Hotel rewards programs allow you to rack up rewards points and can help you enhance your stay throughout your trip. With factors such as free upgrades, extra amenities and discount bookings, taking advantage of a hotel loyalty program can give you access to all this plus so much more. There is no single best answer to what is the best hotel rewards program, but if you are loyal to a specific hotel brand, their program might be best for you.

Not all hotel rewards programs are created equal, which is why we’ve created this guide to help you navigate the criteria you can look at to evaluate which one is best. To earn rewards as efficiently as possible, you can also nab points towards free perks by using a co-branded credit card.

ALSO READ: CardCruncher’s complete guide to the best hotel rewards credit cards

The best co-branded hotel rewards programs credit cards

What is the best hotel rewards program in 2019?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to determining the best hotel rewards program. There are several factors to consider when evaluating a hotel rewards program:

  • The number of properties you have access to in a program
  • The ability to quickly earn rewards
  • The redemption value of those rewards or points
  • The ability to to earn elite status and other bonuses
  • Your budget, as many hotel rewards programs offer budget-friendly choices as well as luxury accommodations

Ideally, you’ll want to find a loyalty program that offers plenty of locations for destinations you intend to visit and ones that fit your budget. Plus, ones that offer easy ways to earn points, perks and bonuses you’ll use, as well as one where you can earn free stays after reaching a certain number of paid nights.

For example, it may not be worth it to get an upgraded room if you don’t intend on eating at their executive lounge. Or you want to visit China but the cities on your itinerary doesn’t have any properties offered by your loyalty program.

Here are the some of the best loyalty programs, in no particular order, including a short description of what you’ll get:

  • Marriott Bonvoy: Offers more than 40,000 hotels in its network in most major cities in North America, Asia and Europe. Earn points by staying with any of their 30 affiliated brands including Courtyard by Marriott, Westin Hotels & Resorts and Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts. Marriott Bonvoy points can be redeemed for free hotel stays, room upgrades, cruises, TSA PreCheck applications, airport lounge access and more.
  • Wyndham Rewards: Stay at more than 9,000 properties in destinations such as North America, Asia, Mexico, the Carribbean and Europe. Earn points at their brands such as Days Inn, La Quinta and Wyndham Grand plus Caesars properties if you link your Caesars Reward program. Points can be redeemed towards hotel stays, tours and activities, vacation rentals and more.
  • World of Hyatt: There are over 700 properties in major cities in Canada, the U.S., Asia, Mexico and Europe. Earn points at their network of brands including Grand Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Thompson Hotels and Hyatt Regency. Points can be redeemed for free hotel stays and upgrades, car rentals, spa and fitness services, and FIND experiences.
  • IHG Rewards Club: Stay in over 5,600 properties including locations such as Chicago, London and Shanghai. Earn points with stays at hotels in their network, including InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Kimpton properties. Points can be redeemed for things like hotel stays and reward flights.
  • Club L’Accor: Offers over 5,000 properties in major cities throughout Europe and limited locations in the U.S. Earn points for staying in brands such as ibis budget, Mercure, Sofitel and select Club Med locations. Redeem points towards hotel stays, flights with their partner airlines, car rentals and more.
  • Radisson Rewards: Stay in more than 1,000 properties including major cities in the U.S. and Europe. Earn points when staying at brands such as Park Inn by Radisson, Country Inn & Suites by Raddisson, Park Plaza or Radisson Blu — food and beverages charged to your room also count. Points can be redeemed towards hotel stays and other expenses like movie rentals, room upgrades and more.
  • Choice Privileges: Choose from over 7,000 hotels all over Asia, the U.S. Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia and more. Earn points towards free stays at their network of hotels including Econo Lodge, Comfort Inn, Cambria Hotels and more.
  • Hilton Honors: Offers more than 5,000 hotels and resorts across more than 100 countries and territories worldwide. Earn points with hotel stays at their 14 different brands. Points can be redeemed for hotel stays, upgrades, Lyft rides, flights with partner airlines and more.

Are hotel loyalty programs worth it?

Yes, hotel loyalty programs are worth it, but only if you’re able to take advantage of all the free benefits that come with one. They key is to maximize your points so you can unlock as much value as possible. Joining a hotel loyalty program is free unless you count the annual fee for a co-branded credit card — even the perks can more than make up for the free.

