Time to Sign Up: Hotel Rewards Programs

With typical rewards including room upgrades, complimentary parking or resort credit, registering for a hotel loyalty program really is a no – brainer. Often these bonuses are far more flexible and easily redeemed than those of an airline loyalty program, which are notorious for adding restrictive blackout dates on reward flights or expiring before you can use them.

Not one to return to the same old properties time and time again? No problem: today’s loyalty schemes are staggeringly broad in terms of where you earn and redeem your points. You can unlock savings at hundreds or even thousands of properties all over the world, since many allow you to share rewards across partner brands.

Marriott members, for example, could spend their points on a free night at any of 4,000 hotels, across 16 different hotel brands of all styles and price points, in 70 countries.

As online travel guru Brian Kelly, aka The Points Guy, says: “You’re leaving money on the table and missing out on all the best possible deals if you’re not booking through hotel loyalty programs.”

So, what are you waiting for? Register your details and start enjoying those perks.

We’ve rounded up some of the best schemes out there – it’s just up to you whether to make use of them for staycations or far-flung destinations.

IHG Rewards

Kimpton Karma Rewards has just this year been folded into IHG Rewards, uniting everything under the world’s largest loyalty program (all Kimpton members will be automatically enrolled in IHG Rewards and have their credits transferred). This means there are more options than ever when it comes to applying your points in free stays – more than 5,200 properties and 12 brands in 100 countries, including Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental. The familiar Kimpton Karma perks remain, such as Raid the Bar, $30 spa credit and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Points are not only earned through hotel stays but also restaurant bookings via sites such as OpenTable and Grubhub.

Free stays start at 10,000 points, with no blackout dates. You can also spend points on numerous airlines, car rental or branded merchandise on IHG’s online catalogue.

There’s the option of spreading those points further by combining them with cash to redeem Reward Nights. Those Reward Nights count towards your Qualifying Nights, too, allowing you to progress up the membership tiers to access further perks.

Marriott Rewards

Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards now work together – simply elect to link the accounts and your current status will be matched across all three. The brands under its umbrella are diverse, from the hip (W, Edition, Design Hotels) to classic (Sheraton, Westin).

Free Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, late check-out and guaranteed lowest rates – these are a few of the luxuries that Marriott members can enjoy. Rack up qualifying nights to increase your status, leading to even more rewards at Silver, Gold and Platinum Elite levels.

Marriott’s Instant Redemption scheme allows members to cash in points for anything that can be charged to your room during your stay, including meals, golf, room upgrades, late check-outs, even an extra day’s stay.

You also can spend points on once-in-a-lifetime members only experiences, called Marriott Moments. Examples range from joining the chef’s table at a Michelin-starred restaurant to VIP access to concerts or sports games.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

Members can enjoy preferential rates when booking direct and a well-designed app that allows mobile check-in and check-out and the ability to make special requests, such as airport transfers and extra pillows. As you progress onto Elite status, things like late check-out, free room upgrades and welcome gifts are added.
The minimum number of points you need for a one-night redemption stay is 30,000 for a Tier One hotel.

Partnerships with brands such as department store Neiman Marcus, jeweler Asprey and luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent bring further options for how to splurge your points – the latter, for example, provides private itineraries for all Ritz-Carlton Rewards members, and complimentary membership in Marco Polo Club (Cathay Pacific’s pay-to-join loyalty scheme) for Gold and Platinum Elite Members.

Planning a big party? Members who chose to hold an event, whether it’s a wedding or a conference, at a Ritz-Carlton property will score 50,000 points and automatically receive Elite status.

Wyndham Rewards

You can redeem 15,000 points for a free night at any Wyndham hotel, home or condo worldwide; the chain has more than 8,000 properties in all.

Members always receive 10 percent off the best available rate. There are bonus points for staying on a weekday, earning 2,000 for two or more nights and 1,000 for one night, compared with 500 bonus points for weekend stays.