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2019 has already seen its fair share of changes to hotel loyalty programs. From award chart changes at IHG Rewards Club, World of Hyatt and Radisson Rewards along with the official launch of Marriott Bonvoy (and the upcoming implementation of Category 8 pricing), it’s been a busy several weeks, and we’re not done yet.
Today brings yet another round of updates, this time from Wyndham Rewards. These changes are slated to take effect April 3, giving you roughly six weeks to prepare. There are three “buckets” of changes taking effect, so let’s take a closer look and evaluate how they’ll impact award travelers.
New Award Chart
The biggest shift will be to the program’s award chart. Right now, Wyndham Rewards is unique in that it offers a flat redemption rate for all properties. 15,000 points will get you a free night, whether you’re redeeming for a luxurious Wyndham Grand resort in the Caribbean or a run-of-the-mill Super 8 property in a small town in the Midwest.
This will disappear as of April 3, and the program will instead move to a three-tier award chart. This impacts both full award nights (what the program terms go free awards) and points + cash redemptions (go fast awards).
Here are the three levels in the new award chart:
- 7,500 points (or 1,500 points + cash)
- 15,000 points (or 3,000 points + cash)
- 30,000 points (or 6,000 points + cash)
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know which properties will fall into these three tiers. However, we’ve been told that nearly 3,000 (roughly a third of the program’s portfolio) will drop to the 7,500-point rate, while approximately 200 properties will double in price to 30,000 points per night. Once again, we don’t yet know the specific list of these changes, and we’ve been told the full list likely won’t be available until April 3.
While it’s frustrating to not know which properties will fall into which tier, you can still lock-in award stays across the entire portfolio at just 15,000 points per night through April 2. In addition, a spokesperson has confirmed that if you book a 15,000-point award stay at a property that will be dropping to 7,500 points per night, you’ll proactively be refunded the different after you complete the stay.
I had a chance to speak with Eliot Hamlisch, SVP of Global Loyalty and Partnerships at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, and he had this to say about the shift to a tiered award chart.
“Our members liked the simplicity of the program but wanted more flexibility, which drove the change from a single redemption tier to three distinct tiers. The premise is around making those free nights more accessible to more members.”
There’s no debating that slashing award rates in half at a third of your properties accomplishes that goal, but if you’re the type of traveler who banked your Wyndham points to redeem them at top-tier resorts, this will be a tough change to swallow.
La Quinta Integration
Wyndham announced its acquisition of La Quinta back in January 2018, and when the merger was complete, members were able to match elite status levels and transfer points between the two programs. As of April 3, the 900+ La Quinta properties will be fully integrated into the Wyndham Rewards program, and the La Quinta Returns program will officially be retired. You’ll be able to book award nights at these hotels online, and if you’re a La Quinta Returns member that doesn’t yet belong to Wyndham Rewards, you’ll be auto-enrolled into the program. At that point, your La Quinta elite status tier will match into a corresponding Wyndham tier and your points will transfer.
However, there’s an important caveat here. From now through April 2, all La Quinta Returns members can transfer points into Wyndham Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. However, on April 3, that will drop to 2:1 for Silver La Quinta travelers who don’t also have Wyndham Diamond or Platinum status. As a result, I’d strongly recommend transferring points now before the programs are formally integrated, as you’d effectively lose half of them as of April 3.
Additional Earning and Redemption Opportunities
In addition to these changes to the award night side of the program, Wyndham is also introducing some additional ways to earn points towards your next award stay as well as some alternate redemption options. Here are the main highlights:
Elite status bonus
Under the current Wyndham Rewards program, Platinum and Diamond members are awarded elite bonuses annually, a notable difference between the program and other hotel chains. Starting April 3, all elite members in the Wyndham Rewards program will begin earning bonuses on every stay, as follows:
- Gold: 10%
- Platinum: 15%
- Diamond: 20%
Whether this is a positive or negative depends on how much you typically spend in a given year. For Gold members, this is absolutely a net gain, since you previously didn’t have any bonus. If you spend 10 nights a year at $100 per night, this new bonus would give you 1,000 extra Wyndham Rewards points.
