Home / Hotel Rewards / Who Wins in the Battle of the Hotel Loyalty Programs?

Who Wins in the Battle of the Hotel Loyalty Programs?

I am wedded to Hotels.com

Many of you may realise that I am a big fan of hotels.com. Ever since my extended trip around Asia, where the luxury of my usual hotel chains was out of the question, and I discovered the flexibility to book any hotel I want and still earn rewards, I have been hooked.

I like the one night free in ten that I earn, redeemable against virtually any hotel, from luxury hotels to budget hostels, and I like the excellent customer service I receive on the odd occasion there is an issue with my booking (like the hotel advertised as a hotel and spa but yet it didn’t actually have a spa!).

booking luxury hotels with hotel loyalty programs
Source: Pixabay

Should we be getting a divorce?

There is however a downside and that is that you often sacrifice hotel rewards from your chosen hotel chain in favour of a credit towards one free night when booking with hotels.com.

Having just spent a night in a Holiday Inn, this leads me to question just how much a free hotel night is really worth. Is it better to continue to use hotels.com or to book directly with a preferred hotel chain? To get an idea, I am going to compare hotels.com against a few key chains in the UK to determine who wins in the battle of the hotel loyalty programs.

Other things to consider

Now of course, this does overlook the fact that many smaller towns simply do not offer the larger hotel chains and in that situation, it is a no brainer to use hotels.com.

If however, you are likely to be booking a Hilton, Marriott or Holiday Inn, then today’s post aims to determine the most lucrative way to make your booking.

Comparing Hotels.com

There is always a danger with this type of comparison, as much depends on offers available at the time you book, last-minute hotel discounts and other concessions so to keep this as objective as possible, I am going to price all options based on a double room for two without breakfast on the 1st July.

Which hotel rewards program is best?
Source: PIxabay

The comparison aims to identify how much you would pay for ten nights with each hotel chain using a selection of hotels throughout the UK and compares this to the price quoted by hotels.com for the same hotel. It then shows how many rewards you would earn from the respective hotel chain program but beware all three chains quote the earnings rate in dollars so I have used an exchange rate of 1.4495 as per XE Currency Converter.

The rewards earning rate is based on 10 points per $1 spent for each chain and the points earned do not take into account any in hotel spending but I will come back to that!

Marriott Rewards v Hotels.com Bookings

Cost comparison






Rewards earned


Rewards earned

Marriott Points Required

Bristol Marriott £89 £85 One-night credit 1232 30,000
Manchester Victoria and Albert Marriott £98 £93 One-night credit 1348 35,000
Marriott St Pierre, Chepstow £87 £83 One-night credit 1203 25,000
York Marriott £139 £132 One-night credit 1913 35,000
Leeds Marriott £74 £70 One-night credit 1015 30,000
Glasgow Marriott £103 £98 One-night credit 1421 30,000
Delahey Marriott, Edinburgh £119 £113 One-night credit 1638 35,000
London Meditation Autograph £405 £436 One-night credit 6320 50,000
St Pancras Renaissance £249 £237 One-night credit 3435 45,000
Heathrow Windsor Marriott £71 £67 One-night credit 971 30,000
Total £1434 £1414 One free night equivalent to £143.30 20,496  

Booking directly with Marriott does result in slightly lower prices in this example saving you £20 over the cost you would have paid had you booked with hotels.com. However, hotels.com reward you with one voucher equivalent to the average of your ten nights (worth £143.30 in this case) once you have completed your ten stays.

As you can see, this would be sufficient to pay for a free room in the majority of the hotels shown above whilst the reward points earned would be insufficient to book a free night in any hotel.

Winner: Hotels.com

Hilton HHonors v Hotels.com

Cost comparison






Rewards earned


Rewards earned

Hilton Points Required

Hilton Bath City £170 £170 One-night credit 2464 50,000
Doubletree Milton Keynes £99 £99 One-night credit 1435 30,000
Waldorf London £189 £189 One-night credit 2740 60,000
Doubletree by Hilton, Manchester Piccadilly £76 £75 One-night credit 1087 30,000
Hilton Tower Bridge £157 £157 One-night credit 2276 70,000
Hilton Glasgow £106 £106 One-night credit 1536 50,000
Hilton York £151 £151 One-night credit 2189 50,000
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh £278 £269 One-night credit 3899 70,000
Hampton Inn Sheffield £74 £73 One-night credit 1058 10,000
Hilton Deansgate, Manchester £127 £126 One-night credit 1826 40,000
Total £1427 £1,415 One free night equivalent to £142.70 20,510  

For Hilton, again booking with Hotels.com results in a slightly higher charge with you paying an extra £12 this time for your ten nights. This time you earn a voucher for £142.70 which would be sufficient to redeem for a free night in four of the above hotels on those same dates. On the other hand, with Hilton, you have only earned sufficient rewards to be able to redeem for the Hampton Inn Sheffield (and what a great city it is to visit too!)

