Loyalty has two primary components: recognition and reward. That’s your elite program and your earn and burn proposition.
Hotel programs are tough to compare because you earn a different number of points per dollar spent, and redemptions vary wildly as well — the most expensive Hyatt redemption is 30,000 points while the most expensive Hilton redemption costs 95,000.
Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
We can normalize that by looking at the number of points earned, and the value of each point. I’m not including any seasonal promotions in this analysis.
My valuation methodology is well-established, and I don’t think the values I use are especially controversial. Hilton’s new redemption program makes most redemptions worth about 4/10ths of a cent per point, and Marriott has even told us that a Starwood point is worth three times as much as one Marriott point.
Let’s compare the ‘rebate value’ you get out of each of the major hotel chains, that is how much you earn for your spending with each chain both as a general member and as a top elite with each one.
It’s harder to compare the value of various elite benefits, since those are more subjective. What is a suite upgrade worth? At different hotels, and for different stays and lengths of stay, and to different people it will vary widely. But let’s just compare some of the key benefits:
Here’s what we can say about each program:
- Hyatt: average rebate, best benefits
- Starwood: weak rebate, good benefits
- Marriott: good rebate, improving benefits
- Hilton: weak rebate, weak benefits
- IHG: good rebate, weak benefits
Breakfast at the Sheraton Mirage, Port Douglas
That doesn’t tell you what chain you should frequent. Hyatt has about 600 hotels, they may not have hotels where you travel. And they require 60 nights at those hotels to make top tier.
If you can earn benefits with Marriott or Hilton — which you can do on credit card spend alone — those could make more sense for you.
And if your travels take you to towns that have Holiday Inns, you don’t care much about being promised suites (you may still get nice upgrades at the direction of individual hotels), you’re going to get strong payback from IHG.
But this does tell us which programs offer the most value on the redemption side, and the best benefits (for those who can qualify) on the elite side.