I was asked by InsideFlyer to put together an intro to hotel loyalty programs from my recent presentation. You can find the full article on their website here, but I’ve also included some key pluses and minuses from the article below.
The article contains a high-level breakdown of Club Carlson, HiltonHHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.
When I heard that Randy was shutting down InsideFlyer, it was bittersweet for a number of reasons. On top of all the reasons I noted in my original post, I was admittedly a little bummed that my first cover story in a magazine I’ve read for over a decade would also be my last.
For those that attended my hotel loyalty presentation at Frequent Traveler University, many of the same elements discussed there are included in the article. Here are some of the key elements from my article:
Most valuable free travel benefit with a hotel credit card goes to Club Carlson:
Key Credit Card Benefits: The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card automatically awards Gold status. If you’ve already achieved Gold status they’ll award you 15 nights towards achieving or maintaining Concierge status. The credit card also gives you one free award night on every award reservation of two nights or more.
Most valuable boost towards top-tier elite status with a hotel credit card is SPG:
Key Credit Card Benefits: Holders of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express receive two key benefits. After spending $30,000 in any calendar year, the cardholder will be awarded Gold status. Additionally, at the beginning of each year, cardholders will receive two stay and five night credits towards elite status. It’s possible to double these credits by holding both the personal and business version of the card.
How do you pick the right program?
Which Program Should I Choose?
While some folks believe a hotel room is just another place to sleep, there really are differences between the major chains. How you travel for both business and leisure will guide your decision.
Does Size Matter?
If you’re a road warrior in the U.S. and are looking to commit all of your stays to one brand, Hilton, IHG and Marriott have the most properties domestically. Each of those chains have a few thousand more properties in the U.S. followed by Club Carlson, Hyatt and Starwood with the most properties in the U.S.
More of a World Traveler?
Even though chains like Hyatt and Starwood are vastly outnumbered in the U.S., once you get abroad it’s a much more level playing field. Starwood is actually in more countries than Marriott or Hilton and just about the same as IHG.
When you break it down by total properties outside the U.S., IHG and Hilton still lead the way with about 1,000 each while Marriott and Starwood are only a few hundred hotels behind. Hyatt has just over 200, so still trails the pack. However, Hyatt has one of the largest pipelines for international development. Both Hyatt and SPG continue to make up ground internationally. While the likes of IHG Rewards and Hilton may have more properties in an international city, SPG and Hyatt are going to more often have the best properties.
If your goal is to redeem your points for international travel, it may make sense to go out of your way a bit to stay at a Starwood or Hyatt property. The same can be said to a lesser degree for Club Carlson, but there are many markets in the U.S. where the quality difference between SPG/Hyatt and Club Carlson is considerable, even in limited service properties.
The bottom line on picking hotel status is that it’s worth the extra time to invest a few minutes making sure your stay choices align with your long-term goals. I meet plenty of folks who are loyal to Marriott. They say things like, “There’s a Marriott in every city I travel to for business, so it’s easy to earn points.” That’s not even half the equation. You need to consider if you’re earning the right points.
Can you redeem them at the type of property you want?
In the destination you desire?
At a time when you can actually go on vacation?
Don’t let the points you have dictate your future path. Make sure you are earning the right currency so you can have the dream vacation you’re looking for.
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