The best hotel loyalty program? The just-released J.D. Power 2017 Hotel Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study purports to answer that question.
The study ranks hotel loyalty programs according to the following criteria: ease of earning and redeeming rewards (35 percent); program benefits (27 percent); account management (22 percent); and member communication (16 percent).
The results reflect 4,682 responses from program participants who completed at least five trips during the past 12 months.
Here are the rankings, with the programs’ scores on a 1,000-point scale:
- Marriott Rewards – 806
- World of Hyatt – 805
- Hilton Honors – 793
- IHG Rewards – 789
- Starwood Preferred Guest – 787
- Best Western Rewards – 778
- La Quinta Rewards – 772
- Club Carlson – 756
- Choice Privileges – 743
- Wyndham Rewards – 742
Marriott’s is indisputably one of the best programs. No argument on that score. But World of Hyatt at number 2? That will come as a surprise to many travelers, who gave the revamped program a thumbs down when it debuted in March.
And Wyndham Rewards at the bottom of the list? The same Wyndham Rewards that offers a free night at any hotel in its extensive network for just 15,000 points? The same Wyndham Rewards program that was ranked number 2 in recent hotel-program surveys from both U.S. News & World Report and USA Today?
To me, the results point to either an ill-conceived set of ranking criteria, or a poor choice of survey respondents. One possible clue to J.D. Power’s debatable findings may lie in this statement that accompanied the study:
Flexibility in how to redeem points and the ease with which customers can redeem those points are the key drivers of customer satisfaction in this space, which makes forming strong partnerships with third-party service providers a priority for hotel loyalty programs.
The ability to redeem points for magazine subscriptions is a key driver of traveler satisfaction? Not to me, and nor, I suspect to most other frequent travelers.
Reader Reality Check
Agree or disagree: Marriott Rewards is the best hotel loyalty program, followed by World of Hyatt.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.