Marriott and Hilton Hotel Awards Comparison

The distribution of hotels in a loyalty program’s award categories is an important consideration when evaluating a hotel loyalty program and making comparisons between hotel loyalty programs.

Marriott Rewards shifted hotels last week to move nearly 300 hotels up in award category, however, there were even more hotels moved down in award category making free nights less to buy with points. The changes in points required for a free night affected fewer than 18% of the 3,375 hotels  in the Marriott network. 

Link to Loyalty Traveler list of Marriott Hotels that changed award category March 8, 2010.

In January 2010 Hilton HHonors shifted hotels among its award categories which resulted in 82% of hotels costing more points in 2010. Marriott Rewards raised the award level last week for just over 8% of its hotels.

Hotel award category distribution matters

The tables below show the distribution of hotels within award categories for Marriott and Hilton. Marriott has a distinct advantage with 1 in 3 hotels available as category 1 or 2 awards. Hilton has fewer than 5% of hotels in its two lowest categories, or less than 1 in 20 hotels.

Marriott Rewards Hotel Awards Category Distribution    
Hotel Award Category  2010  
Category 1 = 7,500 points 288 8.53%
Category 2 = 10,000 points 866 25.66%
Category 3 = 15,000 points 1166 34.55%
Category 4 = 20,000 points 565 16.74%
Category 5 = 25,000 points 306 9.07%
Category 6 = 30,000 points 154 4.56%
Category 7 = 35,000 points 22 0.65%
Category 8 = 40,000 points 8 0.24%
Hotels in Marriott System March 15, 2010 3,375 100%

Marriott has 68.74% of its properties at 15,000 points or less. 2 of every 3 Marriott brand hotels are available for 15,000 points or less.

Hilton HHonors Hotel Awards Category Distribution    
Hotel Award Category  2010  
Category 1 = 7,500 points 42 1.19%
Category 2 = 12,500 points 117 3.31%
Category 3 = 25,000 points 1,383 39.16%
Category 4 = 30,000 points 1,233 34.91%
Category 5 = 35,000 points 461 13.05%
Category 6 = 40,000 points 179 5.07%
Category 7 = 50,000 points 117 3.31%
Hotels in Hilton System February, 2010 3,532 100%

Now, compare the higher earning rate for a Hilton HHonors member earning Points & Points to the higher award rate. Assume the Hilton member earns 22,500 points in the same amount of time as a Marriott Rewards member earns 15,000 points. Hilton has 4.5% of its hotels for less than 22,500 points or less than 1 out of every 20 hotels in the chain. 

Sure you may earn points faster with Hilton, but the award levels are proportionately higher for hotel awards with Hilton HHonors; perhaps even disproportionately higher.

How do the programs match up for free nights using points with hotel awards?

The relative cost of a hotel award is related to the rate a member can earn points in the program. Money spent, elite status, and promotions are the primary factors determining how many points a member will earn in the loyalty program.

Hotel Spend

Assume the money spent is the same whether staying with Hilton or Marriott.

The HHonors member can choose to earn Points & Points and receive base points at a 50% faster rate than Marriott Rewards members for the same level of spending.

Elite Bonuses 

Hilton has the advantage on elite bonus points, since it is much easier to reach HHonors Gold on 16 stays or 36 nights (25% bonus) vs. Marriott Rewards Gold at 50 nights (25% elite bonus points).

Hilton Diamond at 28 stays or 60 nights is a lower threshold than Marriott Rewards 75 nights for Platinum. Each program offers a 50% elite bonus for top tier members. 

Promotions are difficult to compare. Hilton HHonors had a couple of good promotions over the past six months. The 25,000 points after 4 stays was a great offer. Marriott Rewards consistently offers its MegaBonus. Each program seems to offer members an opportunity to earn around 100,000+ bonus points per year. Bonuses are highly variable and dependent on an individual traveler’s pattern of hotel stays.

