According to U.S. News & World Report there isn't one program that is best for every traveler, but that didn't stop them from ranking the 17 of the most prominent hotel loyalty programs.
No spoilers. If you want to know how Marriott Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest programs were ranked, follow the link below.
Aside from the rankings, there is a lot of good info about different aspects of the various programs on the site. Enjoy!
For reference, the methodology used for calculating the results are listed below.
Methodology for Hotel Rewards Program Rankings
Selecting What to Include on the List
U.S. News Travel ranks 17 loyalty programs associated with major hotel brands that have at least 50 properties in the United States. For a loyalty program to appear on the list, it must allow potential members to join without any prerequisites. For example, a potential member should be allowed to join a loyalty program even if he or she has never stayed at a participating hotel. All programs that appear on our Best Hotel Rewards Programs list offer members the ability to earn rewards and privileges each time they stay at a participating property.
Calculating the Rankings
We compute each hotel program's Overall Score using an algorithm that comprises the following components:
- Ease of Earning Free Night (45 percent weight): Each program is awarded a score of 1 through 5 based on the average number of paid nights members must accumulate to earn a free night in each of the 20 destinations referenced in the Geographic Coverage score. Because hotel rates change frequently and vary by travel date, all research for this scoring category is conducted on the same day for the same travel dates – arriving Saturday and departing Sunday four weeks from the research date. We calculate the average number of paid nights required to earn a free night in each destination based on the average price in points of a one-night stay. (Programs that do not allow members to earn free nights receive a score of 0.)
- Additional Benefits (25 percent weight): The Additional Benefits score comprises the number of ways members can earn and use points apart from hotel stays, whether or not points expire and complimentary services offered to elite members. Programs can earn an Additional Benefits score between 1 and 5 depending on whether points can be earned for flights, credit card purchases and through other means, such as on dining or through shopping portals. Programs also earn Additional Benefits points for offering the following member perks: complimentary nights (that don't require any form of payment, whether in dollars or points), free room upgrades, priority check-in and checkout, complimentary amenities (like internet access or a free drink at check-in) and member discounts on room rates. New in the 2017-18 rankings, programs that have more than one affiliated credit card and those that give members the opportunity to use points for experiences (like concert tickets and sporting events) are awarded additional points in this category. Programs that offer these benefits receive additional credit for making them available to basic members.
- Geographic Coverage (15 percent weight): A program's Geographic Coverage score refers to the presence of participating hotels in the U.S. and abroad. This score represents how easy it is for members to take advantage of the program when traveling domestically and internationally. For our Geographic Coverage score calculation, we counted the number of participating hotels (with availability on the research date) within a 15-mile radius of 20 major business and leisure travel destinations in the U.S. and abroad. Points are awarded for each destination that contained a participating hotel, and additional credit is assigned to programs that feature more than nine participating hotels in a given destination.
- Number of Hotels in Network (10 percent weight): Each program is assigned a score of 1 through 5 depending on how many properties are in the hotel group's portfolio – the more properties that participate in the program, the more opportunities members have to earn and redeem rewards. For example, a program that features more than 4,000 participating hotels receives a score of 5, while a program with fewer than 100 participating hotels earns a score of 1.
- Property Diversity (5 percent weight): The Property Diversity score represents a variety of property types that participate in the program. A loyalty program that can be used across multiple property categories offers members more choice and flexibility in terms of style and price than a program that is only valid for one kind of hotel. We looked at each program to see what locations (beachfront, airport, city, mountains) and price ranges (luxury, upscale, mid-range, budget) are available within the program's network. A program can earn up to 8 diversity points, with 1 point awarded per applicable category. Programs with 8 points receive a Property Diversity score of 5, while programs with 2 or fewer points receive a score of 1.
Please Note: For each Ease of Earning a Free Night score for programs that reward members on a stay-by-stay basis rather than a dollar or nightly basis, we translated the number of stays needed into the number of nights needed assuming that the average stay equals 2.5 nights. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s, 58 percent of business travelers and 51 percent of leisure travelers stay two or more nights during each hotel stay. Also, programs that charge a fee to join at the most basic level are penalized five points.