Best Hotel Rewards Program for Frequent Travelers
How we picked the programs to evaluate:
To be eligible, a hotel brand had to have properties in the United States 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 those requirements: Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Radisson and Wyndham. Only one other hotel brand offers a rewards program: Choice. Choice was excluded because it did not offer availability more than 30 days in advance. No other hotel programs met these criteria.
How we chose the winner:
We compared the effective rewards rate, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of the elite status program, and the fee structure 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:
- Effective rewards rate (35%). We determined the dollar value of each program’s rewards points and the earnings rate of points. To determine the effective rewards rate, we multiplied the value of each point by the earnings rate and 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% effective 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%.)
- COVID-19 response (15%). We compared hotel brands’ response to the 2020 pandemic in two categories: (1) health and safety protocols and (2) flexible booking policies.
- Elite status value rate (35%). We determined both (a) the value and (b) the cost of earning elite status with each program, and found an “elite status value rate” by dividing a by b.
- Fee structure (15%). We determined the average fees for each program across four types: (1) resort fees, (2) change/cancel fees, (3) pet fees and (4) parking fees.
How we assigned star ratings:
For each factor, we subtracted the lowest value from the highest value to determine the range. We then 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 on rewards bookings to ensure accuracy. Information about loyalty programs was verified on the hotels’ websites.