Base Points Earned favors Hilton 

One definite advantage of Hilton is 10 base points per $1 for every hotel brand. Marriott Rewards members with frequent stays in Residence Inn or TownePlace Suites will only earn 5 points per $1. If extended stay properties are your normal stay pattern, then the comparisons below may need to consider that your earning rate could be just 1/3 the rate of a HHonors member receiving 15 points per $1 with Points & Points.

A few hotel award samples for comparison of HHonors and Marriott Rewards:

Fairfield Inn Manchester Airport, New Hampshire dropped from a Marriott Rewards category 2 to a category 1 and is now 7,500 points per night.

Hilton has a Homewood Suites located at Manchester Airport which is certainly a higher hotel market competitive set than the Fairfield Inn, but this hotel will set you back 30,000 points for a night.

Hilton has the better hotel. Marriott probably has the better value award. Unless you are hanging out at the airport for business, a bed at the Fairfield Inn will likely give most travelers what they need at 25% of the award cost. 

But here are other hotel options for airport rooms in Manchester, New Hampshire 

Manchester Regional Airport

Marriott SpringHill Suites Manchester Regional Airport is a Category 2 hotel for 10,000 points per night.

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $93.
  • Award value = $9.30/1,000 points.

Hilton Homewood Suites is a category 4 hotel for 30,000 points per night. 

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $129.
  • Award value = $4.30/1,000 points.

SpringHill Suites and Homewood Suites are both extended stay apartment style rooms. Courtyard is not an extended stay type hotel, but offers another airport hotel for Marriott Rewards members. 

Marriott Courtyard Manchester Regional Airport is a category 2 hotel at 10,000 points per night.

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $125.
  • Award value = $12.50/1,000 points.

While Hilton may offer an advantage with easier elite qualification for higher tiers and more bonus points, the cost of awards at this location still favors the Marriott Rewards member.

Tucson Airport Arizona

Marriott Rewards

Courtyard Tucson Airport is Category 2 Hotel = 10,000 points

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $167.
  • Award value = $16.70/1,000 points

Fairfield Inn Tucson Airport is Category 2 Hotel = 10,000 points

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $129
  • Award value = $12.90/1,000 points

Residence Inn Tucson Airport is category 3 = 15,000 points

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $215
  • Award value = $14.33/1,000 points 

TownePlace Suites Tucson Airport is Category 2 Hotel = 10,000 points

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $149
  • Award value = $14.90/1,000 points

Hilton HHonors

Hampton Inn Tucson Airport is HHonors category 4 hotel = 30,000 points (this hotel increased from a category 2 award in January 2010)

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $118
  • Award value = $3.93/1,000 points

Hilton Garden Inn Tucson Airport is HHonors category 3 hotel = 25,000 points

  • Wednesday, March 17 rate = $169
  • Award value = $6.76/1,000 points

After all that flying around and sleeping in airport hotels you might want a vacation.

Resort Hotel Stay Guanacaste, Costa Rica (7 nights from March 21-March 28)

JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa

Marriott Rewards category 5 hotel is 25,000 points per night or 150,000 points for 7 nights (5th night free).

  • Published room rate = $299 per night
  • Award Value = $13.95 per 1,000 points.

Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa

Category 7 hotel is 50,000 points per night with a 25% discount for a 7 night stay = 262,500 points.

  • Published room rate  = $169 per night.
  • Award Value = $4.51 per 1,000 points


Hotel Award Category Matters

Hilton HHonors likes to advertise its option to earn Points & Miles as the only program giving members both hotel points and airline miles for each hotel stay. Members taking that option earn hotel points at about the same rate as Marriott Rewards members. HHonors members also have the Points & Points option to earn a 50% bonus of base points (15 points per $1 instead of 10 points per $1 with Points & Miles).

While you may be able to earn 50% to 100% more points with Hilton HHonors, the payback comes when you decide to redeem your points. The cost of HHonors hotel nights in many different markets where both have similar market segment hotels of midscale, upscale and resort, the cost is likely to be a much higher award level for the Hilton free night compared to the cost for a free night with Marriott Rewards.

Hotel award category plays an important part of the equation when figuring out the value of your points.

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 in 2008.

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