Why Marriott Is Dead To Me Along With Most Hotel Programs

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Ranking Hotel Programs

Ranking Hotel Programs For Miles & Points Hobbyists

Over the holidays a hotel program debate was kicked off by Gary at View From the Wing. He essentially stated that road warriors would be crazy to jump ship to Hilton from Marriott.  Then Lucky at One Mile at a Time responded with his reasons why Hilton is a viable option and Nick from Frequent Miler also chimed in. Now I often don’t agree with Gary, especially on Delta Airlines, but I don’t have a dog in this race. That is because I don’t pay cash for travel unless I have to and I don’t have a company paying for my stays.

I have already kicked Marriott to the curb along with most other hotel programs.  Hilton is one of the two programs, along with Hyatt, that I maintain has value for people like me, the ones who refuse to pay cash.  So I guess you could say I disagree with Gary but we are not really having the same conversation. The reason I say Hyatt and Hilton are the only options is because they are the only programs that allow valuable point accrual outside of paid stays.

What Do I Mean

This game is constantly changing, usually for the worse, and there have been some substantial changes this year.  Chase has installed 5/24 across all cards, Marriott and SPG finally merged, and Amex basically followed Chase’s rules with their Marriott cards. This has closed the door to many programs, outside of paid stays.

I don’t know about you but I got into this hobby to travel for pennies on the dollar so I don’t care about paid stays.  If I wanted to pay for my hotel stays I would get a 2% cashback card, pay cash for my hotel, and call it a day.

Let’s take a look how ranking hotel programs for hobbyists turned out:

The Bad

Ranking Hotel Programs

IHG

With Chase introducing 5/24 across all cards most people in the hobby can no longer get the Chase IHG credit card.  That makes it impossible to get an infusion of points every 24 months.  And since the credit card earning rates are below pedestrian, $0.006 per dollar on non bonus spend, there is no way to meaningfully rack up points outside of paid stays. The annual free night on the card was recently devalued as well.

Transfers are not an option since Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1 to 1 ratio. You would be better off turning the UR points into cash and paying for the room. One potential way to rack up points is via their Accelerate promos but good offers have become few and far between.  Even Points Breaks have become harder to use over the years.

Best Western

It’s Best Western – enough said!

Ranking Hotel Programs

Marriott

Marriott is slightly better than IHG since most of the Marriott cards, and there are a lot of them, earn 2 points per dollar on everyday spend. That equates to around 1.6% back (valuing their points at around $0.008 each). There are no meaningful bonus spend categories outside of paid hotel stays.  You would be better off using a 2% back card for everyday spend. If the American Express cards would have continued earning 3 points per dollar this program would still be an option.

Marriott caps the free nights at lower tiers than most do and it eliminates using the certificates in most big cities.  They offer a ton of credit cards but they all fall under Chase level rules, even the Amex cards. Transfers are out as well since Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1 to 1 ratio. You would once again be better off turning those points into cash and paying for the stay. Marriott died when the SPG card’s earning rates where cut by a third.

The Decent

Ranking Hotel Programs

Wyndham

Wyndham is a viable choice for some because their awards are flat rated at 15,000 points, although there have been rumblings of change.  There are not a ton of great Wyndham properties but there are a few out there.  Some grandfathered Wyndham credit card holders can earn 2 points per dollar making an award stay only $7,500 in spend away.  They run decent promos as well, when they actually honor them.  Their lack of quality hotels and their dishonest nature leave them as nothing more than an occasional option for very specific locations.

Ranking Hotel Programs
View from our balcony at the Radisson in Melbourne, Florida.

Radisson Rewards  

Radisson Rewards (old Club Carlson) died for me, and many others, when they eliminated the BOGO award nights.  That was the best value in the biz at the time. The shock of that loss probably made us jump ship from the program quicker than we should have.  The credit card earns 5 points per dollar on everyday spend which is pretty great.  My problem with the program is the lack of good domestic hotels.  Once you start talking about Europe and other international destinations that becomes less of a problem though. Club Carlson is probably the best option not on the best list.  Especially if you travel internationally often.

