Which hotel loyalty program is most rewarding on paid stays?

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Thanks to big shake-ups in the hotel loyalty arena, I’ve recalculated the charts in this post.  IHG recently announced the launch of their new IHG One Rewards program.  And, following Marriott dumping their award charts, I found that Marriott points, on average, were worth more than before (for now).  Given these significant changes, it was time to revisit this post which was last published about a year ago.  The purpose of this post is to see which hotel rewards program offers the best rewards for hotel spend.

The calculations in this post rely on our Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs).  RRVs are the values at which it is reasonable to expect to get that much value or more from your points.  For hotels, I calculate RRVs by comparing paid and award rates for multiple dates at a number of hotels in the United States, and I pick the median point value to be the RRV.  If a program has an RRV of 1.0, for example, this means that the median value of that program’s points is 1 cent.  Most hotel programs have RRV’s below 1.0.

This post does not factor in extra points earned from hotel promotions or elite welcome gifts; nor does this post factor in the way different elite programs are differentially rewarding in ways other than assigning extra points.  For example, I love the fact that Hyatt waives parking fees on free nights for top tier elites, but that type of thing is not factored in here.

In this round-up, I looked at Best Western, Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Radisson, and Wyndham.  Due to the fact that Radisson will soon no longer have U.S. credit cards, I dropped Radisson from the credit card section of the post.

Most rewarding with no status

The following table shows the hotel programs that offer the most valuable rewards on paid stays for those with no elite status.  This table does not consider the value of credit card rewards earned on your stay:

Rewards Program Point Value (RRV) Points Earned Per Dollar* Value of Rewards Earned as Percentage of Amount Spent
Wyndham 0.82 10 8%
Hyatt 1.6 5 8%
Marriott Bonvoy 0.75 10 8%
Radisson Rewards 0.34 20 7%
Choice 0.68 10 7%
IHG 0.6 10 6%
Best Western 0.54 10 5%
Hilton 0.4 10 4%

* The points per dollar number is each hotel program’s usual rate. Some have exceptions. For example, Marriott only offers 5 points per dollar for their long-stay hotels.

Wyndham, Hyatt, and Marriott lump together at the top of this table: points earned for stays amount to 8% value.  Radisson and Choice are right behind them with 7%.  IHG is next at 6%, then Best Western at 5%.  Hilton trails the pack at 4%.

Most rewarding with top tier status

The following table shows the hotel programs that offer the most valuable rewards on paid stays for those with top tier elite status.  This table does not consider the value of credit card rewards earned on your stay:

Rewards Program Top Elite Status Point Value (RRV) Points Earned Per Dollar* Value of Rewards Earned as Percentage of Amount Spent
Marriott Bonvoy Titanium or Ambassador 0.75 17.5 13%
IHG Diamond 0.6 20 12%
Radisson Rewards Platinum 0.34 35 12%
Hyatt Globalist 1.6 6.5 10%
Choice Diamond 0.68 15 10%
Wyndham Diamond 0.82 12 10%
Best Western Diamond 0.54 15 8%
Hilton Diamond 0.4 20 8%

* The points per dollar number is each hotel program’s usual rate. Some have exceptions. For example, Marriott only offers 5 points per dollar for their long-stay hotels.

At 13% back in point value, Marriott leads the pack for top tier elites, but IHG and Radisson are extremely close behind with 12%. Meanwhile Hyatt, Choice, and Wyndham all offer their top tier elites about 10% back in point value.  Best Western and Hilton trail with 8%.

