My approach to hotel loyalty and why I’ve mostly ignored Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham
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From complimentary breakfast to late check-out and lounge access, loyalty to a hotel program can provide tremendous value. As such, most travelers focus on earning, maintaining and utilizing hotel elite status in one or two hotel loyalty programs. Before the coronavirus pandemic halted our travel, my husband and I lived out of hotels while traveling full-time as digital nomads. So, it may not surprise you to learn we hold mid to high tier status in more than six hotel loyalty programs.
Of course, everyone has different loyalties, preferences and budgets when it comes to hotels. And my approach to hotel loyalty and choosing a hotel in a specific destination will be different than yours. Today, I’ll describe my approach to hotel loyalty, how I decide where to stay and why I stay with some hotel loyalty programs more than others.
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Current hotel elite status
Between my husband and I, we hold mid and high tier status in six hotel loyalty programs. Specifically, here’s the status we currently have as well as our hotel elite status plans for 2021:
|Hotel loyalty program||Current status||Status goals for 2021|
|Marriott Bonvoy||JT has Titanium Elite status
I have Platinum Elite status
|Both qualify for Titanium Elite, thanks to 30 elite nights credits from Marriott Bonvoy cards, bonus elite nights and nights stayed (just 7 for JT and 20 for me)|
|Hilton Honors||JT has Diamond status
I have Gold status
|Maintain status as a perk of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card for JT and an authorized user perk of The Platinum Card® from American Express for me (enrollment required)|
|World of Hyatt||I started the year as Discoverist through the World of Hyatt Credit Card but already reached Explorist||I’ll earn Globalist status after 11 more tier-qualifying nights thanks to decreased 2021 elite-qualification requirements.|
|IHG Rewards||JT has Spire Elite status
I have Platinum Elite status
|Both maintain Platinum Elite status as a perk of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card|
|Wyndham Rewards||JT has Diamond status||JT plans to maintain Diamond status through a status match with Caesar’s Rewards.|
|Choice Privileges||JT has Diamond status
I have Platinum status
The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
As you can see, we only need to stay 38 more nights this year to reach our status goals. Since we hope it will be safe and responsible to resume our globetrotting later this year, we expect to have more than 38 hotel nights by the end of 2021. Plus, we’ll get some of these nights through spending on my World of Hyatt card and through promotions that provide double elite nights.
So, now let’s consider how we decide where to stay in each destination.
Aspects I consider when booking
When making a new hotel booking, I generally search for hotels in the programs discussed above. I also consider the following:
- Caesar’s Rewards for Las Vegas stays since JT’s Caesar’s Diamond status waives resort fees
- Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts for stays with extra perks
- Citi ThankYou for Citi Prestige® Card complimentary fourth night on hotel stays
- Hotels.com Rewards for nights stayed with hotels outside our primary loyalty programs
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Admittedly, I don’t search all of these options for each stay. For example, I usually only search Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts for short stays. And I typically don’t search Citi ThankYou unless I suspect I’ll want to use one of my two Citi Prestige complimentary fourth-night hotel stays.
Even so, searching most of these options still yields a lot of results for most destinations. As I compare my options, I generally consider the following aspects.
Earning elite status
My husband and I have a spreadsheet that tracks our elite status goals each year. Using this spreadsheet, we can easily see our progress toward earning elite status in each program based on nights already stayed and upcoming stays.
Sometimes, we’ll stay with a particular brand for elite-earning purposes. For example, any nights we need to stay before the end of February 2021 will be at a World of Hyatt brand to earn 2X tier-qualifying nights during the extended Bonus Journeys promotion.
However, for most of our hotel stays, earning elite status is not the primary reason we choose a particular property or loyalty program. After all, we usually stay enough nights with each program to reach our elite status goals organically.
