Why Marriott Bonvoy Won Best Hotel Loyalty Program of 2020 (And Why We Were Surprised)

Sam KemmisFeb 10, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

In early 2019, Marriott rolled out its new Bonvoy loyalty program, which sealed its acquisition of SPG and Ritz-Carlton...and it didn’t exactly go as planned. Technical woes and customer service struggles left a bad taste in many mouths, and the takeaway from the rewards community seemed to be that Bonvoy was a bit of a bust.

Yet, when we picked our , Marriott Bonvoy swept all three categories: Best Hotel Rewards Program (overall), Best Hotel Rewards Program for Families and Best Hotel Rewards Program for Business Travelers.

What gives? Did we miss glaring issues with the Bonvoy program, or were the negative reactions overblown?

» Learn more: 

We took a data-driven approach to determining our best travel rewards program. Specifically, we set up certain criteria (like the and the number of properties in a hotel portfolio) before gathering or analyzing any data. In other words, we tried to let the numbers speak for themselves, rather than applying our own preconceptions about each program.

The data itself came from the real world. We compared the cost of booking hotels using points or cash to determine the value of points. We then combined it with the earning rate of these points to determine an “effective rewards rate” (first column below).

All three categories used the same data, but we applied different weights to the different factors for each category. For example, we weighted “quality of elite status program” higher for business travelers than family travelers.

Here’s the breakdown, in which each program receives a 1 (lowest) - 5 (highest) rating in each column. That is, no weighting has been applied at this level.

We were as surprised as anyone to see Bonvoy top all three of our lists, but the table above shows why. Bonvoy received a perfect 5/5 rating in “effective rewards rate,” an important factor. Basically, this is the amount of value you can expect to receive back (in the form of points) from this program.

Bonvoy wasn’t the only program to receive a 5/5 rating: Hyatt, Radisson and Wyndham also performed well. But the other criteria are where Bonvoy pulled away from the pack.

Marriott performed well (if not perfectly) in the remaining columns. All the other programs, including second-place Hyatt, got a low score in at least one category. In Hyatt’s case, its program got dinged for offering fewer properties than competitors. Marriott Bonvoy, on the other hand, is enormous.

So the two reasons Bonvoy was our pick for the best hotel loyalty program in 2020 were:

Cynically, you could say that Marriott Bonvoy won by being not bad at any single aspect of its reward program. Yet, we would go further than that and say the relaunched Marriott program has proven itself a superior option for frequent travelers of all stripes.

What do you think? Did our ratings miss a crucial element of the Bonvoy program that would have sunk it? Or was the negative reaction overblown?

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the , including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:

On a similar note...
Dive even deeper in Travel