Over the next few weeks, we’ll be seeing the busiest travel dates of the year as we bid farewell to 2019. Many of us are also planning our adventures for 2020. If you’re researching hotels, you might want to check out WalletHub’s Hotel Rewards Report. It highlights the best hotel rewards programs in 2020 and it was a little eye-opening for me!
The best hotel rewards programs in 2020 can help families, business travelers and explorers of all types save time and money. This list looks at three different hotel budgets, using key metrics including point values and blackout dates for booking free nights. We highlight 2020’s best hotel reward programs that offer the best value for travelers.
I’ll admit that I pay pretty close attention to flight and credit card rewards, but I really haven’t put as much effort into looking at hotel programs. We tend to stay wherever we can afford as long as it’s close to what we want to see and do. Plus, because of my travel anxiety, OCD and germaphobia, we only stay at hotels if reviews suggest they are clean and sanitary. Now, I’m going to have to factor in how many points I’ll earn, too!
2020’s Best Hotel Rewards Programs
WalletHub did all the hard work by analyzing 21 key metrics such as point expiration policies, average point value, and award-night pricing. Then, they compared the nine largest U.S. hotel chains’ rewards programs, and the results were clear.
For travelers of all spending levels, Wyndham Rewards is the best hotel loyalty program for travelers. This is the fifth year in a row that Wyndham has bested the competition. With an average WalletHub Score of 72.40, the hotel chain is well ahead of the runner-up, Radisson Rewards, which earned a WalletHub score of 64.36.
Top Hotel Rewards Programs in 2020
- Wyndham Rewards
- Radisson Rewards
- Best Western Rewards
- Choice Privileges
- Marriott Bonvoy
Looking at this list, I can immediately say that we haven’t been booking with points in mind. We rarely stay at a Wyndham property, but can often be found at a Marriott. In fact, there’s a Courtyard by Marriott in Layton, Utah that gets all of my money when we drive down to spend a day at Lagoon Amusement Park (and eat at Taste of India which is right across from the hotel!).
Truth be told, we’ve rarely stayed at the top four chains. This is so interesting! When we’re traveling internationally, we like to pick local hotels to get a more authentic experience, but maybe we’re doing this all wrong. After all, the more points we earn, the more we can continue to travel affordably, right? Maybe we need to rethink our strategy!
What’s the Best Hotel Rewards Program for You?
There’s a hotel rewards calculator on the WalletHub site that will give you personalized results and guidance to help determine which program is right for you. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for certain features and/or perks. All you’ll need to add is your annual hotel budget, and the tool will do the rest.
With Wyndham Rewards, you’ll earn up to $13.46 per $100 spent, which is the most among major hotel loyalty programs. That alone is enough to attract savvy travelers. Meanwhile, Choice Privileges and IHG Rewards are the only hotel loyalty programs that have boosted rewards value since 2018.
Best Western stands out because it’s the only major hotel chain whose reward points will not expire due to account inactivity. This is a big one for me. Personally, I feel like you shouldn’t lose anything you’ve earned, so I like this a lot!
Here’s an important thing to keep in mind, though — None of the hotel rewards programs allows members to earn points on reservations booked through third-party websites, such as Kayak.com or Expedia.com.
So, clearly, you’ll need to book directly through the hotel site or over the phone in order to get those rewards points. While I’ve been annoyed with this in the past, it’s understandable. The hotels can’t give those third-party sites a commission, offer guests discounted rates, AND hand out rewards points. There’s no denying that I love a good bargain, but I’m not out to scam anyone to save money.
Best Hotel Rewards Programs for 2020
We’ve already discussed the top hotel rewards programs, so now let’s look at the best hotel rewards programs for 2020. This list is different because, rather than looking at the raw score, it’s compiled based on specific criteria.
For example, it looks like Marriott, the chain we stay at most, is my best bet for international travel. If you’re looking for a hotel rewards program with the most transfer partners, you might want to check out IHG. Here’s a quick overview:
|Hotel Rewards Program||Best For||Overall Score||Number of Hotels|
|Marriott Bonvoy||International Travel||61.01||7,205|
|World of Hyatt||Fewest Earning Limitations||57.42||896|
|Best Western Rewards||Points that Won’t Expire||63.71||4,500|
|Wyndham Rewards||Rewards Value||72.40||9,200|
|IHG Rewards Club||Transfer Partners||45.11||5,800|
|Best Western Rewards||Redemption Options||63.71||4,500|
A quick note about this chart — Drury Rewards actually scored slightly higher than Best Western Rewards in the Redemption Options category, but WalletHub gave Best Western the nod because it has far more locations.
Best Hotel Credit Cards
To get the most value from your hotel rewards program, it might be worth it to use a co-branded credit card. These often allow frequent guests to earn free nights on every purchase they make. Why wouldn’t you do this?! Free nights = more travel!
While some credit cards are affiliated with specific hotel chains, others reward you no matter where you stay. I’ll be honest — I prefer the latter because I like to have more control over where I stay. Whether it’s the price, location, or quality of the guest rooms, we stay wherever makes the most sense. I’m pretty loyal to certain airlines, but I’m less so with hotels. There are just too many options!
Not all of the credit cards on this list are created equal, but the ones we’ve included will offer the following:
- An initial bonus of $250 or more
- Annual fees as low as $0
- Foreign transaction fees as low as $0
- Rewards of 1 point (or more!) per $1 spent in purchases
I’ll readily admit that I’m still learning about a lot of this, so I won’t go into a ton of detail. Instead, if you want a really thorough explanation, check out this WalletHub post. They reviewed more than 1,000 credit card offers, and came up with this list of the best hotel credit cards as of December 2019.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card – Overall & Hilton
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card – No Annual Fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card – Marriott Credit Card
- Best Western Premium Credit Card – Best Western
- World of Hyatt Credit Card – Hyatt Credit Card & Initial Bonus
- Wyndham Credit Card – Wyndham Credit Card
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card – Any Hotel
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card – Business
Hotel Credit Cards If You Don’t Have Perfect Credit
Most of these hotel credit cards will require you to have “Good” credit. If you’re just starting out or you’re working to improve your credit score, you may want to check out the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. We have this card (so does my son!) and it’s great.
If your credit is bad and you don’t think you’ll qualify for any of these cards, you still have an option! The Discover it® Secured has a $0 annual fee, gives 1 – 2% Cash Back on purchases, and doubles the rewards cardholders earn the first year as an anniversary gift. You just have to place a refundable security deposit of at least $200, the amount of which will be your credit limit.
Combine Hotel Rewards Programs and Credit Cards
One of the best ways to earn value for what you spend traveling is to combine hotel rewards programs with the right credit card. You’d be amazed by how quickly your rewards points can accumulate by using this method.
Of course, the same is true for airlines as well. We just used points to book our trip to Asia next year, and because we used our travel rewards credit card for fees and hotels, we also earned nearly 3,000 points. It’s almost like we’re being paid to travel!
We hope that you found this quick overview of the best hotel rewards programs for 2020 useful. Every little bit of information counts if it helps you continue your adventures next year and for years to come. Safe travels!