Current hotel promotions often drive us to stay with a particular program. For example, the current World of Hyatt Bonus Journeys promotion makes it difficult to justify staying with any other program in February. But in March, our priority will shift to Marriott since I received a targeted offer to earn two 35,000-point reward nights after staying twice before the end of March.
Historically, Choice Privileges, IHG Rewards and Wyndham Rewards have offered some excellent promotions that would encourage me to stay. For example, IHG Rewards previously offered PointBreaks and Accelerate promotions that drew me to stay at IHG brands. And Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards frequently offer promotions that provide enough points for a free night after just two stays.
I’ll generally book with a specific hotel loyalty program during lucrative promotions if a suitable option exists at my destination. But, some promotions may be good enough to determine your destination. For example, IHG PointBreaks promotions encouraged me to visit destinations I wouldn’t have otherwise visited in multiple cases, including the beautiful InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam.
Good value on points, cash or free nights
I prioritize value when booking hotel stays, especially since I spend so many nights in hotels. I try to get at least TPG’s valuation from my points when I redeem. And I often seek out low-category hotels when using points. For example, I once spent a month at an all-inclusive resort for less than $1,000 worth of points.
But, I also look for high-value paid nights. Since we have mid to high-tier loyalty in several programs, we often earn points at a high multiple on paid stays. And this earning is often amplified by current hotel promotions that apply a bonus multiplier or provide bonus points.
However, don’t mistake good value for inexpensive. Within the last few years, we began passing on options that provide inadequate comfort. For example, despite the excellent 6,000-point per night rate, we didn’t book the centrally located Econo Lodge City Central in downtown Auckland when we visited in early 2020. In short, the rooms were too basic and the 300MB daily Wi-Fi limit would’ve been too small for us to work effectively.
Hotel perks have become an increasingly important aspect for us when selecting hotels. In particular, I often seek out a property that offers on-site perks ranging from coin laundry to a club-level lounge. For example, I love staying at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel before or after LAX flights, thanks to its top-floor club lounge with runways views, airport shuttle and onsite coin laundry. Plus, this hotel is within walking distance to In-N-Out Burger, our favorite place for LAX plane spotting.
We prioritize staying with a hotel loyalty program that offers specific elite perks such as breakfast and guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout for select stays. And I consider how much value specific onsite perks, such as beach access, a fantastic pool or complimentary bikes, will provide on my stay.
Overall property appeal
Finally, I also consider other aspects when determining where to stay. For example, especially for some stays, location is critical. We’ve become increasingly willing to pay more cash or points to stay at a centrally located property instead of a suburban property that requires public transit or a taxi to reach restaurants and tourist attractions.
What draws me to each loyalty program
There are appealing aspects to each of the major hotel loyalty programs. TPG has previously published posts on why Marriott is best, why Hilton is best, why Hyatt is best and why IHG is best. But, here are the primary reasons I generally book with each of the following hotel loyalty programs:
- Marriott Bonvoy: Fifth night free on awards; lounge access, breakfast at most brands and guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout for Platinum Elite and Titanium Elite members; extensive worldwide portfolio; need to work toward earning status; reasonable quality even at lower-end brands
- Hilton Honors: Fifth night free on awards for elites; easy to earn top-tier status thanks to the Hilton Aspire; even mid-tier Gold elites get breakfast; reasonable quality even at lower-end brands
- World of Hyatt: Great Globalist perks; solid promotions right now; reasonable quality even at lower-end brands
- IHG Rewards: Fourth night reward for select IHG cardholders; easy to get high value from points; historically strong promotions; extensive worldwide portfolio
- Wyndham Rewards: Some good-value 15,000-point properties; frequent good-value promotions
- Choice Privileges: Great value when redeeming points in some destinations; frequent good-value promotions
In short, there are redeeming qualities for each program. However, as I discuss in the next section, we’ve recently spent relatively few nights with some of these programs.
