Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Dec 25

The Best Unique Benefits at Each Hotel Brand

Choosing an airline is easy. You likely have one airline that dominates your local region, in which case your choices are limited. If not, you likely go with the cheapest of the one where you have the highest attachment to your loyalty program.

Choosing a hotel brand? Not so easy. Unlike airlines, which have different presences in different geographies, the five major hotel brands (those with the widest variety of types of properties) can be found just about anywhere. For the occasional traveler, you are faced with the choice of go for the cheapest brand that suits your needs on each trip, or pick a particular one to stick because of its benefits. Here are the best unique benefits that the different companies offer:

Hilton

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The Double Dip: Most loyalty programs let you choose either hotel points or miles. Not so with Hilton. Every member, including those who don’t have elite status, can earn bonus points with the company, either in the form of extra HHonors points or frequent flyer miles. If you want more Hilton points, you can supplement your base points (10 points per dollar spent) with a 50% bonus (an additional five points per dollar). If you want miles, you can get a mile per dollar spent instead of the 50% bonus. Either way, you’re getting something extra.

Hyatt

Best Suite Options for Redemptions: If you decide you want a little extra space when you travel, Hyatt is the easiest brand to get yourself into a suite. It can come in one of two forms.

Straight Redemptions

Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 9.39.47 PMHyatt is among the cheapest options when it comes to redeeming for suites. It gives you an option of not only a “club” floor but also, for a 60% premium over basic rooms (versus competitors at 100%), Hyatt will put you in a suite. It’s an inexpensive way to get a little more space.

Upgrades

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You could say it’s a pretty “suite” deal.

The best deal, however, may be the upgrade option. For only 6,000 points per night, as long as you pay the “Hyatt Daily Rate,” you can upgrade to a suite. It’s a nice way to add on if you know that you are going to be paying cash for a room.

IHG (InterContinental)

The Best Credit Card: Every hotel brand has a credit card, and most of them will give you a free night or two when you get it. But those hotels often come with limits. No high-end properties for free. IHG’s card, however, will give you a free night anywhere in the system. Feel like staying at the InterContinental in Paris? Free. New York? Free. Etc. The card costs $49 per year. For a free hotel night anywhere? Bargain. Even better, the $49 is waived the first year. Even even better: You get 60,000 points when you sign up for it. I really, really like this card. You can find it by clicking on the Travel Rewards banner on the credit card page.

Marriott

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The Best Luxury Brand: Sure, the rewards cost a lot more points, but nothing at the other hotel groups listed compares with the Ritz Carlton. Every chain has a luxury brand, and some of them are even pretty good (I’m a big fan of InterContinental hotels, for instance.). On the other hand, many of them feel, at best, haphazard (I’m pretty sure that “Waldorf” is French for “old hotel with really small rooms.” Nobody does it like Ritz Carlton and, unlike brands such as Four Seasons, you can stay at the Ritz with points.

Starwood

Best Elite Benefits: While it doesn’t offer breakfast, as do many of its competitors, Starwood has the best combination of benefits, particularly once you reach Platinum status, which requires 25 stays or 50 nights each year. Suites are included in the list of upgrade options (for Platinum status), versus competitors, where they will upgrade you to a better non-suite room. 4pm checkout is guaranteed, not “if available,” for both Gold and Platinum members (although it is subject to availability at resorts and conference centers). There are a number of “crossover” programs that get bonuses with other travel providers, such as Delta, Uber, Emirates or Caesars Entertainment.

Bottom Line

Every hotel chain has its plusses and minuses. Decide what’s best for you!

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