This fall is shaping up as one of the most lucrative ever for travelers who earn rewards in hotel loyalty programs.
With the economy struggling and the airlines cutting back flights, demand for hotel rooms is softening and could tip into freefall. The hotel operators' pain is a definite gain for travelers, with significant numbers of rewards points on offer for stays that meet various criteria. And with the airlines diluting the value of frequent flyer miles by raising award levels and imposing fees, hotel points look more attractive than ever.
The 10 promotions highlighted below are not limited to select properties (double points at the Little Rock Hilton, for instance), and most apply to all brands within a chain's portfolio.
That means the bonuses are available at hotels throughout the country as well as across the price spectrum, whether you're looking for a cheap overnight for the family on the way to a national park, or a weeklong business trip for which room rates matter only to the company controller.
Aloft is the newest Starwood brand, with 18 hotels scheduled to open by the end of the year.
Members of the Starwood Preferred Guest program can earn quadruple points—eight points per dollar spent instead of two—for stays at aloft properties through December 31.
Members of Best Western's Gold Crown Club International program can earn double points or airline miles for stays of two or more nights charged to a MasterCard through November 21. Elite program members earn triple points.
In addition, stays booked on BestWestern.com during the promotion earn 250 bonus points.
Members of the Choice Privileges program have two different bonus opportunities in the coming months.
First, through November 30, they can earn triple points for the second and subsequent stays, booked at ChoiceHotels.com or by calling 800.4CHOICE (800-424-6423), at MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn hotels. Stays not booked on the Choice website earn double points.
Second, through December 31, stays at Cambria Suites hotels earn either triple airline miles or Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
Members of the Hilton HHonors program can earn double credits in Southwest's Rapid Rewards program for stays at 949 participating Hilton family hotels in the U.S. between September 22 and December 22.
To earn the bonus, HHonors members must choose to earn Points & Miles for their stays.
Hyatt is reprising its annual "Faster Free Nights" promotion, awarding members of its Gold Passport program a free night after every two qualifying stays completed by December 30. Additionally, members charging their eligible stays to a MasterCard will earn 2,000 bonus points.
The award stays must be taken through February 28. Use promotional code FFNF08.
Through January 15, Marriott Rewards members will earn 5,000 bonus points for every third stay charged to a Visa card, up to a maximum 25,000 points. (Some Marriott Rewards members will receive different promotional offers.)
Registration is required and must be completed by October 31.
Marriott Rewards members who choose to earn airline miles instead of hotel points can earn double miles in 26 airline programs beginning with their second stay between October 1 and December 31.
Between September 15 and December 15, Priority Club Rewards members will earn double points or airline miles for the second and subsequent stays at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Express by Holiday Inn hotels. At Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites hotels, double points will be awarded for the first stay as well.
Registration is required.
Through December 31, travelers booking three-night stays at participating Four Points by Sheraton hotels will only be charged for two nights when using an American Express Card to pay for the stay. To qualify, stays must be for arrival dates of Thursday through Saturday.
This offer is valid for reservations booked via a Starwood hotels website or through a Starwood Customer Contact Center. Use promotion code ZAF.
Promotion Strategies and Tactics
A number of the promotions require multiple stays before awarding bonuses. While that may seem like a high hurdle for infrequent travelers, it's a goal that can sometimes be achieved even on a single trip to a single city. Most hotel chains have two or more hotels in many larger metropolitan areas. And for purposes of meeting promotion requirements, switching among them during a trip counts as separate stays. (Checking in and out of the same hotel doesn't count, however.)
In Los Angeles, for example, there are seven hotels operating under the Hyatt umbrella: three Hyatt Regencies, two Hyatts, one Hyatt Place, and one Summerfield Suites (Hyatt's extended-stay brand). So a four-night visit to the area could easily be spread among four different hotels, generating two free nights under terms of the Hyatt promotion.
Another theme among the promotions is a link to credit cards. That's one reason savvy travelers often keep a Visa, MasterCard, and American Express card in their wallets.
Lastly, while such national chain-wide promotions naturally get the most attention, travelers shouldn't overlook offers from smaller chains or non-aligned individual hotels. When the mega-chains compete for travelers' business, it forces other hotels to do the same. So look for discounts, upgrades, and free nights wherever you stay. And if no extra incentives are offered, ask whether any are available. At least for the next few months, this is a buyer's market.