The Best

Ranking Hotel Programs
Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Hyatt

The World of Hyatt credit card also got the Chase 5/24 hammer dropped on it. That cut out a way to get an influx of Hyatt points every 24 months.  Many people were able to pick up the new card before the rules were added, or can upgrade their old card to the new version.  The World of Hyatt version offers 1 point per dollar netting you 1.8% back on all spend.  Even though that falls just shy of a 2% cashback card you can also earn elite night credits and a free night via spend (after $15,000). Those perks increase the rate of return on everyday spend to above 2%. There are also a few decent bonus categories outside of paid stays like restaurants and gym memberships.

Transfer partners are a viable option as well even though Chase transfers at 1 to 1 ratio, like IHG and Marriott. Since World of Hyatt points are so valuable you still get a return of 1.8%.  That greatly dwarfs the value Marriott and IHG offers via transfers.  Throw in the fact that many people are able to easily earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points and you have a way to rack up massive amounts of Hyatt points.

Ranking Hotel Programs

Hilton

Last, but far from least, you have Hilton.  Hilton, much like Marriott, has a ton of credit cards that American Express can offer you.  Two of them, the Aspire and Hilton Business version, are brand new cards available to everyone this year. These cards have a once per lifetime language but with these new additions there are options still left on the table for most people. American Express also loves to send out upgrade and spending offers for these cards.  It is a good reason to always keep at least one Amex Hilton card in your lineup, even if it is the fee free one.  Between spending offers and upgrade offers I have been able to amass around 400,000 Hilton points in the past 3 years.  That doesn’t include any welcome offers.

Spending on the Hilton cards is also superior to other programs.  You only earn 3 points per dollar on non bonus spend worth around 1.5% back.  But that doesn’t include the free night you can earn with the Ascend card after $15,000 in spend which pushes you over 2% on everyday purchases.  These free nights, via spend or on your cardmember anniversary, also do not have category caps.  They are restricted to weekends but that is when most people travel for pleasure.  On top of all of this the Hilton cards actually have meaningful bonus categories.  You can earn up to 6X on gas and groceries (3%), and up to 7X on restaurants, flights, and car rentals (3.5%).  Those check off a lot of the major boxes.

Transfer options are not great but they are occasionally possible with American Express Membership Rewards.  The normal transfer rate is 2 Hilton Honors points for 1 MR point.  That offers a return of 1 cent per MR point which is not transfer worthy.  Amex has been running increased targeted offers where you get 3 to 1 transfers and a return of 1.5%. That makes it a viable transfer option when promotions are running.

Conclusion

I believe that there are only 2 or 3 viable hotel programs for people who like to avoid cash stays. Hilton may be the best all around hotel program out there when you take everything into account. When you look at their footprint, the ease to acquire meaningful status, the ability to easily obtain points etc. they rank at or near the top.

Hyatt is usually my first choice because of their great low tier properties and affordable award nights via UR transfers. Their small footprint doesn’t allow me to make them my only option though.

Marriott is a nonstarter for me, they died with the death of SPG points. Unless you have paid work stays I don’t understand why you would consider them going forward.

 


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69 COMMENTS

  1. Your analysis is pretty much along the lines of mine. I actually kept my Radisson card but honestly even in Europe there isn’t a lot of value. I have a balance mostly accumulated from points earned from AF fees that I have tried to burn up a number of times. I did finally managed to get a cash + point award in Scandinavia that got me .054 cents per point. Nice but a real outlier in my experience.

    • Yeah their portfolio is lacking for sure. I know some people make them a primary. I may look into them as a third option now that Marriott and IHG are dead to me. Wyndham’s shadiness makes it so I would never go with them. I just don’t know if I would be willing to put in the energy to amass points with Radisson outside of welcome offers and annual fee bonuses much like you. Something I need to consider though since I am down to two options right now and I like having a third mixed in there.

  2. I have a Hilton and a Marriott card — have a very difficult time justifying the Marriott card at this point. Actually looking for thoughts on doing a product change to another card with Chase. Any thoughts?

    • I don’t think Chase will let you PC co-branded cards to a card outside the brand family. Some people hold them for the annual night credit and look at it as a way to get a discounted room. I don’t think their certs are as valuable as other cards so I personally wouldn’t keep it for that.

