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Marriott’s data breach and its recent rebrand are prompting more consumers to switch to Hilton. Is that a smart financial move?
If you’ve been thinking about bidding bon voyage to the new Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, you’re not alone. More and more consumers are signing up with the popular Hilton Honors program, and although it isn’t clear how many of them are coming directly from Marriott, we know that some travelers are starting to sour on the brand.
But switching hotel loyalty programs shouldn’t just be an emotional decision. You should also consider which program offers the best rewards, especially if you’re using a hotel rewards card to maximize your points and perks.
We’ve got a side-by-side comparison of the Bonvoy and Hilton rewards programs, as well as a brief overview of why many travelers are switching loyalties.
Why frequent travelers are moving from Marriott to Hilton
In November 2018, Marriott International announced that hackers had gained access to the personal information of up to 500 million consumers. While consumers were advised to freeze and monitor their credit accounts, some of those consumers also asked themselves whether they should continue booking reservations at Marriott International properties, which include not only Marriott hotels but also Ritz-Carlton hotels and hotels under the Starwood brand (Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts and more).
In January 2019, Marriott International announced that it was combining its three hotel loyalty programs—Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program—into a single loyalty program called Bonvoy. The Bonvoy program comes with its own suite of credit cards: the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card From Chase, a $95 annual fee hotel rewards card comparable to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card; the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, a $450 annual fee card comparable to the high-end, high-reward Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
Unfortunately, the Bonvoy launch, which included a brand-new commercial that premiered during the Oscars, did not go over well with some consumers. Various tweets and articles questioned the rebrand or shared variations of “stop trying to make Bonvoy happen.”
Meanwhile, Hilton had an announcement of its own. As Hilton CFO Kevin Jacobs told The Points Guy, Hilton Honors membership increased by 20% in 2018—that’s over 14 million new memberships—due in part to frequent travelers who were “shifting their loyalty.”
Should you shift your loyalty as well? Before you do, let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
Bonvoy vs. Honors, by the numbers
Number of hotels
Honors: 17 participating brands (Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Doubletree, Hampton and more) including over 5,600 properties in 113 countries and territories.
Bonvoy: 29 participating brands (Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, Westin and more) at over 6,700 locations in 130 countries.
Advantage: Bonvoy—though in both cases you’re likely to find a rewards hotel at your preferred price tier nearly everywhere you plan to travel.
Rewards credit cards
Both the Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card made Bankrate’s list of best hotel rewards cards for 2019; the former Express was ranked “best Hilton card with no annual fee” and the Ascend, which has a $95 annual fee, was ranked “best for loyal Hilton customers.”
Bonvoy: The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card From Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
These cards are too new to have been included in Bankrate’s latest rankings, but since the Bonvoy Boundless is also a $95 annual fee credit card, let’s compare it and the Hilton Honors Ascend card side-by-side:
|Points earned||New cardmember offer||Free night awards||Status tier benefits||Airport lounge access|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card From Chase||6x points on purchases at participating Bonvoy hotels, 2x points per dollar on all other purchases||100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months of card ownership (for a limited time)||1 free night award every year after your account anniversary, with a redemption value up to 35,000 points||Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year; path to Gold Status when you make $35,000 in purchases each account year; 15 Elite Night Credits per year||None|
|Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card||12x points on purchases at participating Honors hotels, 6x points on U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and gas stations, 3x points per dollar on all other purchases||125,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card ownership||1 free weekend night award after spending $15,000 in a calendar year||Complimentary Gold Status, upgrade to Diamond Status when you make $40,000 in purchases during a calendar year||Priority Pass™ Select membership|
Advantage: Honors. Cardholders with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card will earn more points per purchase, a higher welcome offer, membership in a higher loyalty tier and the opportunity to access Priority Pass airport lounges.
However, the fact that you’ll earn more points per dollar with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card doesn’t mean much unless you compare the value of a Honors point vs. a Bonvoy point—so let’s run one more set of numbers.
Honors: According to The Points Guy’s March 2019 valuations, one Hilton Honors point is worth 0.6 cents.
Bonvoy: According to The Points Guy’s March 2019 valuations, one Bonvoy point is worth 0.9 cents.
This means that the 100,000 bonus points you could earn with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card would be worth $900, while the 125,000 bonus points you could earn with the Hilton Honors Ascend Card would be worth $750.
Likewise, the 6 points you’d earn per dollar on a Bonvoy hotel purchase would be worth 5.4 cents, while the 12 points you’d earn per dollar on an Honors hotel purchase would be worth 7.2 cents.
Advantage: Hard to say. Even though a Bonvoy point is currently worth more than an Honors point, you can earn a larger total point value with the Hilton Honors Ascend Card than with the comparable Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card. However, the Bonvoy Boundless limited-time welcome offer, which exceeds the Hilton offer by $150, might make the card more attractive to Marriott fans.
Does this mean it’s time to switch from Marriott to Hilton? It’s up to you—but now you have both the background and the numbers required to make a financially smart decision.
Want to read up on how to take advantage of these points programs and others? Check out our latest guides.
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