The best hotel loyalty programs?
There are the usual suspects. InterContinental’s IHG Rewards. Starwood’s Preferred Guest. Marriott Rewards. Hilton HHonors.
And then there are the winners of the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hotel Rewards Programs for 2016-17 study. The survey’s top programs, with their scores (on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being best):
- Wyndham Rewards (4.77)
- Choice Privileges (4.64)
- Marriott Rewards (4.64)
- Best Western Rewards (4.26)
- La Quinta Returns (4.21)
- Club Carlson (4.08)
- Hyatt Gold Passport (3.97)
- Hilton HHonors (3.95)
- IHG Rewards Club (3.87)
- Leading Hotels Leaders Club (3.81)
- Starwood Preferred Guest (3.00)
The traditional powerhouses made the list, but they hardly dominated. Marriott tied for second place, but the programs of Hilton, IHG, and Starwood were all bested by lesser-known programs hosted by hotel chains with far less cachet.
The U.S. News rankings were based on five factors, weighted as follows:
- 45% – Ease of earning a free night
- 25% – Additional benefits
- 15% – Geographic coverage
- 10% – Number of hotels in the network
- 5% – Property diversity (i.e. style, price point)
If those criteria and their relative importance are consistent with your own, it may be time to reevaluate your loyalty. As the study shows, the programs of Wyndham, Choice, Best Western, and others have made big strides in recent years, as the more established programs have mostly rested on their laurels.
The improvements in what previously might have been dismissed as secondary programs are good news for hotel customers, wherever their allegiance lies. It shows that at least some hotels are investing in their programs. And that means that other hotels will have to do the same, or fall even further behind.
Reader Reality Check
Have you switched your go-to program recently?
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.