  3. Went to use my Hyatt points down in Aruba in January – said they are not taking points during that period at that hotel. I am staying at the Marriott a few steps down the beach instead. At the Marriott I used 4 nights worth of points which is 200k (get 5th night free) and also paid 200/night to get upgraded to ocean front. it would have cost $6000 had I booked the 5 nights ocean front on their website. I love the Hyatt Aruba – but this set them big time in my booking decisions. And this isn’t the first time at that hotel – I think they block out at least a good portion of dec and jan which is no good

    • There are a few Hyatt hotels that play games with award nights which is a shame. Sometimes the Hyatt twitter team can help out or if you have status and call in but it shouldn’t be that way. They get paid a good rate if the hotel is full anyway so I am not sure why they care.

    • Hyatt says there are no blackout dates on awards but apparently won’t stop their hotels from gaming anyhow. The Grand Hyatt Athens, for example, has been showing no points availability in 2019. I contacted Hyatt and they were like *shrug*.

      • I think they label some rooms above a standard room – like King with a view to get out from underneath it.

  4. Didn’t know that. Thanks for the input. It’s a huge credit limit so I don’t want to just get rid of it, but have zero loyalty to Marriott at this point.

  5. Yeah, I still have and use my Radisson biz card, where the annual fee is only $49, because the anniversary points are worth the fee, and there are definitely redemptions that make regular spend worthwhile. My favorite was getting the Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin for 50,000 points when the paid rate was just over $500 per night.

    I also keep and use a grandfathered Wyndham card, for the reasons you mention (plus mine gets 15k anniversary bonus). Those points were a lifesaver this summer when I needed three rooms in Boston and everything was extremely expensive, and the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill was over $300 per night.

    Hilton and Hyatt are no-brainers. But I actually think that keeping one SPG/Marriott card and putting some spend on it is a good idea, because there are still some hugely outsized point values with award nights. I just used 17,500 Marriott points per room per night for two rooms for two nights at the Townplace Suites in Carlsbad, NM for MLK weekend, when the paid rate per room is $333 per night. The devaluation of the SPG cards means that they aren’t good for airline transfers, as a rule, but there’s still value to the points — you just have to be more judicious.

  6. We don’t use Radisson that often, but there are occasional times when it works well. We keep four cards between the two of us, and view it as prepaying for hotels. From that standpoint, we received great value in Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Helsinki this summer.

  7. Best Western PREMIER COLLECTION hotels offer really nice options. Most are brand new and/or resorts. They are the top of the BW line, but there are now about 10 different BW brands which about 1/3 are interesting to check out. Hotel Aria in Miami, for instance, is a beautiful property. BW Lahaina right on the harbor in Maui is a quaint, and extremely convenient, property.

    Best is you only need 10,000 points to redeem for a night, EVER! And points don’t ever expire. Racking up a lot of points cheaply during the spring Daily Getaways has been a great move for me for 1-night only stays, usually last minute where there is no value to be had with Marriott or Hilton but I want something a little more than an expensive Hampton Inn with points or cash (since last minute).

    You can call with your Diamond status (thru your Hilton Aspire), and BW will auto upgrade you to their top-tier status so that suite upgrades are pretty much a given. Check into some of their properties costing $200+/night. Considering the value of BW Rewards are worth around .007, $70 is a cheap price to pay for their top-tier properties.

  8. I’m certainly not keeping any of my SPG cards beyond the first year. I don’t value the free night up to 35k as worth the $95 annual fee specially if I have to pay resort/destination fee. Hilton gets a lot of negative reviews but for something you don’t have to work hard for, their mid-tier status is probably the best. I stay 30-50 nights in hotels a year depending on how many points I have to redeem for a stay because I rarely ever want to pay actual $ for a stay, and I’ve gotten better value at Hilton rewards stay as a gold than on paid stay with other programs.

  9. Would really like to know where you are receiving good redemptions from Hilton? I see value in high end properties and the earn rate from Hilton is strong, but the redemptions aren’t even close to Marriott. I always get 1.5x to 3x value with Marriott. I want to like Hilton but even 400k points won’t take me far.

