Hotel Cheat Sheet – Earning and Burning Points

Many people book direct with a hotel chain – instead of via or – because of the points you can earn (along with elite status benefits of course). Once you have accumulated enough points, you then exchange them for free hotel stays. Some hotels require more points than others – and some hotel chains have points that are more valuable than others – but the concept is always the same.

Any attempt to place a value on these points is subjective. No major hotel chain other than France’s Accor has gone so far as to make their points cash-equivalent.  Some people accumulate points for luxury hotel stays they would never otherwise pay for. Other people find the value in points from spending them on more humble, yet convenient, hotels. For some stays you might receive outstanding “value” from your points. For other stays you should actually pay the cash rate because you would be wasting your points.

Because of these complicating factors, some people prefer to rely on several “expert opinions” and so I will offer mine…

Value of Points

  • World of Hyatt – 1.6 cents per point
  • Marriott Bonvoy – 0.7 cents per point
  • IHG Rewards – 0.5 cents per point
  • Hilton Honors – 0.4 cents per point

That is a useful place to start, especially if you are thinking about convertible credit card points such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.

But what you also will need to know is how many points you will earn from your hotel stays. And for that we need to look on a chain-by-chain basis…

It is important to note that you earn points based on your pre-tax hotel spend, but your credit card points will be based on post-tax spend. That does get messy, so for simplicity I am simply ignoring taxes…

World of Hyatt

  • No-status member – 5 points per $ spent –> 8% rebate
  • Top tier elite status member – 6.5 points per $ spent –> 10.4% rebate
  • All-in (top tier + best co-branded credit card) – 10.5 points per $ spent –> 16.8% rebate

Marriott Bonvoy

  • No-status member – 10 points per $ spent –> 7% rebate
  • Titanium status member – 17.5 points per $ spent –> 12.3% rebate
  • All-in (Titanium + best co-branded credit card) – 23.5 points per $ spent –> 16.5% rebate

IHG Rewards

  • No-status member – 10 points per $ spent –> 5% rebate
  • Top-tier status member – 20 points per $ spent –> 10% rebate
  • All-in (top tier + best co-branded credit card) – 30 points per $ spent –> 15% rebate

Hilton Honors

  • No-status member – 10 points per $ spent –> 4% rebate
  • Top-tier status member – 20 points per $ spent –> 8% rebate
  • All-in (top tier + best co-branded credit card) – 34 points per $ spent –> 13.6% rebate

What Do You Think?

Which is the most lucrative hotel loyalty program? That certainly depends on your own perspective, along with complicating factors such as bonus point promotions, elite status and credit card eligibility. Change the valuation estimates slightly and you can completely re-rank my list.

So why don’t you join the conversation and share your opinion in the comments section…