Just gimme’ a number for my hotel loyalty points, will you?
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 empty promises – and just crunch the numbers. When you take out emotion, and just look at things based on the math, the results for which hotel loyalty programs are the most rewarding are pretty simple.
Sure, there are different exceptions for family travel, or for top tier elite guests, but for most hotel stays, what you’re about to read should make your decisions blissfully easy.
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.
By GSTP’s latest calculations, here’s a baseline for what points are worth which each loyalty program.
- Marriott Bonvoy Points are worth around 0.7 cents per point.
- IHG Rewards Club Points are worth around 0.5 cents per point.
- Hilton Honors Points are worth around 0.4 cents per point.
- World Of Hyatt Points are worth around 1.5 cents per point.
- Radisson Rewards are worth around 0.4 cents per point.
The simplest way to look at this, is to use these figures to create dollar amounts. So 100,000 points at half a cent per point should be worth at least $500, as would be the case for IHG here. For 100,000 Hyatt Points at 1.5 cents per point, it would be $1500.
As you can see, less of one type of hotel reward point can be more valuable than more of another, but that’s only step one of figuring out the best loyalty programs.
We need to see how many points each loyalty program offers when you actually stay at hotels, to figure out which is the most generous of them all.
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 marketing, and come up with a good estimation for what you “really get” in return, 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 as noted above, based on a “cents per point” basis, thus creating a ballpark figure for your loyalty.
Basically, it’s an easy equation: points earned per dollar spent x the value per point.
Since each hotel program offers a different number of points per dollar you spend, and the points you earn from each program are worth different amounts, each hotel program ranks easily as a simple and clean rebate.
Here’s the summation of the true rebate you earn from your hotel loyalty, not taking any other loyalty factors, such as limited time points bonuses into account.
Hilton: Hilton Honors
General members earn 10 points per dollar, and Hilton Honors points are worth .04 cents per point by GSTP estimation, for a 4% rebate on your stays.
Top elite members earn 20 points per dollar, for a rebate of 8%.
Hyatt: World of Hyatt
General members earn 5 points per dollar, and Hyatt points are worth 1.5 cents per point by GSTP’s estimation, for a rebate of 7.5% on hotel stays.
Top elite members earn 6.5 points per dollar for a 9% rebate on hotel stays.
General members earn 10 points per dollar, and Marriott points are worth .7 cents per point for a rebate of 7%.
Top elite members earn 17.5 points per dollar for a rebate of 12%. This is incredibly strong, and a driving factor for very frequent hotel guests to use Marriott Bonvoy.
IHG: IHG Rewards
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.
Accor: Accor ALL
General members earn a 5% rebate on stays and points values are fixed at €20 per 1,000 points. A €1000 stay would earn $50 back.
Top elite members earn a 10% rebate, which is very strong. A €1000 stay would earn €100 back.
*Dollars and other currencies count too, but will earn slightly fewer points, or more points, depending on the value versus the Euro. For example, a £1000 stay in GBP will earn more, because the pound is more valuable than the Euro currently.
Breaking It Down: Hotel Loyalty Winners
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. Many hotel credit cards in the USA have welcome bonuses over 100,000 points to get you started, and even elite status too.
If you’re into that, they can greatly change the math, but if you’re not, keep it simple with the above.
Your Hotel Benefits
There’s not much point comparing elite benefits at the bottom end -because they’re all almost entirely meaningless benefits – so this guide 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 luxury travel agent who can secure things like free breakfast or late check out, without any elite status required. American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts also accomplishes this.
Breakfast: Yes. Late check out: Guaranteed. Upgrades: At check in.
Breakfast: Yes. Late check out: If Available. Upgrades: No guarantees.
Breakfast: Yes. Late check out: Guaranteed. Upgrades: Confirmed.
Breakfast: No. Late check out: If Available. Upgrades: No promises.
The General Outlook: Best Hotel Loyalty Program
No two travellers circumstances are exactly the same. There’s just no way to work the inner details of anyones plans or circumstances, such as credit cards or travel patterns let alone the emotional components. With that said…
From a generalist point of view, this View From The Wing take is such an accessible and easy way to look at hotel loyalty. Start here, and then work your way up the chain of emotional attachments and benefits which make an impact on your stays.
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 weak benefits for everyone who’s status doesn’t say Royal Ambassador.