Earning hotel loyalty points isn’t complicated — it can be as lucrative as you want it to be even if you don’t do a lot of traveling. Watch out for rules and regulations on how you can earn points as some only allow you to do so when you book directly with the chain. IHG Rewards for example doesn’t let you earn points for reservations made through a third party website.

That’s where co-branded credit cards help.

By earning points on regular purchase, you can easily rack up points towards free or discounted hotel stays and complimentary upgrades like free breakfast or internet. Some loyalty programs don’t have blackout days so you can use your points whenever you wish.

Of course, it depends on how you intend on earning points. Some hotel loyalty programs only allow you to earn points when you book hotel stays if you don’t have a co-branded card. Obviously, the more points you earn the more free free stays and upgrades you can receive.

What is the best credit card for hotel rewards?

The best credit card for hotel rewards depends on which hotels you frequent. For example, the World of Hyatt credit card offers one of the best average values when it comes to hotel points but it’s not worth as much if you book with another hotel chain.

If you’re a Hilton enthusiast, you can earn 14x points when you book at stay using the Hilton Honors Aspire American Express card, so it doesn’t make sense to choose another card.

Other cards offer bonuses, free anniversary nights and different earnings rates for bonus categories, so the best card for you may not be for someone else depending on your spending habits.

>>FIND THE CARD THAT FITS YOUR SPENDING

What hotels have loyalty programs?

Hotels that have loyalty programs are typically part of a larger network of brands. For example, Holiday Inn has a loyalty program but it’s part of the IHG Rewards Club.

This is not a complete list, but here’s a list of some of the major hotel loyalty programs:

  • Accor: includes Thalassa and Ibis Styles
  • Best Western: includes Best Western Plus and SureStay
  • Choice Hotels: includes Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn
  • Radisson: includes Quorvus and Country Inn & Suites
  • Hilton: includes Waldorf Astoria, Hampton and Homewood Suites
  • Hyatt: includes Park Hyatt and Hyatt House
  • IHG: includes the Intercontinental and Candlewood Suites
  • Marriott: includes Ritz-Carlton, and Springhill Suites
  • Wyndham: includes Wyndham Grand and Days Inn
  • Omni hotels and resorts: features 60 luxury hotels and resources throughout North America

How do hotel loyalty programs work?

Hotel loyalty programs works much like other rewards programs — you earn points towards free rewards like hotel stays and upgrades. In some cases you may be part of a tiered program where you can get complimentary upgrades with stays automatically and other perks like the ability to earn bonus points, late checkout and guaranteed room availability.

When redeeming points, hotel loyalty programs will have different ways to do so. Many have different categories of hotels — the higher the tier, the more points you’ll need. If you earn points using a co-branded card, you may be able to redeem rewards such as complimentary stays on your cardholder anniversary.

What hotels give you free nights?

All hotel loyalty programs will give you free nights when you redeem points. However, certain hotels will award you additional free nights if you stay with them for a specific amount of time.

For example, Hilton and Marriott offer free hotel nights on award stays on your fifth night. That means you need to redeem points of book a stay for four nights, and get your fifth night for free. IHG offers a free room on your 4th night if you have the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card.

There may be restrictions as to how many free nights you can get, so check the fine print.

ALSO READ: How to book a hotel room without a credit card

Who has the best hotel loyalty program?

Picking the best hotel loyalty program depends on what your needs are. Those looking for a wide variety of locations might get a lot of use out of the Marriott Bonvoy program, whereas someone who wants some of the best hotels Europe has to offer might want to consider Club L’Accor. Or if you’re not into luxury travel, Choice Privileges offers hotels such as Econo Lodge.

Remember, there’s no single best hotel loyalty program out there, so it’s important to understand which features are most valuable to you.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best hotel rewards program for your needs is based on a number of factors. Take a careful look at what your priorities are and compare the various features of each hotel loyalty program. That way you can pick one that offers the most value based on your travel plans.

Keep in mind that a co-branded credit can accelerate you earnings rate and offers a bunch of perks like free anniversary nights and free upgrades. Even for cards with annual fees, it could be worth it even if you travel occasionally as the values could more than make up for those up-front costs.