How NerdWallet Rates Hotel Rewards Programs

NerdWallet’s overall ratings for hotel reward programs are weighted averages of ratings in the following categories:
  • Effective rewards rate (30%).
  • Elite status value rate (30%).
  • Resort and parking fees (30%).
  • Pet fees and policies (10%).
  • How we picked the programs to evaluate

    To be eligible, a hotel brand has to have properties in the majority of states in the U.S. 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 is also required. Seven hotel brands meet these requirements: Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Radisson and Wyndham.

    Data collection and review process

    NerdWallet independently checks data collected on rewards bookings to ensure accuracy. Reward bookings and cash prices are compared across hundreds of data points to help determine a baseline value for each hotel. Information about loyalty programs, hotel offerings and fees are verified on the hotels’ websites.

    Information updates

    Hotel loyalty program reviews are reassessed annually, and writers and editors also make updates throughout the year as necessary. We maintain contact with hotels to keep information current.

    The review team

    The review team is made up of expert writers and editors who cover airlines, travel rewards, credit cards and airline alliances, as well as related travel topics such as hotels, budget travel, cruises, rental cars and destination-specific travel. Each writer and editor follows NerdWallet’s strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

    In addition to appearing on NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published by The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance and other national and regional media outlets. The travel team’s writers and editors combined have more than 40 years of experience in travel, travel rewards and credit cards.

    Methodology, broken down by category

    Effective rewards rate

    We collect the dollar value of each program’s rewards points and the earnings rate of those points (the number of points you earn per dollar spent) to arrive at an effective rewards rate.

    To determine this rate, we multiply the value of each point (based on hundreds of real-world bookings) by the earnings rate, then multiply that total by 100. As a formula, that’s: (Value x Earnings Rate) x 100 = Effective Rewards Rate.

    For example, if a hotel’s rewards points are worth $0.01 apiece (Value) and 10 points are earned per dollar spent (Earnings Rate), its program would have a 10% rewards rate. Here’s that math: ($0.01 x 10) x 100 = 10%

    Elite status value rate

    We determine both (a) the average value of elite status and (b) the average cost of earning elite status with each program. Then we calculate the overall value by dividing a by b.

    Resort and parking fees

    We determine the average resort and amenity fees for each program by looking at actual bookings across various cities, price points and dates.

    Pet fees and policies

    We rate pet friendliness on four factors:
  • Percentage of hotels where pets are allowed.
  • Average pet fee.
  • Average pet fee as a percent of room rate.
  • Existence of a “pet friendly” sort filter on the website.