annual free night, earn 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels, earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases, receive an automatic 10% point rebate, receive Platinum Elite status as long as the member is a Select cardholder, enjoy no foreign transaction fees when using the card abroad, and get a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year and a $49 annual fee for the years following.

    Redeeming Points

    Points can be redeemed for stays at IHG hotels worldwide, gift certificates to popular retailers, restaurant credit, instant music and entertainment downloads, global air travel on preferred partners, and much more. Members can use the flexible Hotels Anywhere reward to receive credit for stays at non-IHG hotels when visiting a destination where there is no suitable IHG property. See the full list of ways members can redeem points here.


    Program

    Kimpton Karma Benefits

    Brands

    Kimpton

    Overview

    Members earn free nights and perks by completing stays. Members fall into Tier 1 simply by enrolling and receive free Wi-Fi, custom-stay preferences, and a Raid the Bar credit ($15 in NYC, $10 everywhere else) to spend at the restaurant or in-room bar. Members have early access to exclusive offers, a 20% off rate, a birthday surprise for stays Thursday through Sunday during the member's birthday month, dining exclusives, and Kimpton Journey free nights.

    Tier 2 (after 3 stays or 10 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS a $30 in-room spa credit, two complimentary upgrades per year to the next room category at check-in upon availability, one late checkout priority, one welcome amenity, and one seasonal chef's treat during dinner hours.

    Tier 3 (after 7 stays or 20 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS a $30 in-room spa credit, two complimentary upgrades per year to the next room category at check-in upon availability, one late checkout priority, one welcome amenity, and one seasonal chef's treat during dinner hours.

    Inner Circle (after 14 stays or 40 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above elite membership perks PLUS first priority to any upgrades, rewards, and perks, greater awards availability, a complimentary night at new hotels, a $50 restaurant credit during comp night at new hotels, daily newspaper delivery, a dedicated hotel-reservation line, VIP priority restaurant reservations, and exclusive direct access to Kimpton's CEO.

    Earning Points

    Members earn free nights by completing stays. Members receive free-night awards after completing 20 eligible nights or 7 eligible stays, whichever comes first. Members are also eligible for rewards through the Kimpton Journey program, where members can stay at 10 different Kimpton hotels per calendar year and receive 2 complimentary nights, stay at 15 different hotels and receive 3 complimentary nights, or stay at 20 different hotels and receive 4 complimentary nights.

    Redeeming Points

    Free nights can be redeemed at participating Kimpton properties. See the full list of redemption offers here.


    Program

    Marriott Rewards

    Brands

    AC Hotels by Marriott, Autograph Collection Hotels, Bvulgari, Courtyard, Edition, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Gaylord Hotels, JW Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, Moxy Hotels, Protea Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, The Ritz-Carlton, Towneplace Suites

    Overview

    Members can earn points at 3,700-plus Marriott-brand hotels spanning 14 brands in 70-plus countries, as well as at participating Ritz-Carlton locations throughout the world. Members receive custom-stay preferences, a dedicated customer-service line, exclusive offers, a 20% discount on converting points to miles, and more.

    Silver (after 10 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS an elite reservation line, exclusive guest-services line, guaranteed reservations, priority late checkout, weekend discounts, gift-shop discounts, elite-only rewards, a 20% bonus on points for stays, and special elite offers and customized rewards for Silver members.

    Gold (50 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above elite membership perks PLUS guaranteed lounge access and breakfast for members and one guest (excludes resorts), one complimentary room upgrade, premier tiered internet access, guaranteed room type, Hertz #1 Gold membership, free local phone and fax, discounted long-distance phone calls, a 25% bonus on points for stays, and special elite offers and customized rewards for Gold members.

    Platinum (75 nights in a calendar year):Members receive the above elite membership perks PLUS 48-hour guaranteed availability, a dedicated reservation line, RewardsPlus (complimentary MileagePlus Premier Silver status), a guaranteed arrival gift, 50% bonus on points for stays, and special elite offers and customized rewards for Platinum members.

    Earning Points

    Members earn either points or airline rewards for every U.S. dollar spent. The amount of points per dollar varies by partner. See details on how members can earn miles here. Members can earn points even faster with the Marriott Rewards, Premier, and Business credit cards.

    Redeeming Points

    The points required to stay at Marriott hotels differs based on the category of the hotel. Marriott hotels are ranked in categories 1–9 and Ritz-Carlton hotels are ranked in categories 1–5. The ranking is based on the brand, location, and type of hotel property, which determines the number of points required in order for a member to earn a free night. Point values are based on a standard room and may vary by length of stay and hotel category. Upgrades may be available for extra points and no blackout dates apply. See details on ways to redeem travel-partner awards, hotel category rankings, and other reward partners.


