This is one of the questions that I get asked often. How should you start with the hotel loyalty program and which one to choose?
Here’s what you should consider:
1. Where does your travel take you? You shouldn’t choose a program that doesn’t have properties in cities/countries, where you need to go.
2. How much money do you normally pay for your accommodations? Chain hotels tend to be more on the medium/high end than non-chain ones.
3. What are you looking for return? Do you prefer collecting free nights or do you prefer on property benefits. Some programs are better at giving you complimentary nights faster than others, but are lacking on the benefits that you receive at the property level.
4. If you travel for business, do you have preferred rates with certain hotels and are you always required to choose certain hotel(s) in any given city? Some corporate travelers are bound to only certain hotels or the corporate travel portal selection is very limited.
Here’s three programs that I would concentrate on in no particular order:
1. Marriott Rewards
2. Hilton HHonors
3. IHG Rewards Club (still known as Priority Club
It is easy to get started with Marriott Rewards, as you can take advantage of Taste of Gold or Taste of Platinum programs (read more here). You get the status immediately and to keep it you need only 6 or 9 stays within the month you sign up + the following three months.
Marriott always has promos for free night certificates after two stays that you can sign up for. If you use those certs wisely and your promotion qualifying stays are one night long, the free nights easily can pay for the qualifying nights. You can read more about the current Marriott promo here.
Marriott has nice mix of properties around the world and generally the status recognition is good, although sometimes lacking in North America.
You can read my article about the Pros and Cons of Marriott Rewards here.
With Hilton you won’t get the status bump up front, but there is a fast track offer for Hilton HHonors Gold status after just four stays within 90 days. You can read more about this here. Hilton Gold is very worthwhile status, as you get most of the same benefits as Diamond member.
Hilton has plethora of promotions all the time and you can earn both miles and HHonors points for all of your stays.
They have quite good worldwide coverage.
You can read my article about the Pros and Cons of Hilton HHonors here.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club is currently revamping their program, but they have been very good in the past at throwing lots of points at you due to number of promotions that they have had.
You can get IHG Rewards Club Platinum status easily by first applying for Le Club Accorhotels Platinum (read more here) and then having them (IHG Rewards Club) to match it to their Platinum.
InterContinental Hotels Group has more mid-scale properties compared to Hilton or Marriott, so this is good option if you are more value conscious.
You can read my article about the Pros and Cons of IHG Rewards Club here.
So, here are my three choices for you to start with the hotel loyalty programs. There are certainly other programs as well, but with these you can have accelerate start with the status.