The Best Hotel Rewards Programs of 2016
The philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that humans were distinguished from other animal species by “speech, fire, agriculture, writing, tools, and large-scale cooperation.” To this list we can add another defining human trait: a propensity to make lists. People love a good list, preferably one that’s ranked and presented in an easy-to-digest format. Here’s why:
Top 5 Reasons People Like Ranked Lists Presented in an Easy-to-Digest Format
- Lists seem definitive.
- Lists are easy to read.
- Lists are sometimes arranged as a countdown, which reminds people of New Year’s Eve.
- Lists can be used to rank just about everything.
- Lists are fun!
No doubt about it, lists rank pretty highly on the list of things people like. That fact helps explain why every year the editors at US New & World Report spend less time reporting on US and world news, and more time creating lists. Any magazine can report on geopolitics, but only one can definitively answer the question of whether Dartmouth is better than Brown.
US News & World Report ranks things besides colleges. This month, the publication released its annual list of the Best Travel Rewards Programs.
The full list for hotels:
Best Hotel Rewards Programs
- Wyndham Rewards
- Choice Privileges (Tie)
- Marriott Rewards (Tie)
- Best Western Rewards
- La Quinta Returns
- Club Carlson
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Hilton HHonors
- IHG Rewards Club
- Leaders Club
- Starwood Preferred Guest
- Stash Hotel Rewards
- Kimpton Karma Rewards
- Omni Select Guest
- Le Club AccorHotels
- Fairmont President’s Club
- Loews YouFirst
Source: US News & World Report
Travel Loyalty Trends
For the first time since the rankings began in 2013, Marriott Rewards has lost its top spot among hotels. The new #1 is Wyndham Rewards, a program that’s been praised for recent changes making it simpler for guests to earn and redeem points.
The Wyndham Hotel Group is largely comprised of value chains such as Ramada Inn, Microtel, Super 8, Hawthorne Suites, and Days Inn. As reported by Skift, “the ascension of a program like Wyndham Rewards [reflects] a broader trend that’s taking place in the travel loyalty space.”
In the past we’ve written about how the devaluation of frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points have changed the loyalty calculus for travelers. The trend is for hotels and airlines to prioritize customers who spend the most. But some brands like Wyndham are zigging while others zag, choosing to appeal to a wider swath of customers who don’t travel as frequently or spend as much per trip.
Business travelers are exactly who most loyalty programs are designed to appeal to: they travel frequently, aren’t price-sensitive, and value the comfort and convenience of a known brand. If a flight or hotel brand can attract a road warrior with generous rewards, it’s likely the traveler will become a high-value, repeat customer.
However, Rocketrip users don’t fit the typical business travel mold. Because they keep half of what they save their companies on business trips, they spend less ($72 less per hotel night on average). For cost-conscious business travelers, it’s a welcome trend that at least some hotel loyalty programs are letting them earn free stays even without spending huge amounts.