Focusing on one hotel loyalty program can help you achieve elite status and take advantage of included benefits — such as free breakfast or late checkout. It may also help you earn more points to redeem toward award nights. But how do you choose the best hotel rewards program?
Here’s a breakdown of five major hotel loyalty programs and their top credit card options that could help boost your earning potential and offer additional perks.
Hotel loyalty programs at a glance
Hotel loyalty programs are typically free to join and often provide their members with exclusive benefits and perks. You earn points within a program's rewards system when you complete hotel stays or other qualifying activities.
You can earn free hotel stays within the applicable hotel program with enough points. Keep in mind that each loyalty program uses different types of rewards. This typically means the value of points is different between hotels.
The table below compares five major hotel chains and their loyalty point values.
|Hotel||Number of properties||Average point value (cents per point)||Point expiration|
|Hilton||Over 6,800 properties across 18 brands in 122 countries and territories||0.6||After 24 months without qualifying activities|
|Hyatt||Over 1,150 properties across 26 brands in 70 countries||1.7||After 24 months without qualifying activities|
|IHG||Over 6,000 properties across 17 brands in more than 100 countries||0.5||After 12 months without qualifying activities|
|Marriott||Over 8,000 properties across 30 brands in 139 countries and territories||0.84||After 24 months without qualifying activities|
|Wyndham||Over 9,000 properties across 22 brands in more than 80 countries||1.1||After 18 months without qualifying activities or 4 years from when points were earned|
Hilton: Best for top-tier status
Hilton has an extensive worldwide network, with over 6,800 properties in 122 countries and territories. Properties are spread across 18 brands, including famous hotels such as Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
Other well-known brands include LXR, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites, and Tru.
The Hilton Honors rewards program is often considered one of the best available because it combines valuable benefits with lower requirements. You may enjoy this program if you’re interested in complimentary breakfast and room upgrades without staying more than 50 nights to receive top-tier status.
|Hilton Honors tiers||Nights requirement||Points per dollar||Main perks|
|Member||None||10 (Certain brands may offer fewer points, see below)||
|Silver||7||10 + 20% bonus||
|Gold||28||10 + 80% bonus||
|Diamond||42||10 + 100% bonus||
Considering Diamond status only requires 42 qualifying nights to achieve, Hilton Honors could be the way to go for many frequent travelers. This could especially ring true if your travels often coincide with one of the thousands of Hilton properties worldwide.
Fifth night free, suite upgrades, free breakfast, and executive lounge access are some of the many valuable benefits Hilton Honors elite members have come to enjoy.
Keep in mindSome Hilton brands, such as Home2 Suites and Tru hotels, offer less than 10 points per dollar spent
Hilton credit cards
Hilton has four co-branded credit cards, all offered by American Express. Three are personal options and one is for small business owners.
|Credit card||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|Hilton Honors American Express Card||Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months (plus, earn up to $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made at Hilton hotels in the first 12 months)||7X points at participating hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases||$0
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||12X points when spending directly with an eligible Hilton hotel or resort; 6X points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases||$95 (waived first year)
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months||14X points on eligible purchases within the Hilton portfolio, 7X points on qualifying travel purchases made directly with airlines/select car rental companies or Amextravel.com, 7X points at U.S. restaurants, and 3X points on all other purchases||$450
|The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card||Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months||12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on direct purchases with Hilton; 6X at U.S. gas stations, select cell phone services, U.S. shipping purchases, U.S. restaurants, select flights, and eligible car rentals; and 3X on all other eligible purchases||$95
One of the most appealing Hilton credit card options is the Hilton Honors Amex Aspire.
This card offers complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status to its cardholders. This top-tier status gives you benefits such as room upgrades and access to the executive lounge without having had to stay any nights at a Hilton property.
Keep in mind that these Hilton credit cards can help you earn more Hilton points on everyday spending and Hilton stays. For example, the Hilton Honors Amex Aspire typically offers up to 14X points on eligible purchases within the Hilton portfolio.
That translates to 4,200 points for a $300 Hilton stay. That’s about a third of the 14,000 points needed to cover a one-night stay at this hotel in Thailand, for example.
You can also earn Hilton Honors points by using certain credit cards from American Express since Amex Membership Rewards can be transferred to Hilton.
Other American Express card options for indirectly earning Hilton Honors points include:
- American Express® Gold Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Hyatt: Best for value
Hyatt is the smallest company on this list, offering over 1,150 properties in 70 countries. Of its 26 brands, you might recognize hotels such as Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, and Hyatt Regency.
