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Editors' Choice Awards 2011: Best Hotel Loyalty Program

by SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 18, 2011. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: hotel, InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood Hotels, Visa, Wyndham.

Winner: InterContinental Hotels Priority Club Rewards

When it comes to hotel loyalty programs, bigger is better.

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Our Editors' Choice pick for the best hotel program, Priority Club Rewards, is indeed one of the industry's largest frequent-stay programs.

Priority Club is the loyalty program of the InterContinental Hotels Group, a network of more than 4,500 individual hotels represented by seven brands: InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites.

Having hotels in every corner of the world and at every price point aren't just advertising copy points. Such breadth and depth goes a long way toward guaranteeing Priority Club members that wherever they travel, whatever their budget, they're likely to find a participating hotel that will award them points for their stays and accord them any elite benefits they may be entitled to.

But the program—which was our Editors' Choice last year as well—offers much more than size and scale.

Regular and lucrative promotions are a key aspect of any successful loyalty program, and Priority Club's offers have been as generous as any. Next up: double points or airline miles for the second and subsequent stays through August 15.

And InterContinental has gone beyond the typical bonus-point and free-night promotions. For the first four months of 2011, for instance, the chain offered weekend travelers a rebate of up to $100 to cover the cost of checked bags when flying to and from their destinations.

On the awards side of the program, members may combine cash and points to pay for room nights. And with Priority Club's Hotels Anywhere feature, members may redeem their points—or a combination of points and cash—for stays at tens of thousands of hotels outside the InterContinental network, including competitor hotels.

And Priority Club's PointBreaks—award nights at selected properties offered for just 5,000 points per night—are a perennial member-pleaser.

While the program-linked credit card doesn't have the iconic status of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, the Intercontinental Priority Club Visa comes bundled with Gold elite status, is free of foreign transaction fees, and costs just $49 a year (waived the first year).

For a wide range of travelers, Priority Club Rewards is an easy program to love.

For those whose tastes run to more upscale hotels, the Starwood Preferred Guest program will reward them for stays at Sheraton, Four Points, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, W, Westin, aloft, and element hotels.

And for the budget traveler, Wyndham Rewards is a solid choice, with more than 6,500 hotels under the Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel Inn & Suites, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, Wingate, and Wyndham brands.

Editors' Choice 2011 homepage

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