Why I Am Currently Sticking With Hyatt and Hilton over Marriott
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On this week's Talking Points podcast with The Points Guy, I discussed a little bit my current methodology for avoiding Marriott hotel stays if possible, and how I use my current Bonvoy points. Let's take a little deeper dive into the topic and talk further on why I am currently looking to two other major chains when it comes to booking hotels.
Why Avoid Marriott?
Despite some of my colleagues' continued devotion to Marriott, I've run into some specific reasons to look elsewhere — and I'm not the only one.
1. Bonvoy problems persist
We've covered in detail the struggles with the Marriott/SPG merger and the different experiences TPG staffers and readers have had — and continue to have — when using Bonvoy points, earning the correct amount and trying to make changes with award reservations and certificates. The problems I (personally) have experienced include:
- Attaching points to an award reservation
- Having free night certificates (instead of points) attached to an award reservation
- Losing previously-attached certificates on an award reservation and not being able to get them re-attached
- Waiting six months for Meeting Planner points to post
- Being unable to upgrade a legacy, seven-night certificate — when multiple close friends and colleagues have succeeded
Problems continue to be reported to this day, including hotels charging fees on award stays with multiple occupants in the room. This requires multiple phone calls and working with properties to remove the additional charges on award stays. While some issues have cleared up, I'm far from being in a place where I have the confidence that an award reservation will go smoothly from booking to check-in, and I'm fairly sure I will still have to chase down the correct amount of points and elite nights after each paid stay.
2. The current Marriott hotel stay experience is inconsistent
Because of my required travel destinations and lack of other options over the last month, I had to stay in Marriott properties for seven nights. Two nights were in a Sheraton, two were in a TownePlace Suites, one was in a Courtyard, one was in a Ritz-Carlton and the final night was in a full-service Marriott. The overall experiences were wide-ranging and largely unenjoyable. One full-service Marriott often delivers entirely different experience than another. One Courtyard could be a brand-new, next-generation model, while another Courtyard might more closely resemble a motel. The TownePlace Suites was brand new and a great stay, the 31-story Sheraton Universal Hotel had one working elevator and the Sheraton Grand Salzburg was unrecognizable from heavy construction — a fact that was not disclosed on its website.
Front-desk personnel often don't know or recognize elite status, and they may not fully understand the new, complex Bonvoy program. The Ritz-Carlton Vienna had never heard of a club upgrade certificate from the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card, and Marriott has made the breakfast benefit so confusing we had to write a master guide to it. I find myself frequently arguing that the benefit is $10 per night (not stay) at Courtyards and applies to a guest as well. I just don't enjoy a Marriott stay anymore, because I never know what I am going to get. This is largely personal experience, but these stays have been representative of my experiences over the last couple of years.
3. Marriott charges resort fees on award nights
If I am redeeming points for a free night, I want to have a free night. Marriott is really lagging with this policy, as the other two programs I'm utilizing waive these pesky fees on award stays.
Why Hyatt Over Marriott?
I've been loyal to Hyatt for a number of years now and have no plans to switch in the foreseeable future. While Hyatt's main drawback continues to be the number of properties in the portfolio — something they're working hard to rectify — the positives from the World of Hyatt program overwhelm the lack of hotels. I will often pick a destination for a family trip simply because a Hyatt resort is there.
Let's look at what Hyatt has going for it over Marriott:
1. Valuable points
When you're booking a Hyatt award stay, there are no peak or off-peak dates like Marriott is set to introduce, and Hyatt maintains a reasonable award chart. The eight-category chart tops out at 40,000 points per night, and even those properties are all from the newly-integrated properties from Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Hyatt points have retained their value since 2011 and continue to reward me for my loyalty with the ability to quickly earn free nights. It is not difficult to routinely redeem Hyatt points for 2 cents or more, compared to 0.7 cents I seem to get for a typical Marriott stay.
In addition, having Chase as a 1:1 transfer partner makes it even easier to achieve these valuable rewards. This means that the majority of my household spend each month goes on a variety of Ultimate Rewards-earning cards. Add in the free night certificates you can earn from various avenues — the World of Hyatt Credit Card, staying a certain number of nights each year and the Brand Explorer task — and I always seem to have the ability to stay at a Hyatt for free.
