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Published: Feb 28, 2022 12 min read
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After two years of staycations, you’re probably ready to start traveling again. And a hotel rewards program is a great way to make the most of your spending. You don’t need to be a weekly hotel guest to take advantage of perks like free wifi, late checkout and room upgrades. But you do need to do a little research on which hotel membership program offers the best perks for you.

From luxury travelers to the budget-obsessed, here are the best hotel rewards programs for every type of traveler.

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The Best Hotel Rewards Programs

Best overall: Hilton Honors

  • Elite status starts at 10 nights
  • No blackout dates
  • Can pool points with up to 10 other members
  • No guaranteed late checkout rewards options
  • Points can expire

Highlight: You can spend Hilton points when you’re shopping on Amazon — just link your account online.

The Hilton Honors rewards program is our top pick for the average traveler. The brand has a huge variety of properties to choose from—18 brands in 122 countries—from the ultra-swanky Waldorf Astoria to the budget-minded Tru by Hilton chain. And you can earn and use points on hotel stays, flights on partner airlines (including United and Delta), car rentals, Lyft rides and more.

All members get free benefits like guaranteed discount rates, waived resort fees on reward stays, the ability to choose their own rooms and free wifi on sign-up. And Hilton makes it easier to move up tiers compared to its competitors: Members earn top-tier Diamond status after 42 nights. Higher tiers of membership also get a daily food and beverage credit, room upgrades and lounge access, among other perks. You can start redeeming rewards at 5,000 points, which you’ll earn after spending about $500, though many properties can cost significantly more points per night. Luckily, Hilton’s Points Explorer tool makes it easy to compare your options.

Runner up: Marriott Bonvoy

  • Huge international network with lots of options, from budget to luxury
  • Points can be transferred to 35-plus airline rewards programs
  • Late checkout available for elite tiers, subject to availability
  • Points can expire
  • On some dates, hotels may cap the rooms available for points bookings

Highlight: You can earn and use Marriott Bonvoy points at 30 different hotel brands that span nearly 8,000 properties in 139 countries and territories.

Runner up: Wyndham Rewards

  • Free nights start at just 7,500 points, discounts at only 1,500 points
  • Can roll over qualifying nights into the next year
  • Top-tier members get free upgrades on Avis and Budget rentals
  • Rewards travel is subject to blackout dates
  • Points can expire
  • Fewer luxury hotels than competitors

Highlight: Members with military status are automatically upgraded to Gold level membership

Marriott and Wyndham offer the largest hotel networks of all the programs we evaluated. Both are excellent choices for travelers in the U.S. and abroad, though Wyndham’s program, which includes brands like Days Inn, La Quinta and Ramada, is more limited when it comes to luxury options. Marriott’s network includes the swanky Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis chains, the mid-range Sheraton and Westin hotels and the budget-oriented Courtyard and Four Points brands. On the other hand, you only need to stay three nights at a Wyndham property to earn the second tier of status in 2022, which gets you upgrades like late checkout and the ability to choose your preferred room, while Marriott Bonvoy requires members to stay at least 10 nights to earn second-tier status. Base-level members in both programs get access to special rate discounts.

Best for retirees: Choice Privileges

  • Offers special benefits for weeknight stays, including Starbucks, Amazon and Uber gift cards
  • Earn points on more than 20 cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival
  • Points can expire
  • Can't share or transfer points to another person
  • Fewer international options

Highlight: Has special golf rewards for members, including the ability to earn and use points on gear and clothes, plus exclusive deals when you book tee times at partner courses.

If you travel the country frequently for leisure — especially during the week or on off-peak times — the Choice Privileges rewards program is a good bet. It includes popular brands like Comfort Inn & Suites, Econolodge and Cambria that can be found throughout the U.S. You’ll earn Gold status (the second membership tier) after just 10 nights. The Choice Privileges rewards program also lets you redeem your points for cruises, casino hotel stays, magazine subscriptions and more. Choice Hotels also publishes a special newsletter for senior guests, and (in addition to some other chains on this list) also offers a special senior rate at many of its properties.

