Wyndham Rewards recently announced some fundamental changes to how many points you’ll need to redeem for free nights. They’re saying farewell to flat rate award nights and welcoming back category levels.
They also announced some other changes regarding elite earning, points transfers from La Quinta and new ways to earn and redeem points. Here’s a more in-depth look at the updated Wyndham Rewards scheme to help you identify new opportunities and try to avoid the devaluation of any points you’re sitting on.
New Category Levels
For reservations made before April 3, 2019, free nights at any Wyndham property will cost 15,000 points per night. For reservations made after April 3, there will be three category levels:
- 7,500 points: ~1/3 of properties
- 15,000 points: ~2/3 of properties
- 30,000 points: ~200 properties
Wyndham Rewards hasn’t yet released a list of which of their hotels will fall into which categories. According to Doctor of Credit, they have no plans on releasing this list before April 3. It’s highly likely though that 30,000 points will be required at properties like TRYP Times Square and The New Yorker in New York, Hawaii hotels and their all-inclusives. I’m not too familiar with Wyndham Rewards properties, so let us know in the comments below about any other properties you suspect will be made more expensive.
If you’d been intending to use your points at one of Wyndham’s premium properties, you’ll need to book that stay before April 3 to lock in the 15,000 per night cost. The good thing is that if the property you book drops in price, Wyndham will automatically credit your account with the additional 7,500 points per night.
Go Fast Awards
Wyndham Rewards has its own version of Points + Cash called Go Fast awards. The introduction of three category levels for award nights means they’re introducing three levels for Go Fast awards too:
- 1,500 points + cash
- 3,000 points + cash
- 6,000 points + cash
You’ll now earn points on the cash portion of the stay. When checking the existing terms for Go Fast awards, I couldn’t find any mention of this policy at the moment, so this is at least a small improvement.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Wyndham Rewards before these changes were announced. I have an account with them, but that was only to collect the points I earned from going to a Wyndham Timeshare presentation. In my opinion, their existing scheme holds very little value on both the earning and redeeming side, although there have been the occasional sweet spots like a 4 bedroom villa in Florida and a 9 bedroom English cottage, both of which cost only 15,000 points per night.
We stayed 11 nights in Wyndham properties last year, but all those nights were booked through Hotels.com. For me, buying Hotels.com gift cards at a 20% discount and earning 10% back in Welcome Rewards offered better savings than booking those stays directly and earning Wyndham Rewards points. The only time I’ve been tempted to book directly has been during their Masterpass promotions, but those have never lined up with our plans.
The introduction of three category levels virtually destroys any lingering value the program had. The only interest I – and likely many people – had in the program was booking their top properties for only 15,000 points per night. Now that those hotels will cost 30,000 points per night, they’ve devalued their loyalty scheme by 50%.
Having only three category levels simply doesn’t offer enough nuance when assigning point values to their hotels. Allocating ~9,000 properties into only three categories doesn’t feel like a great way of sorting things, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see additional categories added in the future. A flat rate of 15,000 points for every property at least made a modicum of sense as award stays at nicer properties became attainable.
Unlike most hotel loyalty schemes, Wyndham Rewards hasn’t offered bonus points on paid stays to members with elite status. Instead, Platinum members earned 3,000 bonus points and Diamond members earned 6,000 bonus points each year, with Gold members earning nothing.
That’s all changing on April 3. The awarding of annual bonus points will be eliminated, with bonuses being awarded on paid stays as follows:
- Gold – 10%
- Platinum – 15%
- Diamond – 20%
This is obviously an improvement for Gold members as they don’t currently get any bonus. Platinum members will need to spend $2,000 per year and Diamond members $3,000 per year in order to earn the same number of bonus points.
That’ll likely be a devaluation for Platinum members who barely stay the 15 nights required to earn the status. At 15 nights per year, they’d need to spend $133.33 per night before taxes to earn 3,000 bonus points, although that per-night cost will go down the more nights they stay.
It’s less of an issue for Diamond members who earn the status through stays, although it could still be a devaluation. You need to stay 40 nights to earn Diamond status, so from April 3 you’ll have to spend $75 per night before tax to earn 6,000 bonus points. Given the low cost of some of their hotels, you still might not end up earning 6,000 bonus points.
These bonus point tiers are still underwhelming though. Staying 40 nights and spending $3,000 won’t earn you enough bonus points for a free night stay, even at a 7,500 point hotel – a property that’ll be of questionable quality.
Let’s compare that to IHG. Staying 45 nights earns you Platinum status which gets you 5 bonus points per dollar spent at most of their brands. If you spend $3,000 with Platinum status, you’ll earn 15,000 bonus points. That’s enough for a free night at a 10,000 or 15,000 point property, or up to three nights at a 5,000 point property on the PointBreaks list.
Similarly, staying 40 nights earns you Gold status with Hilton which offers 8 bonus points per dollar spent at most of their brands. Spending $3,000 with Hilton Gold status will therefore earn you 24,000 bonus points, enough for two free nights at one of their 10,000 point properties or almost five free nights at one of their 5,000 point properties overseas.
