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Of 6 Major Hotel Programs, 1 Is by Far the Most Generous

Which hotel loyalty program gives members the highest value in awards for every dollar spent?

That seems like a simple, straightforward question, and it’s certainly a key factor in evaluating competing hotel chains’ claims on travelers’ business. All things being equal, if Program A delivers a 10 percent rebate on hotel spend, and Program B delivers a rebate of just five percent, the smart choice would be to patronize Program A’s hotels.

To compute that value, a new study by IdeaWorks looked at the ratio of room rate and cost to earn a free night at 225 hotels in each of the six largest programs: Choice Privileges, Hilton HHonors, IHG Rewards, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Wyndham Rewards.

Based on those calculations, what IdeaWorks calls the reward value payback worked out as follows, from highest to lowest:

  1. Wyndham Rewards – 13.6%
  2. Marriott Rewards – 9.0%
  3. Choice Privileges – 8.5%
  4. Hilton HHonors – 7.7%
  5. IHG Rewards – 7.4%
  6. Starwood Preferred Guest – 5.6%

So, is this the definitive word on hotel-program value? Should everyone sign up for Wyndham Rewards and book all future stays at properties in the Wyndham network (Dolce Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Garden Hotels, TRYP, Wingate, Hawthorn Suites, Microtel Inn & Suites, Ramada, Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn)?

Hardly. To begin with, the Wyndham hotels aren’t a good fit, price- and service-wise, with the needs of all travelers. There may be a disconnect geographically as well, with few Wyndhams in a traveler’s most-visited destinations.

And return on investment from awards isn’t the only criterion for assessing a program’s value. Elite perks may be more important, especially for those travelers who log the most nights away from home.

As for that 13.6 percent return on investment, it’s worth mentioning that Wyndham last year overhauled Rewards with a single price for award nights at any location: 15,000 points. That means that ROI will vary wildly, depending on which hotels the IdeaWorks study used in its analysis. Higher-priced hotels will have a very high return; mid- and lower-priced properties will have a lower return.

While the results do have to be taken in context, this isn’t the first time in recent months that Wyndham has landed atop a survey of the best hotel programs. In August, U.S. News & World Report picked Wyndham’s as the best of 11 major programs. That survey also agreed with IdeaWorks on the worst program, Starwood’s.

At the very least, the recent Wyndham Rewards upgrades, and the program’s first-place showing on two unrelated surveys, should nudge the program into consideration by travelers who previously limited their focus to the likes of Hilton, Marriott, and InterContinental.

Reader Reality Check

Is Wyndham Rewards among your preferred programs?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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