Old Oct 17, 08, 10:11 pm
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: ATL
Programs: DL SkyMiles, MR, HH, ICH/PC, Avis Pref., Hertz Gold
Posts: 2,897
Since you are asking about stays in particular, Hilton offers the fastest track to elite level by number of stays. With Marriott, elite level is strictly based on nights, regardless of the number of stays.

I'm a Platinum with Marriott and Gold with Hilton so you can probably tell my preferences. Here's my take on the two chains and programs:

Earning points: Hilton. If you don't double-dip with the airlines and use the Hilton AMEX, you will accumulate points faster.

Burning points: Marriott. The standard award rates, by category, are typically lower with Marriott. Both programs offer package-type specials, but they never seem to suit my travel plans.

Full service properties: Marriott. The Marriott, JW and Renaissance properties are consistently good compared to the variable Hilton and Doubletree brands.

Limited service properties: Hilton. The Fairfield and (especially) Courtyard properties generally pale to the Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn brands.

Edited to note: The rules are changing for 2009, which makes redeeming points with Marriott more expensive and the advantage over Hilton less so.

Last edited by keeton; Oct 21, 08 at 9:02 am Reason: Marriott changed the program :(
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