La Quinta Point Transfers
You can currently transfer points between Wyndham Rewards and La Quinta Returns on a 1:1 basis. If you have any La Quinta Returns points, you have until March 31, 2019 to transfer them on that basis. From April 3, you’ll only get 1 Wyndham Rewards point for every 2 La Quinta Returns points if you’re a Silver member, although Gold and Elite members will still have theirs transferred on a 1:1 basis. La Quinta Returns will be no more, so there’s no arbitrage opportunity for Silver members transferring in the other direction.
I’m not sure what happens if you transfer on April 1 or 2, as the dates listed by Wyndham and La Quinta specifically mention March 31 and April 3. It might be that transfers are suspended on those days while their systems are updated.
The change from April 3 is ridiculously customer-unfriendly for Silver members. For as bad as the Marriott/SPG transition has been handled over the last 6 months, they at least automatically converted Starpoints to Marriott Rewards on a 1:3 basis for every member regardless of status.
For La Quinta members with Silver status, this could devalue their points by 75%. At the moment, 60,000 La Quinta Returns points can be transferred to Wyndham Rewards and used to get four free nights at one of Wyndham’s top hotels. If they neglect to transfer their points by April 3, they’ll end up with only 30,000 points. That’ll only be enough for one free night at a top Wyndham hotel in the future.
For loyal La Quinta members who travel with pets, this is a second blow after the introduction of pet fees at some La Quinta properties.
New Earning & Redemption Options
Along with these changes will come some new opportunities to earn and redeem Wyndham Rewards points. Here are the new partners and my thoughts.
Wyndham members will be able to both earn and redeem points at Marathon gas stations. Strictly speaking, this is already possible as La Quinta has had a partnership with Marathon for the past year. La Quinta Rewards points earned from that partnership could then be transferred to Wyndham.
Wyndham have yet to confirm the earning setup. At the moment, you earn 2 La Quinta Returns points per gallon (not per dollar), so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something similar. If so, that wouldn’t be a reason to seek out a Marathon gas station, but would be a nice bonus if you happen to find yourself at one.
With United’s partnership with BP, you can redeem MileagePlus miles for discounts on gas, albeit for poor value. I suspect redeeming Wyndham Rewards points for gas discounts won’t be worthwhile either unless it’s to use up orphaned points.
Viator is a company through which you can book tours, activities, etc. Wyndham is teaming up with them to offer the opportunity to both earn and redeem points on Viator bookings.
IHG already has a partnership with Viator that offers 1,000 bonus points on the earning side, so it’s likely Viator will power a similar site for Wyndham Rewards. Note that you can also go through a shopping portal to earn cashback on Viator bookings which will probably provide better value for more expensive bookings.
This partnership has potential, but it’s completely reliant on what kind of rewards Wyndham offers for making a booking on Viator.
IHG Rewards Club has Grubhub, while Choice and Radisson Rewards have Delivery.com. Wyndham will soon be joining the hotel/food delivery ranks by allowing you to earn and redeem points with DoorDash. I’m not aware of any other companies DoorDash partners with in this way, so this is at least one positive development.
Let’s just hope Uber Eats and Postmates team up with Marriott and Hilton so you’ll be rewarded no matter what service you use.
Wyndham will also be launching their own shopping portal. I’ll reserve judgment on whether this provides value or not until we know what kind of rates it’ll be offering. At this early stage though, I’m not holding out much hope. Both the Marriott and Hilton shopping portals bit the dust, so I’m curious if Wyndham’s portal can avoid the same fate in the coming months and years.
With the devaluation of free night awards at their top properties, they’ll have to offer some rewarding rates to make it worthwhile picking them over all the other shopping portals out there.
Wyndham hasn’t announced any changes to their credit cards, but those of you holding the current version of the premium card will need to reevaluate its worth as it’ll be devalued in two ways.
At the moment, the $75 annual fee card offers 6,000 bonus points on your anniversary date. As the card comes with Platinum status, you also currently get 3,000 bonus points each year. If you paid the annual fee for two anniversaries, you’d end up with 18,000 points – more than enough to get a free night at any property as things currently stand.
April 3 changes all that though and makes keeping the card much less worthwhile. One reason is that Platinum members will no longer receive 3,000 bonus points each year, meaning you’ll only get 6,000 points for paying the $75 fee.
The second reason is that if your plan has been to redeem points at their top properties, you’ll now have to pay $375 in renewal fees over the course of five years in order to earn enough for one free night. Needless to say, that’s highly unlikely to be worth it.
The calculation for holders of their old premium card will be different. That card has a $69 annual fee and comes with 15,000 points each year on your anniversary date. Although the value gained from the card will be going down due to the 200 properties moving up to 30,000 points per night, you’ll still be getting enough points for one or two free nights each year. Alternatively, you’ll be paying $138 every two years for enough points for one night at one of their top hotels. That’s not amazing, but there’s still some value there.
What are your thoughts on these Wyndham Rewards changes? Are you more optimistic for some reason, or will you be losing interest and looking elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.