Most rewarding with credit card elite status

Many hotel programs offer credit cards which give the cardholder elite status.  That elite status, in turn, usually means earning more points per dollar for stays.  With this factored in, let’s take a look at which hotel programs are most rewarding for those who have status from credit cards:

Elite Status from Card Credit Card Points Per Dollar Due to Status Value % (Before paying w/ card) Points Per Dollar from Card Total Value %
Diamond Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card 12 10% 8 16%
Platinum IHG Premier, Premier Business 16 10% 10 16%
Platinum Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant*, Ritz* 15 11% 6 16%
Discoverist World of Hyatt 5.5 9% 4 15%
Platinum Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus 11.5 9% 6 14%
Gold Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Ritz 12.5 9% 6 14%
Diamond Hilton Aspire 20 8% 14 14%
Silver Marriott Bonvoy Boundless 11 8% 6 13%
Gold Hilton Surpass, Hilton Business 18 7% 12 12%
Platinum Best Western Rewards Premium 11.5 6% 10 12%
Gold Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card 11 7% 5 11%
Silver Hilton (No Fee) 12 5% 7 8%

* Both cards offer Marriott Platinum Elite status with $75K calendar year spend, but this is here more as a placeholder for those with Marriott Platinum status and any Marriott card that offers 6 points per dollar at Marriott properties (which is true of most Marriott cards).

Wyndham and IHG straight-up take the top spots here with 16% returns, but those with Marriott Platinum Elite status can do just as well.  Even though Marriott Platinum status doesn’t really fit with the theme of this chart (since you can’t get that level status simply by having a credit card), many readers have this level of status through other means and so I felt it was important to include it here.  Right behind the top 3 is Hyatt at 15%.  Then, we have a 14% tie between Wyndham with its lesser credit card, Marriott with Gold status, and Hilton with the Aspire card.

The hotel promo factor

Hilton performs noticeably poorly in the above analyses.  This is not because they offer few points per dollar, but because their points are, on average, worth considerably less than points from most other hotel loyalty programs.

Despite that, Hilton is often the most rewarding hotel chain for paid stays because they frequently run valuable promos.  For example, they frequently run a promo that offers double points on 1 or 2 night stays and triple points on longer stays (details about the latest promo can be found here).  With double points alone, Hilton would rise to the top of all of the above charts as long as the other chains weren’t also offering valuable promos at the same time.

Conclusion

Marriott came out on top (or equal to the top) in every category shown above.  This is a big change from when I first published these charts (May 14 2021).  At that time, Marriott sat in the middle of most of the charts.  The big change for Marriott is with our estimated value of Marriott points.  Before Marriott eliminated award charts, I consistently calculated Marriott’s Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) at around 0.65 cents per point.  After they eliminated award charts, Marriott’s RRV jumped to 0.75 cents per point.  See this post for details: What are Marriott points worth?

Another program that did very well in all three charts is Hyatt.  Hyatt was at the top or near the top in all categories.  For those, like me, who tend to prefer Hyatt over other brands anyway, this is a nice confirmation.

IHG would have equaled Marriott’s success across the board, but they didn’t do great on rewards for those without status.  Since, in my opinion, IHG’s $99 cards pay for themselves with Platinum elite status and an annual flexible free night, a regular IHG guest really should have one of these cards (or both).  And as long as you have the IHG Premier or Premier Business card, your hotel spend earnings will match the best out there.  Add in the fact that IHG frequently runs valuable point promos and you have a great option (if IHG is your thing).

Wyndham performed really well too in all charts except the one that looked at top tier status without a credit card.  If you’re interested in Wyndham, you should really pick up a Wyndham Earner card (the business card is especially good).  See: Wyndham Earner credit cards review: Surprisingly strong.  Unfortunately, from my point of view, it seems like Wyndham rarely has hotels that I’m interested in staying at despite having a huge number of properties worldwide.

Hilton performed poorly in these analyses, with one exception: those with the Hilton Aspire card can do well because that card gives the cardholder a total of 34 points per dollar at Hilton properties (20 points per dollar from Diamond Elite status and 14 points per dollar from the credit card).  And, as mentioned in a dedicated section above, Hilton frequently runs great promos offering many more points.  While those promos are in effect, I’d bet that Hilton surpasses the other programs.

A final point: In some cases, Hyatt, Hilton, and Wyndham actually offer better value than is shown in the charts above.  The reason is that all three waive resort fees on award stays.  In the past when I’ve calculated Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs), I haven’t added the value of waived resort fees to the analyses.  Going forward, I will.  This should increase the RRVs for Hyatt, Hilton, and Wyndham which, in turn, will mean that each will do better when I next update this analysis.

