What Are the Best Bonus Earning Rates for Hotel Programs?

I sometimes get emails asking me about the best hotel loyalty program, which is really hard to answer because there’s so much that goes into answering that question. One aspect to consider, though, is the return you’ll get from spending your money with a loyalty program. This article will take a look at how rewarding some of the biggest hotel loyalty program are based on their points earning potential.

How earning hotel bonus points works

There are a handful of ways to earn hotel points.

Earning base points

Typically a hotel program allows you to earn “base points” for every dollar spent when you book a stay with them and pay directly, meaning that you don’t use an OTA like Expedia. These base points are usually something like 5 to 10 points per dollar and do not include earnings on tax. You will often earn base points on services charged to your room too but you always need to check the fine print.

Elite status points

In addition to base points, hotels offer you bonus earnings based on your elite status. These range from 10% to 100%, depending on the program and the level of elite status and are collected on top of your base points.

Seasonal bonus promotions

There are also bonus promotions that often go on throughout the year. These come in all sorts of different varieties. Sometimes you might earn 2X the base points, an extra 1,000 points per night, extra points for mobile bookings, etc., you never know what might be offered. The great thing about these bonus promotions is that they can usually be earned in addition to the base and bonus points earned. Moreover, it’s often possible to stack multiple promotions, so that you take advantage of two or three at once!

Credit card spend bonuses

And finally, there’s credit card spend bonuses offered. When you use a co-branded credit card at that respective co-branded hotel, you’ll earn additional bonus points that often are on par with what elites earn (or even higher).

The below analysis will look at the following programs:

  • Hilton
  • Marriott
  • SPG
  • IHG
  • Hyatt

This isn’t meant to show the “best hotel program” since you’d have to factor in things like property quality, hotel footprint, upgrades, service, award program, and so many more things. However, this should give you a good idea at how rewarding each program can be when compared to one another. I’m going to focus on mid-tier elite status, too, since that’s probably the most common status for most of my readers.

And finally, I’m just using $100 for each night to keep things simple

Hilton Honors

  • 10 Base Points for every US dollar spent on your room rate and other eligible room charges, including telephone calls and room service

Exceptions:

  • At Home2 Suites by Hilton™ hotels, earn 5 Base Points for every US dollar spent on your room rate only. All Hampton by Hilton™ hotels in the People’s Republic of China are currently excluded from the Hilton Honors program.

Points and Points

  •  Earn 10 Hilton Honors Base Points plus 5 Bonus Points per eligible US dollar spent on your room. (You can also opt to earn airline miles).

Value

The value will be calculated based on a value of .4 cents per point for each Hilton Honors point and I will assume “points and points” are earned, too.

Base points

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 100 x 5 = 500 (points + points)
  • = 1,500 points at .4 cents per point = 6% back.

Silver (15%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 100 x 5  = 500 (points + points)
  • 150 elite bonus points
  • = 1,650 points at .4 cents per point = 6.6% back.

Gold (25%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 100 x 5  = 500 (points + points)
  • 250 elite bonus points
  • = 1,750 points at .4 cents per point = 7% back.

Diamond (50%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 100 x 5  = 500 (points + points)
  • 500 elite bonus points
  • = 2,000 points at .4 cents per point = 8% back.

Earning with a co-branded credit card

If you were to use a card like the Amex Hilton Surpass credit card you could also earn 12X on all eligible Hilton purchases. I’ll assume you’re gold status with the Surpass (since that is offered automatically with the card) so your total would look like this:

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 100 x 5  = 500 (points + points)
  • 250 elite bonus points
  • 100 x 12 = 1,200
  • = 2,950 points at .4 cents per point = 11.8% back.
Hilton Cabana in Miami.

Marriott

Earn 10 points per $1USD you spend on qualifying charges at:

  • JW Marriott
  • Autograph Collection
  • Marriott
  • Renaissance
  • Delta Hotels
  • Marriott Vacation Club

Earn 10 points per $1USD you spend on room rates at:

  • Edition
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • AC Hotels
  • Gaylord
  • Courtyard
  • Springhill Suites
  • Fairfield Inn
  • Protea Hotels
  • Moxy

Earn 5 points per $1USD you spend on room rates at:

  • Residence Inn

Value

The value will be calculated based on a value of .8 cents per point for each Marriott Rewards point.

Base points

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • = 1,000 points at .8 cents per point = 8% back.

Silver (20%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 200 elite bonus points
  • = 1,200 points at .8 cents per point = 9.6% back.

Gold (25%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 250 elite bonus points
  • = 1,250 points at .8 cents per point = 10% back.

Platinum (50%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 500 elite bonus points
  • = 1,500 points at .8 cents per point = 12% back.

Earning with a co-branded credit card

It turns out that the Marriott Rewards card doesn’t earn the best return for Marriott points and instead you’d get more Marriott points from using an SPG card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

For this calculation, I’ll assume you’re Gold status so your total would look like this:

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 250 elite bonus points
  • 100 x 6 = 600
  • = 1,850 points at .8 cents per point = 14.8% back.