    • I guess it depends on what properties you are looking at and if they have standard awards left. I usually end up with around 1/2 a cent a piece in value for Hilton. More than that with 20K and under Hampton Inn properties that are in the smaller US towns etc.

      I am booking a trip for my wife to San Juan and the El San Juan a Curio Collection Hotel which is one of the nicer ones on the island is going for $1000 for 2 nights or 70K a night. That brings in over .7 cents per points. You could stay there 5 nights for 280,000 points with the 5th night free.

  10. Mark,
    I agree with you. While I have status with four chains, I’m probably booking at least 75% of my stays with one-off, independent hotels and generally saving a bundle doing it. I source reviews from many places to help me with my picks and I generally end up with some pretty nice stays. Sure, I don’t get many of the elaborate morning buffets and lounge upgrades for an extra $75-$150, but with all the money saved I can still have a very nice breakfast and a damn good evening on the town, booze included. We won’t mention the absence of resort fees to boot.

    • I think a lot of people are going that way or the Airbnb route. The buffets are nice but you can usually get a comparable breakfast for around $8-10 near the hotel. People like to think they are saving $30 by eating the “free” buffet though 🙂

  11. You really think the Marriott annual night isn’t worth it, even at a value up to 35,000 points? That can get you a night at couple Ritz Carlton properties, and plenty of great other properties internationally.

    As far as best value on spend, Hyatt will always win with their very reasonable award chart and ability to earn a lot of points quickly. Shooting for the Globalist stars this year. Hoping reselling will get me the elite nights I need on the WoH visa.

    • They are locking you in to prepay and stay at one of their hotels with an expiration date. If you use it then you will most likely get more value then you paid. But you could have used points for that same stay and saved the $95. I don’t like prepaying for things that have an expiration date. I think a lot of people end up using them at the end of the year for something they don’t really need to use them on or let them expire too often.

      A lot depends on your earning and burning status though. If you are tight on points then the annual nights are a good way to slow your burn rate at a reduced cash level.

      • I think the free nights are worth it but I need to track them on a spreadsheet. I have the Marriott card and two SPG cards, so three nights/year for $285 and the free nights are scattered throughout the year. Slip up and you’ve just lost $95; thus the spreadsheet. I’m retired, so need something to keep myself busy 🙂

      • When I first got into the miles and points game it seemed like the hyatt CC was all of the rage, mostly because of the 2 free nights anywhere in the world. I was able to use it to get 2 nights at the Paris Vendome, but I digress. I remember reading on million mile secrets (site has gone really downhill) that even though the 2 free nights were a one time deal, the author kept the card because the annual free night was worth more than the annual fee. Made sense to me. Kind of the same with the SPG card. Obviously you have to use the night within a year, but I stayed at a jw marriott ($250 rate) for free last weekend with my free night. Not saying I will keep the spg card but I can see how it makes sense.

  12. Very useful information in this article, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. I am wondering where “Choice Hotels” would slot into your thinking. I have been told by friends who frequently travel internationally, that the properties in Europe are often satisfying. I use Choice domestically from time to time because they are everywhere and often offer good value with “cash & points offerings.

    • I honestly don’t have a ton of experience with Choice but I know they have some sweet spots for sure (especially near the Atlantis). I have never really dove into their program because I don’t like the fact that they lock out award redemptions until close to the travel date (30 days I believe without a credit card). I like to have my plans finalized before then most of the time.

  13. You are right about lack of N.A. options, but I have found good redemptions for very nice Radisson Blu properties in Europe and Asia.

    • I agree John – Radisson Blu properties look awesome. I wish there were more in N.A. I have been meaning to check out the one in Chicago.

  14. You are right about lack of N.A. options, but I have found good redemptions for very nice Radisson Blu properties in Europe and Asia.

