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The landscape of award travel is constantly changing, and it’s helpful to periodically reassess which loyalty programs and travel rewards cards offer you the best value. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele takes a deeper look at the Wyndham Rewards Visa, and explains why it deserves your attention.
Hardly a month goes by without news of a crippling devaluation within one loyalty program or another. That’s why it was so exciting to learn of the recent “revaluation” of the Wyndham Rewards program this spring, which made all Wyndham Hotels available for award stays at 15,000 points per night.
These updates have also sparked interest in the co-branded Wyndham Rewards Visa Card from Barclaycard, but many people don’t know this card actually comes in two different flavors. In this post, I want to compare the two versions of the Wyndham Rewards Visa to see which one offers the best value, and explain why one of them now deserves to be considered among the most lucrative hotel cards out there.
The Two Flavors of the Wyndham Rewards Card
Like many travel credit cards, the Wyndham Rewards Visa comes in two versions, but they go by the same name. For the sake of clarity, I’ll take the liberty of calling them the fee and no-fee versions. Both of these cards currently have sign-up bonus offers that are better than the standard offers.
Wyndham Rewards Visa (fee version)
Sign-up Bonus — Earn up to 30,000 points. Earn 15,000 after first purchase and an additional 15,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.
Benefits — Earn 5 points per dollar spent on Wyndham hotel stays, and earn 2 points per dollar spent elsewhere. Earn 15,000 bonus points on your account anniversary each year. (The standard offer is for just 5,500 bonus points each year.)
Annual Fee — $75
Wyndham Rewards Visa (no-fee version)
Sign-up Bonus – Earn 15,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.
Benefits — Earn 3 points per dollar spent on every participating hotel stay, and earn 2 points per dollar spent elsewhere. This card does not have an anniversary bonus.
Annual fee — None
Why This Offer Matters
Kind of like a sale at the average retail store, some credit card offers are fairly common and might not grab your attention, but this one should. The offer for the fee version of the card is valuable not only for the higher sign-up bonus, but also for the anniversary bonus. The standard offer is for only 5,500 points each year on your cardholder anniversary, but this offer is for 6,000 points annually.
Another reason to get onboard now is that Wyndham might not be done improving both its Rewards program and its co-branded cards. Both of the Wyndham Rewards cards currently lack the other perks and benefits that come with nearly all other hotel cards, such as room upgrades and late checkout. However, there’s good reason to believe that more positive changes are coming.
I spoke with Wyndham’s new Head of Loyalty, Noah Brodsky, who told me that Wyndham is working on new soft benefits for the credit card that will be revealed later this year, along with a new elite benefits program. He also told me that there would be new card art, as well as lots of “exciting new stuff” that he wasn’t ready to reveal. My impression is that this card will be improving significantly throughout the year.
Evaluating the Fee and No-Fee versions
Even if you ignore the 6,000-point annual bonus, the fee version of the card offers a large enough sign-up bonus to make it an overall better value than the no-fee version. According to TPG’s latest monthly valuations, Wyndham Rewards points are worth 1.2 cents each, so the additional 15,000 points from the sign-up bonus are worth $180 — more than double the cost of the $69 annual fee.
Accounting for the annual bonus, you don’t need TPG’s valuations to realize that paying $69 each year is a great value for what equates to a free night at a Wyndham hotel. To give you a sense of how valuable 15,000 points can be, check out Nick Ewen’s post on 9 Wyndham Properties that Make for Awesome Award Redemptions or Richard Kerr’s post on 6 Wyndham US Beach Properties that make for Awesome Awards.
Finally, the fee version offers 5 points per dollar spent at Wyndham properties, while the no-fee version only offers 3 points per dollar spent. If you regularly have paid hotel stays with Wyndham, the higher earning rate will make a difference over time. If not, both cards earn 2 points per dollar on other spending, so you can earn a free night by spending $7,500.
Comparing These Cards to Other Hotel Credit Cards
Last year, I looked at the Best Hotel Credit Cards for Free Nights, and frankly I didn’t bother to consider the Wyndham Rewards card at that time, since the program was so devalued. The current offer has flipped the script, and I now rate the Wyndham Rewards Visa among the best hotel credit cards when considering the spending required to earn a free night in the chain’s most expensive properties. This is especially true considering the massive devaluation of the Club Carlson rewards program and the removal of the bonus award night benefit from its co-branded cards.
With just $7,500 of spending required per award night, the Wyndham Visa gets you a top-tier award for just a fraction of the spending needed with most other hotel credit cards. That said, Wyndham doesn’t quite have the selection of premium properties offered by chains like Hyatt, Hilton and Starwood. In addition, the flat-rate structure of the Wyndham Rewards program makes it a poor choice for awards at low- or mid-tier properties (for example, when you just need a decent airport hotel for the night).
When it comes to using hotel credit cards for paid stays, I also left Wyndham out of my recent post on Which Hotel Rewards Program Is Best for Business Travelers. However, travelers using Wyndham’s credit card for paid stays can now do extremely well. The Wyndham Rewards program offers 10 points per dollar spent, plus another 5 points per dollar when you use the fee version of the Wyndham Rewards Visa, for a total of 15 points per dollar spent. Multiplying that by TPG’s valuation of 1.2 cents per point yields an overall return of 18 cents in value per dollar spent. That beats the previous top value of 17.1 cents per dollar spent earned by Hyatt Diamond members with the Hyatt Credit Card.
To look at this another way, if you spend just $1,000 at Wyndham properties using the Fee version of the Wyndham Rewards Visa, you’ll earn an award night at any Wyndham hotel. I don’t think there’s another hotel credit card that comes close to that!
Loyalty programs change, and while those changes may not always be welcome, sometimes they truly are for the better. Six months ago, Wyndham was barely on the radar of most award travelers, and I might have picked up a Kardashian Kard before I considered the Wyndham Rewards Visa (okay, not really). With the recent updates, Wyndham has now made its loyalty program competitive. That should generate more interest not only in the co-branded credit cards, but also in the chain as a whole, and hopefully Wyndham will continue to make improvements. I, for one, will be paying attention.
What benefits would you like to see Wyndham add to the Rewards program and these credit cards?