A question that comes up quite often especially as hotel loyalty program’s are constantly changing, is which hotel loyalty program people should join. You would be amazed at the amount of seasoned travellers that aren’t a member of any program (which in my opinion is a waste of what could be plenty of benefits and points they’re missing out on!).
Here’s a quick guide to some of the biggest program’s out there.
Deciding which program to join starts out with having an understanding of where you travel to the most. If you only travel within Australia a lot and especially within country areas, Choice or Best Western both have an awards program, which are quite limited but can still award you with the odd free night and points that you can also transfer into a Frequent Flyer program). Accor Hotels (including Novotel, Mercure, Pullman among others) have lots of properties within Australia (and around the world), however benefits are usually never granted as advertised and points value is extremely low.
BUT do join up. There are sometimes fantastic deals and promotions available only to “members” of the hotel loyalty programs, and If you are only a very infrequent traveller being a member of a hotel loyalty program opposite a guest that isn’t (but booked the same room type as you) could mean you get a nice view and they get a view over a car park!
Do you travel to major cities around the world? A lot of international travel? Here are the Big 5 to consider no matter where you are in the world.
Hyatt Gold Passport
Hyatt is a very popular program which includes Hyatt, Park Hyatt, and Andaz does not have expensive award categories: Park Hyatts in Paris and Sydney (which normally cost a lot of $$) don’t cost any more points than the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Hyatt also let you confirm a suite when booking an award night (as long as you are staying at least three nights) for just 50% percent more than a regular room. And for elite recognition: Diamond level is the best for suite upgrades (four times per year, confirmed at booking for up to seven nights, from any Hyatt rate) and for breakfast (guaranteed full breakfast).
Starwood Preferred Guest
Starwood is also extremely popular which includes brands like Sheraton, Westin, W, Four Points, and St Regis among others. One of the great things is that if a hotel has standard rooms available, you can have it on points. And the choice of hotels contains more luxury properties than any of the other major loyalty programs: Some of the world’s best and most talked about hotels—in Bora Bora and the Maldives, belong to Starwood.
I’m a huge fan of Hilton (which also includes Conrad, Hampton and Waldorf among their hotels) as the properties are almost everywhere (just not a huge selection in Australia to choose from). I have had no difficulty using award nights or points plus pay where in some cities like London it is really good value. The Conrad and Waldorf brands in particular are quite high end. Gold and Diamond status (which aren’t too difficult to obtain either via an offer or by genuine stays) offer quite a few decent benefits that are actually useful (free wifi, free breakfast) but the guaranteed Suite upgrade for Diamond’s was taken away after the program changes last year which isn’t great anymore. There are rumors also that they are introducing a Lifetime Diamond status this year will is way overdue.
Marriott has hotels everywhere around the world but the reward program is not one of the best.. It has the highest threshold (at 75 nights) to earn top level status—and those top elites don’t even get guaranteed late checkout (Starwood and Hyatt offer this). Marriott Rewards recently introduced guaranteed breakfast seven days a week, but the benefit doesn’t apply at Marriott’s Courtyard properties. While they no longer exclude suite upgrades as a benefit, there’s no way to guarantee a suite (as there is with Starwood and Hyatt).
IHG is the program for Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and its related brands. It offers generous earnings for hotel stays especially with the regular offer of bonuses. However I’ve never been a fan of it’s properties. It doesn’t offer any option to redeem more points on an award stay to get a better room, and the rules of the program don’t give elite members many benefits when staying on points.
There are also other hotel programs to join including Rydges, Langham, Redlion, Kempinski, Club Carlson, and Accor (among the many out there) which you can read about on their websites.