Which Hotel Program Has The Most Rewarding Promotions?

Nick and Greg have recently been looking at which hotel loyalty schemes offer the best return on paid stays (see here and here).

Their analysis has focused on the (somewhat) constant – how many base points you earn for stays, how many bonus points you’ll earn with status and how many points you’ll earn with a co-branded hotel credit card.

Hotel Quarterly Promotions

There’s another factor that can greatly influence the number of points you’ll earn on a paid stay – promotions. Most hotel loyalty programs have quarterly promotions offering bonus points on paid stays. Some of these promotions aren’t worth changing your booking behavior, whereas others are worth a mattress run.

I thought it’d be interesting to look at which hotel chains offer the most lucrative promotions. This proved to be more difficult than expected for several reasons:

  1. Dates – Most chains run their promotions from different dates rather than January 1 – March 31 for Q1, April 1 – June 30, etc., making it harder to do a like-for-like comparison.
  2. Different promotions each quarter – Promotions tend to be different each quarter, so Hilton might have the most lucrative promotion one quarter, Hyatt the next, Marriott the next, etc.
  3. Targeted promotions – Some promotions – particularly IHG’s Accelerate – are targeted and so are different from person to person. What might be a lucrative quarterly promotion for one person might not be quite so rewarding for someone else.
  4. Types of stay – There are some quarterly promotions that offer bonus points per stay, while others offer bonus points per night. Your length of stay therefore has the potential to greatly affect how many bonus points you’ll earn.
  5. Cost of stay – Needless to say, a stay at an Econo Lodge (Choice) or Super 8 (Wyndham) will cost less than a stay at a Waldorf Astoria or JW Marriott. For promotions that offer bonuses on spend (e.g. double points), this can also affect how many bonus points you earn.

For the purpose of these comparisons, I’ve simply used the most recent promotion for each hotel chain. With the current IHG Accelerate program, I’ve used my own targeted offer so bear in mind that your outcome will likely be different.

As for analyzing rewards based on types of stay, I’ve looked at three scenarios for each chain:

  • 5 stays of 1 night.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights.

As for the cost of a stay, I’ve gone with Nick’s figure of $131.56 simply because we need something to use. Seeing as base points aren’t earned on room taxes – and thus promotions offering double points don’t award bonus points on taxes – my calculations assume the $131.56 doesn’t include tax.

To calculate the value of each set of bonus points, I’ve used the Frequent Miler Reasonable Redemption Values for each chain.

With all that in mind, here are the results as to which hotel chain has the most rewarding quarterly promotion.

Hilton

First up – Hilton. Their current Q2 promotion offers double base points on every stay from May 1 to August 31. At most Hilton brands, you earn 10 points per dollar spent. Here’s how many bonus points you’d therefore earn in each scenario based on a $131.56 room rate along with their value.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 6,578 bonus points. RRV = $29.60.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 6,578 bonus points. RRV = $29.60.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights – 11,841 bonus points. RRV = $53.28.

This shows how the lucrativeness of a chain’s promotion can change from quarter to quarter. The Q1 Hilton promotion offered 2,000 bonus points per stay including award stays. For five stays of one night, you’d therefore have earned 10,000 bonus points – far more than the Q2 promotion. For one stay of five nights though, you’d only earn 2,000 bonus points – far less than the Q2 promotion.

Marriott

The Q2 Megabonus promo for Marriott offers 750 points per night starting from your third night. Here’s the return you’d get in each of the three scenarios.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 2,250 bonus points. RRV = $16.20.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 2,250 bonus points. RRV = $16.20.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights – 5,250 bonus points. RRV = $37.80.

Hyatt

Hyatt doesn’t seem to offer promotions throughout the year like most other hotel chains. They do currently have a promotion offering 20% bonus points but that’s only on stays in Las Vegas.

For the purposes of this comparison, I’ve therefore used their most recent promotion that wasn’t location-specific. This offered 1,000 bonus points per night at all their brands other than Hyatt Place and Hyatt House which earned 500 bonus points per night. One of the nice features of this promotion was that bonus points were awarded even on award stays.

That promotion makes a comparison difficult though – should 500 points or 1,000 points per night be used? Seeing as about half of Hyatt’s properties are either Hyatt Place or Hyatt House, we’ll split the difference and assume an average of 750 points per night.

On that basis, here’s the return from each scenario.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 3,750 bonus points. RRV = $65.25.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 3,750 bonus points. RRV = $65.25.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights –  bonus points. RRV = $117.45.

IHG

As mentioned earlier, IHG’s Accelerate promotion from May 1 to July 31 is targeted, so my tasks will likely be different to yours.

Stephen IHG Q2 Accelerate offer

Here’s how many points I’d earn with this promotion.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 15,500 bonus points. RRV = $88.35.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 32,300 bonus points. RRV = $184.11.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights – 32,300 bonus points. RRV = $184.11.

Just a quick note about those results. In the first scenario, the first three tasks would be completed and I assumed one of those stays would be in May. The Bonus Weekend Stay task wouldn’t be triggered by one night stays, while I’ve assumed none of the stays were overseas. That means the Achievement Bonus wouldn’t be triggered, plus I’ve assumed none of the stays would be at one of the three specified brands to earn the Exclusive Brand Bonus.

With the latter two scenarios, it’s likely that a five night stay would include two weekend nights, so that triggers both the Bonus Weekend Stay task and the Achievement Bonus, hence all the additional bonus points.

