These Are the Best and Worst Hotel Loyalty Programs for Travelers in 2017

Hotel workers wait to check people into their hotel.
kadmy/Getty Images

Financially savvy travelers know they can save by signing up for hotel loyalty programs. But which programs provide the most bang for your buck?

CarTrawler, a travel technology platform, recently released the results of its third annual Hotel Reward Payback Survey. Consulting firm IdeaWorks gathered data for the survey using six hotel loyalty programs: Best Western Rewards, Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, Starwood SPG and Wyndham Rewards.

Rewards members with Wyndham get the most benefit, while members of Starwood’s loyalty program benefit the least of the six, the survey found.

For every $100 spent, here’s the average value of the rewards each loyalty program pays back:

  • Wyndham Rewards: $16.70
  • Marriott Rewards: $8.80
  • Hilton Honors: $7.50
  • Best Western Rewards: $7.40
  • IHG Rewards Club: $6.70
  • Starwood SPG: $5.40

Rewards Program Points Are Weakening

The Wall Street Journal compared this year’s hotel rewards study with IdeaWorks’ data from two years ago and found rewards program points aren’t worth as much as they used to be.

It now takes more points to get a complimentary room at Starwood and IHG hotels even though the price of rooms has gone down, according to The Wall Street Journal. Travelers staying at Hilton and Marriott hotels need fewer points to score comp rooms that now cost less, but the rewards points still aren’t as strong as before, the article said.

An analysis of Wyndham’s and Best Western’s programs wasn’t provided.

Still, The Wall Street Journal article pointed out that although points are weakening in value for free rooms, rewards programs aren’t necessarily offering less. Some loyalty programs are expanding to include other perks like room upgrades and free breakfast.

Save More with Hotel Brands’ Credit Cards

Racking up rewards with hotel-brand credit cards is another way to add to your travel savings. The survey also looked into which brands’ credit cards offer the best reward value for everyday purchases.

The survey found the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express provided users the greatest rewards, while the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card provided the least rewards.

Here are the reward rates for every dollar spent on everyday purchases using hotel credit cards:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest American Express: 2.7%
  • Wyndham Rewards Visa: 2.5%
  • Best Western Rewards MasterCard: 1.5%
  • Hilton Honors American Express: 1.5%
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: 0.9%
  • IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card: 0.7%

According to the survey, credit card rewards may be greater when you charge purchases like hotel stays or airline tickets instead of everyday purchases.

Just remember, whether you’re swiping your card for travel or everyday purchases, paying off the balance in full every month will help you avoid accumulating interest fees. That way, you can travel stress-free knowing you aren’t adding debt to your life.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.