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Which Hotel Rewards Program Is Best for Business Travelers?

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I often preach the importance of diversifying your points and miles to improve award travel options and help protect against devaluation. However, sometimes it pays to stick firmly to one program when you know it serves you well. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele applies this principle to hotel loyalty programs to see how they reward their most frequent and loyal customers.

Picking a hotel loyalty program is very different for business travelers than for leisure travelers. While leisure travelers are more likely to earn points and elite status from credit card sign-up bonuses and spending, business travelers earn their rewards the old-fashioned way: through hotel stays.

Furthermore, when leisure travelers do occasionally have to pay out of pocket, they’re more likely to forgo rewards earned through the hotel in order to save a little money by booking through an online travel agency. On the other hand, business travelers who are being reimbursed by an employer or client often prefer to earn additional hotel points and elite status by booking directly with the hotel.

Deciding which loyalty program and credit card combination to choose

Frequent business travelers should carry a co-branded hotel credit card in order to earn as many points as possible from hotel stays. The most valuable loyalty program and credit card combination often depends on how many paid nights (or stays) per year you expect to have.

Today I want to examine several of the major hotel loyalty programs, and find out how many points travelers can expect to earn with a particular number of nights or stays each year when using a co-branded credit card. I’ll then use TPG’s latest monthly valuations to determine the total value of the rewards earned per dollar spent, and see which program offers the greatest return.

park-hyatt-new-york-pool
The Hyatt Gold Passport program offers a solid return, helping you earn points for stays at premier properties like the Park Hyatt New York.

 

Hyatt Gold Passport

Platinum members: General members earn five points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels, and an additional three points per dollar when paying with the The Hyatt Credit Card. That card also offers Platinum status, which earns you an additional 15% points bonus. Thus, you’ll earn 5.75 points per dollar from the paid stay, plus three points per dollar from the card, for a total of 8.75 points per dollar.

Total points per dollar: 8.75
Value of Hyatt points: 1.8 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 15.75 cents

Diamond members: Diamond elite status gets you a 30% points bonus, worth another 0.75 points per dollar spent. Diamond status normally requires 25 eligible stays or 50 eligible nights in a calendar year; however, Chase Hyatt Visa cardholders receive two stay credits and five night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in a calendar year, and an additional three stay credits and five night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 in a calendar year. If a frequent business traveler is able to earn both bonuses, the Platinum threshold comes down to 20 stays or 40 nights. See also: How Much is Hyatt Gold Passport Elite Status Worth?

Total points per dollar: 9.5
Value of Hyatt points: 1.8 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 17.1 cents

City view king guest room at the Crowne Plaza Auckland.
IHG offers a lot of points, but points are worth less than those of many other programs.

IHG Rewards Club

General members earn 10 points per dollar spent at most IHG properties, and 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you tend to stay at those properties, you’ll need to adjust the value below accordingly.

Using the IHG Rewards Club Select card from Chase offers an additional five points per dollar spent at IHG properties, and gives cardholders Platinum Elite status, which earns an additional 50% bonus on top of base points.

Total points per dollar: 20
Value of IHG points: 0.7 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 14 cents

Ma
The Marriott Rewards Premier card offers automatic Silver elite status.

Marriott Rewards

Silver status (0 -34 nights with the credit card): General members earn 10 points per dollar spent at most Marriott brands (only five points per dollar at Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites). The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase offers another 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties. In addition, cardholders receive 15 nights of elite credit, which is enough for Silver elite status and the corresponding 20% bonus on base points, for a combined total of 17 points per dollar spent.

Total points per dollar: 17
Value of Marriott points: 0.7 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 11.9 cents

Gold status (35 – 59  nights with the credit card): With the 15 nights toward elite status from the credit card, you’d need another 35 nights to reach Gold status, which offers a 25% bonus on base points. Note that cardholders also receive one night stay credit for every $3,000 spent on the card, potentially lowering the number of nights needed.

Total points per dollar: 17.5
Value of Marriott points: 0.7 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 12.25 cents

Platinum status (60 or more nights with the credit card): With the 15 nights toward elite status from the credit card, you’d need another 60 nights to reach Platinum status, which offers a 50% bonus on base points. Again, cardholders also receive one night stay credit for every $3,000 spent on the card, potentially lowering the number of nights needed. See also: How Much is Marriott Rewards Elite Status Worth?