Best for pet owners: IHG Rewards Club

  • Lots of pet-friendly options, including the ultra-pet-oriented Kimpton brand
  • Partnership with GrubHub lets you earn points when you order in
  • No blackout dates
  • Points can expire
  • Smaller hotel network than other major hotel chains

Highlight: IHG recently launched a Pets + Points package that lets you earn bonus points, and save on pet-related fees, when you add a pet to your reservation at certain hotels.

Traveling with a furry companion? Pet owners are welcome at many hotels within the IHG network, which includes the Six Senses, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza and Kimpton brands, to name a few. Kimpton Hotels in particular are known for welcoming pets, and will even loan you pet beds and food and water bowls. IHG also has a separate directory of the pet-friendly properties across all its brands.

Of course, there are plenty of perks even if you aren’t bringing Fido along. IHG Rewards members get free wifi, exclusive member rates and more. IHG also offers a paid membership option called Intercontinental Ambassador: For $200 per year, members get guaranteed late checkout, room upgrades, restaurant and bar credits and a free weekend night stay at more than 200 InterContinental hotels around the world.

Best for wellness enthusiasts: World of Hyatt

  • No blackout dates
  • Late checkout available with most rewards tiers
  • Top-tier members of both World of Hyatt and American Airlines Advantage can earn double rewards on qualifying hotel stays and flights
  • Smaller network than other major hotel chains
  • Points can expire

Highlight: Members can redeem points on visits to Hyatt’s 100-plus hotel spas.

Those looking for a relaxing getaway, whether it be at a beach resort or in the heart of a new city, can’t go wrong with the World of Hyatt rewards program. The hotel’s network includes Miraval, Andaz, and Thompson Hotels along with the Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency brands and there are lots of options to choose from in major American cities. The program partners with 25 airlines and offers an exclusive member rate at many of its properties. And since late checkout is available for three out of the program’s four membership tiers, you’ll get all the rest you need.

Best for boutique travelers: Stash Hotel Rewards

  • Network of independent hotels with a large footprint
  • No blackout dates
  • Points don't expire
  • Rewards are only redeemable at a small number of properties
  • Must book through Stash's website to earn points

Highlight: Members get free WiFi at every hotel in Stash's network — guaranteed.

If you’re not a fan of major chain hotels, the Stash Hotel Rewards program might be a better place to invest your money. The program lets you earn points within its network of more than 1,000 independent hotels, so long as you make your reservation through Stash’s website. Those points are then redeemable at roughly 150 Stash Partner hotels located in the U.S. Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America (you’ll also earn points at a faster rate when you stay at these hotels). Compared to some of the major hotel chains, the rewards structure is simple: Spend money, earn points, trade your points for free nights — there are no membership tiers to worry about. You’ll have enough points for free nights after spending about $1,600 within the network.

Best for Eurotrippers: Accor Live Limitless

  • Lots of hotel locations throughout Europe, from budget picks to luxury accommodations
  • Many different ways to earn and redeem points
  • Points can expire
  • Few options in North America

Highlight: Rewards partnerships with the Eurostar train network and Europcar rental cars mean you can earn points as you drive, ride or backpack from city to city.

If you’re planning a Eurotrip as part of your grand return to travel, you’ll probably fare best with the Accor Live Limitless (ALL) rewards program. Most of the 5,100 hotels in this network — which includes the Sofitel, Fairmont, Swissôtel and Ibis brands, among dozens of others — are located across Europe (the network has properties across the globe, too). ALL gives you access to free wifi, daily newspapers and local calls, plus swankier perks as you move up tiers, like access to private hotel lounges and restaurant discounts. Members also get advance access to ticket presales at the Accor Arena in Paris, which plays host to some of the biggest names in modern music, from Andrea Bocelli to Billie Eilish. Rewards are calculated in Euros, so be sure to pay attention to the conversation rate.

