Three Reasons Why Ranking Hotel Loyalty Programs are Mostly Useless — To Me, Anyway

Let’s face it: frequent travel loyalty programs have become less valuable overall in recent years due to a number of reasons — a strong economy is often cited as a significant factor — through which earning elite level status can be more expensive while simultaneously enjoying fewer or weaker benefits.

Three Reasons Why Ranking Hotel Loyalty Programs are Mostly Useless — To Me, Anyway

Holiday Inn Vilnius

Can you tell from which frequent guest loyalty program you would benefit if you slept one night at the hotel or resort property which offers this complimentary breakfast buffet as part of the room rate? Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

A number of articles have been published in recent years by different authors who rank the frequent guest loyalty programs of different multinational lodging companies based on a variety of data — including the supposedly intrinsic value of an actual point; the number of hotel and resort properties in the world which participate in the membership program; and the value of the benefits which are offered to members at different elite status levels — which can assist in choosing which frequent guest loyalty program is of the most value…

…but I take little stock in the importance of that data for three reasons.

Reason 1: Service

Nile River Hilton Luxor Egypt

The swimming pool at the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa is located near the banks of the Nile River in the background, with the Valley of the Kings on the other side of the Nile River. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Many people define the value of service in general differently. A high-end hotel or resort property is a priority for someone who enjoys or requires butler service, for example…

…but what about the quality of service and the respect which is offered with it? Does the ranking of a frequent guest loyalty program even matter if the service at particular hotel or resort properties is outstanding — or terrible?

As one of many examples, I was absolutely floored with what I consider to be arguably the best service I ever received from a hotel property after I checked out of the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa a few years ago. An employee of that hotel property actually left to find me and had me follow him to a fuel station to fill the tank of the rental car I drove with gasoline before directing me to a road back to Hurghada which saved me a significant amount of time…

…but little did I know that this otherwise useful road was actually listed as one of the ten roads on which you would never want to drive. Such is the adventure of travel.

Reason 2: Cost to Stay


Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

How much will a stay for one night cost at a hotel or resort property is a significant factor towards a guest deciding on where to stay, as many people are price sensitive. If a person chooses to stay one night at a hotel property which costs $150.00 because the other hotel property nearby costs $300.00 to stay for that same night, does much else really matter?

That is not to say that benefits may not be worth the additional expense — but how does someone quantify such a subjective factor?

For example, I do enjoy sitting in a seat in the premium class cabin aboard an airplane for a variety of reasons — but as I am not obese and do not drink alcoholic beverages, the cost to sit there is of not as much value to me as it is to a fellow passenger who is more comfortable in a wider seat and enjoys wine or beer or cocktails; so a ranking of a frequent flier loyalty program of a particular airline as higher than another primarily because of wider seats and complimentary alcoholic beverages is of paramount importance to the aforementioned passenger; not much importance to someone who may enjoy those benefits but are not a priority to them; and is virtually meaningless to me.

Similarly, hotel and resort properties offer features and benefits which may be of paramount importance to some people and of no value to others. The threshold of price upon which to place them is purely subjective.

Reason 3: Location

Sleep Inn Beaver - Beckley

The bed was reasonably comfortable at the Sleep Inn Beaver – Beckley hotel property in West Virginia. Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The footprint of a lodging company — that is, the number of hotel and resort properties worldwide — is indeed important in terms of convenience…

…but that does not always guarantee a good location even though a larger footprint increases those odds.

As an example — despite my preference for the Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program — I recently stayed at the Sleep Inn Beaver – Beckley hotel property in West Virginia instead of a Hampton Inn for two reasons: the location was better; and the room rate was at least $20.00 less expensive. Despite the issues and quite bizarre features — such as the space capsule shower stall and silo — I recommend staying at this hotel property because it served its purpose as a warm place to stay with a reasonably comfortable bed and a bathroom.

Sure, I could have earned some bonus Hilton Honors points in addition to the base ones and received a free bottle of water, but as nice as those benefits are, they were simply not worth at least an additional $20.00 plus time to drive and the cost of gasoline to me at that moment.

A comparison of the frequent guest loyalty programs of lodging companies would not have been helpful in this particular case, in my opinion.


Hyatt on the Bund

Can you tell from which frequent guest loyalty program you would benefit if you slept one night in this bed? Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Ranking the frequent guest loyalty programs of lodging companies may be of some use at times; but many data points are too subjective to give them the credence upon which an inexperienced traveler can rely, in my opinion.

My preference overall is Hilton Honors because I have been treated very well at most of the participating hotel and resort properties at which I have stayed over the years. In many cases, I get the best overall value for my dollar…

…but that does not mean that I do not stay at hotel and resort properties which are associated with the Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards Club and World of Hyatt frequent guest loyalty programs — all of which I have been a member for years — for a variety of reasons not associated with the rankings of them by various sources…

…and what about Choice Privileges Rewards, Best Western Rewards, and Wyndham Rewards? There are people who prefer them at a higher priority than others for their own reasons.

I just do not find the rankings of the frequent guest loyalty programs of lodging companies to be of much use to me — especially as they have generally devalued over the years.

What am I missing here?!?

All photographs ©2017, ©2018 and ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Three Reasons Why Ranking Hotel Loyalty Programs are Mostly Useless — To Me, Anyway”

  1. derek says:

    I agree. Ranking has limited use. Location and costs are of paramount importance as is level of service. However, location and costs vary more. I will not be slave to a hotel chain. In the US, most hotels are part of chains but that’s not the case in every country.

    I like it that Hiltons are slower or have not converted to communal soap while Marriott has. I am avoiding Marriotts and IHG for now.

  2. Barry Graham says:

    I agree with you. People rank Southwest higher than Delta but there is nothing about Southwest that would make me rave about them the same way I was doing about Delta a few days ago with a friend. On the other hand there are people that love Southwest. Each to their own. People should pick what works for them, use them, and tell everyone what they love about them (rather than always complaining as is so easy to do).

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