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21% of Americans belong to a hotel loyalty program and loyalty motivators

Club Carlson PR emailed me survey results on Americans’ attitudes to hotel loyalty programs: Findings from National Kelton Survey on Loyalty Habits.

This post provides my commentary to the hotel loyalty program survey findings.

21% belong to a hotel loyalty program.

1 in 5 people belong to a hotel loyalty program.

I think reasons for not belonging to a hotel loyalty program could be infrequent travel, preference for other accommodations like staying with friends and relatives, hostels, couchsurfing, camping, Priceline, Hotwire and online travel agency bookings like Expedia. Many travelers prefer independent hotels and B&B lodging.

Of the 21% who do belong to a hotel loyalty program, 3 of 5 belong to more than one program.

Gender Gap

24% of men belong to a hotel loyalty program. 18% women.

I have no real insight here. More men travel?

Long Vacation

59% of hotel loyalty members prefer to save points for a longer vacation hotel stay opportunity like a family vacation (41%) or romantic getaway (32%) rather than redeem by the night. This is particularly true for those age 18-34 (67%).

Logistically, the better value when redeeming points are discount stays available with 5th night free rewards in programs like Hilton, Starwood and Marriott.

One of the best travel packages available with points is Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages for seven hotel nights + air miles.

These packages start at 200,000 points for 7 nights at a category 1-5 hotel + 50,000 miles (or 35,000 miles with some airlines). Even top-tier Ritz-Carlton Hotels are available with Hotel + Air Packages for 470,000 to 540,000 points.

The high value of Marriott Hotel + Air Travel Packages is the ability to redeem points for seven hotel nights at the normal rate while acquiring airline miles for a rate as low as 1 Marriott point = 1 airline mile when you redeem points for the 120,000 miles + 7 nights package.

Hotel Loyalty Program Motivators

1. Ease of earning Free Nights (62%). Nearly half of respondents who belonged to a hotel loyalty program listed free nights as their primary motivator. 88% earned an average of four free nights in the past year.

2. Free internet and WiFi (41%).

3. Number of hotels, locations and frequent promotions (40%).

Free nights are my primary motivator which is why I tend to analyze hotel promotions based on how quickly a free night can be earned.

This makes Club Carlson Visa card a major bonus loyalty credit card with the benefit of last night free on every award stay, up to 50 free nights a year. The Club Carlson Visa effectively makes points redeemed for every one night worth two free nights on a 2-night award stay.

Marriott Rewards MegaBonus is a frequent promotion each year offering one free night after two stays. That is my way to stay three nights for the price of two nights.

Best Western and Choice Privileges regularly run promotions where two or three stays earn a free night.

These kinds of promotions mean I generally stay one night when paying for a hotel and redeem points for extended stays of more than one night.

What’s worse than paying for internet?

Paying for internet at a hotel and finding limited access.

My experience this week in Toronto was free WiFi for anyone walking into the Toronto Convention Centre, yet the attached InterContinental Hotel Toronto Centre charged $15 per day for WiFi access. In the evening the browsing was so slow that I could barely work. The hotel removed the charge after I commented at checkout.

The number of hotels is a key issue (no pun intended). Starwood and Hyatt are great programs if you travel to a place with these brands. Where I live in Monterey, California there are two Hyatt brand hotels within ten miles, however, the nearest Starwood Hotel is 75 miles away for a chain with more than twice the properties globally.

Marriott, Hilton and IHG (about 3,800–4,500 hotels) have 4x hotels than Club Carlson (1,200) and Starwood (1,100). Hyatt is only around 500 hotels.

And if you travel to rural USA you will likely benefit from belonging to Best Western (4,000+ globally with over 50% in USA), Choice Privileges (6,200 globally with about 4,500 in USA) , La Quinta Returns (800+) and Wyndham Rewards (over 7,200 globally with about 6,000 in USA) which populate small towns where none of the other major chain brands have hotels.

A Hotel Turn Off means a likely jump to another hotel chain.

1 in 4 hotel loyalty members state they would change programs after a single bad experience.

My thought is hopefully they are not true frequent travelers or they will run out of hotel loyalty programs before long.

In fairness I ‘d say 95% of my hotel stays are fine with no serious issues to complain about.

Buying Points

94% of respondents say buying points is an option they would consider if it would get them into a specific hotel for less.

Personally I am a big fan of this option. I save hundreds of dollars each year, sometimes thousands, from hotel point purchases. This is especially useful during conferences when hotel rates are sky high and the cost to buy points is often less than the published room rates.

Daily Getaways from American Express and the U.S. Travel Association are one of the best offers of the year for buying discount hotel points. These start next week for five weeks of travel discounts and several days will feature hotel point packages.


Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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  • Carl P June 6, 2013

    Have you looked at the deal on buying Club Carlson points? $198 for 50,000 points or $385 for 100,000 points. 10% additional discount if you use AMEX. It’s good on June 19th only.

    What do you think?

  • Ric Garrido June 6, 2013

    I don’t think it is a compelling deal unless you have a specific hotel stay in mind or you are a Club Carlson Visa card member.

    100,000 points is almost seven free nights at a Club Carlson category 2 (15,000 points) or 11 nights at a category 1 (9,000 points)hotel. The points are great value for those hotels.

    Two nights for a category 5 (44,000 points) or category 6 (50,000 points) will likely not be as good a deal.

    Club Carlson sells points normally for $7.00 per 1,000 and there is an annual purchase limit is far lower at 40,000 points per calendar year.

    I think $350 for 100,000 points is a decent investment that can provide $500 to $1,000+ in hotel value if you selectively redeem points for hotel stays. This can be a great deal for a Club Carlson Visa card member with the free night on each award stay.

  • Carl P June 6, 2013

    I do have the CC Visa, so it seemed like a good deal, especially if used on lower properties (I am reading the terms as you have that option to use the points however you want). My dilemma also is how many points is ENOUGH and you shouldn’t go for the deal even if it looks good in itself.

    Club Carlson gives so many points with a stay I sometimes find myself not wanting to use points becuase it not only cost the redemption points, but also the point opportunity lost.

    That may come from too much analysis.

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