  15. Ya, the self inflicted destruction of the value proposition at Marriott is one that I think will get this entire management team fired within the next 5 years. They need to feel the pain of their mistakes first, and that won’t happen until 2020 when it will become more obvious that folks have worked down their point balances, gotten off of the status treadmill and redirected their credit card spending. I will never understand the decision to turn their cards into free night coupons vs. rewarding spending through a competitive earning rate. In that one decision, they gave sock drawer cardholders a $200 hotel stay by taking it away from the cardholders spending six figures a year on their cards who used to earn 3 points per dollar, and now get 2. It’s all self inflicted.

  16. You should note that the Radisson CC gives you a free night for $10000 spend, up to 3x annually. Wife and I have it, and 6 nights in a city can be pretty valuable.

    That is pretty much the only reason I look at Radisson.

    And if you are interested in free stays (as am I), Choice’s constant “stay twice, get 8000 points” is often a great deal

    • I wish the Radisson free night certs were not limited to the US though (at least I believe that is the case). Many of their best properties are overseas which limits the value a little there. But it is awesome that they allow you to earn it 3X each. I wasn’t aware of that.

  17. I am in the same boat and agree with most of this analysis. However there are a couple of reasons I’m not going all in with Hilton:

    1) While points earning has worsened, cash back cards have actually gotten better! Bank of America is offering 2.625% on general spending and twice that in certain categories.
    2) Upgrading with points- With a family you want to know in advance that you got the upgrade, not just hope and pray. With Hilton, using points for an upgraded room never seems worthwhile. Unlike Marriott, they do NOT provide the fifth night free for upgraded rooms. On top of that, the redemption values are awful. Time and time again I see a cash rate for an upgraded room that is marginally more than the basic room but for point redemptions they are asking double or more.
    3) I realize this is subjective but Over the years I have found Starwood and Marriott properties that I really love. The Hiltons in these areas seem subpar. The ability to continue to stay at these Marriotts as well as Airbnb, independent hotels, or any other chain using s single currency (US$) is compelling!

    • Hilton has it’s downsides for sure. I use them mostly because of the ease to accrue their points more so because I value their program etc. It is hard to move on from a brand that you have a comfort level with and properties you love. The cashback option is a very valid one and may be the way to go going forward with the absence of any meaningful way to rack up Marriott points.

  18. What cards would you get for the cash back… I am not too savvy on all of this but have the Chase Sapphire, The Hilton, UA, Marriott, Delta, etc. among others… I found that I could not use the Chase points on Southwest, to my dismay, and also that I just booked a Hilton but it was $7 more than if I booked directly through Hilton and I do NOT get any Hilton points because I booked through a third party. So I am thinking cash back is a better way to go… Could you please suggest some cards for me – credit score always around 822 – don’t know how it could be higher – unless we had a mortgage or loans which we don’t and haven’t had for 40 plus years. (Do have the costco card – that is the only money back one.)

    • Laura you should be able to transfer your Chase Sapphire points to Southwest Airlines and book the flights with Rapid Rewards points. That usually offers a better value then booking them through the UR portal.

      You do not earn points when booking hotels through the travel portal but you get the 25% increase in point value with the Preferred or 50% with the Reserve.

      I would say the Alliant cash back card is a great one https://www.alliantcreditunion.org/bank/visa-signature-card. You get 3% cash back the first year and 2.5% back every year after that.

  19. So I am just curious, you are complaining because you don’t get everything for free? do you know why loyalty programs devaluate? because people abused it. of course it’s nice to get free nights but you have to work for it (spend money up front). I mean otherwise, you could work for free for your boss as well. why would you need money? to pay bills? not necessary or? because everything should be for free.

    • Peter, programs sell points to banks for billions of dollars. The banks give the points to customers to spend money on their cards. Marriott’s partnerships are less lucrative than Hilton or Hyatt’s partnerships. Why would I pay more for the same thing?

      If you value a corporation enough to give them your money just because then go for it…more power to ya!

  20. I disagree about Radisson. While not the best hotels in the world. They give you annual points or nights plus you can earn bonus points for spend thresholds each year. While not a major focus for me because of the limited footprint (not unlike Hyatt) it is fairly easy to build up points with Radisson.

    • They are a program I am considering getting into as a third option. I used to rotate between Marriott and IHG swapping off between bonuses etc. but since they are no longer options and I don’t trust Wyndham I think they will be my choice.

