Dec072018

Critical flaw in WalletHub’s 2018 best hotel rewards program analysis

WalletHub’s Best Hotel Rewards Program 2018 has a critical flaw in my opinion. The most difficult component to incorporate in a comparison of hotel rewards program is how to value hotel rewards program promotions. There are many comparisons of hotel rewards programs published each year and then heavily publicized through media channels by the top ranked hotel programs. Generally there is little or no consideration of a hotel rewards program’s promotions in their analysis.

Hotel rewards program promotions make all the difference to this member.

Wyndham Rewards has been hitting the news circuit this week as the best hotel rewards program in 2018 for travelers with heavy, moderate or light hotel spend based on WalletHub’s study.

IHG Rewards Club ranks last in all spend levels of 10 hotel rewards programs included in the study.

In general, the rankings show little change with regard to annual hotel spend for their designation as a light, moderate or heavy spender.

  1. Wyndham Rewards
  2. Best Western Rewards
  3. Radisson Rewards
  4. Marriott Rewards
  5. Choice Privileges
  6. World of Hyatt
  7. Hilton Honors
  8. La Quinta Returns
  9. Drury Gold Key Club
  10. IHG Rewards Club

Methodology 

WalletHub shows some of their methodology for comparing hotel rewards program, however, I don’t find much of it to be useful for practical comparisons of the features for a member trying to decide where to focus their hotel spend in terms of the value of different hotel programs.

For example, WalletHub attributes the same number of points – 5 points – for valuable membership level perks as they give for whether points expire. And they give 4 points if you can make a reservation more than one year in advance or no points if you can’t.

Seriously, how many travelers make reservations more than one year in advance?

Is that really an important perk compared to what membership benefits you receive on each hotel stay?

WalletHub states the average rewards value per $100 in spend ranges from $6.60 for IHG light spenders to $14.30 for Wyndham Rewards heavy spenders. Their analysis shows Wyndham Rewards increasing in value for 2018.

The confusing aspect of this to me is Wyndham Rewards devalued their best reward value offer in early 2018 when GoFast (Points+Cash) changed from a fixed cash amount assigned to the hotel to a dynamic cash amount equal to 65% of the flexible rate for the room. Cash payment portion ranged from about $25 to $150 per night depending on the hotel. I kept in mind a few dozen hotels where about $50 to $75 would buy a $150 to $250 room night for places I planned to redeem points, primarily in Europe.

By my calculations Wyndham Rewards points devalued by about 50% after the GoFast change, based on the redemption value I had received in 2017.

For example, I stayed 5 nights at Ramada Amsterdam Apollo in February 2018 and paid 3,000 points and about $75 per night for the hotel’s top category Panoramic Executive King room. I redeemed my points there several times over the past few years when room rates were over $200 per night. The current GoFast reward system requires 65% Flexible Rate making a $130 cash portion on a $200 room rate.

Loyalty Traveler – Ramada Apollo Amsterdam 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points saved $500 (Feb 26. 2018).

Ramada Apollo Amsterdam

There are still hotels with good redemption value to be found with Wyndham Rewards points. However, the good value deals I found for hotels prior to the 2018 GoFast reward nights change were eliminated for about 90% of the hotels around the world I had my eye on for future Wyndham Rewards points stays.

For example, Wyndham Rewards offered great value at several hotels in Romania one year ago, yet I did not even consider using Wyndham Rewards points on my trip in October 2018 due to their competitive reward prices eliminated with the change to GoFast reward nights in March 2018.

My redemption value for Wyndham Rewards points averaged between $25 and $30 per 1,000 points since 2015 using GoFast rewards and now it is difficult to get much more than $10 to $15 in redemption value on Wyndham Rewards points, except for a handful of hotels.

Wyndham Rewards redemption tip: Since this program is probably not even on the minds of most readers, the competitive edge for Wyndham Rewards over more upscale programs like Hilton Honors, Marriott Rewards and World of Hyatt are locating Wyndham brand hotels where high category rooms are available for standard reward rates at 15,000 points per night.

