Loyalty Program Overview

Hotel loyalty programs are not for everyone. If your aim is always getting the cheapest possible hotel (or even the cheapest possible hotel within a certain star category), loyalty programs aren’t for you. if your like trying out quaint little B&Bs, or snazzy boutique hotels, loyalty programs aren’t for you either. If you prefer booking through OTAs like Expedia, Hotels.com and Zuji, loyalty programs aren’t for you.

Loyalty programs require exactly that- loyalty. This means choosing to stay at the dilapidated Sheraton Casablanca while on business trips because those points will help you earn a room at the W Maldives. It means paying a bit more for the Westin Bangkok because those nights will help you renew your status for that year- with the upgrades, free breakfast and preferred treatment it implies.

Photos from my wonderful staycation at W Sentosa Cove earlier this year, where we were upgraded at no charge to a huge suite by virtue of my SPG Platinum membership

So if you’re on board with all this, consider the following questions

  • Which region of the world am I most likely to travel for business? For leisure?
  • Am I likely to stay sufficient nights to get top tier status? Or only mid-tier? Or none at all?
  • Do I want to just redeem my points for hotel stays? Or do I value the ability to redeem other items?

The first question is relevant because different chains have different geographical strengths. Starwood is excellent in the Asia Pacific region, but weaker outside the major cities in the USA. Hilton has an excellent presence in Tier 2 and 3 cities in the USA through its Hampton Inn brand, but few locations in Africa.

The second question is relevant because different programs reward different tiers differently. Hilton Gold is arguably the best mid-tier status to have, but Hyatt Globalist  comfortably defeats Hilton Diamond at the highest tier.

The third question is relevant because different programs offer different cash-out abilities. Marriott and Hilton allow you to cash out your points for gift cards and vouchers with rental car providers, Amazon etc, whereas Accor is relatively more restrictive in what you can do with your points.

Loyalty programs compared

The amazing folks over at travelisfree have saved me a lot of trouble with this awesome infographic. I’m not sure I could summarise it better myself. The only caveat I’d add is that it SPG’s top category properties appear to be so expensive because their top category, Category 7, requires 30,000-35,000 points normally. But a lot of these properties are all suites, which means the point requirement is doubled to 60,000-70,000 points. This is limited to a handful of properties, but they’re also the ones you most want to visit.

Also, if you’re from Singapore you can ignore the part about credit cards at the bottom because none of these are accessible to us (boo).

Best Hotel Rewards Program – An infographic by Drew and Caroline at Travel is Free
Best Hotel Rewards Program – An infographic by Drew and Caroline at Travel is Free (www.travelisfree.com)



  1. Can check. If book through rocket miles or Kaligo for a Hilton hotel so as to earn the first stay bonus miles, at the check in , could we provide the hhnors membership? I know the hotel stay itself will not earn points, what about others expenses such as dining, bar, etc charged to the room. Is this arrangement common? Could they key in hhnors membership for such booking when checking in? Thx

    1. official policy for all loyalty programs is that if you book via 3rd parties you are not entitled to any benefits at all. emphasis on the word entitled. individual properties may offer you benefits on a goodwill basis but they are not obliged to. ie YMMV. you are however eligible to earn points on collateral expenses (dining, laundry etc) with certain chains. hilton and spg will let you do this, accor will not. you can certainly ask the front desk to add your hhonors number to your reservation

  2. I am planning on a stay for 3 nights at Bangkok? Should I book one night with mastercard to get the elite status with SPG(promotion). Then book 2 other nights onsite after the first night to avail the benefits of elite status?

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