The Best Hotel-Points Options for Penny-Pinchers

I'm cheap.

Even when traveling on the company dime, the ritzy top-end hotels rarely get my business.

When attending travel industry conferences, I've been known to bypass the "official" hotel (with the supposedly "special" rates for conference attendees) in favor of the modest motel down the street.

My idea of luxe accommodations is a Courtyard by Marriott. Free Internet access. Free parking. A swimming pool. And I earn points in a solid frequent-stay program, Marriott Rewards.

But when I'm on the road for family reunions, weekend getaways, and the like, I'm perfectly happy to hang my hat at a Best Western, a Motel 6, or whatever independent Dew Drop Inn happens to have a flashing Vacancy sign and a $39 rate.

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While I'm a fan of cheapie hotels, I'm by no means an expert—I typically look at location, price, and amenities, and let the chips fall where they may, regardless of brand or, for the most part, loyalty points.

Because I'm not an expert, I was intrigued by the results of the recent J.D. Powers 2010 Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study. The report was based on a survey of more than 53,000 travelers who rated hotels on seven dimensions: reservations; check-in/check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and costs and fees. The results were then grouped into five price-point categories—from Luxury at the high end to Economy/Budget at the low end—plus extended stay hotels.

Among the Economy/Budget hotels, the results were as follows (ratings based on a 1,000-point scale):

  • Microtel Inns & Suites (737)
  • Howard Johnson Express (700)
  • Red Roof Inn (697)
  • Days Inn (684)
  • Econo Lodge (666)
  • Travelodge (664)
  • Americas Best Value Inn (656)
  • Motel 6 (653)
  • Rodeway Inn (643)
  • Knights Inn (610)

It probably goes without saying that there's no inherent relationship between the study results and the quality of the hotels' loyalty programs—the extra value provided by loyalty programs simply wasn't among the criteria considered. But it raises the question: Is there any correlation between the best budget hotels and the best frequent-stay programs?

Here's the same list, showing the frequent-stay programs associated with the hotels:

  • Microtel Inns & Suites - Wyndham Rewards
  • Howard Johnson Express - Wyndham Rewards
  • Red Roof Inn - RediCard
  • Days Inn - Wyndham Rewards
  • Econo Lodge - Choice Privileges
  • Travelodge - Wyndham Rewards
  • Americas Best Value Inn - Value Club
  • Motel 6 - n/a
  • Rodeway Inn - Choice Privileges
  • Knights Inn - Wyndham Rewards

Strikingly, one program, Wyndham Rewards, is linked to five of the ten budget brands. But apparently proving that the relationship is more incidental than fundamental, Wyndham Rewards is the program of both the highest- and lowest-rated hotels in the category.

In fact, the Wyndham Rewards program received runner-up honors in the SmarterTravel Editors' Choice Awards 2010: Best Hotel Loyalty Program. Our take on the program:

For a small business owner, for example, traveling on his own dime and planning to reinvest points for future business stays, Wyndham's Rewards program encompasses more than 6,000 hotels, including such value-oriented brands as Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel Inn & Suites, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, and Wingate by Wyndham.

Dominating the budget category so convincingly, perhaps we should have pointed out that Wyndham Rewards would be a solid choice not just for small business owners but for anyone who chooses to travel on the cheap.

Reader Reality Check

Any comments on the J.D. Powers study results?

The Wyndham Rewards program isn't among the most prominent hotel loyalty programs. Is it on your radar? Should it be?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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