The Best Hotel Brands of 2024

Choice Hotels enters our rankings for the first time ever and dominates as our pick for best hotel brand.
Sam Kemmis
By Sam Kemmis 
Published
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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There are hundreds of hotels around the world, making it at times hard to commit yourself to one brand. But for those travelers who like consistency and the ability to earn rewards in return for perks and elite status, we’ve crunched the numbers to determine the best hotel brand.

For the first time, we did two rankings: one for the best hotel rewards program (which focuses on rewards you might get for your loyalty), and now one for the best overall hotel brand.

NerdWallet’s travel team compared several categories including fees, pet policies and elite status benefits. We spent months collecting data, analyzing policies and generally nerding out to determine the best hotel brand of 2024.

How we picked the best hotel brand

When a traveler is weighing their options in hotel choices, what matters more to one may not even cross the mind of another. Some travelers might prioritize the thread count on their hotel sheets, while others might be particular about the quality of their coffee at breakfast.

With this in mind, we prioritized elements of travel programs that offer clear, objective and measurable benefits. We then boiled these elements into a single overall rating across hotels.

Here’s what we compared:

As you can see, the hotel rewards analysis is a subset of the overall ratings for these programs. That’s because while one traveler may be looking to stack up reward points and elite status, another may be wondering what brand is best for pets.

We rated each hotel brand across all of these categories on a five-point scale, then used a weighted average of these ratings to determine an overall winner. Use the links above to learn more about how we built these ratings.

The best hotel program of 2024

Winner: Choice

Choice Hotels is a newcomer to these rankings, having absorbed Radisson in 2023, and it immediately climbed to the top of the pack, narrowly beating out Hyatt. That might come as a surprise to travelers who are unfamiliar with Choice.

Why did Choice perform so well? It scored above average for its point-earning rate and its elite status program, but what made it really stand apart was its low fees, including parking fees and resort fees. Given how important (and despised) these fees have become for travelers, it makes sense that Choice’s low fees would help it catapult to the top of these rankings.

No-frills Best Western at the bottom of these rankings may not surprise frequent travelers, but seeing Hilton in second from last may be surprising. Hilton’s low point value and industry-worst fees didn’t do it any favors this year.

Here’s how the scoring played out across categories:

The bottom line

While Choice’s pet policies weren’t among the best in the group, the lack of fees crushed the competition, especially among the legacy brands.

The only brand that fared better in both rewards rate and elite rewards was Hyatt, which, not surprisingly, won our best hotel rewards program of 2024.

Methodology to determine the best hotel

How we picked the brands to evaluate

To be eligible, a hotel brand had to have properties in the majority of states in the U.S. and offer a loyalty program with a publicly available rewards search calendar. Rewards booking availability from 15 days to eight months from the time of search was also required.

Seven hotel brands met these requirements: Best Western, Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham.

How we chose the winner

We compared the rewards rate, the value of the elite status program, pet policies and add-on fees for each program. We rated each of these factors separately, then determined an overall rating based on the weighting described below.

How we rated and weighted each factor:

  • Rewards rate (31.2%). We determined the dollar value of each program’s rewards points and the earnings rate of points. To determine the rewards rate, we multiplied the value of each point by the earnings rate and then multiplied by 100. For example, if a hotel’s rewards points were worth $0.01 apiece (the value of rewards points) and 10 points were earned per dollar spent (the earnings rate of points), its program would have a 10% rewards rate. (In this example, the two equations would be: first $0.01 x 10 = 0.1, then 0.1 x 100 = 10, or 10%.)

  • Elite status value rate (25%). We determined both (a) the value and (b) the cost of earning elite status with each program, and determined an overall value by dividing (a) by (b). 

  • Add-on fees (25%). We determined the average resort and parking fees across each program. 

  • Pet policies (18.8%). We rated pet friendliness in four areas: (1) the percentage of hotels where pets are allowed, (2) average pet fee, (3) average pet fee as a percentage of room rate and (4) the existence of a “pet-friendly” search filter on the website. We combined these into a single composite rating. 

How we assigned star ratings

For each factor, we subtracted the lowest value among all programs from the highest value among all programs to determine the range. Then, we split this range into five separate “star rating” ranges. We assigned each hotel program an appropriate star rating based on where its value fell in the range.

How we verified our data

We independently spot-checked data collected to ensure accuracy. Information about loyalty programs was verified on the hotels’ websites.

Read our editorial guidelines for additional information.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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