My next reward stay using 45,000 Wyndham Rewards points is for a GoFree hotel stay priced at $279 USD per night when I booked it two months ago. I am getting $55 in reward value per 3,000 points on my 45,000 points stay for $18.30 in redemption value per 1,000 Wyndham Rewards points.

In February 2018, I received $100 in reward value for 3,000 points on my last Wyndham Rewards stay using only 15,000 points for 5 nights on GoFast rates in Amsterdam where I booked the highest category room at the hotel. That was $33.30 in redemption value per 1,000 Wyndham Rewards points.

The 2018 devaluation in Wyndham Rewards is primarily due to the change in GoFast rewards that increased the cash portion for hotels offering higher category rooms, even suites, at 3,000 points and fixed cash rates. Now the higher the room rate, the higher the cash portion is for a GoFast reward night when paying 65%. These higher category rooms are still available for 15,000 points, but that requires 5x more points to book these good value rooms.

Buying Wyndham Rewards points is limited to 10,000 points per year at a price of $13.00 per 1,000 points. And while Wyndham has around 9,000 hotels since the acquisition of La Quinta Inn, the vast majority are economy market segment hotels and substandard properties compared to most other hotel chains.

One of the best hotels I stayed using Wyndham Rewards points was Ramada Vilnius, Lithuania. The hotel had won awards for best hotel in Lithuania and was as near to a luxury style hotel as there is in the Wyndham chain. Unfortunately, it went independent soon after my April 2017 stay.

Ramada Vilnius 2017 (no longer in Wyndham Rewards)

For me the best value in Wyndham Rewards was being able to pay a reasonable cash portion and 3,000 points to book a high value reward night.

Program devaluation – Wyndham Rewards GoFast copay now pegged to room rate (March 26, 2018).

Wanna Getaway in France? Wyndham Rewards 15K Presidential Suite (April 18, 2018).

IHG Rewards Club

The other result of WalletHub’s comparison I take exception with is rating IHG Rewards Club as the lowest value of the ten hotel rewards programs compared.

Promotions are where IHG Rewards Club excels and any hotel rewards program without consideration of promotions is limited and flawed for practical purposes.

My travel pattern is leisure travel and not a business travel grind of hotel night after hotel night throughout the year. I pick and choose where I travel and where I want to stay. This provides lots of flexibility for maximizing the value of hotel rewards program promotions with limited stays.

Over the past 15 months, IHG Rewards Club and Wyndham Rewards have offered the most valuable promotions. But WalletHub states temporary promotions were not a factor in their analysis.

Wyndham Rewards offered four promotions in the past 18 months for 15,000 points by linking Visa or MasterCard payment to your hotel stays. These were a great opportunity to earn about 80,000 points with as few as 9 hotel nights. One issue is Wyndham Rewards totally screwed up their winter 2017-18 promotion by ending it early as I was partially through the three stays for 15,000 points. I claimed at the time I was done with Wyndham Rewards and I have now eliminated my points balance with reward stays.

Wyndham Rewards Masterpass payment 7,500 bonus points per stay (July 17, 2018).

Wyndham Rewards 2 stays by July 1 earn 15K points is great deal (Feb 7, 2018).

3 Visa Checkout stays 21,000 points Wyndham Rewards $159 (Dec 5, 2017).

Wyndham Rewards 15,000 points for two Masterpass paid stays by Oct 31, 2017 (Aug 10, 2017).

While the ability to pick up 60,000 points on 7 nights was a high value offer through these promotions, these types of promotions were unprecedented in Wyndham Rewards and there is no guarantee these kinds of offers will return.

In contrast, IHG Rewards Club has offered high value promotions like Accelerate for the past five years.

In the past 18 months I had the ability to earn over 150,000 IHG Rewards Club points on 7 paid hotel nights. The quality of IHG hotels is more uniform and generally better than your average Wyndham brand hotel.

My Incredible IHG Accelerate Year in Review (Dec 17, 2017).

Over Thanksgiving 2018 I earned 44,000 IHG Rewards Club points for $255 on a road trip to Disneyland.

Thanksgiving road trip earned 44,000 IHG points for $255 (Nov 27, 2018).

WalletHub’s hotel rewards program comparison is information I find of little value for me as a frequent guest trying to get the most value of hotel spend.

 

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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