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Ryan Butler

Greg – how is it possible to really know how much the Marriott points are worth with their dynamic pricing and there are additional dynamic changes coming soon with no caps? My husband and I are Marriott ambassadors and have been really disappointed in Marriott and their new point system. We’re finding a lot of hotel rooms are being listed at 30% or 40% more in points cost than they used to be just three years ago. If the cash price on a hotel room is $800 or $100, the Hyatt point redemption remains the same, but Marriott and many other programs are dynamic.

DKGeorge

Hi Greg:
I always appreciate your thoughtful analysis. You mention you plan to incorporate the value of waived resort fees in future RRV analysis. There are also a number of points/counterpoints offered in the comments that could/may be considered in the process of rethinking your model. I have a suggestion that may allow incorporation of a wider range of award stay benefits for each program. This could be done by including the effect of 4th/5th night free, waived fees etc and then reducing the calculated value by the opportunity cost of forgone points from a paid stay. This would allow a more direct comparison of program values without the need to assume some but not other award benefits equal forgone points earned on a paid stay while accounting for differences between programs on both accounts. This would work much like your analysis of the value of credit card sign up where you reduce the face value by the net opportunity cost of using the a 2.5 to 3.0% earning card. That said, with multiple levels of additional complexity and standard value assumptions, any error can become exponential in its effect. Thank you again for your work on the community’s behalf.

Gene

@ Greg — Another consideration is cash back. Hilton generally gives 1x MR back through Rakuten, while IHG gives 3x MR (often more, up to 6-15x MR). Hyatt gives zero. I use Rakuten as my benchmark since they always pay out. Other sites may sometimes offer more cash back, but they are also far less reliable and have horrible customer service, so I have stopped wasting my energy using those sites.

iamhere

What you’re forgetting is how you pay for the stay is also important and there are various elements to how much you are awarded. First is the stay itself but those that pay with that program’s loyalty credit card would also receive even more credit toward the transaction itself. For example, paying for a Marriott hotel with a co-branded credit card and staying there. If there is a promotion (if lucky) with double points and double nights it can be even more rewarding. While many programs are downgrading their points value, there are more promotions to earn more than before and I would not hoard points. Credit card points are much more flexible.

Brutus

I suggest you reread the article. Using a co-brand credit card and taking advantage of promotions are both covered.

Last edited 5 months ago by Brutus
FM Fan

Bold of you to assume that this guy read the article at all considering what he says was “forgotten” from it.

DaninMCI

I think you might need to revisit Radisson RRV. I looked back at one of the posts where you arrive at the value and you looked at major markets like Chicago and New York but some of the better value in the Radisson program is in smaller towns and their brands like Country Inn’s. They shouldn’t be much lower than Wyndham overall with a less value on their top-end properties. They also provide very high value in some smaller European areas with high prices.

jlawrence01

The real value of the Wyndham Rewards Diamond is that it gives you Caesars Reward Diamond status at no cost, That has saved me hundreds in free nights, free meals, and free drinks.

JJ Lee

Very interesting article Greg. I’m currently a Marriott Titanium Elite and I wouldn’t consider paying for my Marriott stays with my Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX. Maybe you can comment on this, but wouldn’t I be better off paying for my Marriott stays with either the CSR or the Citi Prestige? Both will give me 3x on hotels and the points have more value.

I love Avios. Since Marriott cards earn 6x at Marriott stays, how much Avios will I get per dollar spent with and without the 5000 points bonus?

JJ Lee

My math is not at your level. Since Marriott cards earn 6x at Marriott stays, how much Avios will I get per dollar spent with and without the 5000 points bonus? Once we have the figure, then it’ll be easy to compare to CSR and Citi Prestige to better understand the value of the currencies.

JJ Lee

Given what you said, it only make sense to use Citi Prestige, AMEX Green, and CSR as I’ll get 3x Avios (or any other currencies that transfers 1:1) for my hotel spend. I think you need to update the article and divert people from putting Marriott spend on their Bonvoy cards!

