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:
- Everyone else
The new rankings will look much different.
I’ll provide a bit of explanation for my thinking behind each ranking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Choice earns a spot in the top five due to its three sweet spots: interstate highways, Europe, 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.