Ranking Hotel Rewards: Where Should Your Loyalty Lie?

GET WITH THE PROGRAM


Even for infrequent travelers, hotel loyalty programs are worth joining. Membership is free and often yields benefits right off the bat. It may be just a small perk, such as late checkout, or a true money saver such as free Internet access. Of course, the main draw is earning points toward a free night during a future getaway. Many loyalty programs span multiple chains owned by the same hotel group, and points earned at inexpensive hotels can be redeemed for free nights at higher-end properties. Points can often be put toward other travel arrangements, products, and services, or converted to frequent flyer miles with a partner airline. Just be sure you don't spend more than planned simply to accrue more points.

Cheapism.com compared 10 hotel loyalty programs to find out which makes it easiest to earn a free room. The comparison factors in the number of points awarded per dollar (which sometimes varies by hotel brand within the same company) and the cheapest redemption options. The rewards programs are ranked by the minimum amount that members must spend to earn a free night, from highest to lowest. Ties are broken by number of locations, notable perks of entry-level membership, and number of budget hotel chains, where a free night requires fewer points than a luxury hotel would command. Budget hotels often include breakfast and Wi-Fi, as well; most upscale hotels charge for these amenities.

10. WYNDHAM REWARDS


Included Hotels: Wyndham, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Garden, Tryp, Wingate, Hawthorn Suites, Microtel, Dream, Ramada, Baymont Inn and Suites, Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn, Night
Notable Entry-Level Perks: None
Locations: 7,500+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $1,500

9. STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST


Included Hotels: Le Méridien, Loft, Four Points, Westin, The Luxury Collection, W, Sheraton, St. Regis, Element
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Free Internet access
Locations: 1,200+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $1,500

8. HYATT GOLD PASSPORT


Included Hotels: Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt Vacation Club, M Life
Notable Entry-Level Perks: None
Locations: 575+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $1,000

7. IHG REWARDS CLUB


Included Hotels: InterContinental, Hualuxe, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Even, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resort, Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Free Internet access, late checkout, members-only phone line, complimentary newspaper
Locations: 4,700+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $1,000

6. BEST WESTERN REWARDS


Included Hotels: Best Western
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Free Internet access (also for non-members), members-only phone line
Locations: 4,000+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $800

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5. LA QUINTA RETURNS


Included Hotels: La Quinta Inns and Suites
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Express check-in, late checkout, members-only phone line
Locations: 870+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $600

4. MARRIOTT REWARDS


Included Hotels: Marriott, JW Marriott, Edition, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, AC Hotels, Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Gaylord Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, Protea, Bulgari, Marriott Vacation Club, Moxy
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Members-only phone line, option to redeem points for four nights and get a fifth night free
Locations: 3,800+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $600

3. CHOICE PRIVILEGES


Included Hotels: Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Ascend
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Free Internet access, express check-in and reservations, late checkout, complimentary newspaper
Locations: 6,300+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $600

2. CLUB CARLSON


Included Hotels: Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn and Suites
Notable Entry-Level Perks: 5 percent discount on food and beverages
Locations: 1,000+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $450

1. HILTON HHONORS


The Hilton HHonors program awards members up to 15 points per dollar and redemption options start at 5,000 points. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 Hilton hotels offer free nights at the lowest redemption level, and most are outside the U.S.

Included Hotels: Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Waldorf Astoria, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, Hilton Grand Vacations
Notable Entry-Level Perks: Check-in and room selection via mobile device, late checkout
Locations: 4,100+
Minimum to Earn a Free Night: $333