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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele continues his series on family travel options in the most prevalent hotel brands with a look at Wyndham Rewards.
After the recent devaluations of so many airline and hotel programs, it was refreshing news when Wyndham hotels breathed new life into its struggling rewards program earlier this year.
Previously, we looked at several of the major hotel loyalty programs to evaluate how family-friendly they are, including Starwood Preferred Guest, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors. So in today’s post, I want to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the Wyndham Rewards program when it comes to family travel.
Wyndham Rewards Basics
The new Wyndham Rewards program is among the simplest out there. Here are the highlights:
- Earn 10 points per dollar spent at Wyndham properties. This is the same as before, but you also earn a minimum of 1,000 points per night under this new system.
- Go Free awards. Redeem your points for a free night at any Wyndham property for only 15,000 points.
- Go Fast awards. You can save money on points by adding a cash component. These awards are just 3,000 points plus cash, but unlike Go Free awards, these are limited by capacity controls.
- Wyndham offers two different Wyndham Rewards cards from Barclaycard: a no-fee version and one with a $75 annual fee.
How Wyndham Rewards Can Work for Family Travelers
1. Wyndham points are easy to acquire without frequent travel. While business travelers are looking to maximize the points they by paying for travel, most families must focus on the rewards that they are able to earn at home. The Wyndham Rewards credit card from Barclaycard (with the $69 annual fee) currently offers a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points after $1,000 spent within the first 90 days, which can be redeemed for two free nights at any Wyndham property. In addition, this card offers double points for all purchases, which means that you get a free night after just $7,500 in spending. This is a phenomenal rate of return, as most hotel credit cards require tens of thousands of dollars in purchases before customers earn an award night at their most luxurious hotels.
When I spoke with Wyndham’s new Head of Loyalty, Noah Brodsky, earlier this year, he told me that this was no accident. Wyndham is purposely trying to make its most aspiration properties within easy reach of its customers who are redeeming their points. For more information, read my post on Why the Wyndham Rewards Visa Is Now a High-Value Hotel Card.
2. Family-friendly brands. Wyndham Rewards members can earn and redeem points at 15 different brands ranging from budget motels to some premium brands. And while some of the luxury hotels brands like TRYP and Dolce seemed to be designed for singles, couples and business travelers, Wyndham does offer a few family-friendly brands among its more high-end properties. Wyndham, Wyndham Garden and Wyndham Grand Hotels and Resorts all offer luxury properties at urban, suburban and resort locations, and most of them offer rooms with a sofa bed or two queen beds. In fact, many of these properties are at beach locations that are perfect for family vacations. In addition, the Viva Wyndham properties in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic are all-inclusive resorts that feature a Viva Kid’s Club for children 4-12 years old.
3. Club Wyndham properties. Currently, Wyndham Rewards is offering award nights at a few Club Wyndham properties that include a living room, separate bedroom areas and fully equipped kitchens — perfect for a family getaway. As with all awards, free nights at these resorts are only 15,000 points. But unlike standard Wyndham redemptions, there are some blackout dates that apply to this special program. The featured properties are:
- Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida
- Wyndham Grand Desert in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Wyndham Branson at the Meadows in Branson, Missouri
- Wyndham Bali Hai Villas in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii
4. Kids stay free. Children 17 and under stay free at all Wyndham properties. While few US hotels rarely charge extra for additional family members, the practice is more common overseas.
5. Budget hotels. Sometimes, families just need a convenient place to stay for the night, not a fancy resort. Wyndham has this covered in spades through brands like Howard Johnson, Days Inn and Ramada. While these budget properties represent a poor use of your Wyndham Rewards points, paying with cash and earning points can be an attractive alternative to spending your valuable rewards.
6. Great award availability. Families are often limited to traveling on school holidays, which are usually during peak travel periods. Some hotel programs, such as Marriott Rewards and IHG Rewards Club, impose capacity controls on award nights for “standard” rooms, while others such as Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton claim that they do not. Yet many of the participating hotels are individually owned, and have been caught playing games with award availability by blocking out standard rooms as part of packages that aren’t eligible for award nights, or by reclassifying most of their standard rooms as upgraded in some minor fashion (garden views!).
Thankfully, Wyndham has pledged not to tolerate this, and customers are advised to contact Wyndham Rewards at 866-996-7937 and let them know whenever a standard room is not offered as an award. And if for some reason you’re still having trouble, you can even email Noah Brodsky, who is in charge of the entire Rewards program at firstname.lastname@example.org with “TPG” in the subject line. For more information, read TPG Contributor Mitch Berman’s post on Getting to the Bottom of Wyndham Award Availability.
The Disadvantages of the Wyndham Rewards Program for Families
1. Charges for rollaway beds. Some properties will charge for rollaway beds, but it appears to vary. Thankfully, these charges seem to be somewhat reasonable, and I haven’t seen any instances of egregious charges. Nevertheless, these fees are poorly disclosed.
2. Families are unable to redeem rewards for larger rooms. It’s great for families to have the option of redeeming additional rewards for larger rooms, when offered. For example, the Hyatt Gold Passport program offers suite awards for about 50% more points, while the Choice Privileges program generally allows members to redeem awards for any available room, even larger ones (like the family room with three beds in Rome that my family stayed in). But at the moment, the Wyndham Rewards program is only offering award nights for standard rooms. Thankfully, I’ve been told that this feature may be offered in the future.
3. Weak elite status program. Wyndham Rewards has a fairly basic elite status program that consists of a single tier called Gold Status. It’s earned by staying 20 nights and the only reward or benefit is 15,000 points. But once again, I’m told Wyndham is aware of this deficiency and is working on new ways to reward its most loyal customers. It would certainly be nice if Wyndham Rewards credit card holders were offered some basic perks such as room upgrades, late checkouts and priority service.
There’s a lot for families to like about the new Wyndham Rewards program, and I’m confident that its terms and benefits will continue to improve. By leveraging the strengths of this incredibly simple program, and managing its weaknesses, families can utilize their Wyndham Rewards points at some fantastic properties.
Share your favorite (or least favorite) aspect of the Wyndham Rewards program in the comments below!
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