Total points per dollar: 20
Value of Marriott points: 0.7 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 14 cents

The Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort is a hacienda style resort.
Hilton Diamond members using a premium co-branded card receive an excellent overall return.

Hilton HHonors

As a general member, you earn 10 base points per dollar spent at most Hilton properties (Five points per dollar at Home2 Suites by Hilton), plus an additional 5 bonus points if you choose not to earn airline miles (2.5 additional points per dollar at Home2 Suites by Hilton).

There are four different Hilton HHonors credit cards offered by two different card issuers (Citi and American Express).  The Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express confers automatic Gold status, which offers an additional 25% bonus on base points (not bonus points), for a total of 17.5 points per dollar spent at Hilton. The card also earns its own bonus of 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties.

Gold status with the HHonors Surpass card from American Express: This card offers 12 points per dollar spent at Hiltons, for a total of 29.5 total points.

Total points per dollar: 29.5
Value of HHonors points: 0.5 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 14.75 cents

Diamond status with the HHonors Surpass card from American Express: Cardholders who charge $40,000 within a calendar year, complete 30 stays or 60 nights, or earn 120,000 HHonors Base Points, will receive Diamond status, which offers a 50% bonus on base points. See also: What is Hilton HHonors Elite Status Worth?

Total points per dollar: 32
Value of HHonors points: 0.5 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 16 cents

Earn double or triple points with SPG More For You.
Starpoints are the most valuable loyalty currency out there, but they’re not easy to earn.

Starwood Preferred Guest

General members earn two points per dollar spent at Starwood properties, plus another two points from the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (or the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express).

General Member

Total points per dollar: 4
Value of Starwood points: 2.4 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 9.6 cents

Gold or Platinum status: As a Cardholder, you can earn Gold status by spending $30,000 on your card within a calendar year, or by completing 8 stays or 20 nights annually (since cardholders receive credit for 5 nights and 2 stays each year toward SPG elite status). Both Gold and Platinum members earn three points per dollar spent at Starwood properties. See also: How Much is Starwood Preferred Guest Elite Status Worth?

Total points per dollar: 5
Value of Starwood points: 2.4 cents
Total value of rewards per dollar: 12 cents

Grand Hyatt San Diego
Overall, Hyatt Gold Passport offers the best return.

Summary

Here are the values (in cents) of combined hotel and credit card rewards for paid stays, in ascending order:

  • 9.6 – Starwood general
  • 11.9 – Marriott Silver
  • 12 – Starwood Platinum
  • 12.25 – Marriott Gold
  • 14 – IHG Platinum
  • 14 – Marriott Platinum
  • 14.7 – HHonors Gold
  • 15.75 – Hyatt Platinum
  • 16 – HHonors Diamond
  • 17.1 – Hyatt Diamond

Analysis

While Starpoints are generally considered to be the most valuable loyalty currency, I was surprised to see that the Starwood Preferred Guest program is the least rewarding for paid stays. Marriott and IHG both offer cardholders slightly more value for their paid stays (according to TPG’s valuations), but it’s hard to quantify the fact that both programs have capacity controls that restrict the availability of awards for standard rooms.

In contrast, Hyatt, Starwood, and Hilton each offer any unsold standard room as an award. This is certainly an issue for business travelers who may be unable to use their points during the holidays for personal leisure travel. On the other hand, Starwood offers the invaluable feature of being able to transfer points to airline miles at a 1:1 ratio or better.

The most valuable programs for paid stays with a co-branded credit card turned out to be Hyatt and Hilton. By sending your loyalty to Hilton and getting the Hilton HHonors Surpass card, you can immediately start receiving 14.7 cents in value per dollar spent, and move up to 16 cents per dollar if you earn Diamond status. If you pay for rooms at Hyatt properties with the The Hyatt Credit Card, you’ll start with a return of 15.75 cents per dollar spent, and can go up to 17.1 cents per dollar when you reach Diamond status.

IHG, Hilton, and Marriott each offer far more properties than Hyatt and Starwood. If your business leads you to the same locations regularly, then you’ll need to consider what’s available before how many points you’ll earn. Road warriors have to weigh many factors when choosing a hotel loyalty program; hopefully this analysis will shed some light on where you can receive the most valuable rewards for your hotel dollars.

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