  21. Interesting first pick for Bad is IHG. IC Royal Ambassador is the best top hotel status by far. I guess I should be glad that it is universally ignored by bloggers.

    • Gene this article wasn’t about status it was about being able to manufacture award nights via transfer partners and credit cards.

      It is a good program if you want to limit yourself to 180 IC hotels in the entire world. It really wouldn’t work with my travel patterns but there is value there for sure.

  22. I’m an IHG Plat via the Chase IHG Premier card. Status doesn’t mean much. However, for the annual free night and fourth night free, I’ll generally stay in what appears to be a fairly new Holiday Inn when the valuation is over .06 cents. Most of them are pretty nice and serve a decent breakfast. Because I have a walking disability, I generally can get a disability accessible room. They are much bigger, have walk-in showers, no tubs (I hate tubs) and appear less used and worn. Very comfortable. The one in Lake Powell is very nice. The redemption there was pretty good, 40,000 points during the high season when rates were over $300. Homewood Suites are fairly nice IMO. I love I-Cs but most of them have pretty poor redemption rates.

  23. I have been a long time IHG fan and have gotten tremendous value from the program. I use points, points and cash, and the free annual nights at top IC hotels. In the past few years I have gotten tons of IHG points from their special accelerate programs with minimal effort. I also pay for some nights too. I have been very happy with IHG for the past 10 years. I have IHG Spire status but think it is worth very little. I have also been an IC Ambassador in the past several years until they really devalued the benefits to the point where I think it is basically worthless. I will continue to stay at IHG properties because of their huge footprint at the places I often go to, but I am attempting to send as much of my business to Hilton as possible.

    I am now a big Hilton fan because their credit card and their Gold/Diamond status that is so vastly better than IHG. Because I was able to do it right, through multiple sign up bonuses I have been able to get free suite upgrades on multiple stays for a week at a time, including free breakfast and lounge access – and all of this without ever having paid for a single night at a Hilton. It just blows IHG away. Unfortunately, I won’t be just staying at Hiltons all the time because some of my favorite hotels in the world are Intercontinentals.

    I canceled my SPG card because trying to find a hotel to use the annual free night that works with my travel plans each year is too much of a hassle, especially since I am focusing on IHG and Hilton. Hyatt due to its small footprint has mostly been a bust for me due to their severe limitations on their free night award. I’m not going to stay someplace just because it is “free”. I’ve already had the free night expire several times because I was not able to find an acceptable hotel. Now that Hyatt has torpedoed their points and cash, there is even less reason for me to keep the card.

    By the way, I have been able to get free upgrades (some to suites) at many international top five star hotels on paid nights even though I had NO status with those hotels.

    • Thanks for the comment Jason. I wish I got better accelerate promos I used to be able to rack up points after 1 or 2 stays but I haven’t had anything good in a few years.

      There is a lot of value to be had in the Hilton ecosystem for sure. And I hear you on the favorite hotels thing…even when you are loyal to a certain brand or brands there are always going to be outliers that you need to account for. I usually book those hotels via the ThankYou portal or pay cash with a travel eraser card like the Venture or Arrival Plus.

  24. Excellent post! Hyatt is my go-to hotel currency and Hilton also presents good value if you do it right. I disagree with some things at least for me and my business (of course all business vary so of course, we may agree to disagree on some things).

    1. Best Western – while I don’t have this one yet, it’s in my sights. The past few years they have ran a promo in North America where you can get any hotel for 10k points for a few months in the Winter. I think recurring promos like that one make the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® a keeper card as long as you can meet the 5k spending requirement for the 20k bonus points on a recurring basis. Even if you disregard the initial signup bonus, the recurring bonus, if you stop at $5k in spend after meeting it, means 30k points per year, and 30k points per year, for a card with a $59 annual fee, and some paid rates going above $400 a night with semi-guaranteed availability for elites, especially when combined with their business program and used by the business owner for diamond status, I like it, at least in theory prior to trying it out.