    Program

    Starwood Preferred Guest

    Brands

    Aloft, Element, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Westin Hotels and Resorts

    Overview

    Members earn 2 points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent at Starwood properties, including restaurant and room-service charges, in-room movies, etc. Members receive members-only offers, free night award and award flights with no blackout dates, fifth night free (redeem four nights and the fifth consecutive night is free), access to airline tickets on more than 350 airlines without blackout dates, and invitations to SPG Moments (including meet and greets with A-list artists and athletes, backstage concert passes, pro golf clinics, etc.). Members can convert Starpoints to frequent-flyer miles on more than 30 major airlines, most on a 1:1 basis. Members fall into the Preferred Guest tier simply by enrolling.

    Gold (after 20 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year):Members receive the above basic membership perks PLUS 1 bonus point for every eligible U.S. dollar spent, 4 PM late checkout, an enhanced room at check-in when available, special elite customer-service telephone line, and a choice of a welcome gift with each stay (choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access, or a complimentary beverage).

    Platinum (after 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year): Members receive the above elite membership perks PLUS upgrades to the best available room at check-in (including Standard suites), a choice of a welcome gift (choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access, a complimentary beverage, or continental breakfast), Club- and Executive-level privileges where available, access to the hotel's health club/gym where available, guaranteed room availability when the room is booked 72-plus hours prior to arrival by 3 PM, and signature Platinum Concierge service. Platinum members who complete 50 nights annually receive 10 Suite Night Awards, which can be redeemed for upgrades to suites and select premium rooms. Platinum members who complete 75 nights receive 4 points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent and have the flexibility of choosing check-in time. Platinum members who complete 100 nights receive personalized service from an SPG ambassador who can take care of room preferences, restaurant reservations, special occasions, etc. Members will never go below Platinum membership level after achieving 500 eligible nights total and any 10 years of Platinum SPG status.

    Earning Points

    Preferred Guest members earn 2 points, and Gold and Platinum Preferred Guest members earn 3 points, for every eligible U.S. dollar spent at Starwood properties, including restaurant and room-service charges, in-room movies, etc. Members can earn points with the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card.

    Redeeming Points

    Points can be redeemed for free nights without blackout dates, flights with preferred partners, and much more. Redemptions start at 2,000 points. Free-night awards can be redeemed by combining 1,500 points and $30. Members can be upgraded to a specialty room, where available, for 1,000 points or to a suite for 3,000 points. See the full list of ways to redeem points here. Gold members are also eligible for crossover rewards with SPG and Delta SkyMiles program, where members earn 1 point for every dollar spent on eligible Delta flights. Delta SkyMiles Medallion members earn 1 mile for every dollar spent on eligible room rates at Starwood hotels.


    Program

    Wyndham Rewards

    Brands

    Baymont, Days Inn, Dream, Hawthorn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel, Night Hotels, Planet Hollywood, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, TRYP, Wingate, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Garden Hotels

    Overview

    Members receive a number of points or miles per stay. Members fall into the Rewards tier simply by enrolling.

    Gold (after 20 nights in a calendar year):Members receive Gold Status points while also receiving Rewards points. Members also earn a free night right away. Members receive Gold Status points based on the average amount spent over the course of their 20 qualified nights. Members can earn an additional Gold status bonus for every 20 nights, up to 3 bonuses per year.

    Earning Points

    Members earn points and miles by staying in Wyndham hotel properties or by making purchases through preferred travel partners and other partners. Members earn a number of points or miles per stay, based on the hotel property or preferred travel partner. For more information on the number of points earned for each hotel and the miles earned for each airline, see here. Gold members receive Gold Status points based on the average amount spent over the course of their 20 qualified nights. If a member spends up to $100, he will receive 6,000 Gold Status points. If a member spends more than $150.01, he will receive 20,000 Gold Status points. Gold Status members will earn an additional Gold Status point bonus for every 20 qualifying nights, with up to 3 bonuses per calendar year.

    Redeeming Points

    Rewards points can be redeemed for free nights, charitable donations, merchandise, travel credit, magazine subscriptions, music downloads, and much more. For a full list of ways to redeem points, see here. Gold Status points can only be redeemed for free nights at participating hotels. Gold Status points can be combined with regular Rewards points when booking a free night. Gold Status points will automatically be redeemed first, starting with points closest to expiring. Regular Rewards points will be used for any remaining balance. A free-night stay using Gold Status points must be redeemed within four months of earning the free night or the points will expire.


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