Over the last couple of years work has kept me loyal to Marriott and Hilton and I must say I’ve been mostly happy with Marriott and less happy with Hilton. For two years I have enjoyed Platinum status at Marriott and Gold status with Hilton and have primarily stayed at the two hotel brands as it was dictated by my work. Now, I have a little bit more flexibility (as long as my hotel room is less than $130 a night—which is fairly easy here in the Central Valley of California) and I have decided to look beyond Hilton and Marriott.
Within a 20 mile radius of where I work I have the choice between almost all the big hotel chains with an exception of SPG and Club Carlson, I’ve listed all the hotels in the area below, but those in italics are above my client reimbursement limit therefore I will not be staying at those locations.
Marriott: Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Courtyard, Springhill Suites, TownePlace Suites, or Residence Inn
Hilton: Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, DoubleTree, or Hilton
IHG: Holiday Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge suites
Hyatt: Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt Regency
Wyndham: Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Super 8, Hawthorn Suites
Best Western: Best Western, Best Western Plus
Choice Hotels: Comfort Inn & Suites, Quality Inn
As my work takes me around the continental United States, I find that even when I am working in small towns such as Bangor, Maine or Lexington, Kentucky, I can easily find a Marriott, IHG, or Hilton property, yet as I have already secured status though 2015 with both Marriott (81 nights this year) and Hilton (47 nights this year) I thought it was time to look elsewhere for 2016. So this is where I start to consider either IHG or Hyatt.
First let me say that although Choice Hotels offers amazing redemption rates in Europe at decent properties such as those near the Vatican and near the Rome Fimocino airport (click either link to see my review), Choice Hotels in North America tend to be washed-up roadside motels with a few diamonds in the rough. As there isn’t an Ascend Choice Hotel near my place of work, this option is out. The same goes for Best Western and Wyndham as neither hotel brands appeal to me, nor does their reward programs. So this leaves me with either IHG or Hyatt for my upcoming stays.
Things to consider:
As I am already a top tier Elite with Marriott and mid-tier with Hilton, receiving a status match to another hotel’s top level should not be an issue. Yet before I make a decision I need to compare benefits across the four brands for top level elites and also think beyond my current contract. As I will be in Central California until May 2015, beyond that I do not know where work will take me. So having status with a brand that is wide spread is important. Also I tend to use my points for stays in Europe, US Beach locations, and Asia or Latin America.
|Nights needed for top status (the way I usually qualify)||60||75||50||50|
|Award Nights Count Towards Status||X||X||X|
|Complimentary Internet||X||X – Top Tier Internet||X||X|
|Complimentary Breakfast||Most hotel brands||Most hotel brands||Some Brands||ALL Brands|
|Complimentary Upgrades||Space-available upgrade to a preferred room||When Available – 9 times out of 10 I receive a suite!||Subject to availability – Rarely to never at Intercontinental Hotels||best room available upon arrival, excluding suites|
|Late Check Out||subject to availability||Priority late checkout||Subject to availability||4pm Late check out|
|Guaranteed Suite Upgrades||4 times per year on paid stays|
|Quarterly Bonus||Opt in – Most hotels seem to opt out||Corporate sponsored – all hotels 25k-55K bonus points a quarter||Corporate sponsored 20K-55K depending on Bonus||Targeted Corporate Sponsored 2k-50k|
|Top status available with Credit Card||$49/year||$75/year|
|Locations & Number of Countries||4,100 properties in 92 countries||3,900+ properties in 79+ Countries||4,732 properties in ~100 countires||549 properties in 46 Countries|
Comparing the four brands, I find that many of the hotels offer similar benefits with Marriott and Hilton offering a slight edge over their competition. Hyatt could be a close second or first even when it comes to benefits they offer their top elite members yet there’s the downside is only a 30% bonus on points earned and limited number of suite upgrades available to members. Yet others may argue that one can reserve a suite and be guaranteed the benefit whereas at other hotel chains a suite upgrade is a gamble. However, with only 549 Hyatt properties in 46 countries, this program is extremely limited to the global traveler.
IHG is by far the largest of the hotel brands, but their program is more limited and top status can easily be bought for a mere $49 a year, which truly undermines the entire program and I personally am not willing to pay an additional $200 for be an IHG Ambassador member.
So what would you do? Now that I have secured HHonors Gold Status and Marriott Platinum, would you recommend that I go for another hotel program status? Maximize my HHonors stays for Diamond Status before the end of the year? Continue earning Marriott nights to roll over next year and then status match in January? Or something else? After all, I think maintaining more than 2 or 3 hotel top status will not be possible next year as I usually spend 3 nights a week in a hotel or approximately 152 nights a year.