    2. Marriott – it’s not dead to me yet even though I don’t think it’s very good either. The downgrade of the SPG card was a huge devaluation, and the removal of free breakfast with gold status from Amex Platinum was disappointing, but the SPG business card still offers some decent value on bonus categories with no caps. I’m not too thrilled about it when the bonus categories are what they are, but I haven’t cancelled my card yet & it’s still good for a business card that includes gas and restaurants even though personal cards have more lucrative bonus categories for those. I’m not exactly jumping for joy over the bonus categories in light of alternative options, but for those where business authorized users are meeting some of the points spend as in my case, also where employees don’t want to juggle more than one card, don’t want a card impacting their personal credit, and spend a large percentage on gas & restaurants, it’s better than most if not all alternatives.

    I disagree with you saying that Wyndham is better for credit card purposes than Marriott, IHG (my wife has the old version with the low annual fee which I recommended she get right before the increased annual fee), and Best Western
    . Wyndham – while it’s on my list of cards to get, I’m not going to be getting it any time soon because of
    a. their fixed 4 year points expiration policy
    b. the low number of properties where it would make sense to use toward
    c. low earning rate on bonus spend
    d. great alternatives for the bonus categories in other cards (ie utilities with 5% cashback with the US Bank Cash+)
    e. lack of annual free night (and only getting a portion of one on the annual fee cc variety)
    f. the low availability of those properties where it makes sense to use on.

    I just applied for the business version of Radisson rewards. I figure that when value per point is half a cent or more, it’s worthwhile to consider using unless other options present better value given their earning rates & redemption value in a relatively simple system I’ve developed based on the two.

    I think Hilton & Hyatt do present the best value.

    I do not have any Hilton cards, but transferred around 200k Amex Membership Rewards to Hilton during the current 50% promo, which I think presents a better way to get points than many of the Hilton cards themselves (even though the signup bonuses & diamond status are tempting) when you have the right Membership Rewards cards such as the Open Blue Plus card (x2) for general spend and bonus spend with the business (x2) and personal gold cards, & the business & personal platinum, all of which either my dad or I have.

    Hyatt presents incredible value
    a. 1:1 transfer ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards with a plethora of options for earning them
    b. excellent value of points
    c. ability to get Globalist via CC spend while also earning plenty of other perks doing it while getting value that’s not nearly as bad as most similar cards from the base spend
    d. guest of honor – does any other program offer status to someone other than the elite member when the elite member is nowhere around?

    While not on the top of my list, but still in my sights to get in the future, Choice Hotels also presents some decent value, especially for those that have both the choice credit card spending $10k on it annually and the Amtrak credit card with the annual fee who are able to meet the spending needed for transferring Amtrak points to Choice at a 1:3 ratio. My dad commonly goes down to Central America in a few cities where 8k Choice points can mean a hotel that would normally be over $100.

    • Adam thanks for the great post!

      I think Best Western has many of the same flaws that you list for Wyndham – as far as not a ton of properties that I want to use rewards at. I personally think Wyndham capping all hotels at 15K (for the time being) is better than occasional 10K promos with Best Western. But I was mainly talking about Wyndham making sense for people who have the old credit card that earns 2 points per dollar on everything and also gets a yearly points bonus with the annual fee. If you have that card then Wyndham makes sense…not so much otherwise. But I still put them above Marriott and IHG because they have cards people can still get and can get them multiple times…although Barclays is cracking down on that too.

      As for your business spend have you considered the Ink Cash card? It earns 2 UR points at restaurants and gas which is a better return vs 4 Marriott points. It also earns 5X on cable and phone lines. If you have a lot of paid stays at Marriott hotels as a part of the business then it wouldn’t make sense from simplicity stand point but if gas and restaurants are the main areas of spend it would increase your net return by a half percent or more and has no annual fee. Just a thought.

      Choice does offer some great value overseas but I hate their award booking policies. I am also looking at Radisson rewards to fill my present Marriott and IHG gap.

      Thanks again for the great comment you gave me some things to think about for sure.

      • Hi Mark,

        I appreciate the reply!
        That’s an excellent point about Wyndham. I agree that if you have the old card with 2x points on general spending and a free night, it’s a solid card to have & probably better than Best Western for many, especially with no guarantee that Best Western will do the 10k promo again next year even though they’ve done it a few times. I don’t have the old card, though I wish I did. I have only gotten into points in the past few years.

