I’ve looked at which hotel programs are the most rewarding with points for your nights at their properties.
In doing that, I used the ‘base’ earning rates for each program (how many points a general member earns).
But that’s not the situation faced by many readers who have elite status with their favorite program. Programs generally give their elite members more points than general members. And elite bonuses vary widely across programs.
Here’s the top-tier elite earning for the six programs I’m looking at.
While Starwood is the least generous overall in terms of rewarding in-hotel spend, they have good elite bonuses that partially make up for it. Gold and Platinum members earn a 50% bonus (3 points per dollar instead of 2) and Starwood’s Platinum members who spend 75 nights a year or more with the chain earn a 100% bonus (4 points per dollar spent).
Hyatt offers the most modest elite bonus to their Diamond members, just 30%.
Hilton actually comes in just behind — they say they give Diamonds a 50% bonus but that bonus only applies to ‘base’ earning and not to the ‘extra’ 5 points per dollar members earn by selecting “points and points” as their earning style. In other words, a base member can earn 15 points per dollar, and a top tier Diamond 20 points. I call that a 33% bonus, even though Hilton says it’s 50%.
Note that I’m not including the effect of per-stay bonuses. Starwood lets Platinums choose 500 points if they don’t want free breakfast (at hotels without a club lounge). Hyatt is generous at 1000 points per stay for giving up the food and beverage amenity. Hilton’s 1000 points on the other hand is paltry given the inflated numbers they use in their award chart.
So let’s re-ask the questions:
- What hotel program offers a free night after the least amount of spending for top tier elites?
- What hotel program will let top tier elites redeem a free night in a big city after the smallest investment?
- What hotel program will let top tier elites access its most expensive, most aspirational hotels for the least amount of spending?
Keep reading to see which hotel programs reward their elite members’ travel dollars the most.
Again, remember that I am ignoring factors that are very important for some travelers — especially elite travelers — like other elite benefits (upgrades!) as well as promotions. I also ignore ‘point saver’ and ‘cash and points’ awards — I’m just looking at the basic reward chart.
- * Assumes Points + Points earning style
** Assumes high season where applicable
*** Assumes base-level room; excludes premium room awards; for Marriott excludes Ritz-Carlton reward nights; does not account for SPG hotels that charge 70,000 points
Club Carlson clearly kicks butt in terms of value even more for top elites than general members.
Starwood looks better for top elites than general members — still not generous, but not cringe-worthy either.