Other popular Hyatt brands include Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, Andaz, Alila, Park Hyatt, Miraval, and Thompson.
World of Hyatt
Although technically a smaller rewards program, World of Hyatt is still one of the best hotel loyalty programs out there. Its worldwide footprint covers Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and more. It also offers practical benefits and valuable points for its members.
|World of Hyatt tiers||Nights requirement||Points per dollar||Main perks|
|Discoverist||10||5 + 10% bonus||
|Explorist||30||5 + 20% bonus||
|Globalist||60||5 + 30% bonus||
Lower tier levels offer some useful benefits, but the best benefits are found at the Globalist level. Staying 60 nights is steep for some travelers, but benefits such as suite upgrades, free breakfast, and club access improve every stay.
World of Hyatt points are some of the most valuable rewards among major hotel loyalty programs. While other hotel program points have devalued over the years, Hyatt points have stayed relatively strong. However, they aren’t always the easiest to earn.
Hyatt credit cards
Hyatt only offers two co-branded credit cards from Chase. Choose from one personal option and one business option for small business travelers.
|Credit card||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|The World of Hyatt Credit Card||Earn up to 60,000 points: 30,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, plus an additional 30,000 points by earning 2 bonus points per $1 spent on purchases that earn 1 bonus point, up to $15,000 spent in the first 6 months||9X points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels; 2X points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining, and health purchases; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else||$95|
|World of Hyatt Business Credit Card||Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||9X points at Hyatt hotels (4X points plus 5 base points as a World of Hyatt member); 2X points on the top three spending categories each quarter (to 12/31/23, then the top two categories each quarter); 2X points on fitness and gym memberships; and 1X points on all other purchases||$199|
The World of Hyatt Credit Card is often one of the best ways to earn Hyatt points and work toward achieving elite status. This card also gives you a free award night each year.
That said, earning Hyatt points is slower than earning Hilton points. The World of Hyatt credit card gives you 9X points on eligible purchases. Spending $300 on a Hyatt stay with the World of Hyatt credit card gives you 2,700 points. That’s less than one-fifth of the 15,000 points you need to get a night at a hotel in Cancun, Mexico.
It’s also possible to earn World of Hyatt points by using certain credit cards from Chase since Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to Hyatt.
Other credit card options for indirectly earning World of Hyatt points include:
IHG: Best for pets
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is a worldwide hotel group with more than 6,000 properties in more than 100 countries. Some of its most popular brands across its 17 options include Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, and Kimpton.
Other well-known IHG hotel brands include Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Six Senses, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn.
IHG One Rewards
IHG offers a bit of something for everyone, whether you want budget-friendly or luxury options. But one feature of the IHG One Rewards program (formerly IHG Rewards Club) that stands out is being able to book award stays at many pet-friendly properties.
Pets are allowed at many hotels within IHG brands, including InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, Avid Hotels, Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, and more.
|IHG One Rewards tiers||Nights requirement||Points per dollar||Main perks|
|Club Member||None||10 (Certain brands may offer fewer points, see below)||
|Silver Elite||10||10 + 20% bonus||
|Gold Elite||20||10 + 40% bonus||
|Platinum Elite||40||10 + 60% bonus||
|Diamond Elite||70||10 + 100% bonus||
IHG One Rewards elite members benefit from useful perks such as complimentary breakfast, room upgrades, and even discounts on award stays.
Keep in mindSpecific IHG brands, such as Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites, offer less than 10 points per dollar spent.
IHG credit cards
Choose from three co-branded IHG credit cards to help maximize your IHG One Rewards earning potential and take advantage of valuable benefits. All three cards are issued by Chase, with two personal options and one option for small business owners.
|Credit card||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card||Earn 80,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months||Up to 17X points at IHG hotels; 3X points on monthly bills, gas stations, and restaurants; and 2X on everything else||$0|
|IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card||Earn 140,000 points plus 1 Free Night after spending $3,000 in the first three months||26X points per $1 spent on stays at IHG hotels; 5X points on travel, gas stations, and restaurants; and 3X points on other purchases||$99|
|IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card||Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||26X points per $1 spent on stays at IHG hotels and resorts; 5X points on travel, gas stations, select business expenses, and restaurants, including takeout and delivery; and 3X points on other purchases||$99|
The IHG Rewards Premier is an appealing option because it offers a free annual night award and Platinum Elite status. You can also earn up to 26X points at IHG hotels. That’s 7,800 points in your account from a $300 stay. This isn’t far from the point cost of an award stay since they typically start around 10,000 points.
