Hotel Loyalty Comparisons – Give Me Some Truth, and at least some proof

Marriott Rewards got me started on an analysis this week. The Marriott Rewards site has a Better Rewards webpage that makes bold statements like:

            “We’re just better than the competition.”

            “Marriott Rewards is not just better, but the best of all loyalty programs.”

There are three claims in answer to the question: “What makes Marriott Rewards better than other hotel loyalty programs?”

1.    Marriott Rewards lets you earn and redeem points at more than 2,900 hotels worldwide including many that are on the Condé Nast Gold List of the best hotels in the world.

2.    Marriott Rewards delivers a memorable and more personal experience based on saved guest preferences profile.

3.    Marriott Rewards was recently voted the 2008 Hotel Program of the Year.

The bullets under “More ways to earn rewards” and “And more ways to burn rewards” give nice summaries of benefits and rewards options.

My gripe is with the hotel loyalty program chart showing Marriott Rewards compared to Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred Guest, Hyatt Gold Passport, and InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club.  Broad group comparisons on the advantages of Marriott Rewards for earning points and redeeming points are made with no source data to allow me, as a consumer, to determine if the chart is accurate.

Just because it is on Marriott Rewards website does not mean it is accurate. 

The “Why Marriott Rewards is Best” chart is divided into Earning Points and Redeeming Points.  I have inserted my comments after outlining the comparison categories.


Why Marriott Rewards is Best (link)

            Earning Points

1.       Broadest portfolio of award-winning brands

a.    Full service,

b.    select service,

c.    extended stay

2.       More shopping options

a.    Online shopping mall

b.    Earn points with Visa

Loyalty traveler says:

Recent awards from whom? I would like to know which award competitions Marriott is citing.  As a consumer I want to know what other frequent hotel guests think about different hotel brands and hopefully find some rationale.  I am looking for the best hotel program. 

Telling me a brand in a hotel chain with 5 to 12 brands has won a nondescript award does not help me as a consumer learn about the award-winning hotel brands or what kind of groups give out awards to hotel brands.

And why exclude brands that have fewer than 100 hotels as stated in the footnote? 

This removes the brands of Park Hyatt, Hotel Indigo (IHG), Conrad (Hilton), W Hotels (Starwood), St. Regis (Starwood), Waldorf=Astoria (Hilton), aloft (Starwood), Andaz (Hyatt), element (Starwood).

Is JW Marriott excluded from this set for having less than 100 hotels?

A comparison of points earned for hotel stays is a better category in my opinion.  GoldPoints Plus offers that kind of points earning comparison on their “Do the Math” Calculator. 

The recent Marriott Rewards change to increase the Platinum elite bonus to 50% from 30% now makes the Marriott calculation too low on the GoldPoints Plus Hotel loyalty comparison program Calculator.

The Calculator processes Hilton HHonors correctly now.  I contacted GoldPoints Plus last June to explain how the calculator incorrectly tabulated Hilton HHonors points earning too high.  I wrote about the calculator in this post.

Earn points with Visa?  Come on.  I hope that is not a deciding factor in your hotel loyalty program choice.  Starwood American Express works fine for most transactions.

Redeeming Points

1.       More resorts, spas, and golf

a.    Resorts 

b.    On-site golf

c.    On-site spa

d.    Conde Nast Gold List

2.       More redemption options

a.    200+ merchandise items

b.    Cruises

c.    Customized awards

3.       No Hassles 

a.    No Blackout Dates

b.    Book rewards, then earn points

c.    Best rate Guarantee

Loyalty Traveler:

A Marriott Hotels website search for resorts only pulls up 121 resorts.  I guess all those Ritz-Carlton Hotels should be better integrated with the Marriott website. Hilton has a webpage showing 52 resorts and 31 spas.  Hilton should be better at promoting the other 64 resorts Marriott believes they have in their portfolio.  Starwood Hotels is one-third the size of Marriott and has almost the same number of resorts as Marriott.  Starwood looks pretty classy on that measure.

The Conde Nast Gold List is really puzzling to me.  The Gold List can be viewed online and I didn’t get anything close to the 51 hotels number shown on Marriott’s chart for Gold List hotels during my hasty survey.  I am not saying Marriott is inaccurate, but it is unclear to me how they derived the numbers.

My Gold List numbers were so far off from Marriott’s I believe the chart must include Reserve list hotels which are a subsection of the Gold List and are not part of the online Gold List.

My Gold List numbers came out on a quick count as: 

Marriott = 29 (23 of these are partner hotels: 21 Ritz Carlton Hotels and 2 Castles)

Hilton = 4

IHG = 6

Hyatt = 13

Starwood = 25 (Lanesborough London is a St. Regis hotel, but does not participate in SPG)


Ritz Carlton San Francisco

 Ritz Carlton San Francisco (Marriott Rewards partner hotel)

One difficulty in quickly categorizing the Gold List by hotel loyalty program is hotel brand is not identified for many of the chain hotels on the Gold List.  The Phoenician in Scottsdale is not described as a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel in the property listing for the Gold List.  Starwood’s Luxury Collection hotels have to be recognized by name.

Marriott Rewards hotels on the Gold List, I assume also include partner hotels like the Irish luxury hotels at  Ashford Castle and Dromoland Castle, in addition to the Ritz-Carlton hotels which are the majority of Marriott Gold List Hotels.  Unfortunate for the Marriott Rewards member is the inability to earn points at Ritz Carlton hotels.  These luxury properties are redemption opportunities only.   


Marriott’s chart shows Hilton HHonors does not have a Best Rate Guarantee?



About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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