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Best Hotel Rewards Programs Guide

Hotel rewards programs are special customer loyalty programs offered by major hotel chains and, in some cases, smaller independent hotels. They are free to join and allow customers to earn points each time they stay at a certain hotel or group of hotels. Most programs have multiple tiers of membership status — the more points you earn, the higher your status and the better the perks.

How do hotel rewards programs work?

Hotel loyalty programs keep track of your progress through points, which you rack up by spending money on room reservations and other eligible expenses. Those points can then be redeemed for perks like room upgrades, late checkout and free nights. The largest hotel rewards programs often partner with airlines, rental car agencies, cruise lines and other companies, so you can accrue points in a variety of ways.

Many of these programs share similarities, but they all structure their rewards systems a little differently. That’s why it’s important to consider your personal travel habits — like how often you travel abroad and your budget — before deciding which one is best for you.

How to choose the best hotel rewards program

Deciding on the best hotel loyalty program can be daunting. Consider the hotel brands you’ve already had good experiences with, and the destinations you travel to (or plan on traveling to) most often. Choosing a program with a large network of hotels will give you more flexibility down the line, but no matter which one you go with, make sure it has hotels you’re comfortable staying in and destinations you’re likely to visit. Also, decide which perks are most important to you, whether that’s free nights, late checkout or the ability to choose your own room — and choose a program that makes it easy to earn those rewards.

Best hotel rewards program FAQS

What is the best hotel rewards program?

Our pick for the best hotel rewards program for most travelers is Hilton Honors, which has lots of options for earning and redeeming points as well as a large network of hotels within the United States to suit every type of budget. See Money's rankings of major hotel rewards programs above.

Why join a hotel rewards program?

Hotel rewards programs open the door to lots of little conveniences, and give you the opportunity to work towards elite status and luxury amenities. While the benefits are generally much better as you move up to higher tiers of status (and spend lots of money with the hotel chain), most programs offer solid perks just for signing up — like free wifi, a guaranteed member room rate and more.

What is the largest hotel rewards program?

Of all the programs we evaluated, Wyndham has the largest footprint, followed by Marriott. Those chains give travelers the most options as far as location goes, but that doesn't mean they're the right choice for everyone. Again, it's important to consider what perks and destinations are most important to you before choosing a rewards program.

Are hotel rewards programs worth it?

Hotel rewards programs make a lot of sense to join — you'll usually unlock a few small perks right away, and earning points on stays and eligible purchases means you'll eventually unlock freebies that could save you big bucks on an upcoming vacation or business trip. You'll generally earn points fastest if you stick to one hotel loyalty program and group of brands, but still keep your eyes open for deals. Staying in a chain where you don't have a membership every once in a while makes sense if you find an unbeatable price.

How we evaluated the Best Hotel Rewards programs

To determine the best hotel rewards programs for different types of travelers, Money evaluated the exclusive features, network partners (including airlines and other major brands) and ease of earning and spending points for 15 popular hotel rewards programs with significant footprints in the U.S.. We used this information to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each program, highlighting the features that differentiate the winners while keeping in mind that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all program that works for every traveler.

Most hotel groups offer branded credit cards to accompany their rewards programs. We’ve chosen to focus on the program itself, not the perks of the credit card, in our analysis. That said, these cards can offer significant benefits and savings and can help you earn points at a faster rate. Learn more about the best travel credit cards here.

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Summary of Money’s best hotel rewards programs

  • Best overall: Hilton Honors
  • Best for retirees: Choice Privileges
  • Best for pet owners: IHG Rewards
  • Best for wellness enthusiasts: World of Hyatt
  • Best for boutique travelers: Stash Hotel Rewards
  • Best for Eurotrippers: Accor Live Limitless