(This post will be duplicated as a permanent page in the “Beginner's guide” tab at the top.)
As a beginner in loyalty programmes it sometimes seems understanding your way through the different schemes can be utterly bewildering with the amount of information to absorb.
But if there's one I want to put forward: If you're totally new to air miles or other loyalty schemes, you should start with hotel points.
Let me explain the more salient pros and cons of hotel points compared to air miles:
- Hotel points are easier to collect than air miles.
- Hotel points are easier to spend than air miles.
- Most hotels count all nights, including those bought using points, towards your elite status.
- Earning elite status in hotels is much easier than airlines. For instance it is often given away with certain credit cards.
- Most reward nights don't require further payment of taxes. If they do it's usually very little — in the order of €5 to €15 but very occasionally a bit more.
- The cost savings of hotel nights feels more tangible than air miles. For instance I might not ever spend money on a business class flight, which I where I prefer to spend my air miles, so trying to work out the money I saved isn't always valid. Whereas I'll always need to spend money for a basic hotel room, which is what hotel points books you.
- Hotel points, in recent years, have devalued at a quicker rate than air miles
- There aren't that many big hotel chains worth collecting points compared to airlines.
- Because of the previous point, it is much more difficult to keep doing status matches because after the 3rd or 4th match there's nowhere else to go!
This next point I make is entirely subjective and a clear case of “YMMV” (your miles may vary). If I'm low on points or money is tight, I prefer paying for cheap economy class flights and spend points getting good accommodation than to spend my air miles on premium cabins and pay for cheap (and mostly substandard) accommodation. You should consider your preferences and try to see which suits your travel style best.
Over the next week or two I will go through the major few programmes: Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton HHonors, IHG Rewards Club, Club Carlson, Le Club Accor, Marriott Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport. I'll try to cover some of the lesser-known ones too, but that will also involve me doing some homework too as I don't proclaim to be an expert in them!
Here are the sign up links for the different programmes to get you started (and don't forget AwardWallet if you haven't got it already. Use the coupon code “pointstobemade” to get a free upgrade for 6 months):
- Hilton HHonors,
- Starwood Preferred Guest,
- Wyndham Rewards,
- Marriott Rewards,
- Hyatt Gold Rewards,
- Club Carlson
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