2. Globalist benefits
I continue to get a ton of value from earning (and maintaining) World of Hyatt Globalist status. I've been upgraded to a suite approximately 90% of the time over the last two years without having to use a certificate. In fact, I can't even use all of my Globalist Suite Upgrade certificates in a year (each good for a stay of up to seven nights), because I get so many preemptive suite upgrades. This makes traveling with two small children a breeze thanks to the extra room for naps and bed time. Breakfast is uncomplicated — if I stay at a Hyatt, my whole family gets free breakfast. Whether I'm using points or paying cash, I never pay any resort fees, and I even get free parking on award stays, a perk that's tremendously valuable in large cities.
Simply put, Globalist benefits are outstanding.
3. Consistent experience
There is a solid chance a Hyatt Regency in Dallas will deliver a similar experience to a Hyatt Regency elsewhere in the world. Grand Hyatts and Park Hyatts are going to be luxury properties, while Hyatt Places and Hyatt Houses will always look almost identical and serve the role they fill for traveling families and business people. There may be outliers here and there, but for the most part, Hyatt provides consistency across its brands.
Why Hilton Over Marriott?
Like Marriott, Hilton has a variety of brands within its portfolio that will meet your needs at the vast majority of places you travel around the world. What makes Hilton Honors worth sticking with over Marriott?
1. Easy to earn massive amounts of points
Hilton has so many ways to quickly earn Hilton points: double- and triple-point promotions, elite status bonuses, cobranded card welcome offers, upgrade offers and attractive bonus spending categories (like 6x on groceries at U.S. supermarkets). Simply holding the mid-tier Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and using it on a Hilton stay can earn you up to 30 points for each dollar you spend (12x points for booking hotel stays with your Surpass card and 18x points with your Hilton Honors Gold status)— and that's without taking into account any added promotions. Sure, the program technically doesn't publish a formal award chart, but award rates aren't that far off from those charged by Marriott properties. It's so much easier to earn Hilton points than Marriott points that I find myself always looking to burn them.
2. Breakfast for Gold elites
In the integration with SPG, Marriott removed the ability for Gold elites to have lounge access and therefore breakfast. Even though I have no plans to put enough spend on a Hilton cobranded card to earn Diamond nor plans to stay in enough properties to complete a status challenge, I nevertheless should have Hilton Gold status for the long haul. That means my family and I get breakfast at full-service Hiltons, a considerable cost savings and convenience when on the road.
3. Redeem points for any room
Marriott officially has a "no blackout dates" policy, but this comes with a significant amount of variability. In addition, you'll only find the ability to redeem Marriott points for upgraded rooms at select properties. Hilton, on the other hand, allows you to redeem points for any room, and while you will pay a premium in points, you still have the option to stay for free. With the ability to earn big Hilton points on a regular basis, this means my path to award nights is easier with Hilton than Marriott.
And of course, any Hilton Honors member enjoys waived resort fees on award nights, another large step ahead of Marriott.
How I'm Spending My Remaining Marriott Points
I still have a large stash of Marriott points in my account, but thankfully, I have plenty of other options for hotel stays. Chase, Amex, Hyatt, IHG and Hilton points all have multiple avenues for earning, and cobranded credit cards allow me to build up hundreds of thousands of points. These points can then become free hotel stays at almost any destination around the world. This means I don't need to use Bonvoy points for hotel stays, which is excellent, because Marriott does have something unique in its program: the ability to transfer them to airline miles at a (relatively) solid rate. With over 40 different programs, many of which are highly valuable and difficult to obtain in other manners, this can be a fantastic option.
This means my hotel award stays will be booked with any of a variety of other currencies, and I'll simply avoid Bonvoy hotel stays. I'm at a place now where my stockpile of legacy SPG points I worked hard to obtain before the merger will sustain me for a while, so I have no need to frequent Marriott hotels for the foreseeable future. When I need Alaska, Japan Airlines, Turkish, American or other miles not easily available through credit card point transfers, Bonvoy are the first to go.
Everyone has different criteria when it comes to choosing a preferred airline or hotel program, and while Marriott may be a good fit for some, I continue to look elsewhere. The overarching factor for me to stay with other brands is the ongoing problems I (and others) continue to face. I sincerely hope these issues are dealt with and my confidence in Bonoy transactions is restored. Until then, I'll view Bonvoy points as airline miles and look first to Hyatt and Hilton for award nights.