Just gimme’ a number…

There’s hyperbole everywhere in loyalty programs. Guaranteed upgrades somehow become subject to availability, free breakfast is only “free” if you overpay in the first place and rewards points change values without warning, at the blink of an eye. Sometimes, the best way to figure out the hotel loyalty program for you, and what it will bring, is to ignore the words – and crunch the numbers. One celebrated expert did just that, and the results make hotel loyalty actually pretty simple to look at…

Points Valuations

The first thing worth noting is that no two points programs offer identical value, and any attempt to value a certain type of points is subjective. For example, 100,000 Hilton Honors Points may not actually be worth as much as 60,000 World Of Hyatt Points. Don’t be fooled by big numbers, and instead focus on the value per point. Value per point is best described by the dollar value you can expect to extract from redeeming points. In this example, 60,000 Hyatt Points is enough for two nights anywhere, at hotels even costing over $1000 per night, whereas 100,000 Hilton may not cover more than a single night.

Your Hotel Rebate

Gary Leff examined hotel loyalty programs from a simple and accurate perspective, based on the mathematical rebate you earn from each hotel stay, like cash back. To accurately weed through the nonsense and come up with a good estimation, he took the number of points you earn per dollar spent at each hotel brand and multiplied that number by the value of each type of hotel point, on a “cents per point” basis, thus creating a ballpark figure for your loyalty.Β  Basically, it’s an easy equation like 10 points earned per dollarΒ  x .08 per point of value per point. Here’s the summation of the rebate Mr. Leff says you earn from your hotel loyalty, not taking any other loyalty factors, such as limited time points bonuses into account. We back it…

Hilton

General members earn 10 points per dollar, and Hilton Honors points are worth .04 cents per point, for a 4% rebate on your stays.

Top elite members earn 20 points per dollar, for a rebate of 8%.

Hyatt

General members earn 5 points per dollar, and Hyatt points are worth 1.4 cents per point for a rebate of 7%.

Top elite members earn 6.5 points per dollar for a 9% rebate.

Marriott

General members earn 10 points per dollar, and Marriott points are worth .7 cents per point for a rebate of 7%.

Top elite members 17.5 points per dollar for a rebate of 12%.

IHG

General members earn 10 points per dollar, and IHG points are worth .6 cents a piece, for a rebate of 6%.

Top elite members earn 20 points per dollars, for a 12% rebate.

Synopsis

Marriott and IHG are the most rewarding for top tier customers, while Hyatt and Marriott offer the best general member rebate. Simple enough, right? Naturally, having a credit card from any of the brands can help push the scale in favor of one versus another, but stripping things away it’s that simple.

Your Hotel Benefits

There’s not much point comparing elite benefits at the bottom end, so this solely looks at the top end, where actually definable benefits tend to exist. It’s important to note that with many of these benefits, you may actually do better booking through a travel agent who can secure things like free breakfast or late check out, without any elite status required.

Marriott

Breakfast: Yes. Late check out: Guaranteed. Upgrades: At check in.

Hilton

Breakfast: Yes. Late check out: If Available. Upgrades: No guarantees.

Hyatt

Breakfast: Yes. Late check out: Guaranteed. Upgrades: Confirmed.

IHG

Breakfast: No. Late check out: If Available. Upgrades: No promises.

The Generalist Outlook

No two travel circumstances are the same. There’s just no way to work in the inner details of anyone’s travel plans or circumstances, such as credit cards, credit scores, travel patterns or anything else. From a generalist point of view, this View From The Wing takeΒ  is such a good, accessible and easy way to look at loyalty. If you take a good look, you’ll find that generally speaking, Hyatt offers an average rebate and extraordinary benefits, Marriott offers a great rebate and solid benefits, Hilton doesn’t do all *that* much and that IHG offers a great rebate, but week benefits for everyone who’s status doesn’t say Royal Ambassador.

Does this help clarify hotel loyalty programs?