Hilton hotel in Hilo Hawaii
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The best hotel loyalty programs reward consumers for their spending while offering outstanding perks. They also lay out realistic paths to earn points you can use toward free nights and room upgrades, either by paying for stays at portfolio hotels or through day-to-day spending with a co-branded credit card.

In this guide, we aim to demystify some of the top hotel programs consumers use while providing actionable advice for anyone trying to decide between them. With that in mind, we evaluated the following factors when ranking each hotel program to take the guesswork out of choosing a hotel rewards program:

  • Earning Points: How easy is it to accrue points in this program? Do they offer co-branded hotel credit cards that make point accrual easier?
  • Redeeming points: Do their points offer a good redemption value? Do they offer any flexibility?
  • Hotel brand footprint: How many hotels does a program have in their portfolio? And where are they in the world?
  • Core benefits: Do you receive any benefits for joining their loyalty program? How easy is it to earn status?

While each hotel loyalty program has its pros and cons, the top programs in the world have positive attributes and enough benefits to keep travelers coming back for more. Here are the top five programs and what they have to offer.

Hilton Honors

While the Hilton Honors program often charges a higher number of points for a free night than its competitors, their massive footprint helps them maintain their base. There are over 5,400 Hilton hotels in 106 countries worldwide, featuring plenty of luxury offerings intermixed with their family-friendly brands.

Why we chose this program

The Hilton Honors program makes it incredibly easy to earn points for free stays. Hilton Honors members earn 10 base points for each dollar they spend on stays with the brand, plus you can earn even more points if you pick up a co-branded hotel credit card like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card. We also love the fact that Hilton Honors allows their members to pool points with up to ten other members with no fees attached.

What you should know

One of the biggest downsides of the Hilton Honors program is the fact that the brand doesn’t offer a reward chart. Plus, the best rates are only offered for standard rooms, which could leave you forking over considerably more points for a stay during peak travel times.

However, it’s easy to earn higher levels of status with this program, especially since each Hilton credit card comes with some level of complimentary status ranging from Silver to Diamond.

Bottom line

While sometimes redeeming your points means using a high quantity of them, Hilton Honors redemptions tend to offer a good value. Their broad selection of hotels also makes it easier than ever to redeem points for a stay, including aspirational hotel stays at world famous properties like the Rome Cavalieri, which boasts amazing views of the eternal city. Finally, we appreciate the fact that Hilton Honors lets you book with points and cash to stretch your points even further.

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt offers immense value for consumers who stay with their brand, including the option to book with points and cash and use points for suite awards. You can also find a diverse selection of Hyatt hotels worldwide, ranging from luxury Park Hyatt properties to all-inclusive resorts and family-friendly hotels.

Why we chose this program

We chose the World of Hyatt program for this list due to the ease of earning points and the value of their points overall. A free night with World of Hyatt starts at just 5,000 points and even their top tier luxury properties charge just 30,000 points for a standard room.

We also appreciate the fact that Hyatt offers the The World of Hyatt Credit Card with a generous bonus: earn up to 60,000 Bonus Points – (40,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, and an additional 20,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening). On top of that, you receive complimentary Discoverist status, no foreign transaction fees, and a free night on your cardmember anniversary. Finally, World of Hyatt is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, offering yet another avenue to earn points.

What you should know

The biggest downside of racking up points in the World of Hyatt program is their footprint is rather small with only a little over 700 hotels worldwide. However, their recent partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World means that you’ll soon be able to redeem your points at over 500 SLH properties around the globe as well.

The bottom line

World of Hyatt is a smaller program that can be immensely useful for consumers who travel where their properties are located. And since their lowest end properties start at just 5,000 points per night, we think this loyalty program offers a solid value proposition.

Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest

When Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest made their merger official earlier this year, they become a force to be reckoned with. This newly merged program now offers 6,700 properties to choose from worldwide ranging from exclusive Ritz Carlton properties to more economical properties like Courtyard Marriott and Four Points Sheraton hotels.

Why we chose this program

The sheer number of hotels you can choose from with this program makes it a top option for consumers who want choices when it comes to redeeming points. With both programs now operating under the same umbrella, frequent travelers can also benefit from overlapping elite status benefits, including points bonus, automatic in-room internet access, late checkout and more.

The newly combined program also offers several different credit cards you can use to accrue points. This includes the new Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, which doles out automatic Gold status with the brand, 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, a $300 resort statement credit each year, and 6x points on spending at Marriott and Starwood properties.

