Which Hotel Program Is Best For Leisure Travelers?

Which Hotel Program Is Best For Leisure Travelers?

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Picking a hotel loyalty program is very much a personal decision, as there’s not a “one size fits all” answer as to which program is best. Everyone is looking for different things from a hotel group.

In this post I wanted to compare some of the major hotel loyalty programs. While there won’t be “winners” and “losers” here, I wanted to share pros and cons of the big programs, so that people can hopefully take those points into consideration to decide what makes most sense for them.

What makes a hotel loyalty program good for leisure travelers?

I thought it would be interesting to look at hotel loyalty programs from the perspective of a leisure traveler. Why? Well, business travelers might not have to work hard at all to rack up elite nights, and for that matter their hotel stay decisions may be driven by corporate contracts, where they need to stay for work, etc.

It’s a bit of a different story for leisure travelers. Here are some of the things that I think make a hotel loyalty program good for non-business travelers:

  • Easy to earn status — leisure travelers have to earn elite status on their own dime, so it’s worth considering the amount of effort that it takes to earn status
  • Free breakfast — while business travelers typically have an expense account, leisure travelers generally appreciate perks like free breakfast, since it can save you significant money
  • Guaranteed elite perks — while perks that are “subject to availability” are better than nothing, there’s something really nice about being able to secure the perks that matter most to you in advance of your stay
  • A big global footprint — being loyal to a hotel group is hard, so the bigger the hotel group, the easier it is to stay loyal
Hotel loyalty programs can be pretty rewarding

Pros & cons of major hotel loyalty programs

Let me share what I consider to be the pros & cons of the major hotel loyalty programs. I don’t think there’s a single program that’s best for everyone, but hopefully this is a good starting place for people to decide which program makes the most sense for them.

I’ll be focusing on Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt, which are the biggest hotel loyalty programs in the United States that have co-branded credit cards, lots of aspirational properties, etc.

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors is the best program for earning status easily, and in terms of how quickly you can rack up points.

The way I view it, the pros of Hilton Honors include:

Meanwhile the cons of Hilton Honors include:

  • Hilton Honors isn’t great when it comes to guaranteeing benefits, as late check-out isn’t guaranteed, and suite upgrades are at the discretion of the hotel
  • Of these four loyalty programs, Hilton Honors is the only program not to offer any sort of confirmed suite upgrades that can be applied in advance, which isn’t great for planning a special stay
Hilton Honors Gold & Diamond members get breakfast

IHG One Rewards

IHG One Rewards is the most improved program in the past couple of years, though I’m still not sure exactly where to place it. The loyalty program was recently relaunched, and it’s much more lucrative than before.

The way I view it, the pros of IHG One Rewards include:

  • IHG has a large global footprint, with over 6,000 properties worldwide; in particular, there are lots of limited service and more economical properties, which many leisure travelers may appreciate (conversely, these properties may offer limited perks for elite members)
  • IHG One Rewards makes it easy to earn status, especially with the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) and IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (review); you can earn IHG Platinum status just for having the card, and IHG Diamond status for spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • The IHG Milestone Rewards program offers some fantastic perks that members can pick for passing certain elite night thresholds, including confirmed suite upgrades, club lounge access, food & beverage credits, and more
  • IHG One Rewards has pretty good points earning rates, between the standard earning rates, the bonuses for elite status, and IHG’s global promotions

Meanwhile the cons of IHG One Rewards include:

  • IHG One Rewards is weak when it comes to guaranteeing benefits, as late check-out and suite upgrades are entirely at the discretion of hotels, rather than a guaranteed benefit
  • IHG One Rewards is the biggest unknown among these programs when it comes to execution of certain elite benefits, since the current implementation of the program is still new
IHG One Rewards Diamond members receive breakfast

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy is probably the most well-rounded hotel loyalty program, in terms of a combination of a big global footprint, status being easy to earn, and solid elite perks.

The way I view it, the pros of Marriott Bonvoy include:

Meanwhile the cons of Marriott Bonvoy include:

  • Marriott Bonvoy is notorious for over promising and under delivering, so in practice you might find elite benefits to be similar to what you’d get with Hilton Honors
  • Marriott Bonvoy isn’t great about consistent elite benefits across brands; for example, elite members don’t receive free breakfast at brands like Ritz-Carlton and EDITION
Marriott Bonvoy promises suite upgrades subject to availability

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt is probably the strongest hotel loyalty program, but status is also the hardest to earn, and Hyatt has the smallest global footprint.

The way I view it, the pros of World of Hyatt include:

  • World of Hyatt Globalist status is the most valuable hotel status, and is best when it comes to honoring elite benefits, from late check-out, to suite upgrades
  • World of Hyatt has the strongest breakfast benefit of any major hotel group, as a hot restaurant breakfast with gratuity is included when a hotel doesn’t have a lounge
  • World of Hyatt offers the best confirmed suite upgrades of any hotel program, as Globalist members receive at least four of these as part of the Milestone Rewards program, each of which can be used to confirm a suite for seven nights at the time of booking
  • World of Hyatt has Guest of Honor, where Globalist members can share their elite perks with friends & family when redeeming points; this is especially useful when booking multiple rooms
  • World of Hyatt waives resort and destination fees for all members when redeeming points, and for Globalist members on all stays
  • World of Hyatt points are the only hotel points currency that can efficiently be racked up with transferable points, as transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt is a good deal

The way I view it, the cons of World of Hyatt include:

World of Hyatt suite upgrade awards are valuable

Bottom line

Which hotel loyalty program is best is highly subjective, and I don’t think there’s a single right or wrong answer. To consolidate my take and recommendations:

  • Hilton Honors is great for the super easy status and generous points earning rates, especially with constant promotions
  • IHG One Rewards is getting better, but I also have a hard time recommending IHG as someone’s sole hotel loyalty program
  • Marriott Bonvoy makes it easy enough to earn status with credit cards, and offers solid perks, but not to the level of World of Hyatt
  • World of Hyatt is the all-around best when it comes to elite status, but it’s also hardest to earn

What’s your take on what the best hotel loyalty program is?