Last edited 1 year ago by JJ Lee
J W

Thanks for bringing up this question! I’ve generally paid Marriott stays w/ CSR for the 3X. (I’m almost Titanium with Boundless Card). But another commenter above mentioned the current(?) promo at Marriott which equates to 21X Marriott Points for Platinum…more for higher level Elites:

6X for Boundless CC + 10X for Marriott Hotels as Bonvoy Member + 7.5X for Titanium = 23.5X points. If our plan is to use Bonvoy points for Airline transfer…

In this case…wouldn’t it make more sense to use Boundless CC? Even if Bonvoy points converts 3:1 to airlines w/o the 5000 point bonus…the # of Bonvoy points earned using Boundless to pay for Marriott stays would still be almost 7.83 airline points vs. CSR which converts to 3 airline points

GREG…am I looking at this correctly?

Matt

It would be great to see the elite-level charts without credit card rewards. My use case is that I travel for work and am forced to use the corporate card for hotel charges but I should be able to easily earn top-tier elite status. With the recent devaluations at Hilton (lack of breakfast, etc), I’m weighing a switch in my loyalty.

Thanks for all the great analyses!

Beth

Yes, same here!

[…] We like to stay at hotels for free around here but just in case you do the unthinkable: Which hotel loyalty program is most rewarding on paid stays? […]

Miles Ahead

Hi Greg, great and very useful analysis, yet again! One thing you did not account for is that Top Tier Hyatt Globalists also get one AA point per $ spend. With that value included WoH with or without cc is #1.
I am not aware of any other hotel chain offering such a benefit.
Thanks again!

JJ Lee

My understanding is that only Hyatt Globalists with AA status will get AA miles. I am currently a Globalist and linked my AA account to Hyatt. However, I don’t have AA status and never got any AA miles from my Hyatt stays.

dbeach

Correct. I am a Hyatt Globalist with no status on AA, and I have linked the accounts. I get Hyatt points when I fly AA, but no AA points when I stay at Hyatt. I would need to be an AA elite to get AA miles at Hyatt.

Dugroz Reports

While those promos are in effect, I’d bet that Hilton SURPASSes the other programs.”

Pun intended???

Boraxo

I always love this type of analysis which alas we don’t see often enough. However this suffers from a fatal flaw: (1) Wyndham offers few if any aspirational properties so it’s not a realistic choice for many of us and (2) the RRVs are a bit low, which skews the results. I usually get .005 for Hilton, .01 for Marriott and .02 for Hyatt. This results in a higher ROI for those programs as opposed to IHG which just massively devalued it’s program.

PeterSFO

Really interesting data, it must have taken a long time to search and compile all these data points! Definitely appreciate it and that’s why you guys are the best. Out of curiosity, which website did you feel was the most user-friendly while you were researching pricing?

It was really surprising to see how valuable paid stays at IHG (and to a lesser degree Marriott) are despite the hate they both get in the points circle compared to Hilton. Hilton does always have 2x and 3x promos all the time so that might swing things in it’s favor: even a 2x points promo would vault it up to top 2 on several of the charts at 17.6%.

One other factor to consider (and would be very difficult to factor in) is award availability. I think for anything outside of your Hilton Garden Inn on the side of the road somewhere, Hilton has the least standard award availability.

Elizabeth

Very interesting. I think one part of the equation is the value of the actual points. A premium hotel night at Hyatt is significantly fewer points than the comparable Hilton property, and as Globalist there are additional savings when using points. Also, I want to concentrate my points with hotel chains that have the type of properties I am going to use.

LarryInNYC

The value is taken into account — that’s why in the last chart (as an example) 10.5 Hyatt points are pretty much as valuable as 30 IHG points or 45 Radisson points.

Stvr

Curious what decision went into not revising Marriotts numbers

Lily

Greg, will the values for these tables be updated whenever you update the RRVs for each program?

Also, if you do have plans to update these tables in the future, can you add a leading extra column with the hotel program names for the tables involving credit cards? I know that the credit cards have the name of the program in them, but I think that it would be easier to quickly visually identify the individual programs if that extra column was there.

DavidS

Always love your analysis. The baseline is a great place to start that allows people to layer on their own added values. (For me I try to use points on stays where I can get a 4th or 5th night free – which increases values of those currencies by 25-33%. RIP Carlson.)

