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These Hotel Points Are Worth More Than Your Airline Miles

The average payback for six major hotel chain loyalty programs—the value of what the points will buy, compared to what you pay to earn the points—is near 9 percent. That’s substantially higher than the return from the big three airline programs, which fetch about 4 to 6 percent. Those figures come from IdeaWorks’ 2017 CarTrawler Hotel Reward Payback Survey. Among hotel programs, Wyndham’s payback is highest, at 16.7 percent.

Here are the results for the six chains, from Starwood with the lowest, to Wyndham’s winning rate.

How Hotel Points Pay Out

hotel points
(Photo: IdeaWorks)

The reason for Wyndham’s high score is clear: Its loyalty program charges the same number of points for a reward stay at any of its participating hotels. That means you can score a $600 room at the New Yorker Hotel using the same number of points that you would on an $89 room at a roadside Ramada Hotel. As we noted about Wyndham’s program in our 2017 Editors’ Choice Best Hotel Loyalty Programs: “Wyndham’s unique policy of charging a fixed 15,000 points for a ‘free’ award stay at all locations gives great paybacks for travelers who stay in its more upscale brands.”

Wyndham didn’t come out number one overall in our own scoring because we included many other factors along with payback. But it scored well and is a great program for folks who like to use their points for top-dollar accommodations. Our first choice, Marriott, scored well for payback in the IdeaWorks report, as well, with almost 9 percent payback.

IdeaWorks found a wide range of paybacks for all six of the big chains due to the wide variation in the ratios of point-to-cost and dollar-to-cost for award stays. The payback for IHG points, for example, varied from 18.1 percent at the Holiday Inn Downtown Dubai to 2.5 percent at the Holiday Inn Bur Dubai in the Embassy district.

Overall among all chains, the spread in payback at individual sample hotels ranged from 50.7 percent at Wyndham’s New Yorker to 2 percent at Starwood’s Westin New York Grand Central. As IdeaWorks notes: “Very few everyday choices in life yield paybacks that can range from 2 to 51 percent.”

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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