Conversations (57)
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  1. Mr juice Guest

    IF there is a Hyatt where you're going, and IF you are a globalist, confirmed suite nights are far and away the single most valuable hotel loyalty perk. I can regularly get more than 50-70% off the cash rate per night, and they are good for up to 7 night.

    1. Mr juice Guest

      IF there is a Hyatt where you're going, and IF you are a globalist, confirmed suite nights are far and away the single most valuable hotel loyalty perk. I can regularly get more than 50-70% off the cash rate per night, and they are good for up to 7 night. Or for free with points. Suite nights have been useless at Marriott in my experience. I've had the best luck with Shangri-la on upgrade on check it.

  2. Andy Diamond

    For me the geographic footprint becomes more and more important. Although I travel globally, there are certain area to which I travel more (in my case Europe, Latin America) or less (in my case North America, Asia, Oceania) or almost never (in my case Africa). That's why for me Hilton, Marriott and Accor are the most relevant, in this order.

  3. Emily Guest

    What do you mean by leisure travelers? Do you mean frequent business earners who wish to take a leisure travel or travelers whose primary reason to travel is leisure? If the latter, none of these programs make any sense. Most leisure travelers will pay out-of-pocket and probably on unique experiences or boutique hotels. Leisure travelers would probably get much higher value out of online travel sites where deals are posted.

    Even I, as a frequent...

    What do you mean by leisure travelers? Do you mean frequent business earners who wish to take a leisure travel or travelers whose primary reason to travel is leisure? If the latter, none of these programs make any sense. Most leisure travelers will pay out-of-pocket and probably on unique experiences or boutique hotels. Leisure travelers would probably get much higher value out of online travel sites where deals are posted.

    Even I, as a frequent business traveler, rarely stay at any of these hotel chains when traveling for leisure. There are far better options out there than these basic chains to spend more time at when I want to get away from the day-to-day.

  4. Zach B Guest

    In my opinion for leisure travel for me, it depends on where I'm traveling. In the states, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, and Marriot all work fine for my needs and what benefits I get out of them I have no paticular favorite and just go with what works best for price or stay I'm doing. In Europe I'd say Accor, Best Western, and Scandic/Choice for the Nordics because a lot of them have smaller hotels that...

    In my opinion for leisure travel for me, it depends on where I'm traveling. In the states, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, and Marriot all work fine for my needs and what benefits I get out of them I have no paticular favorite and just go with what works best for price or stay I'm doing. In Europe I'd say Accor, Best Western, and Scandic/Choice for the Nordics because a lot of them have smaller hotels that are reasonably priced in city centers. Honestly tho, being a free agent is better than being sticking to one program. In particular in Europe where there's a lot of great independent hotels and hostels that can make travel a lot more interesting or different than staying in chain hotels, which while nice can sometimes lack local charm.

  5. ugoren New Member

    For a normal leisure traveller, who doesn't spend most of their time in hotels, all these programs are useless.

    The chain hotels are just overpriced. Anywhere I look, I can find a reasonable hotel at half price compared to any of the networks.
    Loyalty programs give at most a 10% return workout top tier status, and that's not nearly enough to make up for the price difference.

    The only program where I find value...

    For a normal leisure traveller, who doesn't spend most of their time in hotels, all these programs are useless.

    The chain hotels are just overpriced. Anywhere I look, I can find a reasonable hotel at half price compared to any of the networks.
    Loyalty programs give at most a 10% return workout top tier status, and that's not nearly enough to make up for the price difference.

    The only program where I find value is booking.com. They give the cheapest prices to start with, and some modest benefits on top of that. I use them again and again, not on hope of obtaining status, but because they give the best deal again and again.

    1. platy Guest

      @ ugoren

      Yes - in most cases there is always a better hotel to stay at than you'll typically find through a major chain - so much nicer to stay in a boutique hotel with local charm (noting that some programs do provide that opportunity, such as IHG / Mr&Mrs Smith properties) .

      Incidentally, GHA Discovery returns 17% for top tier achievable in three nights (one per hotel chain) - but since it doesn't have...

      @ ugoren

      Yes - in most cases there is always a better hotel to stay at than you'll typically find through a major chain - so much nicer to stay in a boutique hotel with local charm (noting that some programs do provide that opportunity, such as IHG / Mr&Mrs Smith properties) .

      Incidentally, GHA Discovery returns 17% for top tier achievable in three nights (one per hotel chain) - but since it doesn't have a footprint in US, you won't read about hat on US-based blogs.

      Sure, those who are fixated on Bora Bora and The Maldives will get outsize value - nothing wrong with that...

      ..but in other circumstances, hotels.com, fourth night free and various other obvious routes can make more sense for leisure travellers.

