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One of the dilemmas that points and miles collectors may wrestle with is whether to focus on only a couple of loyalty programs or divide their loyalty across many programs. Should you stay exclusively with one hotel program or be a "free agent" across several hotel loyalty programs?
There's no one correct answer to this question. In this article, we help you make the right decision for your situation and travel goals. Here are the arguments for and against joining multiple hotel loyalty programs.
Benefits of hotel loyalty programs
Score perks at more hotels
The first goal of every hotel's repeat guest program is to get you to join, and nearly all hotel loyalty programs offer perks to entice new members to sign-up. Some of these perks are the same across all loyalty programs, such as earning points and elite status credits on stays. Other perks vary between hotel brands.
For instance, just for being a member of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program and booking directly with Marriott, you'll get free Wi-Fi at all Marriott hotels. Hilton also gives all Hilton Honors members free Wi-Fi. But Hilton also waives resort fees on reward stays for all members and lets all members choose their rooms.
Likewise, entry-level World of Hyatt members and above get free Wi-Fi and waived resort fees on free night awards. Even better, you'll get perks like complimentary breakfast, a room upgrade and late checkout at Small Luxury Hotels partner hotels just for being a World of Hyatt member.
» Learn more: The best hotel rewards loyalty programs this year
Save through member-only rates
Another way that hotels incentivize travelers to join their loyalty programs is by offering discounted rates to all members. While these member-only rates are common, the savings are real. And these savings can be enough of an incentive to join a new program for a stay.
For example, at IHG's InterContinental New York Times Square, the "Member Exclusive Rate" can be between $9 and $11 cheaper per night, depending on the type of rate you book.
Likewise, Marriott's Courtyard New York Manhattan/Fifth Avenue chops off around $9 per night through its member rate. For a three-night stay, that adds up to $27 in savings.
Earn hotel points on every stay
In addition to getting some perks and cheaper stays, joining multiple hotel loyalty programs lets you earn points on every hotel stay.
Perhaps you prefer to only stay at Hilton or Hyatt hotels. But sometimes a Marriott hotel might be the best available option. Even if you don't care about earning Bonvoy points now, why not earn some points from your stay?
Even better, you might be able to score bonus points through a members-only promotion — such as 1,000 bonus points per night or double points on all stays.
» Learn more: Your guide to hotel bonus point promotions
Enjoy flexibility when booking hotel stays
Loyalty has its perks. But, if you're loyal to one hotel program, you may end up overpaying or staying in an inconvenient location to stay within that program. Or, in the case of smaller hotel programs — like Hyatt — there may not even be a hotel option in your preferred loyalty program in your destination.
By joining several programs rather than one, you’ll have a lot more options when deciding where to stay, while still collecting points and enjoying basic perks like free Wi-Fi.
Get a new member bonus
Another reason to join multiple hotel loyalty programs is to take advantage of new member bonuses. Several hotel points programs offer new members the chance to earn bonus points just for signing up through a special link and completing at least one stay.
Examples at the time of writing include:
You can join the Marriott Bonvoy program through this link and complete one stay to earn 2,500 bonus Bonvoy points.
Disadvantages of loyalty programs with hotels
After reading about those perks, you may be wondering if you should sign-up for every hotel loyalty program now. Probably not. Here are the reasons not to spread your loyalty across too many brands.
There's really no incentive to do so
Joining loyalty programs takes time and can end up cluttering your email inbox with account statements and promotions. Plus, unless you have an upcoming stay, there's usually no incentive for you to sign up now.
Even worse, if you join now and don't have upcoming travel plans, you may not be able to earn a new member bonus for joining in the future.
You may end up collecting small, useless point balances
By splitting your stays across several hotel loyalty programs, you may end up with a lot of small points balances that are practically useless.
Say you have three upcoming hotel bookings each costing around $400. If you split your stays across Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt, you'll earn around:
4,000 Hilton Honors points.
4,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
2,000 World of Hyatt points.
Each of these balances is too small for you to redeem for a free night in the respective program. However, if you were to complete all three stays at Marriott, you'd have earned 12,000 Bonvoy points. That's likely enough points for a free night at any former Category 1 hotel or a Category 2 hotel on off-peak nights, such as the Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove.
Tracking account numbers, passwords and expiration dates can be a hassle
Another downside to joining multiple hotel loyalty programs is a practical one: storing loyalty program numbers and passwords. Also, most hotel program points expire after a period of inactivity. So, you'll also need to keep track of expiration dates to avoid losing the points that may have tempted you to join in the first place.
Diversification could make elite status harder to get
By joining several programs, you'll get the perks — such as free Wi-Fi and points earning — of being a "somebody" everywhere. However, if you spread out your stays across many hotel programs, you may not be "somebody special" anywhere.
From room upgrades and free breakfast to bonus points and late checkout, loyalty has its perks. Even if you join multiple programs, you might want to focus your stays on one or two programs to maximize your elite earnings.
» Learn more: The beginner's guide to hotel elite status
So, is it good to join multiple hotel loyalty programs?
Ultimately, joining several hotel loyalty programs is a matter of personal preference. Joining two or more programs means that you'll score some perks at more hotels, get access to member-only rates, earn points on stays no matter where you stay and potentially get a new member bonus for joining and staying at least once.
However, you'll have the inconvenience of storing account logins and tracking expiration dates. Plus, you may end up with small balances in several programs that never amount to an award night.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card