I always appreciated Travel Codex’s old comparison charts about value at different status levels and the sweet spots in the programs. (https://www.travelcodex.com/hotel-status-sweet-spot-2016/) With your passion around crunching the data, this seems like an opportunity for you to pick up.

Grogu

Still confused. I have a paid stay next month with Marriott. I have Gold status w a Marriott Boundless credit card. With your chart, it should give me 13% back in value. But shouldn’t I still use my Sapphire Reserve (3x) to pay, since Boundless cc only pays 6x, UR has bigger RRV?

NK3

Try to register your Boundless card for the current round of Chase promos. You may get 10x Marriott points, which would be worth more than 3x UR points. Doctor of Credit has dedicated links. When I used the generic link, I received 5x back on all purchases, up to $1500 in spend from 4/1 to 6/30. But using the link in the DoC post this morning, I received 10x Marriott points and 5x travel & gas on up to $1500 spend from 5/15 to 8/15.

Grogu

Yes, I saw this before and didn’t think of it. Many thanks!!

John

There are lots of permutations that can be run here. Here’s the delta between having and not having a card:

Aspire 9.6%
IHG Premier 9%
Wyndham Biz: 8.2%
Surpass 8%
Hyatt 7.2%
BW 6.2%
Wyndham 6.2%
Brilliant 6%
Radisson 5.7%
Boundless 4.9%
Choice 4.1%
Wyndham no AF 4.1%
IHG Traveler 3%
Honors 2.8%
Bold 2.8%
BW no AF 1.62%
Radisson no AF 1.14%

None of the no AF cards are worth using. All of the AF cards may be worth using. Of course, whether the AF is worth it will depend on how much value you can get out of it.

Gene

@ Greg — You should consider setting a ceiling on the value of each currency, based on the lowest value at which they are regularly sold. IHG points are sold almost continuously for 0.5, and I am pretty sure IHG isn’t selling them to lose money. Therefore, I would argue that IHG points are worth no more than 0.5. I personally value IHG points at 0.46.

Rob Carlin

What about Hotels.com? How do they compare?

Brad R

Why did you not make a chart of having status without credit card?

Brad R

Would be helpful for people like me who have top tier status without the credit cards. If you already have all the data and a template, should be really easy to throw together.

LarryInNYC

My impression is the credit card chart includes the status level that is automatically conferred by holding that credit card. Is that not correct?

(Edit: Oh wait — it’s vice versa that he’s asking for)

Last edited 1 year ago by LarryInNYC
Jags

What’s interesting is that, ignoring status perks, unless you are top tier with IHG, Radisson, Marriott, or Hyatt, you’re better off booking through hotels.com and getting 10% back. You can still for the most part pay at the hotel with your card of choice if you want, or use your highest earning card to book direct. This could also work out plenty well with discounted hotels.com gift cards.

Paul

Good point. Or whenever Rakuten has 10% cash back!

Andre

I’m surprised about the numbers from Hilton. Maybe I should have taken advantage of Hyatt’s incredible deal late last year/earlier this year to reach Globalist status.

Maurice

Hilton always has a promotion running, some quarters it is better than others. The current quarter is 2x on stays of 1 or 2 nights and 3x on 3 nights or more. For paid stays, personally I the value would be much higher this quarter. Last quarter it was bonus points based on stays/nights and you came out ahead when using reward stays. I understand why it is not part of Greg’s analysis as every program has different promotions, but I almost always get more value with the aspire than the 13.6%.

Becky

Thanks for running this – I’m not sure how much “real world” value this has, since prices, promotions, and elite benefits are never perfectly identical but I found it interesting nonetheless.

NK3

Everyone’s situation will be different. For me, the real world value is knowing that background earning rates are not that discrepant from one program to the next. I have the WoH card, Hilton Aspire & Bonvoy Brilliant. So without promos, I am earning 13-15% back, which is not that big of a difference (especially if I do my own tweak on valuations). With this article, I now realize that promos, prices, benefits & location should really be the only things I focus on, because the regular earning rates are not that different.