  6. Olivier Guest

    I am a longtime IHG costomer. The portfolio of hotels is great with new Kimpton hotels in Europe and the addition of luxury boutique hotels of Mr & Mrs Smith. I combine my Diamond membership at IHG with an account at Hotels.com where you get 1 free night every 10 stays (calculated on the average rate per night). This combo works perfect for me as a European citizen.

  7. Art_Czar Member

    Ben - suggestion for a follow-up analysis. If a non-elite (or mid-level elite) were to spend $250/night over 10 nights at any given premium property in a year, then based on each chain's points-earning rate, how close does that person get to the
    daily redemption rate at that same property?

    For the sake of this analysis you could choose properties offering similar amenities at similar price-points in the same location.

  8. LEo Diamond

    I think gha,a night each at three brand= platinum

  9. ArnoldB Guest

    For continental europe, or at least the german-speaking area, I'd say the answer is easily Hilton Honors. Why? Because they are the only ones offering a proper credit card for points collection (1€ = 1 point) and instant gold (and Diamond after spending 20k €/year).

    Of course with the AMEX Platinum in Europe you can also instantly get Marriott Gold Status, but there is no special spending upgrade path for Platinum and above. I'd say...

    For continental europe, or at least the german-speaking area, I'd say the answer is easily Hilton Honors. Why? Because they are the only ones offering a proper credit card for points collection (1€ = 1 point) and instant gold (and Diamond after spending 20k €/year).

    Of course with the AMEX Platinum in Europe you can also instantly get Marriott Gold Status, but there is no special spending upgrade path for Platinum and above. I'd say Marriott Gold is not particularly useful as opposed to HH Gold where you already get breakfast included.

    Generally I really envy the US for all the great credit card deals you have. Then again maybe it is better that we have stricter limits and therefore not half the population indebted with credit card debt.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Half the US population isn’t “indebted with credit card debt”, but continue to think that if it makes you feel better about the crap CC offers you have to settle for.

    2. Unhoeflich Diamond

      "Americans carried a balance on 53% of all active credit card accounts in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the most recent available data from the American Bankers Association." From lendingtree.com

  10. Carrie Member

    As a leisure traveller, The Leading Hotels of the World provides the most comprehensive benefits for my needs but I admit that I primarily holiday in Europe and Africa.

  11. Ann Guest

    No hotel loyalty program status is worth chasing it for leisure travel.

    Sure if it comes free with a credit card or whatnot why not.

    Hyatt is useless and the footprint is too small, and the hotels are overpriced for what they are (not *that* great)

    It's good to have the freedom of staying at true 5* chains and non-chains and not be slave to one particular chain.

    Purchasing lounge or better rooms with breakfast...

    No hotel loyalty program status is worth chasing it for leisure travel.

    Sure if it comes free with a credit card or whatnot why not.

    Hyatt is useless and the footprint is too small, and the hotels are overpriced for what they are (not *that* great)

    It's good to have the freedom of staying at true 5* chains and non-chains and not be slave to one particular chain.

    Purchasing lounge or better rooms with breakfast outright as a free agent works out cheaper anyway than chasing status and then begging for an upgrade or having to chase supposed benefits

    1. Hepworth Guest

      This isn’t true at all. I’m primarily a leisure traveler and chase Hyatt aggressively. The SUAs are invaluable. I regularly get 3 cents per point before a SUA, and having Chase as a transfer partner makes it pretty easy to generate points. I’m a luxury leisure traveler, but I get massive benefit by going out of my way to get Globalist.

    2. Bobby Guest

      First, Hyatt is not luxury...
      Its faux luxury for Americans who dont really know what an independent luxury hotel is.

      Second, Hyatt is useless in 90%+ of the world, especially outside of major cities.

    3. DCS Diamond

      LOL. "Extremely well said!" by not addressing the original poster's valid points?!

      Hyatt is useless and the footprint is too small, and the hotels are overpriced for what they are (not *that* great)

      Add to the above the high cost of making Globalist and no 5th award night free perk and Hyatt is definitely not (read: is useless) for the leisure traveler who is presumably looking to (a) spend as little as possible out of...

      LOL. "Extremely well said!" by not addressing the original poster's valid points?!

      Hyatt is useless and the footprint is too small, and the hotels are overpriced for what they are (not *that* great)

      Add to the above the high cost of making Globalist and no 5th award night free perk and Hyatt is definitely not (read: is useless) for the leisure traveler who is presumably looking to (a) spend as little as possible out of pocket and (b) have a wider choice of destinations than are covered by Hyatt's tiny footprint...

      It's time to stop drinking the "Hyatt is best" kool-aid and begin playing the game the way it is supposed to be played: with a "full deck".

      G'day

  12. AC Guest

    Typo - I am "NOW" retired, as opposed to "not", in the first paragraph of my comment

  13. AC Guest

    Full disclosure - I am Marriott Lifetime Titanium, Hilton Diamond (credit card spend), IHG Platinum (credit card) and Hyatt Explorist (MGM Match). I'm not retired so more a "leisure traveler". My take is very few leisure travelers stay at any one chain enough to earn status so I'd say Hilton, IHG or Hyatt since you get some status (and a free night - Hilton you have to run $15K through) with a credit card that...

