The Deal Mommy

I’m Shuffling My Top Five Hotel Points Rankings. Are You?

One of the many hidden alcove pools at the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife, now bookable via both Starwood and Marriott points.

The only constant in travel hacking is change. In the hotel points arena, Hilton just dropped an H and added new features to its loyalty program.  Then we’ve got Marriott and Starwood’s transition to manage and I know we’ve discussed ad nauseum how I’m kicking World of Hyatt Gold Passport to the curb.

With all the transition, a hotel points shuffle is in order.

My old ranking looked something like this:

  1. Hyatt
  2. Hyatt
  3. Starwood
  4. IHG
  5. Everyone else


The new rankings will look much different.

I’ll provide a bit of explanation for my thinking behind each ranking. 

1. Starwood/Marriott

I had two beefs with Starwood’s program pre-Hyatt crash and burn: lack of a convertible transfer partner and limited footprint. A merger with Marriott solves both of my concerns. Marriott has an enormous portfolio and is a Chase ultimate rewards transfer partner. Add in the ease of earning at least gold status via credit cards, award nights counting towards status, Harrah’s partnership and the free fifth night on redemption to Starwood’s already good values on points and you’ve got a clear winner. 

cannes hotel

Holiday Inn Cannes view, room 515. At 20K points a night it’s a solid value.

2. (Tie) IHG

IHG is the workhorse of the hotel points world: not exciting, but reliable. As long as no massive devaluations come down the pike IHG points will hold a strong place in my hotel points portfolio. Platinum status and a free night for $49/year via the Chase IHG card is a steal. IHG hotel points are easy to earn both via stay promotions and periodic crazy-easy sweepstakes and easy to spend via a huge footprint and pointbreaks if you get lucky and they match your travel plans. 

2. (Tie)Hilton

I know I’m taking a leap of faith here, but I like everything I’m seeing about the Hilton program changes. Sharing points among 10 family members and friends? That’s pretty amazeballs. A sliding scale for points and cash? As long as the value is over .5/point it’s a win in my book. And they’re keeping the generous stay promotions and fifth night free on awards for silver + members to boot.

In fact, it’s more than a win as most of the time I find Hilton properties overpriced on points. For example: I was just looking at the Doubletree in Santiago for July. The rate was 40,000 points a night- or $119. Really? Points and cash is going to be a no brainer if it’s based on actual cash rates. Maybe a few aspirational properties will go up (although apparently Hilton is promising a cap for now) but for bread and butter redemptions I think it’s all for the good.

4. Hyatt

Seriously, Hyatt, raising the highest level status requirement from 25 stays to 55 (60 if you aren’t grandfathered in) nights? Hyatt takes a drop from the top due to the giant slap in the face it gave to people who spent a month, but not two, a year at its properties. The chain remains in the top five due to the number of aspirational properties, the ability to book suites on points, MLife Partnership and Ultimate Rewards transfer-ability. I will NOT pursue a Hyatt property if a Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, or IHG is available at a comparable quality and price is available- their status is just too hard to attain for a room night to have any value.  

5. Choice

Choice earns a spot in the top five due to its three sweet spots: interstate highwaysEurope, and Atlantis in the Bahamas. Another benefit of Choice is the ability to transfer from American Express Membership Rewards. The downside? You can’t book Choice hotels until 60/30 days out. 

Not in the top 5 but noteworthy

Wyndham: A program to watch. They made an ill-advised stab at Starwood a few months ago but still might have some gas in the tank. I especially like their 3,000 points plus cash options  and their enormous footprint for road-trippers here in the USA. 

Club Carlson: A former top five contender just gutted it’s 4 nights for 2 Europe benefit which was the last reason I was holding on to the credit card. Buh Bye. 

As always, I’m sure some of you will disagree with my methodology. Please share in the comments.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network. 

Are you doing the hotel points shuffle? Take a look and see if you should change the way you collect hotel points.


15 thoughts on “I’m Shuffling My Top Five Hotel Points Rankings. Are You?

  1. Becky

    Mine go:
    1) Hilton. I’m consistently pleased with their properties and place a lot of value on that regardless of rewards. That said, I earn a lot of points with them and have a good track record on free breakfasts, late check-outs, suite upgrades, and lounge access.
    2) IHG. Because they’re everywhere and promos are decent. They’re not #1 because I get few tangible benefits other than a free night every once in awhile.

    In the case of all other brands, they might as well be independent hotels. The chain affiliation is irrelevant — sometimes a specific property makes sense for my travel plans and I’ll book it but I’m not swayed by the rewards since I use them so infrequently.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      I hear you- with the exception of earning enough Starwood points via spend on my credit card for a night now and then.

  2. Spinster

    Hyatt: 55? try 60. 55 is after you qualify as Diamondist the first time. You have to fully qualify at 60 nights once – no holdover from the current system.

