Which Hotel Loyalty Programme Gives You The Highest Return on Your Spend?

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Many people book direct with a hotel chain – instead of via Hotels.com or Booking.com – because of the points you can earn (along with elite status benefits of course). Once you have accumulated enough points, you then exchange them for free hotel stays. Some hotels require more points than others – and some hotel chains have points that are more valuable than others – but the concept is always the same.

Any attempt to place a value on these points is subjective. No major hotel chain other than Accor has gone so far as to make their points cash-equivalent (and for that precise reason there is limited interest in the programme). Some people accumulate points for luxury hotel stays they would never otherwise pay for. Other people find the value in points from spending them on more humble, yet convenient, hotels. For some stays you might receive outstanding “value” from your points. For other stays you should actually pay the cash rate because you would be wasting your points.

Because of these complicating factors, some people prefer to rely on several “expert opinions” and so I will offer mine…

But first, let me get ahead of the inevitable criticism…  Even though my brain is wired to understand the relative values of sterling, dollars, euros, yen etc. without much effort, I know that many readers prefer to see the sterling equivalent. However, since you EARN points based on US Dollar spend, the value of SPENDING points is notionally based on USD-equivalent room rates (within top-secret award pricing algorithms), and you can only BUY points in US dollars, etc. I will use US cents throughout… if only because our objective is to end up with a % figure.  Converting to sterling at every step just adds confusion…

Value of Points

  • World of Hyatt – 1.6 cents per point
  • Marriott Bonvoy – 0.7 cents per point
  • IHG Rewards – 0.5 cents per point
  • Hilton Honors – 0.4 cents per point

I’ll repeat myself… this is an entirely subjective estimate of what I think points are worth ON AVERAGE, across the entire range of hotels offered by each chain. I like to find sweetspot bargains across the entire range, but I am also willing to spend points on luxury hotel stays. Often I do better than average, but sometimes I can’t (and just pay the cash rate instead).

But apart from their value, what you also will need to know is how many points you will earn from your hotel stays. And for that we need to look on a chain-by-chain basis…

When I ran this analysis for the US version of InsideFlyer, co-branded credit cards were a major factor to take into account because of the substantial bonuses for spending with the hotel chain. In the UK, however, only a lucky few still have the Hilton Barclaycard and IHG/Marriott Creation cards (especially after the Curve tantrum). The Marriott Bonvoy American Express is still available to all – as far as I know – in which case the extra 4 points per £ spent could make a massive difference to your “rebate”.

World of Hyatt

  • No-status member – 5 points per $ spent –> 8% rebate
  • Top tier elite status member – 6.5 points per $ spent –> 10.4% rebate

Marriott Bonvoy

  • No-status member – 10 points per $ spent –> 7% rebate
  • Titanium status member – 17.5 points per $ spent –> 12.3% rebate

IHG Rewards

  • No-status member – 10 points per $ spent –> 5% rebate
  • Top-tier status member – 20 points per $ spent –> 10% rebate

Hilton Honors

  • No-status member – 10 points per $ spent –> 4% rebate
  • Top-tier status member – 20 points per $ spent –> 8% rebate

What Do You Think?

Which is the most lucrative hotel loyalty programme? That certainly depends on your own perspective, along with complicating factors such as bonus point promotions, elite status and credit card eligibility. Change the valuation estimates slightly and you can completely re-rank my list. But with a co-branded credit card helping you on your way to elite status and adding a nice little bonus to your hotel spend, Marriott Bonvoy sure looks like the front-runner.

Why don’t you join the conversation and share your opinion in the comments section…

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