Radisson

Radisson Rewards is currently running a promotion offering a $25 gift card when staying 2+ nights at any Radisson properties. That’s a short-term promotion for the month of May, so we’ll go back to the Q1 promotion for our comparison. That offered tiered rewards:

  • 2 nights: Earn 5,000 bonus points
  • 5 nights: Earn 15,000 bonus points
  • 10 nights: Earn 50,000 bonus points
  • 20+ nights: Earn 120,000 bonus points

With that in mind, here’s what you’d earn in each of the three scenarios.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 15,000 bonus points. RRV = $57.00.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 15,000 bonus points. RRV = $57.00.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights – 15,000 bonus points. RRV = $57.00.

If you found yourself in the final scenario, you’d have stayed nine nights during the promotion period. If that was the case, a mattress run for one night could’ve been worthwhile in order to earn 50,000 bonus points rather than 15,000. That’d have given you an extra ~$140 worth of points – definitely worth it if you were able to find a cheap hotel.

Choice

The Q2 promo for Choice Hotels offers up to 8,000 points after every second qualifying stay. The way it works is that Choice Hotels award between 5,000 and 8,000 bonus points so that you’ll end up with a total of 8,000 points once your base points have been taken into account.

You earn 10 points per dollar so, with an average room rate of $131.56, you’d earn 1,316 points per night. That therefore lowers the number of bonus points you’d be awarded.

Here’s how the Choice Hotels promotion works out in each scenario.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 10,736 bonus points. RRV = $86.96.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 0 bonus points. RRV = $0.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights – 2,738 bonus points. RRV = $22.18.

As you can see, Choice’s promotion ends up very skewed depending on your type of stays. With one long stay you earn nothing. With several one night stays, you get a good amount of value. When staying three times, the return is nothing to write home about.

Wyndham

Finally, we come to Wyndham. Their current promotion offers 15,000 bonus points after two stays. As all Wyndham Rewards award nights cost 15,000 points per night regardless of brand, that means two stays gets you a free night. The downside with this promotion is that you can only earn the 15,000 bonus points once.

Here’s how that works out in each of our three scenarios.

  • 5 stays of 1 night – 15,000 bonus points. RRV = $105.00.
  • 1 stay of 5 nights – 0 bonus points. RRV = $0.
  • 3 stays: 1 for 1 night, 1 for 3 nights and 1 for 5 nights – 15,000 bonus points. RRV = $105.00.

Results

To make it easier to compare the findings, here are the results in table format with the best value in each scenario highlighted.

Hotel Promotions Value

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the results to end up like this. I suspected IHG might do well as their Accelerate promotions can be very lucrative if you can fulfill the tasks in a short number of stays / nights, but hadn’t expected them to be so far ahead of the other chains in the second and third scenarios.

To be fair to Radisson Rewards, they’d have edged the win in the final scenario if it had been for ten nights rather than nine as it would’ve triggered a higher threshold bonus.

The biggest surprise for me was how badly Marriott fared compared to all the other chains. Having said that, if we’d used their Q1 MegaBonus promotion rather than Q2, they’d have done better. In particular, the first scenario would’ve earned more than triple the points.

Conclusion

As these results show, the best hotel promotion for you will vary depending on how many stays you have during a promotion period and their length. You also need to consider how many base points you’d earn as that could affect your overall points total per stay.

Ultimately, you need to decide what’s most valuable for you. Not just in terms of how many points you’ll earn, but in the experience itself and if you’re chasing status.

For example, IHG might earn you a large stash of points with their promotions, but you won’t get free breakfast at a Holiday Inn even with their top tier Spire Elite status. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Marriott might not earn you many bonus points but if you have Gold status then you’ll get free breakfast and lounge access (until August) for stays at several of their brands. Those perks might make it worth forgoing bonus points.

About Stephen Pepper

Stephen Pepper is on a 5 year, 50 state road trip with his wife Shae and their dog Truffles. Finding opportunities to earn miles and points is one of the ways they can afford to do this, so he'll try to help you do the same for your own travels.

More articles by Stephen Pepper »

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18 Comments on "Which Hotel Program Has The Most Rewarding Promotions?"

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Erin
Guest

This is a GREAT visual!!! I would be grateful if you could create this chart every quarter and put a “hotels” tabs as a quick reference. Well done, and thank you for your insight!!

As a general rule, do you recommend one hotel brand as your very favorite for someone who rarely travels (and is just beginning the points game)? Since January, we’ve earned two SW Companion passes, one IHG card (before they made changes), a Chase Sapphire and a Chase Freedom. I’m not sure which hotel card would be the most beneficial though…and there are six of us!

Usernamechuck
Guest

Would be cool to combine in a Grand Unification Theory that also factors in credit card spend…

Ed C
Guest

I am glad I have seen this post, particularly the analysis of IHG Accelerate. I had already made reservations for mid-June for IHG, which I will now drop as a result of seeing that my interpretation of the terms is apparently in error. More specifically, on your 10000 point offer, it states “stay 5 nights”. Based upon your calculations, I see you are reading this as 5 nights within the same stay. I was reading that as 5 nights, where ever, within the time period allowed for the Accelerate promotion. Thanks

Josh
Guest

Cool analysis!

Sophia
Guest

Great analysis!

Derek
Guest

Fantastic work! This would be an amazing resource each quarter!

usernamechuck
Guest

Another interesting thing would be to chart this by quarter and by year… Marriott’s promo last quarter was a free night (cat 1-5) per every two stays. We stayed precisely twice, got a free night, and used it in Barbados during high season, so it was worth ~$350 to me, or $180 using Greg’s RRVs. This quarter, their megabonus is a microbonus. In statistics terms, the standard deviation from Marriott’s bonuses is quite large.

NinjaX
Guest

u should at least give a shout out to Kimpton promos and SPG. i guess thats rolled up into marriott…

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