Individual Hotel Frequent Guest Programs
The details of what to look out for
We've summarized each hotel program to save you the
hassle of having to do so yourself.
See also our other article
series on booking hotels for best value - links on the right
When evaluating and
understanding hotel frequent guest programs, it is necessary to
wade through a great deal of detail, and to look for the 'fine
print' which is full of exceptions and special cases that vary
the basic program rules and procedures.
This makes it more difficult to
accurately compare apples with apples, and the added levels of
complexity in terms of varying amounts of points needed to earn
free stays makes it still more difficult.
None of this is impossible,
however, and if you methodically identify the most relevant
issues and then carefully read through the program details, you
can end up with an accurate understanding.
Individual Program Details
We have set out a list of
summary points for each of the nine different programs we are
reporting on in the pages that follow. These preliminary notes will help you to
understand the information we provide.
First and most importantly,
the information we give you suffers from two flaws. It is
summary information and it is out of date.
Although the information is
all up to date as of the time of publishing it (22 Oct 2010), it
will of course start to age immediately.
And we are giving you
summary information only. Each of the hotel programs tends
to have some exceptions and variations to the main program
rules. This is confusing for us all, but is arguably
perhaps not entirely unavoidable when you have hotel chains with
hotels in 100 or more different countries, and spanning the
range from moderately budget properties to deluxe properties,
with all sorts of different inclusions, rates, amenities, and so
An example of confusing and
For example, take something
as simple seeming as 'you get 10 points for every dollar spent'.
Does this mean on the room rental only? How about on food?
Drinks? Movies? Internet access? Car parking?
Business Center services? What about on the government taxes and fees
and surcharges? Resort fees? Tips?
What about in countries
where government VAT/GST is bundled in to the room rate compared
to countries where these are extra line items on your bill?
So, as you can see, even the
simplest part of each hotel group's program can have a dozen
source of hotel frequent guest program information
If you read a glossy
brochure about a frequent guest program, or if you roam around
the standard pages on its website, you'll see lots of happy
making positive statements, and occasional references to
restrictions possibly applying.
What you are reading on
those pages are summaries and interpretations of the program
rules. To get the absolute truth, you need to go to the
program rules themselves - usually referred to as something like
'Terms and Conditions'.
Our apologies, but the
information in these tables is targeted primarily at American
residents. Some programs have different rules for
residents of other countries (and/or different rules for earning
points in other countries, too).
Your Best Strategy for Hotel
Just as with airline
frequent flier programs, your best strategy - on the face of it
- may be to concentrate
your stays with specific hotel groups so as to earn elite status
at that hotel group(s).
But that is where the
similarities end. And even this is not necessarily true.
Read our page on getting the most out of hotel frequent guest
programs for more discussion on this point - because many times,
you'll actually be better advised to tactically pick and choose
your hotels on a case by case basis.
How to Use This Information
You probably already have a
general feeling for which programs you are most likely to be
able to potentially take advantage of.
So, the first thing to do is
to concentrate on researching these programs.
Read through our summaries
of these programs to confirm (or cancel) your interest in them,
and then drill all the way down and click the link to the formal
'terms and conditions' of each program you remain interested in
to fully understand how they work.
It is only the terms and
conditions which accurately and completely define the programs
and what the hotels will and won't do. Everything else is
fancy sounding advertising copy that hints at lots of good
things and glosses over any bad things.
Specific Information Reported
This is a list of the
information reported for each hotel program and what it means.
explanatory, although sometimes the hotel
group name is very different to the brands
of the participating hotels.
of participating properties
a bit confusing, because sometimes some
properties might allow for points to be
earned but not redeemed, or possibly vice
versa, so it is not necessarily obvious what
a claim to having a certain number of
participating properties actually means.
list of different hotel brands that are
included within the hotel program - this
list is on the first page of the series.
of countries with participating hotels
information is not always easy to obtain,
but we attempt to give you a feeling for how
internationally distributed each program may
your membership, or do your accumulated
points, expire if you don't in some way
that an empty claim 'points for life' or
'points never expire' might have fine print
that indicates that while your points don't
expire, your membership might!
Membership benefits offered to all members
sort of benefits do all members get, whether
they are regular guests or not - eg, free
newspaper, express checkin, late checkout,
levels and how to quality for them
hotel frequent guest programs typically have
two or three elite levels to their program
as well as the standard level.
The qualification requirements vary from one
program to the next.
of elite level membership
Typically elite level membership will give
you extra points per stay, may make it
easier to redeem points for free stays, may
entitle you to room upgrades and/or other
amenities, and may give you late check-out
Such perks vary from program to program, and
sometimes even from property to property
within a program.
type of points do you get from staying at
common to get ten points per dollar spent,
but there can sometimes be some subtle
points earned only on room rates or on all
explanatory question, often difficult to
get points on multi-room bookings
are booking (and paying for) multiple rooms
(eg for other family members or other
employees) do you get points for those other
Some programs say 'yes, always', some say
'yes, sometimes', and others say 'no,
points are needed to get a free night
varies from program to program, and also
within each program there are typically
different levels of free room night
depending on the hotel - upmarket/expensive
hotels require more points for a free stay
than do less expensive hotels with fewer
restrictions are there on booking free
programs will only allow you to book free
stays within a certain period of the date of
Most programs will have some restrictions on
availability of free rooms, similar to how
airlines control the number of award tickets
they give away on each flight.
convert points to frequent flier miles
common to find two ways to convert points to
miles - one being an up-front immediate
earning of airline miles rather than hotel
points, the other being a subsequent
conversion from points to miles.
Participating airlines that you can get
frequent flier credit with
hotels allow you to convert points to miles
with all airlines.
use points to get other rewards/benefits
instead of free hotel nights
hotel programs allow you to convert points
to various gift card type products or other
items from other companies.
transfer points to other members
programs allow this, some don't. If
allowed, there may be a limit on how many
miles can be transferred each year and
probably some type of fee associated with
buy extra points
programs allow you to buy extra miles, so if
you are just a bit short of enough miles to
get some type of award, you can quickly buy
the miles you still need.
there are other unusual/significant features
to each hotel group's program.
to the frequent guest program home page and
a second link to the terms and conditions
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15 Oct 2010, last update
28 May 2011
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