Bloggers have spilled large quantities of digital ink arguing over which hotel loyalty program is better, whose points are worth what, and so forth. As with many aspects of the points-n-miles game, there is plenty of subjectivity involved since everybody has different goals. Another difficulty in such exercises is that different loyalty programs have different structures. Is there a completely fair and accurate way to compare all the major hotel programs?
The answer to that is most definitely no. But I did produce a spreadsheet and a neat graph if you’re interested. I looked at the number of domestic redemptions available in each category for Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood. Why domestic? Because that’s primarily what I’m interested in at this point in my life since there are four young ‘uns tagging along on trips with Mrs. PFD and I. (I’ll do another post with international if anybody’s interested.) Why only those four chains? Because they’re the biggest, and because as far as I know there isn’t a good way to get the relevant data for IHG. (IHG: The Delta Airlines of Hotel Loyalty Programs?)
Here’s what you get if you tally up the number of hotels for each category for the four major non-IHG chains:
And in case you need a reminder, here are the number of points required for a redemption at each level. In cases where a range is given, I give the midpoint:
I took each number from the first table above and converted it to a percentage of the total number of hotels for each chain and graphed the whole thing. Here’s the chart:
- Note that comparing the hotels isn’t strictly an apples-to-apples affair due to their having different numbers of categories. But that said, you can certainly do worse than this graph.
- This is why I love the Hyatt program: plenty of low-level redemption options! As I’ve mentioned before, I loves me some category 1 redemptions on account of all the aforementioned kids, plus the invaluable assistance of my mother-in-law who often accompanies us on trips. Over half of all of Hyatt’s properties are either Category 1 or 2. Here are the category 1 suites we had in Atlanta last year. Don’t you ever change, Hyatt.
- Hilton and Starwood have a more normal (in the statistical sense of the word) distribution. Starwood peaks at category 3 and 4, while almost half of Hilton’s domestic options are category 4. Almost three-quarters of Hilton’s hotels are in either 4 or 5.
- Hilton’s Category 1 is a joke: two hotels. TWO! If you’re not going to Cleburne, TX or Columbus, GA, you’re out of luck. They even took away the Hampton Inn in Jacksonville, FL, and I’m still annoyed about that one since it’s right off I-95 and is exactly halfway between my house and Miami, FL.
- That said, there is some value to be had (for some people, anyway) in Hilton Category 2 hotels given how easy Hilton points are to obtain. As a percentage of all Hiltons their numbers are small, and they’re not generally located in high-rent areas, but still: there are 79 of them. Odds are at least one of those is located near some place you would enjoy visiting.
- Marriott has the most right-skewed graph with proportionally more aspirational redemptions than the other chains.
- Starwood 1 and 2 are great values, especially on weekends. I wish there were more of them.
- Again: this stuff is highly subjective. I look at all this information and think “Hyatt!” whereas somebody else might look it over and think “Marriott!”