It’s also possible to earn IHG One Rewards points using certain credit cards from Chase because Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to IHG.
Other credit card options for indirectly earning IHG One Rewards points include:
Marriott: Best for luxury properties
Marriott is one of the largest and most well-known hotel companies in the world. It has over 8,000 properties in 139 countries and territories, spread across 30 different brands. Popular brands include The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and JW Marriott.
Apart from its iconic luxury brands, you may also be familiar with hotels such as Sheraton, Westin, Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, element, and more.
Marriott Bonvoy elite status comes in handy whether you’re staying at Marriott hotels for business or pleasure. Earning enough points and qualifying stays can set you up for valuable benefits and award nights. You may even get stays at luxury hotels with enough planning.
|Marriott Bonvoy tiers||Nights requirement||Points per dollar||Main perks|
|Silver Elite||10||10 + 10% bonus
(Certain brands may offer fewer points, see below)
|Gold Elite||25||10 + 25% bonus||
|Platinum Elite||50||10 + 50% bonus||
|Titanium Elite||75||10 + 75% bonus||
|Ambassador Elite||100||10 + 75% bonus||
Top-tier Marriott Bonvoy benefits are extremely valuable since they include free breakfast and room upgrades. You also get annual choice benefits — such as Suite Night Awards — that can immediately enhance a hotel stay.
Keep in mind that the night requirements for elite status are generally high with Marriott Bonvoy. This often means you have to travel frequently to achieve higher tiers and take advantage of available benefits.
Keep in mindCertain Marriott brands such as Residence Inn, element, and Towneplace Suites offer less than 10 points per dollar spent.
Marriott credit cards
Choose from four co-branded Marriott credit cards, two from American Express and two from Chase.
|Credit card||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card||Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (limited time offer)||14X Bonvoy points at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy (when coupled with your complimentary Marriott Bonvoy membership and Silver Elite status); 2X Bonvoy points on eligible travel purchases; and 1X points per $1 on everything else||$0|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card||Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months (limited time offer)||17X points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program; 3X points at grocery stores, gas stations, and dining on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year; and 2X points on all other eligible purchases||$95|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months||6X points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3X points at worldwide restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2X points on all other eligible purchases||$650
|Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card||Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months (limited time offer ends 11/02/22)||6X points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 4X points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, U.S. purchases on shipping, and wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. providers; and 2X points on all other eligible purchases||$125
Marriott Bonvoy cards come in three personal options and one business option. Choosing among the three personal options depends on how much you travel and what you’re willing to pay in annual fees.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card has the most appealing benefits, including an annual free night award (worth up to 85,000 points) and up to $300 in dining statement credits each year ($25 per month). You also receive complimentary Platinum Elite status. However, the $650 annual fee could be off-putting.
Remember that Marriott credit cards help you earn more points in addition to being a Marriott Bonvoy member. For example, using the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless to pay for Marriott hotel stays gives you up to 17X points per dollar.
That translates to 5,100 points on a $300 stay. Depending on the hotel and date, this point amount may be nearly enough for a one-night award stay. For example, one night at this hotel in Bali costs 5,500 points.
It’s also possible to earn Marriott Bonvoy points by using certain credit cards from Chase and American Express since both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to Marriott.
Other rewards card options for indirectly earning Marriott Bonvoy points include:
Wyndham: Best for the number of properties
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, offering more than 9,000 properties in more than 80 countries. These properties are spread across 22 brands, including popular hotels such as La Quinta, Ramada, Days Inn, Travelodge, and Super 8.
Wyndham also partners with vacation rental companies and club resorts such as WorldMark, Cottages.com, and Vacasa.
It’s well worth joining the Wyndham Rewards program because it’s free to participate.
You can immediately start earning rewards and using benefits after you join. This includes earning 10 points per dollar or more on qualified stays and saving on your stays as a loyalty program member.
|Wyndham Rewards tiers||Nights requirement||Points per dollar||Main perks|
|Gold||3||10 + 10% bonus||
|Platinum||9||10 + 15% bonus||
|Diamond||24||10 + 20% bonus||
Wyndham Rewards is often overlooked in favor of programs such as World of Hyatt, Hilton Honors, or Marriott Bonvoy. Wyndham properties cater to more budget-conscious travelers, and its elite benefits aren’t as good as other programs.
For example, top-tier status won’t necessarily get you free breakfast or club lounge access. On the other hand, the number of nights required to achieve elite status is relatively low compared with other programs. And Wyndham Rewards points often offer decent redemption value.
