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heimer13 Feb 1, 04 7:17 am

Hotel reward programs
I am Paltinum w/HI. Stayed on business over 150 nights past year in US. Is this the best bang for my $.

hhonorman Feb 2, 04 11:25 am

Welcome to Flyertalk Heimer13.

I am not sure, it all depends really. As you might guess from my nickname here, I'm a big fan of Hilton's frequent guest hhonors program. Others here are big fans of Starwood's preferred guest program. Still others tout the benefits of Hyatt's and Marriotts programs.

Firstly, you should consider which chain of hotels best serves the locations where you'll be travelling. For instance, many flyertalkers have had rave reviews about Hyatt's program because it was very easy to rack up free nights with the Free Nights Faster promotion. However, Hyatt doesn't have as many hotels as some of the other brands, and doesn't have many hotels outside of major cities. If your travel takes you outside of the big cities often, this program, while very generous, may not be best suited for you.

Another point well worth considering is whether or not you will have an affinity credit card that earns points with the hotel's program, and how quickly you can generate points. Starwoods Amex arguably provides the best bang per dollar spent, but has an annual fee. Hilton has both an Amex and Visa that have nice sign-up bonuses and no annual fee. You may want to factor that into your decision.

Another thought worth considering when choosing a program is how difficult it will be to secure an award room at the hotel you want. Some brands have better award availability than others. You may want to do a little bit of research on Flyertalk under the forum specific for each brand of hotels and see what others have said about their ability to redeem awards. A zillion points won't do you much good if you can't redeem them for a room when you need one. I believe that Starwood and Hilton both offer good award availability, at least for their highest level VIP's.

You may also want to consider how easy it is to achieve the hotel brand's highest level of VIP status, and what perks they offer for that status, and how good the brand is about making sure each individual hotel within the brand complies with providing the benefits you are supposed to receive. Again, a search in the forum for each hotel brand on flyertalk should have much of this information for you. The perks vary from brand to brand, so you should check out what each offers and see what's most important to you. For example, a free breakfast may not be as important as the ability to get a 4pm checkout for someone who is a late sleeper.

I hope that the above information will be a bit of help to you. Please explore the indivual forums for each brand here on flyertalk. I know it's a bit of work, but it is a very valuable tool and it contains a great deal of useful information.

pinniped Feb 2, 04 2:38 pm

hhonorman gives good advice: you can get the inside scoop on all of the major programs here on FT.

If you provide a few rough details, we might be able to provide opinions to help you narrow down your choices.

- Do you actually like the HI's at which you spend the most time? Are you thinking about bailing strictly for better rewards, or have you been having bad stays at HI's?

- Where are most of your 150 business stay-nights? Rural, suburban, or mixed?

- What are you looking to get out of a hotel program? High-end Hawaii resorts, lots of international choices, easy-to-get low-points rewards like free weekends in the US, easy transfers out to FF miles, etc.

- What do you want from an elite status? (Obviously 150 nights will get you top level anywhere.) Do you want the best upgrades possible, or the best point bonuses relative to the base level? (If you do a lot of rural stays or all-suites stays, upgrades might not mean much to you.)

A little bit of background will help. I'm guessing that your choices (if you really want to switch) will be Marriott and HHonors from among the major programs. Usually when I see a HI, there's a Hampton and a Fairfield not too far away.

[This message has been edited by pinniped (edited Feb 02, 2004).]

heimer13 Feb 2, 04 3:19 pm

Thanks for the help. I mainly stay at HI/X as have no need for sit down b/fast. Redeem for stays at IC's. Want best point accum with easy reward nights!


pinniped Feb 2, 04 3:50 pm

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by heimer13:
Thanks for the help. I mainly stay at HI/X as have no need for sit down b/fast. Redeem for stays at IC's. Want best point accum with easy reward nights!
Well, it roughly sounds like you would be a candidate for Fairfield (Marriott Rewards) or Hampton (Hilton HHonors) if you don't think HI is yielding enough rewards. I honestly don't know if HH or MR yield better or not.

If I were you, I'd pick the sample properties you'd do paid stays at most often, pick a couple of sample rewards from the program (I usually pick a large one, like a week in a high-end Hawaii resort and a small one, like 2 weekend nights in a mid-level hotel) and run the numbers. You should be able to come back with numbers such as "X paid nights = 1 week in Hawaii" or "$Y spent = 1 free weekend stay". Pick reward locations/quality levels that are meaningful to you: don't just use the standard award chart.

For a 150-night guest, make sure to factor in the appropriate elite bonuses and assume you will pick up the associated program credit card to use for the stays. That will be well worth it in your case.

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