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

A standard Preferred member will earn two base Starpoints for Eligible Charges at SPG Participating Hotels for each US dollar.

  • Gold and Platinum: 3X
  • Platinum Preferred Guest with a minimum of 75 Eligible Nights: 4X

Value

The value will be calculated based on a value of 2.5 cents per point for each SPG point.

Base points for Preferred Guests

  • 100 x 2 = 200
  • = 200 points at 2.5 cents per point = 5% back.

SPG Gold and Platinum (50%)

  • 100 x 2 = 200
  • 100 elite bonus points
  • = 300 points at 2.5 cents per point = 7.5% back.

Platinum with 75 nights (100%)

  • 100 x 2 = 200
  • 200 elite bonus points
  • = 400 points at 2.5 cents per point = 10% back.

Earning with a co-branded credit card

For this calculation, I’ll assume you’re using the Amex SPG card and that you’re SPG Gold status so your total would look like this:

  • 100 x 2 = 200
  • 100 elite bonus points
  • 100 x 2 = 200
  • = 500 points at 2.5 cents per point = 12.5% back.

IHG

Earn 10 IHG Rewards Club base points per eligible $1 USD spent at all:

  • Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts
  • Hotel Indigo
  • Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
  • Holiday Inn Express hotels
  • InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

5 IHG Rewards Club base points per eligible $1 USD spent at all:

  • Staybridge Suites
  • Candlewood Suites

Earn 2,000 points, 1,300 points or 600 points per qualifying stay at ANA partner hotels

Value

The value will be calculated based on a value of .7 cents per point for each Marriott Rewards point.

Base points

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • = 1,000 points at .7 cents per point = 7% back.

Gold Elite (10%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 100 elite bonus points
  • = 1,100 points at .7 cents per point = 7.7% back.

Platinum Elite (50%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 500 elite bonus points
  • = 1,500 points at .7 cents per point = 10.5% back.

Spire Elite (100%)

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 1,000 elite bonus points
  • = 2,000 points at .7 cents per point = 14% back.

Earning with a co-branded credit card

For this calculation, I’ll assume you’re using an IHG Rewards card and have Platinum Elite status so your total would look like this:

  • 100 x 10 = 1,000
  • 500 elite bonus points
  • 100 x 5 = 500
  • = 2,000 points at . cents per point = 14% back.

Hyatt 

  • Earn 5 Base Points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent on stays, dining, spa services and more at participating locations

Value

The value will be calculated based on a value of 1.5 cents per point for each Hyatt point.

Base points

  • 100 x 5 = 500
  • = 500 points at 1.5 cents per point = 7.5% back.

Discoverist (10%)

  • 100 x 5 = 500
  • 50 elite bonus points
  • = 550 points at 1.5 cents per point = 8.25% back.

Explorist (20%)

  • 100 x 5 = 500
  • 100 elite bonus points
  • = 600 points at 1.5 cents per point = 9% back.

Globalist (30%)

  • 100 x 5 = 500
  • 150 elite bonus points
  • = 650 points at 1.5 cents per point = 9.75% back.

Earning with a co-branded credit card

For this calculation, I’ll assume you’re using a Chase Hyatt Rewards card and have Explorist status so your total would look like this:

  • 100 x 5 = 500
  • 100 elite bonus points
  • 100 x 3 = 300
  • = 900 points at 1. 5 cents per point = 13.5% back.

The findings 

The below findings will show you what kind of return you could expect with mid-tier elite status and with putting your purchase on a co-branded hotel card that would earn points for that program. These rankings will obviously shift depending on how you value points, but they should give you an idea of what you could expect.

#1) Marriott

  • 14.8% back (10%) 

#2) IHG

  • 14% back (10.5%) 

#3) Hyatt

  • 13.5% back (9%)

#4) Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

  • 12.5% back (7.5%)

#5) Hilton Honors

  • 11.8% back (7% back)

Bonus promotions

The biggest factors that are not included here are the bonus promotions that each of the programs run. Hilton is probably the best program for this as you can often stack promotions so that your earnings rival or surpass those of other programs.

For example, Hilton is currently offering a promotion called “2K Everyday” where you can earn 2,000 bonus points per night. In the above example with a $100 night, it’d be like getting an extra 8% back on top of the  11.8 back for a total of close to 20% back, which would top all of the other programs.

Another example is the doubling of base points for three stays with Marriott. If you were able to book a $100 room, you’d net a return of 24.8% back in the above example with such a promotion.

Final word

It’s always a good idea to seek out bonus promotions to see how you can supplement the return in value on your spending. And it’s often the case that you can stack promotions, too. When you can combine stacked promotions with mid-tier or top-tier status and credit card spend, you can obtain some pretty insane returns, so it’s always a good idea to consider those.

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