    Full disclosure - I am Marriott Lifetime Titanium, Hilton Diamond (credit card spend), IHG Platinum (credit card) and Hyatt Explorist (MGM Match). I'm not retired so more a "leisure traveler". My take is very few leisure travelers stay at any one chain enough to earn status so I'd say Hilton, IHG or Hyatt since you get some status (and a free night - Hilton you have to run $15K through) with a credit card that has an AF under $100. As for benefits, book a hotel that has breakfast offered if you want it (all 4 chains plus Choice have brands with this feature). I rarely use late checkout but when I do it is almost universally granted. Even non-elites can typically get noon or 1 PM (assuming 11 AM check out time) just by asking nicely.

    Also, the vast majority of leisure travelers are price sensitive unlike business travelers so you see mainly Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, etc as their choice. Elite benefits mean little at these brands.

    My advice is check all of them and pick the cheapest option that fits your needs. That simple. I'm a total free agent now and that is how I do it. I also will look at Best Western and Wyndham properties (many are dives I know) when checking. To me, unless I'm going on a nicer trip with my wife all I want is a clean, safe place to stay at a reasonable price. Bloggers, business travelers and others looking at 4/5 star hotels or "aspirational" travel are over thinking this issue and in their own little bubble.

  14. Michael Guest

    The best for leisure travelers unless wealthy has to be Choice. I’m a member of all the programs and stay in hotels about 15-20 times a year. The only program that I have ever gotten enough points for a free night is Choice (several times). The other programs require a ludicrous amount of points for a free night putting it well beyond the average “leisure” traveler. Yes, Choice properties are mid range, but if you want to earn free nights, nothing else comes close

  15. Mark F. Guest

    My leisure travel is travel out of pocket. I have modest means as I have a modest income. Since airline credit cards are not a good way to get free air travel, I have found more value with spending the money on the air travel and saving the money on the hotel stays. So the ability to get free nights at a decent hotel is my top priority. I would rather take a free king...

    My leisure travel is travel out of pocket. I have modest means as I have a modest income. Since airline credit cards are not a good way to get free air travel, I have found more value with spending the money on the air travel and saving the money on the hotel stays. So the ability to get free nights at a decent hotel is my top priority. I would rather take a free king room than pay for a $200/night room that gets upgraded to a suite. (Now, give me a free king room and a suite upgrade and its a double yay!)

    I have found that the Hilton group serves my needs best for my travel and stay. I do a lot of road trips and getting a (normally $150 a night) room using points in a limited stay hotel is a good thing for me.

    I have the Hilton Amex that gives me gold, but I have earned Diamond through stays. I don't care about 'elite recognition' as much as I care that the Diamond level bonuses combined with the credit card bonuses on stays catapults me to a free night very quickly. I also get a free night if I hit a spending number on my card.

    You didn't mention the free fifth night benefit when you use points to stay 4 nights. I have taken advantage of that several times. I put all my expenses on my Hilton Amex card. It really adds up (and I don't spend a lot of money).

    So far this year I have stayed 13 nights using points. 5 at the Edinburgh Hilton (fifth night free). 3 at the Hilton Garden Dublin, 2 at the Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal, 2 at the Hilton Salt Lake City, and one night at a Hampton in Syracuse NY.

    The points really add up. I also stayed at some independent hotels. (about 11 nights so far this year) But I pay for them with the Amex Hilton card, so I am still earning some points.

    Hilton works best for my travel pattern and budget

  16. Lukas Guest

    I prioritize travel heavily (HEAVILY) but don’t put a lot of stays on high-end properties (since I prefer taking five ”normal” vacation days to taking 1-2 high end for the same price, and want to take as many days off as possible), unless in places like SE Asia, Dubai, etc. For me, Hyatt’s footprint is just too small and I’m tired of Marriott’s constant cost cutting and cheating, so I’ve switched pretty much all my...

    I prioritize travel heavily (HEAVILY) but don’t put a lot of stays on high-end properties (since I prefer taking five ”normal” vacation days to taking 1-2 high end for the same price, and want to take as many days off as possible), unless in places like SE Asia, Dubai, etc. For me, Hyatt’s footprint is just too small and I’m tired of Marriott’s constant cost cutting and cheating, so I’ve switched pretty much all my leisure stays (which is quite many, at least 60 nights a year) to either Hilton or Hotels.com. I actually prefer Hotels.com due to their massive footprint and ease of redemption, but I’ve genereally been treated good at Hilton’s lower to mid scale properties and get a bit of value from my Diamond status when we pick a bit more expensive options. For the average leisure traveler, I concur with other commentors that Hotels.com is outstanding.

  17. Regis Guest

    For leisure travelers, probably IHG, since you get platinum by spending $95 a year and there is a Holiday Inn Express just about anywhere in the world.

  18. uldguy Diamond

    I’m a lifetime titanium elite with Marriott but stopped staying there due to the lack of elite benefits, especially suite upgrades. They would often tell me that I had been upgraded but it turned out to be the level of room I originally booked in the first place. So I got “upgraded” to the room I originally booked, and their suites went empty.

    Last year I switched to Hyatt and earned Globalist status the...

    I’m a lifetime titanium elite with Marriott but stopped staying there due to the lack of elite benefits, especially suite upgrades. They would often tell me that I had been upgraded but it turned out to be the level of room I originally booked in the first place. So I got “upgraded” to the room I originally booked, and their suites went empty.

    Last year I switched to Hyatt and earned Globalist status the hard way, 60 nights. Since then I can count on one had the number of suite upgrades I have received. At least the free breakfast and no resort fees is a nice benefit. Next year I’ll probably switch back to Marriott, if for no other reason their footprint.

    God how I miss Starwood.

