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What are the best hotel points programs for quality?

by on Thu July 23, 2015 • No Comment
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When you think of hotel points, you often hear advice that Starwood and Hyatt offer the most value.

And in a lot of ways they do, because their hotels often require fewer points for a free night than bigger chains like Marriott or Hilton.

But straight point value isn’t much good if you’re stuck staying at a disappointing hotel.

Which is why JD Power’s latest survey of hotel brand satisfaction intrigued us. It assigns a score to every major hotel brand in the U.S. on a 1,000 point scale based on actual guest satisfaction, from the Ritz Carlton to Homewood Suites and the Residence Inn. And it groups them by categories like ‘Luxury,’ ‘Upper Upper Upscale,’ and ‘Economy / Budget.’

You can see the full results here, and as you might expect, more expensive brands like JW Marriott and the Waldorf Astoria tend to get better ratings. Ritz Carlton scored highest at 892.

But you probably stay in a variety of types of hotels, from expensive to budget.

So we took the results and grouped them by hotel point program, coming up with the average score for all the brands in a points program to see what kind of overall quality you can expect from the hotels you can book with your points.

Here are those ratings:

  • Marriott Rewards: 846
  • Hilton HHonors: 845
  • Hyatt Gold Passport: 841
  • IHG Club: 832
  • Starwood Preferred Guest: 824
  • Club Carlson: 814
  • Wyndham Rewards: 761

If you care about quality, we’d recommend focusing on Hyatt Gold Passport points if you earn primarily via credit card spending. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer directly into Hyatt, and they require fewer points for free nights than Marriott or Hilton.

That’s not far off from the advice we usually give.

TPARW_P126

Otherwise, Marriott Rewards would be our recommendation. Its point prices aren’t as sky high as Hilton, and they’re pretty easy to earn thanks to Chase Ultimate Rewards and regular big intro offers on the Marriott branded credit cards. It’s also a very generous program for earning points via actual hotel stays.

Starwood Preferred Guest affiliated brands scored surprisingly low.

And looking at the detail, three of Starwood’s brands (W Hotels, Sheraton, and Four Points) ranked at the very bottom of their categories.

Sheratons are pretty sad.

With an 816 score and prices that are similar to Hiltons and Hyatts, they scored lower than lower priced brands like Hyatt Place, HIlton Garden Inn, SpringHill Suites, Hotel Indigo, and Courtyard by Marriott.

sheraton

In general, Starwood hotels tend to have a problem with being high on marketing hype and lower on substance.

But their point prices are really reasonable – often the lowest of the big programs for upscale quality hotels. Many are available for less than 15,000 points a night, compared with over 30,000 for Marriott and over 50,000 or more for Hilton.

So it’s hard not to recommend their points as part of a broader point earning strategy. But you need to be ready to spend a night at a not so cool Sheraton or painfully trendy W.

Wyndham Rewards brands were also in bad shape. That’s because the vast majority of Wyndham affiliated hotels are budget priced chains like Super 8, Microtel, and Ramada. Its Wingate brand was the best of the budget hotels.

But its upscale Wyndham brand was near the bottom of its category. So while you can now book any Wyndham hotel for 15,000 points a night, you probably won’t want to stay in many of them.

 

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50,000 bonus points

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$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

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Yes

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