Best Hotel Rewards Program

How we picked the programs to evaluate:

To be eligible, a hotel brand had to be based in the United States, have a loyalty program and offer a publicly available reward search calendar. Seven hotel brands met those requirements: Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Radisson and Wyndham.

How we chose the winner:

We looked at the effective rewards rate, the size of the brand portfolio, the availability of award nights, the ease of use when booking award stays and the overall quality of the program’s elite status.

How we rated each:

  • Effective rewards rate. In a separate analysis, we determined the dollar value of each program’s reward points and the earnings rate of points. To determine the effective rewards rate, we multiplied the earnings rate by the value of each point and divided by 100. For example, if a hotel’s reward points were worth $0.01 apiece (value of reward points) and 10 points were earned per dollar spent (earning rate of points), its program would have a 10% effective rewards rate. This factor received a 40% weight in the overall rating.
  • Portfolio size. We determined the size of each program based on the number of total hotels under the reward program brand. This factor received a 15% weighting in the overall rating.
  • Availability of award nights. During the data collection above we tracked the number of nights that were ineligible for award bookings. We rated the brands based on the percentage of unavailable rooms. This factor received a 15% weighting in the overall rating.
  • Ease of use when booking awards. We asked a panel of in-house travel experts to use each hotel’s award search tool and rate each one by ease of use. This factor received a 15% weighting in the overall rating.
  • Overall quality of program’s elite status. We asked the same panel to rate the hotel’s elite status program based on both the perks provided for elite members and the ease of achieving elite status. This factor received a 15% weighting in the overall rating.

How we assigned star ratings:

For each category, we subtracted the lowest value from the highest value to determine the range. We then divided this range by 5 and separated the hotel programs into the appropriate star rating based on where its value fell in the range.

How we verified our data:

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