  19. Eve Guest

    Really weird to miss Accor ALL, especially considering they have over 6000+ hotels across 30 different brands, and quite possibly the most extensive all round coverage of each segment from budget to luxury.

    There is also a looming fact that Accor and IHG might merge in the future which is something the former’s CEO has kept as an open possibility.

  20. SpicyParsnip Guest

    Lucky, what are your thoughts on Leaders Club?

  21. Hobbs Guest

    I must agree with the hotels.com opinions here. Just an extensive range options. My only issue with their loyalty program is that they apply the 10th night discount to the most expensive night of your stay, thus reducing the dollar average of your next 10.

  22. Mohdoh Guest

    Hilton Program is a joke. No upgrade and no late check out. And it requires twice or more points to redeem than any other programs. Not sure why the author thinks this is the best program. I travel a lot and I have platinum or more on all four programs above and Hilton is absolutely the worst and almost useless, I can assure you.

  23. beachfan Guest

    You missed the biggest drawback of IHG - benefits are not given on award stays.

    (I have had some upgrade me anyway, but the HK Intercontinental wanted money for the smallest upgrade).

  24. Jeff Guest

    Consider also the different criteria leisure travelers have for hotels. For me the main things I want are 1) location (i.e. not outside city center or far from activities, so financial area biz hotels are not good), 2) more boutique/personal/charming rather than stuffy and formal. So I love Kimpton much more than Intercontinental for leisure stay and a big Sheraton w no character is the worst. Kimpton makes IHG my favorite for leisure travel. Staying...

    Consider also the different criteria leisure travelers have for hotels. For me the main things I want are 1) location (i.e. not outside city center or far from activities, so financial area biz hotels are not good), 2) more boutique/personal/charming rather than stuffy and formal. So I love Kimpton much more than Intercontinental for leisure stay and a big Sheraton w no character is the worst. Kimpton makes IHG my favorite for leisure travel. Staying at a fancy Conrad isn't as nice and doesn't give me the walking access I value.

  25. DCS Diamond

    World of Hyatt is probably the strongest hotel loyalty program, but status is also the hardest to earn, and Hyatt has the smallest global footprint.

    What a superlative loyalty program WoH may be simply reflects your opinion. It is not a universal truth, and that should be made clear because for some of us the claim does not quite square with the fact that Globalist status is tough to earn (great status but you just...

    World of Hyatt is probably the strongest hotel loyalty program, but status is also the hardest to earn, and Hyatt has the smallest global footprint.

    What a superlative loyalty program WoH may be simply reflects your opinion. It is not a universal truth, and that should be made clear because for some of us the claim does not quite square with the fact that Globalist status is tough to earn (great status but you just have to break the bank to earn it!), that Hyatt has a tiny footprint (great program but you must travel to where its hotels are located rather than where you'd like to travel), that the program does not offer its members either a 4th or 5th night award night free -- quantifiably the single more valuable perk in hotel loyalty -- to name just a few of the program's major cons but especially the last one.

    1. eponymous coward Guest

      I would say Globalist is the strongest elite STATUS of the ones mentioned, but that status doesn’t make it a particularly strong loyalty program for leisure travelers who a) can’t put the required six digit spend on a hotel loyalty card or b) stay the number of nights required.

      Here’s the thing; you’re 100% right on the “four nights get five” stuff, that’s a MAJOR factor for leisure travelers. Travel bloggers (ahem) might do 3-5...

      I would say Globalist is the strongest elite STATUS of the ones mentioned, but that status doesn’t make it a particularly strong loyalty program for leisure travelers who a) can’t put the required six digit spend on a hotel loyalty card or b) stay the number of nights required.

      Here’s the thing; you’re 100% right on the “four nights get five” stuff, that’s a MAJOR factor for leisure travelers. Travel bloggers (ahem) might do 3-5 hotels in a week on vacation but normal people? Not so much.

      Something else that’s a major factor: hotel cost in points and transfer partners. This is also something where Hyatt shines; Chase Unlimited Rewards go very far as Hyatt points, much farther than AMEX Membership Rewards as Marriott/Hilton or UR as Marriott/IHG.

      (Yes, I go now DCS, Hilton as a Diamond has great earning, STAAHP, we’ve heard this one before, we know.)

      But this whole “what loyalty scheme is best for leisure travel” discussion is kind of weird when viewed through an elite status/uber-aspirational travel lens because frankly leisure travel is a very different bubble from a lot of elite status travel, and also, let’s face it, a lot of leisure travel isn’t suites at the George V on a travel agent rate, ahem, for US markets where Hilton/Hyatt/IHG/Marriott hold sway it’s Disney resorts with your kids, visiting family, Cancun or Cabo, maybe if we’re feeling BOLD it’s London and Paris!

      Is hotel loyalty going to pay off there vs. Hotels.com or (insert booking engine of your choice with discounts here)? Why or why not?

    2. DCS Diamond

      I would say Globalist is the strongest elite STATUS of the ones mentioned...

      Of course, you'd say that. Like everyone else, you'll just regurgitate what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards.

      How is transferring Chase points, earned elsewhere, to Hyatt good for Hyatt and WoH? It is a flawed model that Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Radisson purposely avoid by requiring lots of points to book an award...

      I would say Globalist is the strongest elite STATUS of the ones mentioned...

      Of course, you'd say that. Like everyone else, you'll just regurgitate what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards.

      How is transferring Chase points, earned elsewhere, to Hyatt good for Hyatt and WoH? It is a flawed model that Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Radisson purposely avoid by requiring lots of points to book an award stay. How flawed is the model ? Just ask SPG (R.I.P).

