This piece is a general overview of how I used hotel loyalty programs in 2017 to stay 86 nights across 9 major hotel chains paying less than $4,000, while pretty evenly balancing earn and burn for 31 paid nights and 55 reward nights.
Only 7 hotel nights of my 86 major chain hotel nights were in the USA. The other 79 hotel nights were in European hotels.
Hotel Chains Stayed:
- Best Western 5 nights.
- Choice Privileges 16 nights.
- Club Carlson 24 nights.
- Hilton Honors 5 nights.
- World of Hyatt 4 nights.
- IHG Rewards Club 11 nights.
- Marriott Rewards 5 nights.
- Starwood Preferred Guest 2 nights.
- Wyndham Rewards 14 nights.
- Bulgaria 7 nights.
- Czech Republic 20 nights.
- Denmark 1 night.
- France 4 nights.
- Iceland 1 night.
- Latvia 2 nights.
- Lithuania 5 nights.
- Netherlands 9 nights.
- Poland 14 nights.
- Slovakia 3 nights.
- Sweden 5 nights.
- UK (London) 8 nights.
My 2017 Hotel Stay Strategy of Divided Loyalty
For years I focused on maintaining high elite with one program, maybe two if I could manage enough nights. Hilton, Hyatt and SPG were my main programs for 13 years.
I shifted that strategy in 2012. My focus in 2017 was earning the best value hotel promotion bonuses across different chains and choosing hotels where I found the best deals based on my points balances and loyalty promotion rebates.
As can be seen from my hotel chain stay profile for 2017, my emphasis is Club Carlson, Choice Privileges, IHG Rewards Club and Wyndham Rewards. These 4 hotel loyalty programs comprised 65 of my 86 hotel nights stayed in 2017.
Hotels in these four chains are generally considered inferior quality hotel loyalty programs in the Boarding Area sphere of loyalty influencers. It is not like I have limited familiarity with Hyatt and SPG. I was Hyatt Diamond and SPG Platinum for 7 or so years in each of those programs since 2003.
Often the hotels in Hyatt and SPG are simply better brands, but without high elite benefits providing room upgrades, club lounge access and welcome bonus amenity points, the standard room experience is often not that different from other chain hotels. Hotels in Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood brands tend to command a premium price.
Andaz Amsterdam is lovely, but Ramada Apollo Amsterdam is a deal and nice too
Andaz Amsterdam is a lovely hotel in a great location with a complimentary breakfast benefit for a World of Hyatt Diamond elite member at 25,000 points per reward night.
I prefer the option to stay at the Ramada Apollo Amsterdam for 3,000 Wyndham Rewards points + 62 EUR per night. I don’t need a suite upgrade certificate at the Ramada Apollo to get a comparably sized room.
Earning 3,000 Wyndham Rewards points is a lot easier for me than 25,000 Hyatt points with no need to invest thousands of dollars in Hyatt stays annually for the privilege of free breakfast every morning and some suite upgrade certificates.
Best Western, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards have some hotels where suites can be booked at the same price as a standard reward. You just have to look and book.
Location can force stays in different hotel chains
My interest the past few years in traveling around Scandinavia and Eastern Europe means there is limited usefulness for me with Hyatt and SPG due to their low footprint in countries I have been visiting.
On the other hand, Accor Hotels, Scandic and Nordic Choice Club are other hotel loyalty programs I have barely scratched the surface in utilizing for my travels. My knowledge base has room for expansion.
In 2017 I managed some high end hotel stays, like InterContinental London Park Lane using the $49 MasterCard annual free night and Riviera Marriott La Porte de Monaco on a $57.50 per night auction bid win.
One of my fondest hotel memories in 2017 was a 2-night stay in a lovely top floor loft suite in chilly Gdansk, Poland at Best Western Bonum for $39 per night last February. I wanted to take my wife back to that hotel in June, but Hotel Bonum Gdansk went independent in May 2017, so we ended up staying two nights in a suite at Radisson Blu Gdansk instead during a June Polish holiday festival.
Over the next few weeks I will share more about how I earned and burned in 2017 in 9 different hotel chains to stay 86 nights for about $4,000 in hotel spend. There are Loyalty traveler reviews of most of the hotels I stayed with details of how much I paid in cash or points for each stay and what promotion bonuses I earned.
Promotion bonuses and purchased points are more significant for hotel rebate discounts than credit cards in my travels.
Credit cards played a supporting role in my travels but credit card spend is not a significant part of my hotel loyalty strategy. Earning hotel promotion bonuses in different programs, buying hotel points when there are good discounts and planning hotel stays to take advantage of the best rates are the deals I use.
The value to be found in Best Western Rewards, Choice Privileges, Club Carlson, IHG Rewards Club and Wyndham Rewards can be surprising and rewarding without the same level of spend and commitment needed for frequent stays at Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and SPG.
Of course, if someone else with deep pockets is covering your hotel stay cost, then by all means stick with the more upscale chains and hotel brands. But if you are traveling on a budget, then my articles will show that a small travel budget does not necessarily mean budget hotel stays.