Of course, we often book hotels that do not belong to any of the big chains. But when it comes to the big, international brands, many of us have a pretty clear preference. And they differ significantly – here is an overview of the programs that we can recommend:
IHG One Rewards
After about 20 years of Hilton loyalty, it’s almost unimaginable that IHG suddenly won me over. But in 2022, two things happened: Hilton has severely worsened several benefits (e.g. breakfast in the US) despite rising hotel prices, while IHG has reinvented its program.
Since last year, IHG offers Diamond members complimentary breakfast, and lounge access if you stay 40+ nights at their hotels. With a few exceptions, the hotels were also convincing, even in the low price segment. However, 70 nights for Diamond status is not an easy task.
Since a status match in 2019, I have been a regular guest at the hotels of the InterContinental Hotel Group. Over the Covid years, my platinum status was extended again and again, or I was able to keep it because the thresholds were lowered.
For a long time, IHG Rewards was primarily a lucrative cashback program for me. Due to the constant points promos, it is not uncommon for 15% or more of the room price to be reimbursed in the form of bonus points.
In 2022, IHG fundamentally restructured the program. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to Diamond status as a result of one of numerous promos. Since then, I’ve been enjoying free breakfasts all over the world. And what is more important than a good start to the day?
I ended up at IHG through the simple status match in summer 2022, and I have to admit – the program surprised me positively.
In order to get the Diamond status, I mainly booked hotels in IHG’s budget segment on our road trip from Orlando to Vancouver in September 2022 (avid, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites) and have to admit that the worst accommodations of this trip all belonged to other chains (I’m looking at you, Radisson).
IHG One Rewards offers a transparent bonus system and regularly has attractive promotions to earn and spend points. In combination with the high standard of many IHG hotels, it’s the most attractive hotel loyalty program for me.
I am most loyal to Hilton Honors. Gold status simply offers the best value with complimentary breakfast and upgrades, often to an executive room with lounge access.
You can also use the permanent bonus campaigns to quickly earn points that can be redeemed for free stays. Although there is hardly a hotel for 5,000 points, there are some sweet spots in the range of 10,000-20,000 points.
Unfortunately, Hilton is hardly active in Scandinavia and in the USA the appreciation for the gold status is quite low since you only get hotel credit for breakfast. On the other hand, Asia is a real paradise with Hilton Honors Gold status. Lounge access and a really good breakfast are not uncommon.
Admittedly – when I tell others about my Wyndham stays, I usually get sceptical looks. Many acquaintances ended up staying at a grisly Days Inn and have since avoided all of the group’s properties.
Personally, I have had mostly positive experiences with the chain on numerous trips to the USA. If the Wyndham motel is half the price of the Holiday Inn next door, I can live with a few downsides. And no matter how cheap the night, you always get at least 1,000 bonus points per stay with Wyndham Rewards.
So far, I’ve always gotten a value of more than one cent by redeeming points. Even more than 2 cents per point is realistic when booking holiday rentals in Hawaii.
Apart from that, the program only offers few advantages. While Diamond status promises suite upgrades, many hotel employees have never heard of it. Nevertheless: price and value are right for me.
At the beginning of 2020, I signed up for Radisson Rewards and was pleasantly surprised: numerous stays at the American chain Country Inn & Suites included a personal welcome, free water and an upgrade here and there, even without holding a status (only through membership).
In the summer of 2020, Radisson hotels in Germany stood out with strong discount campaigns, and I regularly stayed in premium rooms or suites for double-digit prices. The result was silver status – which I hardly ever used. First, all American hotels were removed from the program (Goodbye, Country Inn & Suites), then prices went up again while hotel standards continued to fall. Last but not least, the bonus points, which I had luckily already spent before, were devalued. All reasons that make a breakup inevitable.
The program has extended my status until December 2023. But Radisson Rewards and I are only a couple on paper.
I can count the number of paid stays at Choice Hotels each year on one hand. I only paid for a few motel nights in the US at Choice Privileges.
The program is extremely attractive to me for another reason: bonus points are regularly sold at a fair price. There I strike in large quantities – and spend the points gradually throughout the year. So I end up in many European cities (especially Scandinavia) with prices between €50 and €70 per night. There are also some exciting redemption options in Japan and North America.
When I book a hotel that is not part of a chain, I often use Hotels.com’s loyalty program. Every 11th stay there is free. That equates to around 9% payback over the long term and is hard to beat.
Johannes wrote something about the program some time ago. Not much has changed since then. Unfortunately, the regular discount and bonus campaigns have become rarer recently.
Which hotel chain or which bonus program are you loyal to – and what is the decisive factor? Feel free to write about it in the comments section.
Welcher Hotelkette bzw. welchem Bonusprogramm haltet ihr die Treue – und was ist dafür ausschlaggebend? Schreibt dazu gerne hier in den Kommentaren.
Cover Picture: Ditmar Lange