      Regardless of how favorable the transfers, I consider it a waste, almost heretical really, to transfer any transferable points currency denomination to a hotel points currency. That one even needs to transfer Chase UR points to WoH to book an award stay is a reflection of how tough it is to earn WoH points -- a clear weakness of the program -- compared to, say, earning HH points. I will never dream of transferring UR points to HH points (and consider it a plus!) even if transfer rates were more favorable: I do not need to 'cause I earn plenty of HH points without eve trying. I reserve my transferable points almost exclusively for premium cabin airline tickets, usually long-haul with non-US-based *A airlines.

    3. DCS Diamond

      HTML fixed

      I would say Globalist is the strongest elite STATUS of the ones mentioned...

      Of course, you'd say that. Like everyone else, you'll just regurgitate what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards.

      How is transferring Chase points, earned elsewhere, to Hyatt good for Hyatt and WoH? It is a flawed model that Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Radisson purposely avoid by requiring lots of points to book an...

      HTML fixed

      I would say Globalist is the strongest elite STATUS of the ones mentioned...

      Of course, you'd say that. Like everyone else, you'll just regurgitate what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards.

      How is transferring Chase points, earned elsewhere, to Hyatt good for Hyatt and WoH? It is a flawed model that Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Radisson purposely avoid by requiring lots of points to book an award stay. How flawed is the model ? Just ask SPG (R.I.P).

      Regardless of how favorable the transfers, I consider it a waste, almost heretical really, to transfer any transferable points currency denomination to a hotel points currency. That one even needs to transfer Chase UR points to WoH to book an award stay is a reflection of how tough it is to earn WoH points -- a clear weakness of the program -- compared to, say, earning HH points. I will never dream of transferring UR points to HH points (and consider it a plus!) even if transfer rates were more favorable: I do not need to 'cause I earn plenty of HH points without eve trying. I reserve my transferable points almost exclusively for premium cabin airline tickets, usually long-haul with non-US-based *A airlines.

    4. Zach B Guest

      "Of course, you'd say that. Like everyone else, you'll just regurgitate what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards."

      I mean you're basically doing the same thing you bash against. Self Anointing yourself as the "travel guru" of Hilton Honors.

      It's fine if you like Hilton Honors but everyone is welcome to having an opinion even if you disagree with it.

    5. DCS Diamond

      Such bullshit. My statement would be valid even if I had no preferred program at all.
      Show me where I claimed anything that was not factual, about Hilton or any other program.

      Think before commenting or don't comment at all.

    6. eponymous coward Guest

      Sigh.

      No. I think the benefits are legitimately strong. Stronger than HiltonDiamond (though I agree with a lot of your points on Hilton and Hyatt). But watching you be disputatious about Hilton and Hyatt for the 88574th time in these threads is boring and wearying and I have no desire to pound sand into that rathole of an argument.

      Simply put, I think leisure travelers have more opportunity to earn Chase UR than WoH via...

      Sigh.

      No. I think the benefits are legitimately strong. Stronger than HiltonDiamond (though I agree with a lot of your points on Hilton and Hyatt). But watching you be disputatious about Hilton and Hyatt for the 88574th time in these threads is boring and wearying and I have no desire to pound sand into that rathole of an argument.

      Simply put, I think leisure travelers have more opportunity to earn Chase UR than WoH via credit card spend, or to supplement what they earn.

      Also, a lot of leisure travelers don’t redeem premium cabins TATL/TPAC, a Hyatt redemption via Chase UR can offer good value. I’ve regularly redeemed on Hyatt for 2-3 cpm. It’s not your year end extravaganzas but it’s stuff that is much closer to normal “leisure travel”, like Hyatt redemptions in Phoenix during baseball spring training.

      If you’re getting 5x on groceries one quarter on your Freedom Flex and redeeming as Hyatt points on a 2-3 cent per point redemption that’s a 10-15% return on your grocery spend.

      This is how a lot of leisure travel happens, stuff like that.

    7. DCS Diamond

      No. I think the benefits are legitimately strong. Stronger than Hilton Diamond.

      On what basis do you make the claim. Just because you "think" the benefits are stronger does not make them so. My original point stands: your "thinking" is almost entirely driven by what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards.

      My comment about how using transferable points to book hotel award stays is close to heresy...

      No. I think the benefits are legitimately strong. Stronger than Hilton Diamond.

      On what basis do you make the claim. Just because you "think" the benefits are stronger does not make them so. My original point stands: your "thinking" is almost entirely driven by what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards.

      My comment about how using transferable points to book hotel award stays is close to heresy clearly went over your head. Just as well because I am done here.

  26. Eskimo Guest

    For Leisure travelers, the best program IMHO is hotels.com

    Easy to earn status — 10 nights for Silver 30 for Gold
    Free breakfast — Or experience it like the locals and skip your hotel omelettes. Also a problem when traveling more than 2 per room.
    Guaranteed elite perks — You get what you paid for, guaranteed means nothing in the hospitality world. And I don't want to spend my vacation demanding what was...

    For Leisure travelers, the best program IMHO is hotels.com

    Easy to earn status — 10 nights for Silver 30 for Gold
    Free breakfast — Or experience it like the locals and skip your hotel omelettes. Also a problem when traveling more than 2 per room.
    Guaranteed elite perks — You get what you paid for, guaranteed means nothing in the hospitality world. And I don't want to spend my vacation demanding what was guaranteed from status and not what you directly paid for.
    A big global footprint — hotels.com should cover pretty much everywhere.