        I do have the Ink Cash card and have already maxed out the bonus cap this year. That’s definitely a solid one & worth mentioning, especially when discussing restaurants and gas stations with business spend. Good catch; I hadn’t thought about that with my post. That said, I use pay with points through the Chase Sapphire Reserve for some hotel expenses. It’s not the most valuable way to use Chase points, but with all the travel expenses needed for my family, friends, and business, flexibility is a bigger factor with points with me than with most I would say. When using Chase points for pay with points at a Marriott, I can’t utilize the Marriott gold status I get from the Amex Business Platinum, and don’t get credit for the nights. While in some cases I use pay with points for Marriott still when it makes more sense for me/others, there are other examples which present solid value with Marriott points, such as a >$5k stay I have booked for a few weeks from now at the Ritz Carlton Central Park for 300k Marriott points plus under $50. While I have tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards opportunities to earn points, keeping the one card with Starwood that has some decent bonus categories with authorized users on the card makes sense for me.
        I also have 2 freedom cards and using them this quarter on my Samsung phone via Chase Pay for anywhere that accepted Samsung Pay was excellent. I was surprised I didn’t see the ability to do that in any blogs even though plenty mentioned that Chase Pay was this quarter’s category.

      • Hi Mark,

        With Choice, I know that there is only a small window for booking where you can’t do it very far in advance, but for me, that’s not that big of a deal since I often book within the month of booking anyway. Are there any other big issues that you have with their booking policies? Do you know if Choice status counts toward award stays, for instance? As I shared, I don’t have the Amtrak or Choice cards yet so don’t have first hand experience.

        • I am not sure on if Choice award stays count towards status. Yeah I was talking about them blocking advanced bookings, which they have recently greatly improved, but I still find it to be a foolish policy. I like to have everything lined up far in advance most of the time so it doesn’t mesh well with me even though it probably isn’t really a big deal lol.

  25. Mark

    I know you’ve written about valuations on the past but one thing I really struggle with is my valuation vs actual cost to generate points. So if I’m looking at a hyatt that costs $102 or 12000 points, the cash cost seems like a no brainer. I could make it cheaper booking through the CSR but then lose stay credit and breakfast. However if I value those points at my cost to generate them it costs my $30-$40. Any thoughts on how you handle decisions like these?

    • I don’t come across it too often since I don’t manufacture a ton of points and when I do I do it at a negative or neutral cost via gift card reselling or office store promos etc.

      I would say it depends on everyone’s personal situation. If you have the money to spend on travel then max out the value of your points. If you are more points rich then use the best redemption that is available to you which would be through the UR portal. I would probably use Citi TY points at 1.25 cents per point for that booking since I value those at around that level and they are by far the least valuable transferable currency to me. Or I would look at a comparable Hilton in the area and see if they had a better points rate etc.

      I usually book rooms around the particular point’s value but I have dipped as low as 1.5 cents per point on Hyatt even though I didn’t love doing it. What I do when cash is the obvious choice is use travel eraser cards (like the arrival plus etc) for those stays since I only have a few each year. I usually try to pick up one bonus on a card like that to carry me through the year. That system seems to work for me.

  26. Thanks Mark. Yeah, paying through CSR or TYP would bring down the cost even more to the mid-low twenties but waived taxes, breakfast for two and stay credit seems like a worthwhile trade off to pay a few more points.

    Anyways, I just wanted to thank you for this: “but I got into this hobby to travel for pennies on the dollar”. It made me start thinking about how much time I spend thinking about point values when sometimes 60-70% or more off (depending on the cost to MS) is an easy discount just waiting to be taken. It’s good to approach things in a different way sometimes :).

    • Thanks for the good discussion Gaurav!

      I do tend to look at things differently than the norm on this. If you are able to easily MS points then you should use points every time because you are simply locking in a steep discount every time you use them. And since you can easily replenish them getting max value is not as important. Someone who struggles to accrue points would probably be better off being more picky in their redemptions.

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