  3. Nancy

    I’m still Hyatt #1, but not because of status. My family frequently stays at Hyatt Place locations because the rooms fit six people. Even though there are other brands with similar room set-ups, I found they usually cost significantly more points. I was comparing Hyatt Place with Springhill Suites near a few airports for an upcoming stay, and the majority of the time Hyatt was priced at the lowest category but the Marriott brand was not.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Nancy,
      Apples to apples on award stays, I’ll agree. However, I’ll be sending in those points from Ultimate Rewards as opposed to earning them with Hyatt.

  4. Ben

    Are you saying the UR->Marriott->SPG (divided by 3) is the transferable rate that helps put Marriott/SPG at #1? Also, isn’t the 5th night free only for SPG properties now…or does it include Marriott?

    As for Hyatt, how much are you dropping them due to a reaction to a “slap in the face” vs dropping them due to the actual loss of a benefit that you’d otherwise be able to attain? Essentially, was this drop an emotional response? Or a calculated response?

    1. Ben

      To further add to my UR->Marriott->SPG point. Wouldn’t you have to get 3-4.5cpp value from SPG for this to make sense. 1 UR pt is worth 1-1.5cpp (I’ll go with 1cpp for the rest of this). That 1 UR pt/$0.01 becomes 0.33 SPG points. So wouldn’t a redemption have to be worth 3cpp to make it at least even with the value of the UR you transferred?

      The 4.5cpp value is based on UR being worth 1.5 if you’ve got the CSR.

      And finally (if what I said above is right), do you really feel like you get 3-4.5cpp value out of SPG stays?

      1. Ben

        In other words for a 10k SPG night, you’d need 30k UR pts->Marriott pts. That’s worth $300 cash or $450 via Chase UR portal w/ CSR. How many 10k SPG properties are worth $300-$450 cash?

    2. thedealmommy Post author

      Hey Ben,
      I won’t deny it doesn’t sting, but my moving away from Hyatt isn’t strictly emotional. I was loyal to Hyatt (in spite of their extremely limited footprint and often at my inconvenience) because I thought I thought the diamond status “juice” was worth the squeeze. Now I’m no longer going 30 minutes out of my way or paying $20/extra to get that stay credit.

      As for your other questions:
      1. Marriott and Starwood both give 5th night free.
      2. I agree that Starwood to Marriott is usually better than Marriott to Starwood, but some of the lower Starwood categories are great values even at 3x Marriott. I’d use the Ultimate Rewards more as a top up- that’s where I see the value. It’s really annoying to be short 5K points and not have a way to get them right away.

  5. MickiSue

    Mine are different, and, really, like you, Dia, I like non-chain places at least as well. Arrival + points work for them, so I sort of consider them hotel points with much more flexibility than any of the others.


    1 is Arrival + because of the above.

    2 is SPG/Marriott because they are both ubiquitous, have good value and the customer service has never been anything but lovely.

    3 is Hilton for their generous status matches, their ubiquitousness and ease of earning from paid (usually with A+) stays.

    4 is Carlson. One of our yearly treks is to Duluth MN for Grandma’s Marathon, where Husband races in the half. The Country Inn there goes out of their way to make the racers and their fans comfortable, and Carlson as a whole has that Minnesota feel to me. I have fond memories of the staff at the Radisson Blu near Heathrow, who all pronounced my unusual, but British, last name correctly, along with treating me wonderfully.

    Redemptions are not that spendy, compared to the ease of earning.

    And 5, which surprises me, actually, is IHG, because, again, ubiquitous, and there is a wide range of “fancy” for when you just need a place to stay VS aspirational travel.

  6. DaninMCI

    You’re too hard on Hyatt I think. Most other chains require as many or more nights to reach to status and some like IHG offer less perks once you get there. Hyatt doesn’t work for me because of the lack of locations in my business travel areas.
    Hilton points value was bad and they made it worse.
    My ranking in terms of point earning and redemption along with good quality rooms is:
    1. Marriott (Starwood is just a bonus)
    2. IHG simply due to footprint quality and easy point earnings
    3. Hyatt only because they are nice
    4. Hilton due to footprint and not loyalty program.
    5. Carlson. Decent point earning and neat locations in Europe.
    6. Wyndham, I had to rank them someplace. Besides construction crews in small towns need a program for Super 8 or whatever.
    7. Choice because they have mostly outdated crappy hotels.
    I’ve left out good programs like Viola, Drury and others because of personal knowledge and geography.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Fair enough. I just think with a limited footprint you need to go the extra mile to give customers have a reason to make the extra effort.

  7. Rachel

    I lean Starwood, followed by Hilton. I don’t feel guilty spending Hilton points and I like to hoard Starwood points for longer vacations when I want to enjoy the resort. If we’ll barely be in the room, Hilton generally makes more sense.

    That said, diversification is so important. We hit the tail end of the Club Carlson last night free, but our bank of points has saved us quite a bit of cash when we were stuck without a better hotel option.

    IHG is actually the hardest one for me. Some years we burn our anniversary night certificates the day they arrive (like we will this year when we head to Disneyland) and other years we end up spending them just so we don’t lose them.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Funny you say that. Unless it’s pointbreaks, often IHG cash rates are cheap enough to make points not make sense.

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