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Which Are Our Favorite Three Hotel Loyalty Programs

December 16, 2023
Sam Helmy
When it comes to hotel loyalty programs, very few travelers are only loyal to one brand. Most regular travelers will have two or three programs and will mix and match their stays to meet their needs and travel goals.

We recently looked at our favorite airline loyalty programs and which one is our preferred one in every alliance. Now, it is time for hotel brands. While most hotel brands want you to be loyal only to them, that is seldom possible if you travel a lot since no one hotel brand and loyalty program can meet all your travel needs. Therefore, most travelers will have a few hotel brands that share their loyalty. So, which are Oscape’s three favorite hotel loyalty programs and why?

Escalators to The Villa Fontaine Hotels At Tokyo Haneda
Escalators to The Villa Fontaine Hotels At Tokyo Haneda

International Hotels Group

When it comes to footprints, IHG has one of the biggest around. However, on balance, its properties tend to be more mid and low-range than upscale luxury resorts.  That being said, there are plenty of options for Intercontinental properties worldwide, especially in major European cities.

Where IHG stands out for us is the value of quick stays at airports or quick weekend getaways in Europe and the Middle East. The IHG portfolio is ideal for those types of stays. However, there are still some good aspirational properties to be had, like the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa or the once legendary InterContinental Moorea Resort in French Polynesia, which sadly closed its doors and over-water bungalows earlier this year.

View from Hotel Room in Hokkaido Japan

Why We Like IHG One Rewards

IHG ONE Rewards is easy and straightforward to use with some excellent value, especially If you hold an IHG co-brand credit card. Key strengths of the program for us include:

Easy Status

The IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card gives you complimentary penultimate Platinum Elite status. This provides you with a wealth of features and benefits, including late check-out and early check-in, room upgrades, and more. The card benefits are excellent for a card that sets you back a $99 annual fee.

Excellent Earning Rates

Earning points with IHG is easy. Typically, you earn 10 points per $1 spent at IHG properties. However, holding the card increases this to a whopping 26 points per dollar. That is an outstanding earning rate and means you can quickly build up a substantial balance of IHG Points.

Excellent Redemption Rates

Redeeming your IHG points can be excellent value, especially if you are looking at mid-range properties. Typically, IHG awards start from 5,000 points per night, and if you are earning 26 points per dollar, it is very easy to reach that minimum threshold. Most properties are substantially more expensive than that, but paying between 20,000 and 35,000 points is normal for a decent stay at a mid-range hotel.

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt is the Hyatt loyalty program and represents over 1350 hotels worldwide. Most Hyatt hotels tend to be mid-scale and upscale, although they do have some lower-end properties. Although, there is nothing like the range offered by IHG. Hyatt hotels are one of our go-to options when looking for a mid-range hotel in Asia and Europe.

The company has a limited set of CO-brand credit cards, although these do provide excellent perks and benefits. Like other programs on the list, holding a co-brand credit card means you can earn points for everyday spending, not just when you stay at Hyatt property.

Hotel bed in Japanese hotel room

What we Like About World Of Hyatt

Our reasons for liking World of Hyatt are not as clear-cut as the other programs. Although one of the main reasons we like World of Hyatt is the on-balance value of the program. The program is not perfect in any area but very good in many. Overall, this makes it one of our favorite hotel brands. Its strength comes from doing many things well instead of excelling in just a few.

Great International Footprint

We do a lot of travel in Asia, and that is where Hyatt can be a stand-out option. The brand has a wide range of properties in Asia across a wide range of price options. Whether you are looking for a luxury hotel in  Singapore or an airport hotel before catching Bangkok. The World of Hyatt Footprint is ideal.

Non-Dynamic Award Pricing

In recent years, one of the biggest annoying trends in the points and miles industry is more and more programs going towards dynamic pricing. Where the price in points is directly related to the cash cost of the night. In almost every case, these pricing models tend to be negative for the consumer and reduce the value of the award.

However, this is one bandwagon that Hyatt has not jumped on. And it has a relatively simple award chart with all its properties categorized from one to eight. Each hotel category has its own pricing, and that is it. This means it is easy to plan and extract the maximum value from your points.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy is another great hotel program we use, although not as much as others. As a major global brand with a considerable number of properties worldwide, it complements IHG nicely and gives us more choices when looking for a stay in a given location. As a generalization, Marriott Properties tend to be on the higher end compared to IHG.

Just like every other brand on the list, Marriott has a well-developed stable of co-brand credit cards. This means you can boost your balance for everyday spending and maximize your earnings when you pay cash for a stay.

Stay at the exceptional Avenue of the Arts in Costa Mesa, part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio

Why We Like Marriott Bonvoy

In many ways, Marriott is unique amongst hotel programs in that one of its strongest assets is not its properties but its loyalty program and its points. This is by no means a criticism of Marriott properties, which are often outstanding and on par with anything else the Industry has to offer. The key strengths of the Marriot program include:

A Huge Number of Transfer Partners for Hotel Loyalty Program

Marriott Bonvoy points are one of the main six transferable points currencies around. The other five are Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Bilt points. Where Marriott outshines everyone is in the sheer number of transfer partners it has. You can transfer your points to over 40 airlines; it’s not a question of which airline you can transfer your points to but which airline you cannot. 40 is more than double most other points programs and includes some of the biggest carriers worldwide and in North America.  

An excellent Transfer Ratio – For a hotel loyalty program

Although you can transfer other hotel points to airlines, you should not because the value is awful in virtually every case. However, this is not the case for Marriott, which transfers to all its partners at a ratio of 3:1. This is phenomenally better than the 10:1 you typically see with other hotel transfers.  

Built-In Transfer Bonus

Unlike many other programs, Marriott rewards you for making big transfers, and you will receive a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points. For instance, transferring 60,000 Marriott points will yield 25,000 miles in your target program instead of the typical 20,000 at a ratio of 3:1. This inbuilt transfer bonus is cumulative, so you will receive 10,000 miles when you transfer 120,000 points and so forth. However, one thing to remember is that there are some exceptions, and you will not earn a bonus when you transfer your points to a handful of airlines, including Delta, American, and Korean Air.  However, if you are a United fan, then the good news is that you will get an even bigger bonus of 10,000 miles when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points.