Which hotel rewards programs are best?
If you take the time to go online and count, you'll find hundreds of hotels in every price range, and most are part of a loyalty rewards program. But don't assume all the rewards are the same.
Newly released studies by two different companies rate the perks and policies of virtually all the major hotel rewards program out there.
The WalletHub study compared the 12 most popular hotel chains, taking into account factors such as point values, blackout dates, overall rewards value and geographic coverage.
ThePointsGuy.com study evaluated loyalty offerings from 10 major international hotel chains to rate the best rewards programs worldwide. Criteria included the percentages of luxury and economical properties, total perks, and the ease of earning and redeeming points.
Starwood Preferred Guest gets top honors overall in ThePointsGuy ratings, followed by Wyndham Rewards and World of Hyatt.
Wyndham also gets high marks in the 2017 rewards study by WalletHub.
In fact, Wallet Hub rates Wyndam Rewards No. 1 overall for the third year in a row. La Quinta is singled out for best rewards value on the dollar. Best Western gets WalletHub's top marks as the only chain whose rewards points do not expire.
They key is to find a hotel rewards program that matches your travel profile. Both companies offer interactive tools to help you compare rewards programs based on your travel profile. Be aware that both sites link to advertising partners, which may contact you with offers for hotel-brand credit cards or rewards program memberships.
Analysts at both companies point out that many consumers leave thousands of points on the table ever year, by failing to use them and letting them expire.
So, pay attention to the expiration alerts in your email, and remember that many hotel rewards can be exchanged for gift cards, event tickets and other products. They're not just limited to hotel stays.