Finally, we love the fact that you can transfer points from this program to popular airlines like United, Southwest, and JetBlue. You even receive 15,000 extra miles any time you transfer 60,000 points to most partner airlines.

What you should know

Currently, you can book a free night with this program with as little as 7,500 points. However, off-peak rewards starting at just 5,000 points per night will be offered starting in 2019.

Also note that, in addition to transferring points to airlines, you can redeem Marriott Rewards points for highly valuable hotel + air packages that include free hotel stays and airline miles.

The bottom line

With Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest now fully merged, this program offers an enticing selection of properties worldwide. Hotel credit cards like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card also make it insanely easy to earn a huge stash of bonus points when you’re first starting out. Finally, you’ll appreciate the fact that Marriott Rewards is another Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.

IHG Rewards

IHG Rewards is another hotel program that caters to travelers with discerning tastes. While the brand offers many family-friendly properties like the Holiday Inn Express, they also boast luxurious and unique InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, and Kimpton hotels and resorts among their ranks.

Why we chose this program

The fact that IHG Rewards has over 5,000 properties worldwide means you will almost always find a property worthy of your points. We also love the fact you can book luxury or value properties depending on your travel style, and that you can use points to book the brand’s all-inclusive properties in Mexico and the Caribbean.

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card makes racking up points in this program easy, starting with 80,000 bonus points after you use your card for $2,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. This card also comes with complimentary Platinum elite status, a fourth reward night free benefit, a free night on your cardmember anniversary, and a 10 point per $1 base rate on spending at their hotels. IHG Rewards also partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which can be a boon if you have a Chase premier travel card and want to save up for a big point redemption over time.

What you should know

Like some others on this list, IHG Rewards lets you book free nights with points or a combination of points and cash. Free nights start at 10,000 points, but you’ll pay closer to 70,000 points per night for a stay at a top tier property like the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa. This program claims to have no blackout dates, and you can even book reduced rate awards for as little as 5,000 points per night through an ongoing program known as PointBreaks.

The bottom line

Whether you want to splurge for a stay in Bora Bora or use points to stay in family-friendly Holiday Inns, IHG Rewards is hard to beat. Earning points is easy with or without their co-branded credit card, and they offer a broad mix of properties to meet traveler’s needs.

Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham Rewards is another hotel program that is gaining steam among travelers who earn hotel points. This loyalty program lets you redeem at nearly 8,000 Wyndham Rewards hotels worldwide, including all-inclusive properties in destinations like the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Why we chose this program

Each award night you book with the Wyndham Rewards program is only 15,000 points per night regardless of the nightly rate of the hotel. This flat-rate redemption policy sets Wyndham Rewards apart from all its competitors while making their program easy for consumers to understand.

In the real world, this also means you can spend 15,000 points per night for a stay in a roadside Baymont Inn & Suites or a free night at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach in Freeport, Bahamas with all your food, drinks, and entertainment included.

Wyndham Rewards also offers two co-branded credit cards, including the Wyndham Rewards® Visa® which offers up to 30,000 bonus points good for two free nights when you sign up and spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening.

What you should know

While 15,000 per night hotel redemptions sounds great, Wyndham Rewards has a poor reputation when it comes to availability. With that in mind, you may need to do some searching to find award nights on dates that work for your schedule. However, the program does offer a points and cash option that lets you cash in 3,000 points per night with a cash co-pay. Finally, you’ll earn 10 points per $1 spent on Wyndham hotels or 1,000 points (whichever is greater) as a loyalty member.

The bottom line

Wyndham Rewards makes earning points easy and the redemption side of the equation is as simple as it gets. We also love the fact you can redeem points for all-inclusive stays, although options are limited in certain parts of the U.S. and in Europe.

Is joining a hotel loyalty program worth it?

While certain hotel programs may work better than others for some consumers, every loyalty program has its strengths. Regardless, it makes sense to join a few programs if you plan to travel often. After all, joining hotel loyalty programs is free and you don’t have to have a credit card to earn points for paid stays.

As you compare programs to find the best option for your needs, make sure to determine where you travel the most to make sure programs you’re considering offer properties in the area. Also consider whether programs you’re interested in offer perks you could benefit from such as guaranteed reservations or free internet, and whether it might be feasible for you to earn and benefit from elite status.