    Be a free agent, if you are staying enough to hit the elite tiers that benefits start to be useful, you are NOT a leisure traveler.
    Benefits make life easier for business travelers.
    Benefits make trip cheaper for leisure travelers.

  27. GroeneMichel Member

    For leisure travel I'd definitely also look at Hotels.com
    Gives you more flexibility on hotels to pick from while still offering on average 10% return (via the free night for every 10 nights slept across chains and hotels).

    1. Vincent Guest

      I completely agree with you, I travel for leisure. I have gold at Hilton, Marriott, Meliá and Radisson from my Amex platinum, and earned Platinum at IGH just by staying 5 nights last year (they had an offer), but at the end, I barely use those benefits.
      Hotels.com make the most sense in 70% of the cases when combined with a cashback app (-7%) and - 10% loyalty roughly + fact I can pick...

      I completely agree with you, I travel for leisure. I have gold at Hilton, Marriott, Meliá and Radisson from my Amex platinum, and earned Platinum at IGH just by staying 5 nights last year (they had an offer), but at the end, I barely use those benefits.
      Hotels.com make the most sense in 70% of the cases when combined with a cashback app (-7%) and - 10% loyalty roughly + fact I can pick the hotel I really want without being irrational about the value of hotel points and status.

    2. Robert D Guest

      I thought they were doing away with the 10% return and joining the new/upcoming Expedia loyalty program? I think Expedia is merging all of their brands into one program, so that 10% will go away. Sad.

  28. Bob Guest

    Another important element for leisure travellers is variety of accommodations. When our kids were younger, we loved that many Hilton properties, including Embassy, Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites offered suites as standard rooms so our kids could go to sleep early on the couch while we could have our own separate bedroom. When my wife and I travel alone, we prefer Conrad and Waldorf, but having the ability to get a family suite...

    Another important element for leisure travellers is variety of accommodations. When our kids were younger, we loved that many Hilton properties, including Embassy, Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites offered suites as standard rooms so our kids could go to sleep early on the couch while we could have our own separate bedroom. When my wife and I travel alone, we prefer Conrad and Waldorf, but having the ability to get a family suite at a standard room prices at other brands is a big plus, and Hilton worked well for us.

    1. Lea Guest

      This. I'm not traveling with kids but with 2-3 other adults and we all like to have our own beds. I was able to redeem Hilton points for what amounted to a 2 BR/2 BA condo in Fiji. When I use my IHG free night I'm usually only allowed to book a room with a king bed though I've been able to change that to two twins (in Europe) at the check-in desk. Fortunately there...

      This. I'm not traveling with kids but with 2-3 other adults and we all like to have our own beds. I was able to redeem Hilton points for what amounted to a 2 BR/2 BA condo in Fiji. When I use my IHG free night I'm usually only allowed to book a room with a king bed though I've been able to change that to two twins (in Europe) at the check-in desk. Fortunately there were only two of us on that trip. If three of us are traveling then Hyatt Place, TownePlace Suites, Home2 Suites, etc. work best for us as we all get free breakfast.

  29. ben zenize Guest

    ben, i interpret what you write about Hilton Honors as saying that gold members get lounge access. although they may occasionally get it, i don't think that's part of the written benefits.
    as a exclusively leisure traveler, i find that breakfast for HH Gold members is one of the biggest money savers. we stayed at the hilton tokyo (cash) and they gave us lounge access so we alternated between having breakfast in the restaurant...

    ben, i interpret what you write about Hilton Honors as saying that gold members get lounge access. although they may occasionally get it, i don't think that's part of the written benefits.
    as a exclusively leisure traveler, i find that breakfast for HH Gold members is one of the biggest money savers. we stayed at the hilton tokyo (cash) and they gave us lounge access so we alternated between having breakfast in the restaurant and the lounge. it was great.
    Living in Canada, HH points are harder to earn from credit cards. Amex MR transfer to HH at a terrible rate and there are not HH credit cards here. i had HH gold from my amex platinum card and it has been extended for a few years now due to the pandemic. once i get rid of my somewhat large stash on bonvoy points, i may just switch back to HH.
    and @Ralph4878, wait until next year when bonvoy take off the reins from point levels for redemptions. spend your points NOW!!!

  30. eponymous coward Guest

    I think there is also an overarching factor you’re not capturing:

    US-centered loyalty programs often won’t work well for leisure travelers because outside the US, you may have problems getting the critical service level/location/price triad right; you may be paying more and taking a suboptimal location just to stay “loyal”.

    I just spent six weeks in Europe. Out of those six weeks, I could be in a Hilton/Marriott/Hyatt/IHG option maybe… half to two thirds of...

    I think there is also an overarching factor you’re not capturing:

    US-centered loyalty programs often won’t work well for leisure travelers because outside the US, you may have problems getting the critical service level/location/price triad right; you may be paying more and taking a suboptimal location just to stay “loyal”.

    I just spent six weeks in Europe. Out of those six weeks, I could be in a Hilton/Marriott/Hyatt/IHG option maybe… half to two thirds of my time? If that? And even then I am paying “US chain hotel tax” sometimes?

    Want a Hyatt in Helsinki or Marseilles? No can do. Hilton in Leipzig? Bzzzzt. Marriott in Inverness? You’re at the airport miles out of town.