Here’s how these new bonuses stack up for Platinum and Diamond members:
- Platinum: A 15% bonus is 1.5 extra points per dollar spent. Under the current program, you’ll earn 3,000 bonus points for qualifying for Platinum status, so as long as you spend more than $2,000 in a calendar year at Wyndham properties, you’ll come out ahead.
- Diamond: A 20% bonus is 2 extra points per dollar spent. Under the current program, you’ll earn 6,000 bonus points for qualifying for Diamond status, so as long as you spend more than $3,000 in a calendar year at Wyndham properties, you’ll come out ahead.
However, there is a sizeable drawback here if you typically earn Platinum status simply by holding the $75 annual fee Wyndham Rewards Visa Card. Those 3,000 points you’d earn each year were given to cardholders as well as those qualifying the “hard way” (through paid stays). With this new change, you’ll only earn bonus points for completing stays at Wyndham properties.
Online shopping portal
Another enhanced earning opportunity will come through a new online shopping portal. While details aren’t yet available, this site should allow members to earn bonus points across numerous online retailers. This is a nice enhancement, as the only other hotel programs that currently offer online shopping portals are Hilton Honors and Choice Privileges. If you’re a loyal Wyndham Rewards customer and are used to going through a cash-back site like Ebates or an airline or credit card portal, this should boost your earning potential as soon as it launches.
New earning/redemption partnerships
In addition to these earning components, the program has announced three new partnership that’ll allow you to earn (and in some cases redeem) Wyndham points starting April 3. Once again, we don’t have any specifics yet, but here’s what to expect:
- Door Dash: Earn bonus points for food deliveries via Door Dash.
- Marathon: Earn and redeem points at Marathon gas stations.
- Viator: Earn and redeem points for tour and activities.
As always, the details will make a big difference here, as it’ll be interesting to see exactly what this looks like.
All in all, I would describe these changes as a mixed bag. To be honest, I never fully understood the flat 15,000-point award price and didn’t think it was sustainable. How could a basic property require the same number of points as a luxury one? This shift to lower award pricing at roughly one-third of the Wyndham Rewards portfolio is a welcome change, though it’ll be sticker shock at the ~200 properties jumping in price for loyal members used to the flat redemption amount in the current program. This is far and away the most disappointing change, as the aspirational resorts we can assume are moving up were a downright bargain in the existing award chart. Doubling their award rates is a frustrating development.
I also hope that this 30,000-point tier remains exclusive; I’d hate to see dozens of properties moving to that level in the years to come.
Since the new pricing won’t take effect until April 3, you have roughly six weeks to lock in stays at properties that you expect will join this new tier. I certainly hope that the program will release the full list before then so you can make an informed decision, but if there’s even an outside chance that the resort you’ve been eyeing will jump in price, I’d recommend booking sooner rather than later.
It’s also great to see additional earning opportunities that’ll launch on April 3, especially with the online shopping portal. This is one of the easiest ways to earn bonus points and miles, even when you’re not shopping for yourself. It remains to be seen just how the new partnerships with Door Dash, Marathon and Viator will work, but any new partnerships are a win in my book.
The Wyndham Rewards program has long been an outlier in the hotel loyalty landscape, charging a flat 15,000 points for a free night across its entire portfolio of properties. Starting April 3, that’ll change, as the program will shift to three different tiers. This date will also bring the full integration of 900+ La Quinta properties along with some new ways to earn and redeem your points. While it’s (naturally) disappointing to learn that ~200 of the program’s top-tier properties will be doubling in price, it’s great that many will now offer much more affordable redemptions.
We’ll be sure to provide additional details on these changes once we have them.
Featured photo courtesy of Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort
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