Why I’ve rarely stayed with Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham
In my post last summer on how I spent three years as a global digital nomad, I described how many nights I spent with various hotel brands. During those three years, I’d only stayed 23 nights at Wyndham brands, 12 nights at Hilton brands and eight nights at World of Hyatt brands.
Compared to the nights I spent with IHG Rewards brands, Choice Privileges brands and Marriott Bonvoy brands, these night counts are tiny. So, here’s why I didn’t spend many nights with Wyndham, Hilton and Hyatt — as well as whether I expect to spend more nights with these programs going forward.
Wyndham Rewards generally hasn’t provided excellent value for us. First off, the program offers minimal elite perks. But unlike Choice and IHG, which I often stay with despite limited elite perks, I’ve struggled to find good opportunities to redeem Wyndham Rewards points.
Sure, you can get good value by redeeming Wyndham points in Hawaii, as several properties cost 15,000 points per night. But, I’ve yet to find many other Wyndham Rewards redemptions that excite me. After all, most 7,500-point properties are bookable for a low paid rate. And, I don’t want to redeem 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night, as 30,000 points are worth $330 based on TPG’s valuations.
The Hilton Honors program has impressed me on multiple stays over the last three years. For example, the stays I reviewed at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji and the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Penang, Malaysia, were both memorable. However, despite great experiences, we haven’t stayed with Hilton brands frequently.
When I compare hotels for a specific destination, Hilton and Marriott hotels often compete head-to-head. And, usually, the Marriott property wins for one of two reasons. First, Marriott offers guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout to Platinum Elite and Titanium Elite members, whereas Hilton doesn’t guarantee late checkout even for top-tier Diamond elites. Second, JT has Hilton Diamond status as an automatic perk of the Hilton Aspire card, while we both need to stay with Marriott each year to qualify for at least Platinum Elite status.
However, I expect we’ll start staying more with Hilton Honors once we return to the road. I have my sights set on several specific Hilton Honors properties. And, we already have 18 nights at Hilton properties booked in mid to late 2021.
World of Hyatt
I’ve had some great stays at World of Hyatt hotels during the last three years. I reviewed most of these stays, including stays at the Park Hyatt Beijing, Andaz Capital Gate hotel in Abu Dhabi and Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort in Malaysia. But, despite these experiences, I’ve mostly ignored the World of Hyatt program.
First off, World of Hyatt doesn’t provide a fourth or fifth night free on awards. Since I usually stay at most hotels for at least four or five nights, this is a significant downside. And, the World of Hyatt portfolio is relatively small when compared to Marriott Bonvoy or IHG Rewards.
However, these downsides aren’t the primary reason I haven’t given World of Hyatt many of my nights in the past. Instead, my most significant issue with the World of Hyatt program is elite status. The World of Hyatt credit card only provides Discoverist status, which offers very few perks. Even mid-tier Explorist status, which typically requires 30 nights, 50,000 base points or 10 meetings or events hosted to earn, doesn’t provide benefits comparable to what I’d get with my current elite status in other programs.
As such, I’d need to go for Globalist to get perks comparable to what I can get when staying with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy. Globalist typically requires 60 nights, 100,000 base points or 20 meetings or events hosted, which is frankly a lot. Sure, you can spend on the World of Hyatt card to earn tier-qualifying nights. But, reaching (and then maintaining) Globalist status hasn’t been a priority for me.
However, I am working to earn World of Hyatt Globalist this year. After all, current World of Hyatt promotions make doing so with relatively few nights possible. But, although I’m giving the program a chance in 2021 and 2022, I’m not confident the World of Hyatt program will work well for me. As such, I’m not yet sure whether I’ll strive to earn Globalist status again in 2022.
There’s no exact science when it comes to hotel loyalty and deciding where to stay. And, how you approach hotel loyalty and stays may vary significantly from my approach. Likewise, your strategy may shift over time and even from one trip to the next. But, it’s good to have a plan so you can maximize your loyalty perks and select the best hotel for each trip.
Featured image of the Andaz Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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