    For a lot of my travel as a leisure traveler, I am willing to consider AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts/The Hotel Collection, Capital One Travel and Hotels.com simply because I CAN get the location/service/price trinity right (and get some benefits and rebates) instead of contorting myself into various inadequate options because of “loyalty, OMG, I have to stay on this hamster wheel”.

    Also, leisure travel to get to Hyatt Globalist is… a LOT of leisure travel. Like two months out of the year. Better to get Hilton Diamond, IHG Platinum, Hyatt Discoverist and Marriott Gold on cards that offer benefits that make the card worth keeping and let the “where I stay” chips fall where they may.

    In my case… I ended up with Hotels.com Gold, which isn’t worth much, but…

    1. ben zenize Guest

      i agree that most of europe is difficult but Asia can be good. as SPG Platinum members (pre-bonvoy) we were treated like absolute royalty in China, HK, Thailand, and Cambodia. Crazy upgrades, lounge access, special treats. But SPG is a thing of the past now.

    2. Bob Guest

      Never understood people who only go on vacation to places where there is a Hyatt (or their preferred chain)

      You're missing out on so much of the world...

  31. Russ Member

    I think another thing - while Hilton/Bonvoy are partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards & American Express Membership Rewards, the best value in redemption is earning Chase Ultimate Rewards and transferring them to World of Hyatt. You can transfer to Marriott or Hilton from said programs, but in comparison “you’ll get nothing and you’ll like it”

    1. Art_Czar Member

      Couldn't agree more. Converting transferable UR points to Hyatt yields tremendous value in comparison to similar transfers towards Marriott, Hilton or IHG.

  32. harry hv Guest

    Leisure travellers are not interested in saving $700/night at Bora Bora (and only paying $1,000) they want to know how to get FREE nights at normal properties

    1. Bob Guest

      None. Well maybe booking.com or hotels.com

      Buy the rooms you want at the hotels you want. You dont need status for free breakfast at a chain hotel. Just book a non-chain that comes with a superior breakfast anyway.

      Hyatt is useless for anyone wanting to go outside main tourist centers.
      There are far better true 5*hotels than a Hyatt everywhere.

    2. Robert D Guest

      I thought they were doing away with the 10% return and joining the new/upcoming Expedia loyalty program? I think Expedia is merging all of their brands into one program, so that 10% will go away. Sad.

  33. Ralph4878 Guest

    Another HUGE con of Bonvoy: redemptions are dynamically priced and resort fees are not waived...

    1. ben zenize Guest

      you ain't seen nuttin' yet. just wait until next year when they remove the points ceilings. it will be a bloodbath.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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eponymous coward Guest

Sigh. No. I think the benefits are legitimately strong. Stronger than HiltonDiamond (though I agree with a lot of your points on Hilton and Hyatt). But watching you be disputatious about Hilton and Hyatt for the 88574th time in these threads is boring and wearying and I have no desire to pound sand into that rathole of an argument. Simply put, I think leisure travelers have more opportunity to earn Chase UR than WoH via credit card spend, or to supplement what they earn. Also, a lot of leisure travelers don’t redeem premium cabins TATL/TPAC, a Hyatt redemption via Chase UR can offer good value. I’ve regularly redeemed on Hyatt for 2-3 cpm. It’s not your year end extravaganzas but it’s stuff that is much closer to normal “leisure travel”, like Hyatt redemptions in Phoenix during baseball spring training. If you’re getting 5x on groceries one quarter on your Freedom Flex and redeeming as Hyatt points on a 2-3 cent per point redemption that’s a 10-15% return on your grocery spend. This is how a lot of leisure travel happens, stuff like that.

2
Mark F. Guest

My leisure travel is travel out of pocket. I have modest means as I have a modest income. Since airline credit cards are not a good way to get free air travel, I have found more value with spending the money on the air travel and saving the money on the hotel stays. So the ability to get free nights at a decent hotel is my top priority. I would rather take a free king room than pay for a $200/night room that gets upgraded to a suite. (Now, give me a free king room and a suite upgrade and its a double yay!) I have found that the Hilton group serves my needs best for my travel and stay. I do a lot of road trips and getting a (normally $150 a night) room using points in a limited stay hotel is a good thing for me. I have the Hilton Amex that gives me gold, but I have earned Diamond through stays. I don't care about 'elite recognition' as much as I care that the Diamond level bonuses combined with the credit card bonuses on stays catapults me to a free night very quickly. I also get a free night if I hit a spending number on my card. You didn't mention the free fifth night benefit when you use points to stay 4 nights. I have taken advantage of that several times. I put all my expenses on my Hilton Amex card. It really adds up (and I don't spend a lot of money). So far this year I have stayed 13 nights using points. 5 at the Edinburgh Hilton (fifth night free). 3 at the Hilton Garden Dublin, 2 at the Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal, 2 at the Hilton Salt Lake City, and one night at a Hampton in Syracuse NY. The points really add up. I also stayed at some independent hotels. (about 11 nights so far this year) But I pay for them with the Amex Hilton card, so I am still earning some points. Hilton works best for my travel pattern and budget

2
Zach B Guest

"Of course, you'd say that. Like everyone else, you'll just regurgitate what self-anointed "travel gurus" claim based on nothing more than made-up, self-serving, often bogus, standards." I mean you're basically doing the same thing you bash against. Self Anointing yourself as the "travel guru" of Hilton Honors. It's fine if you like Hilton Honors but everyone is welcome to having an opinion even if you disagree with it.

2
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