Wyndham credit cards
Choose from three co-branded Wyndham credit cards to earn points directly within the Wyndham Rewards program. There are two personal cards and one business card, all issued by Barclays.
|Credit card||Welcome bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|Wyndham Rewards Earner Card||45,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||5X points at participating Wyndham properties and on eligible gas purchases; 2X on eligible dining and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart); 1X on everything else||$0|
|Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus Card||60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days||6X points at participating By Wyndham properties and gas purchases; 4X on eligible dining and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart); 1X on everything else||$75|
|Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card||Earn 45,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months||8X points on eligible Wyndham Hotel and gas purchases; 5X points on eligible marketing, advertising, and utility purchases; and 1X points on all other purchases||$95|
Although these cards offer many benefits, one notable highlight is that you automatically get Wyndham Rewards Diamond status with the Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card. If you’re after elite status, this is a quick way to hit the top Wyndham tier without staying any nights.
Additionally, using a hotel credit card is a great strategy to earn points for award stays. With the available Wyndham cards, you can increase the amount of Wyndham points earned on your eligible hotel stays.
If you use the Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus Card, you can earn 6X points per dollar or 1,800 points on $300 spent on eligible Wyndham stays. That’s about one-fourth of the points needed for a room because Wyndham award nights start at 7,500 points.
It’s also possible to earn Wyndham Rewards points using certain credit cards from Capital One and Citi because both Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One miles can be transferred to Wyndham.
Other credit card options for indirectly earning Wyndham Rewards points include:
- Citi Premier® Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Which hotel loyalty program is best for you?
Consider these questions to find out which hotel loyalty program is best for you:
- Does a hotel group have properties where you like to travel? If not, you might want to consider a different loyalty program.
- Do you prefer budget, standard, or luxury hotels? Some loyalty programs tend to lean a certain direction when it comes to their hotel brands.
- How easy is it to earn and redeem rewards? The easier it is for you, the more you’re likely to gain value from a hotel program.
- What are points worth within the program? It makes sense to go with a program that offers more valuable rewards. Keep in mind that the value of credit card points and hotel loyalty points typically depends on how you redeem them.
- How easy is it to earn elite status? Focusing on a specific loyalty program is not always worth the effort if you don’t think you’ll meet the requirements for achieving elite status.
- What elite status benefits are available? Elite status benefits vary between loyalty programs. Consider multiple programs to find the benefits you’re looking for.
Answering these questions should help you pinpoint a hotel points program that works for you. In general, you can consider the five major loyalty programs and where each of them shines:
- Wyndham Rewards: Best for having a large number of properties. Many properties are budget-friendly.
- Marriott Bonvoy: Best for luxury properties, but you can still find budget-friendly options.
- Hilton Honors: Best for easily achieving top-tier status. Properties can range from budget-friendly to luxury.
- IHG One Rewards: Best for pet owners. Many properties are budget-friendly, but you can still find luxury options.
- World of Hyatt: Best for points value. Properties tend to be more upscale, but there are still affordable options.
Hotel rewards program and credit card FAQs
What is the largest hotel loyalty program?
Marriott Bonvoy is often considered the largest hotel loyalty program in the world with more than 160 million members. Here are other major hotel companies and their loyalty program member counts:
- Hilton Honors: Over 128 million members
- Wyndham Rewards: Over 86 million members
- World of Hyatt: About 30 million members
- Radisson Rewards Americas: Over 10 million members
What credit score is needed for a hotel credit card?
You typically need a good or excellent credit score to qualify for a hotel credit card. The exact score you need depends on the card you get.
The following top hotel cards often require a good or excellent credit score:
Can I use a hotel credit card anywhere?
Yes, you can typically use a hotel credit card anywhere it’s accepted. For example, a Visa hotel card is often accepted worldwide in places that welcome credit cards. Keep in mind that hotel credit cards often provide higher bonus rewards when used at applicable hotels, such as using a Hilton credit card at Hilton properties.
Choosing the best hotel rewards program requires considering multiple factors. Compare hotel loyalty programs with these factors in mind to narrow down your choices:
- Where you like to travel
- Your preferences on type of hotel
- Associated hotel credit cards
- Elite status availability and benefits
- Value of loyalty points
Keep in mind that you don’t have to stay loyal to only one or two hotel programs. Keeping your options open can provide more flexibility for your travel plans. Check out our list of the best travel credit cards that can add to your travel flexibility.