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Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

Maximizing Hotels Series: Introduction

Introduction

Rather searching for specific trip or to commit to a loyalty program, choosing a hotel can be confusing.  Which is the best for me?  Which chain can hep me navigate the path to great travel?  While your miles (or in this case points) may vary depending on your situation, I decided to tackle this question, in a quantitative and qualitative manner.

In order to start with a fair and balanced platform for comparison, this series will cover a basic overview of some of the major hotel loyalty programs, including the following in no particular order:

  • Accor Hotels
  • Choice Privileges
  • Club Carlson
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Jumeirah
  • Kempinski
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Priority Club
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Miscellaneous (Fine Hotels & Resorts, Virtuoso)

For each chain, the series will grade the properties and loyalty program on a scale of 1-10 , based upon their performance in the following metrics:

  1. Property Footprint
    That is to say, how large of a reach does the hotel chains have. A strong indicator of this is how many different locations a brand covers.  Chains that have larger portfolio of properties, like Marriott and Priority Club, generally tend to have hotels in smaller cities and towns (ie Fairfield Inn, Holiday Inn)
  2. Customer Service
    A little subjective perhaps, but definitely an important part of the loyalty industry.  Hotels can have the utmost of amenities and luxuries, but awful customer service can royally ruin the entire experience for guests.  Without care for their customers, hotels will inevitably fail.
  3.  Amenities (Cleanliness, Club Lounges, Spa, Design, etc.)
    Fairly broad, but also important.  In addition to décor and general cleanliness, it includes how frequently a hotel offers standard features and extras like club lounges, spas, and recreational facilities.
  4. Elite Recognition
    This category of evaluation covers a hotel program’s elite perks, ease of attaining status, and opportunities for status challenges.
  5. Earn Rate
    Essentially, how many points per dollar one earns for staying at a particular hotel.  In addition, it includes the ability to earn points (and often elite credit too) from other activities like dining, spa treatments, and planning meetings.
  6. Promotions/Bonuses
    Does the chain offer convincing, meaningful promotions that rewards stays with free night certificates and additional points?
  7. Redemption Ability
    Simply put, is it easy to put points to use for award stays, especially aspirational ones?
  8. Credit Card Opportunities
    What affiliated credit card offers does the particular chain have?  Does the points bonus justify signing up for the card, and does it convey elite status to the cardholder?
  9. Transferability & Alternate Redemptions
    Are miles able to transferred from airline frequent flier programs and vice versa?  What is the transfer ratio from credit card partners?  Also, can points be used for alternative redemptions such as suite upgrades, paying for flights with points, renting cars, etc.
  10. User Friendliness (Website, Phone Service)
    What does the face of their chain look like?  Is the website easy to use and navigate, and is information presented in a clean, detailed manner?  Also, how easy is it to contact the chain via phone, email, or social media?  Doesn’t sound like it would be a huge issue, but certain hotel chains that won’t be named require a fax to claim missing stays…

Finally, as any loyalty program has both strengths and weaknesses, the series will conclude with the best of each chain by listing some notable properties for redeeming points.  Specific, geographic regions will include:

  • US & Canada
  • The Americas
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Oceania

 

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