Navigating hotel rewards programs can be a daunting task. From score upgrades to elite status upgrades and thousands of other factors, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, for most travelers, it all boils down to two simple variables:
- How many points do you earn with the hotel loyalty program for every dollar you spend?
- How much are these points worth?
That is, if you earn 1 point for every dollar you spend at a hotel, and each point equals 1 cent, you earn 1 cent for every dollar (1%) in rewards. Boiling down to that single number allows us to compare hotel rewards programs to one another and determine which ones offer better – and worse – value.
Don’t worry if it starts to feel like a math problem. Our team at NerdWallet compiled the numbers to determine which hotel loyalty programs really offer the best bang for your buck for your travel value.
We collected and compared hundreds of real-world room rates to determine the value of reward points for each hotel brand, then calculated the rewards rate (the rate of rewards you earn for every dollar spent) for each program. This rate can help you determine the best hotel rewards programs. It also gave us a new way of thinking about which hotel offers the best loyalty program in 2022.
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Using data to determine these labels means that we never know how they will be eliminated until the final spreadsheet is tabulated. This means that the end results were as much a surprise to us as they are to anyone.
What is happening here? Basically, we’re saying that if you spend $100 at a Radisson, you’ll earn roughly $12 in reward points. That’s pretty good, assuming you’re already using the points. On the other hand, if you spend $100 at a Hilton hotel, we estimate that you’ll get $5 rewards in return.
Of course, there are other important factors to consider when choosing a hotel and its rewards program, such as elite status privileges and hotel quality. But our rewards rate gives a small glimpse of the hotel brands that actually offer good value for the primary rewards product: points.
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Why has Radisson Rewards performed so well this year? many reasons. Radisson offers 20 points per dollar spent on most US properties, far more than any competitor. In the past, Radisson’s generous point exchange has been balanced by lower point values, but that value has rebounded upward this year, from 0.3 percent in 2020 to 0.6 percent in 2021.
This is far from the stellar value of each point per point compared to, say, 1.9 cents in World of Hyatt per point.
However, the whole point of this analysis is not the hotel program that offers the most valuable currency, but rather the best combination of high-value currency and generous rewards for that currency.
One important note: Radisson Rewards recently split its program among its hotels in the Americas and elsewhere around the world. This analysis applies to the Americas Program only.
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The above ratings apply to earning and using points the traditional way – to spending on hotels. But what if you’re considering a points promotion or credit card offer that includes a lump sum of points? For example, choosing between a promotion that will win 100,000 life points or 100,000 Marriott points.
Our regularly updated pips and mile ratings show how the initial value of these coins varies.
Hotel point values vary greatly, which means that you should pay close attention to the true value of any promotion by multiplying the cents per point values above by whatever value you expect to earn.
This is like any currency; $150,000 is much different than £150,000. Earning life points is much more valuable than earning the same number of Marriott points.
This can all be a lot to keep track of, especially if you’re new to the points and miles hobby. Here is the gist:
- Radisson Rewards Americas offers the most valuable hotel rewards program you can earn for every dollar spent with the brand.
- World of Hyatt offers both the highest value points and the second most expensive reward rate.
- Always convert promotional point rewards into real dollars, so you can compare them to each other.
These reward values aren’t the only thing to consider when choosing a hotel loyalty program, but they are a good start. The numbers show that programs like Radisson and Hyatt are willing to put their money – or at least their points – where their mouths are.