Best Hotel Rewards Program InfoGraphic

We made an InfoGraphic a couple of years ago for the Best Hotel Rewards Program.

But since it has been so popular and helpful to people, we wanted to redo the thing.

Make it more complete and easier to understand.

First, will be the Best Hotel Rewards Program InfoGraphic, then a text version.



An infographic by Drew and Caroline at Travel is Free

Best Hotel Rewards Program
Number of hotels
The number of hotels in each reward program is about:
6,372 Choice Hotels
5,000 IHG hotels
4,200 Hilton hotels
4,200 Marriott hotels
4,137 Accor hotels
1,774 Starwood hotels
1,370 Club Carlson hotels
605 Hyatt hotels
144 Fairmont hotels

Best quality hotels
One judge of this is which hotel chain has the most hotels on T&L’s Top 500 Hotels in the World list.
Marriott = 50 hotels
Starwood = 25 hotels
Hyatt = 14 hotels
Fairmont = 12 hotels
IHG = 10 hotels
Hilton = 8 hotels

Note that Marriott has so many hotels on the list because of owning Ritz Carlton hotels, which is the number one chain on the list, along with Four Seasons (which doesn’t have a rewards program).
Another important note… Choice Hotels are lower end hotels, you can use their points to book Preferred Hotel Group hotels – which makes up 42 of the Top 500 Hotels!

What percent of hotels are on the top 500 list:
Fairmont = 8.3%
Hyatt = 2.3%
Starwood = 1.5%
Marriott = 1.1%
IHG = .2%
Hilton = .19%
This gives some indication as to the quality of the average hotel.

Best Hotel Points Program
One thing not included in the InfoGraphic is the number of points you earn and spend, as it’s relative. A bottom tier at a Starwood hotel is as low as 2,000 points, and for IHG it’s 10,000.
Therefore Starwood is better for free nights? No! Not at all. In fact, it’s the opposite, as you earn points way faster with IHG.

How much do you have to spend to get a free night in points?
For a free night at a bottom tier hotel:
Club Carlson = $450
Choice = $500
Hilton = $500
Marriott = $750
IHG = $1,000
Hyatt = $1,000
Starwood = $1,500
For a free night at a top tier hotel:
Club Carlson = $3,500
Choice = $6,000
IHG = $6,000
Hyatt = $6,000
Marriott = $7,000
Hilton = $9,500
Starwood = $17,500

One thing not mentioned is that some of the best Starwood hotels in the Top 500 Hotels list cost way more than the top tier. So if you want free nights at that hotel, it could cost double or more. So Starwood is… pretty bad at earning points for free nights.

How much do you have to spend to get a free night with top tier status?
For a free night at a bottom tier hotel:
Club Carlson = $257
Choice = $333
Hilton = $333
IHG = $500
Marriott = $500
Hyatt = $769
Starwood = $1,000
For a free night at a top tier hotel:
Club Carlson = $2,000
Choice = $4,000
IHG = $3,000
Hyatt = $4,615
Marriott = $4,667
Hilton = $6,333
Starwood = $11,687

One thing not mentioned is promotions. Yet, promotions seem to follow the same curve. The best promotions for points towards a free night seem to come from IHG and Club Carlson. Worse of all would be Starwood and Hilton.
Same curve, but points promotions can dramatically increase the number of points you earn.

Almost all chains give the same benefits, but there are a few things I’ll point out.
# of stays/nights to get status that gives breakfast:
Hilton = 20/40
Hyatt = 25/50
Starwood = 25/50
Club Carlson = 30/75
Marriott = x/50
Chains not listed do not have status that gives breakfast.
Although, many cheap hotels give free breakfast anyways. So it’s a perk needed more for nice hotels.

# of stays/nights to get status that gives lounge access:
Hilton = 20/40
Hyatt = 25/50
Starwood = 25/50
Marriott = x/50
Chains not listed do not have lounge benefits.

Guaranteed suite upgrades:
Hyatt gives 4 upgrades (after 25 stays or 50 nights)
Fairmont gives 1 upgrade (after 5 stays or 10 nights)
& 2 upgrades (after 10 stays or 30 nights)
Starwood gives 10 upgrades that can only be used last minute (after 50 nights)

Status from credit cards
Hilton Gold is basically the only meaningful benefit that can come from a credit card giving status.

Hotel Credit Cards
The Hilton Cards are the best in terms of free nights at lower category hotels. See 15 credit cards that can earn Hilton points.
And the best part is, the numbers given don’t include the 5th night free benefit – for stays of 5 nights where you only pay for 4.
Club Carlson and Marriott also have low category hotels that can earn lots of free nights. Plus, IHG’s possible 7 free nights can be doubled during IHG PointBreaks promotions. PointBreaks could give higher quality hotels too!

For free nights at the best hotels
If you want quality not quantity, the best option is the Hyatt card, giving 2 free nights at over 600 hotels – including 14 of the Top 500 hotels.
Plus, the annual fee is waived for the first year. Same with Fairmont, just slightly less hotels.
The Hilton Reserve gives two free nights but the annual fee isn’t waived, and the free nights are only good on weekends! And honestly, you can not beat Hyatt’s award availability.

Personally my favorite hotel credit card is the IHG card. It gives 70k or 80k points upfront, but it gives you a free night every year you keep the card. That’s a “free” night at any IHG hotel once you pay the $49.
$49 a night would totally be worth the InterContinental Bora Bora. Trust me!

The best hotel rewards program ultimately comes down to what you want.
If you want free nights; IHG is the way to go.
If you want upgrades, lounge, and breakfast; Hyatt is the way to go. It gives the best benefits while still earning free nights way faster than Starwood, and even Hilton or Marriott.
Always you need to make sure there are hotels in the cities where you travel most, if it’s business related. And if you travel all over, you might need Hilton or Marriott for their large number of hotels.
Or you can mix and match.
If you rarely pay for hotels, the best way to go is to earn points from the credit cards.

Hope this helps you figure out the best hotel rewards program for you!