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When you’re trying to decide between hotel loyalty programs, hundreds of accommodation options, varying redemption rates and possible credit cards can quickly become overwhelming. If you often find both a Hyatt and a Hilton hotel wherever you’re heading, you might wonder, “Which is better, Hyatt or Hilton?”
Here's what these two chains have to offer and how to decide which one is right for you.
Properties and pricing
So which is nicer? It ultimately depends on which type of property you're looking for. A Waldorf Astoria will be nicer than a Hyatt Place but may be comparable to a Park Hyatt. Whether or not you prefer to stay at either a Hilton or Hyatt brand will depend on a lot of factors, but availability in the destinations you frequent is one of the most important.
Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, with over 6,500 properties spread across 119 countries. It also features 18 separate brands, from budget hotels to high-end luxury options and prices to match. This means that no matter where you’re staying, you’ll likely find a Hilton option. If you’re looking for “nicer” hotels, it’s likely you’ll find more Hilton properties, simply because of the sheer number in their upscale brands.
Hyatt, meanwhile, has a smaller footprint. Although it has bulked up in recent years by acquiring other chains, it still lags behind Hilton by a large margin, with more than 1,000 properties in total. Its still got 20 separate brands, with a mix of budget and high-end properties, including some all-inclusive resorts.
Earning hotel points
Hilton has the upper hand when it comes to earning points, simply because it offers so many ways to do so. You can always opt to earn points via paid hotel stays, or you can choose one of its many American Express co-branded credit cards in order to earn points. Hilton’s top-tier credit card, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, offers 14x points per dollar spent at Hilton hotels. Diamond members also receive a 100% bonus on earned points, making Hilton points very easy to earn for those with elite status. Terms apply.
Hilton also has a partnership with AmEx, which means you can transfer your Membership Rewards to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio — though this may not be a good idea. We value Hilton points at 0.5 cent each and AmEx points at 2 cents each, so you’ll be taking a hit when you choose to make this transfer.
Hyatt points can be more difficult to earn, but they’re also worth more. Top-tier Hyatt Globalists only earn a 30% bonus on their stays, and Hyatt’s sole co-branded credit card earns just 9 points per dollar on Hyatt stays.
Hyatt, however, is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Earning Chase points can be especially easy, with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offering a bonus on expenses like travel and dining. And since we value Hyatt points at 1.9 cents each, compared to Chase points at 1.8 cents each, you’re actually coming out slightly ahead on average when you transfer your points over.
Redeeming award nights
The two hotel chains differ greatly when it comes to redemptions. Hyatt currently has a fixed award chart that maxes out at 40,000 points per night for a standard room. Hilton, meanwhile, has done away with its published award chart, but its rates for standard room rewards cap out at 150,000 points per night.
Hilton will still allow you to redeem points, even when it’s sold out of its standard award nights, but the prices for a premium room reward skyrocket to unreasonable levels. Hyatt, however, will not. Once its allotted award rooms are sold out, that’s it.
Having hotel elite status can morph a decent hotel stay into an excellent one. And with free room upgrades and complimentary breakfast, along with plenty of other perks, it can also save you money. Not all elite statuses are created equal, however, and the process to earn it isn’t always easy.
» Learn more: Which hotel elite status should you pursue this year?
Earning elite status
Both Hyatt and Hilton allow you to earn elite status by staying a certain number of nights or by earning a certain number of points each year. Hilton also offers a third method: your number of stays.
However, there’s another way for Hilton members to receive Diamond — Hilton’s highest status — without setting foot inside a Hilton hotel. This is because of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which grants cardmembers complimentary Diamond elite status as long as they hold the card. You can also get Hilton’s mid-level Gold status by having either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Enrollment required. Terms apply.
Hyatt, unfortunately, doesn’t have such an option, although its own co-branded credit card offers Discoverist — Hyatt’s lowest status — status to cardholders.
Elite status benefits
Both Hyatt and Hilton offer some decent benefits to their cardholders. Depending on your level, you can receive late check-out, free breakfast, room upgrades, complimentary premium Wi-Fi and more.
The main difference between these two programs comes down to implementation. Hilton will give you free breakfast starting at Gold, its mid-tier level, while Hyatt only does so for its top-tier Globalists.
However, Hilton will provide complimentary breakfast to a maximum of two registered guests per hotel room, while Hyatt will extend this to two adults and two children. It’s also important to note that Hilton has replaced this breakfast benefit in the U.S. with a food and beverage credit until the end of 2021.
Hyatt hotels also come with a guarantee: you will be upgraded to a better room upon check-in as long as it’s available. Hilton, meanwhile, states that you may be upgraded, but it’s up to the discretion of each property.
Top-tier Hyatt members also receive free parking on award nights and waived resort fees on both paid and award stays. Hilton members of any level receive waived resort fees on award stays, but not paid stays.
» Learn more: The best hotel elite status programs
The bottom line
Though Hilton edges Hyatt from most factors, the honest answer is that it depends on you, where you're located and what your priorities are for hotel loyalty.
If you don’t travel often but want to be treated as a top-tier elite, grabbing the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and sticking with Hilton could be a better option.
The same is true if you’re heading out of major cities and into more rural locations. With over 6,500 properties from which to choose, you’re bound to find a Hilton hotel no matter where you’re going.
If you travel enough to earn high-end status with Hyatt, the benefits you’ll receive as a Globalist outweigh Hilton’s, especially for families. Free parking on award stays, waived resort fees and breakfast for four are all compelling perks that can save you a lot of money. You can also earn plenty of Hyatt points as a Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card holder, which can make earning award stays simple.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
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 2021, 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