St Paul's Sheffield-00130
Sheffield city centre

Remember also that if your hotels.com voucher isn’t sufficient to cover the entire cost; you can use it as part payment towards a more expensive hotel.

Winner: Hotels.com

IHG (including Holiday Inn and Intercontinental) v Hotels.com

Cost comparison






Rewards earned


Rewards earned

IHG Points Required

Crowne Plaza, London City £226 £203.40 One-night credit 2948 50,000
Holiday Inn Express London Victoria £135 £121.50 One-night credit 1761 40,000
Holiday Inn Birmingham £68 £57 One-night credit 826 15,000
Holiday Inn Manchester City Centre £71 £63.90 One-night credit 926 20,000
Crowns Plaza Manchester Airport £104 £93.60 One-night credit 1357 25,000
Holiday Inn Glasgow Theatreland £95 £69.30 One-night credit 1005 15,000
Bath Holiday Inn Express £130 £117 One-night credit 1696 30,000
Hotel Indigo York £144 £129.60 One-night credit 1879 40,000
Holiday Inn Edinburgh £119 £107.10 One-night credit 1552 35,000
Holiday inn Oxford £126 £113.40 One-night credit 1644 30,000
Total £1,218 £1,076 One free night equivalent to £121.80 15,594  

Wow now these results did come as a surprise to me! Booking directly with hotels.com with this chain costs £142 extra than if you were to book directly with the Intercontinental Group. You have however earned a voucher equivalent to £121.80 which would be sufficient to cover the cost of a free night in five of the above hotels on these dates.

Your rewards balance from IHG is sufficient to cover a free hotel night in one of two hotels shown above so this is a little harder to call but once again the crown goes to hotels.com as you can redeem your voucher for a higher grade hotel with them than if you were booking directly with Holiday Inn.

In Hotel spending

In the interests of transparency, there is one crucial difference to be aware of. Hotels.com offers no credit for any spending in any of the hotels whereas spend in a hotel chain booked directly through the loyalty program qualifies for hotel rewards on any such spend.

This comparison would be incomplete without taking this into account so assuming a spend of £50 a night in the hotel (based on two sharing a room) and the same exchange rate, this would generate an addition 7,250 reward points into Hilton, Marriott or IHG.

earn rewards for your chosen hotel loyalty program by dining in
Source: Pixabay

This means that for Marriott, you would now have sufficient points to be able to book a free night in one hotel (highlighted in turquoise, just in case you wondered why that text was highlighted!!). There would be no change for your redemption options with Hilton but with IHG you would now have three hotels to select from (highlighted).

So what’s the verdict on this marriage?

Well based on these figures, it looks as though my love for hotels.com will continue to endure. The ability to be able to redeem against a number of chains and also the better value rewards really is attractive.
I may however think twice about booking hotels in the IHG chain through hotels.com due to the higher price charged.

Which is your favourite hotel reward program?

How about you? Which do you prefer to use or do you have a better option? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Hotel loyalty programs
Source: Pixabay

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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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  1. craig paolozzi

    Yeah they are finishing building ocean suites….all part of the same complex

    Well we were considering the middle East for April school holidays next year but are unsure as we would like to explore more of Europe first

  2. Thanks Anne, it must’ve been quite a task to compare all these hotels.

    We should also remember the loyalty status perks, such as free upgrades and free welcome drinks. If staying at the same chain hotels enough nights to reach their gold or top tier level then this may be a better option for some.

    • Absolutely. I managed to fast track to Gold recently with Hilton and Air Berlin and it really makes a difference. Free room upgrades, free wifi, access to the executive lounges and free drinks

      • craig paolozzi

        Yeah free breakfast is a big perk at luxury hotels. I’m staying at Conrad algarve soon…I’m Hilton diamond so I’d rather have free breakfast, upgraded room etc

        • Oh fabulous. I stayed at Sheraton Algarve (a long time ago) and it was superb! Even in December it was 18C and we had the hotel almost to ourselves plus those beaches are to die for!

          • craig paolozzi

            I’m staying at Hilton Vilamoura and they have already upgraded me to the presidential suite….. which looks amazing… diamond status helps lol

          • OOh you will definitely have to tweet a pic and tag me on that one!

          • craig paolozzi

            Sheraton algarve is now been all done out and they have built a new part….we may go next year using spg points and cash

          • I just saw something today which seems to suggest they are doing some luxury villas there. I loved it and would love to go back but there are so many places I want to go! Where else do you have planned?

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