Concerning airline, hotel and credit card reward programs, the bottom-line benefits often seem nebulous. Are those 1,000 points worth buying? Or are rewards the equivalent of happy hours that scale back food portions to match “happy” prices?

WalletHub sorted mounds of discerning data to rank the pros and cons of the most popular hotel rewards programs and make the points game a little more transparent.

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WalletHub weighted categories for hotel rewards programs including geographic location, dollar value of rewards, earning limitations, and redemption options (like blackout dates and brand exclusions). Following are the top 5 choices, ranked by most overall benefits to least.

  1. Wyndham Rewards
  2. Radisson Rewards
  3. Best Western Rewards
  4. Choice Privileges
  5. Marriott Bonvoy

WalletHub was, however, quick to advise that the best program for travelers is heavily dependent on individual factors—primarily, how often you stay in hotels. As may be expected, heavy travelers are likely to accrue benefits more easily than light travelers. Because of this discrepancy, the WalletHub survey also provided an additional break down of benefits based on light, medium or heavy travel habits.

As an example of the individuality of the definition of “best program,” U.S. News & World Report also released a 2019-2020 Best Hotel Rewards Program survey, which ranked Marriott Bonvoy as No. 1.

  1. Marriott Bonvoy
  2. Wyndham Rewards
  3. World of Hyatt
  4. Choice Privileges
  5. Best Western Rewards

Difference in Methodology

For U.S. News, “ease of earning a free night” comprised 45 percent of the total score, and the “additional benefits” category was weighted at 25 percent, which included whether points can be earned through non-hotel expenditures, and availability of complimentary amenities and upgrades. In contrast, WalletHub’s two heaviest weighted categories were “value of rewards” and “redemption options.” WalletHub ranked Marriott Bonvoy best for international travel, noted World of Hyatt for having the fewest earning limitations, and pointed to Best Western Rewards as the only program with points that don’t expire.

A point of convergence between the two rankings is that Marriot Bonvoy, Wyndham Rewards, Choice Privileges and Best Western Rewards all ranked in the top 5 of both surveys.