(NerdWallet) – Navigating hotel rewards programs can be a daunting task. From point-earning promotions to elite status upgrades and thousands of other factors, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Yet, for most travelers, it all boils down to two simple variables:
- How many points you earn with a hotel loyalty program for every dollar spent.
- How much these points are worth.
That is, if you earn one point per dollar spent at a hotel, and each point is worth one cent, you’re earning one cent per dollar (1%) in rewards. Boiling it down to this single number lets us directly compare hotel rewards programs to one another and determine which ones offer the best — and worst — value.
Don’t fret if this is starting to feel like a stress-dream math problem. Our team at NerdWallet crunched the numbers to identify which hotel loyalty programs actually offer the best bang for your travel buck.
We collected and compared hundreds of real-world room rates to determine the value of each hotel brand’s rewards points, then calculated the rewards rate (that is to say, the rate of rewards you earn per dollar spent) for each program. This rate can help you determine the best hotel rewards programs. It also gave us a new way to think about which hotel provides the best loyalty program in 2022.
Using data to determine these rankings means that we never know how they are going to shake out until the final spreadsheet is tabulated. That means the final results are as much a surprise to us as they are to anyone.
What’s going on here? Basically, we’re saying that if you spend $100 at a Radisson hotel, you will earn roughly $12 back in rewards points. That’s pretty good, assuming you actually use the points. On the other end, if you spend $100 at a Hilton hotel, we estimate that you will get about $5 worth of rewards in return.
Of course, there are other important factors to consider when choosing a hotel and its rewards program, such as elite status perks and the quality of the hotels. But our rewards rate gives a simple snapshot of which hotel brands are actually offering good value on their core rewards product: points.
A closer look at the most valuable program
Why did Radisson Rewards do so well this year? A few reasons. Radisson offers a whopping 20 points per dollar spent at most U.S. properties, far more than any competitor. In the past, Radisson’s generous point-doling was counterbalanced by low point values, but this value bounced up this year, from 0.3 cent per point in 2020 to 0.6 cent per point in 2021.
This is far from a stellar value per point in its own right compared with, for example, World of Hyatt’s 1.9 cents per point value.
Yet the whole point of this analysis isn’t which hotel program offers the highest value currency, but which offers the best combination of high-value currency and generous awarding of that currency.
One important note: Radisson Rewards recently split its program between its hotels in the Americas and elsewhere around the globe. This analysis applies to its Americas program only.
Hotel point values
The rankings above apply to earning and using points in the traditional way — on hotel spending. But what if you’re considering a points promotion or a credit card offer that involves a lump sum of points? For example, choosing between a promotion that earns 100,000 Hyatt points or 100,000 Marriott points.
Our regularly updated point and mile valuations show how the raw value of these currencies vary.
|Hotel program||Point value|
|Best Western Rewards||0.7 cent.|
|IHG Rewards||0.8 cent.|
|Hilton Honors||0.5 cent.|
|World of Hyatt||1.9 cents.|
|Marriott Bonvoy||0.7 cent.|
|Radisson Rewards||0.6 cent.|
|Wyndham Rewards||0.9 cent.|
The values of hotel points differ significantly, which means you should pay close attention to the real value of any promotion by multiplying the above cent-per-point values by however many you’re expecting to earn.
This is just like any currency; $150,000 is very different from £150,000. And earning Hyatt points is far more valuable than earning the same number of Marriott points.
This can all be a lot to keep track of, especially if you’re new to the points and miles hobby. Here’s the gist:
- Radisson Rewards Americas offers the most valuable hotel rewards program in terms of how much value you can earn per dollar spent with the brand.
- World of Hyatt offers both the most valuable points and the second-most valuable rewards rate.
- Always convert promotional point bonuses to real dollars, so you can compare them to one another.
These rewards values aren’t the only thing to consider when choosing a hotel loyalty program, but they’re a good start. The numbers show that programs like Radisson and Hyatt are willing to put their money — or at least their points — where their mouths are.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
- Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card