Frequent Flyer

U.S. News Rates the Best Hotel Program

A new report ranks 17 major U.S. hotel loyalty programs from best to worst. Do you belong to the right program?

Marriott Rewards is the best hotel loyalty program. Or so says U.S. News & World Report, the former news weekly whose annual “Best Colleges” rankings have become its best-known product.

In its just-released “Best Hotel Rewards Programs” ratings, U.S. News employed a scoring algorithm based on five factors, weighted as follows:

  • 30% – Ease of earning a free night
  • 20% – Number of hotels in the network
  • 20% – Additional benefits
  • 15% – Geographic coverage
  • 15% – Property diversity (i.e. style, price point)

Using the above rating scheme, 17 hotel programs were assigned scores between 1 and 5, and ranked from best to worst:

  1. Marriott Rewards (4.59)
  2. IHG Rewards Club (4.47)
  3. Best Western Rewards (4.39)
  4. Club Carlson (4.24)
  5. Starwood Preferred Guest (4.20)
  6. Hilton HHonors (4.09)
  7. Wyndham Rewards (4.08)
  8. La Quinta Returns (4.01)
  9. Hyatt Gold Passport (3.90)
  10. Leading Hotels Leaders Club (3.55)
  11. AccorHotels Le Club (3.48)
  12. Choice Privileges (3.33)
  13. Stash Hotel Rewards (3.04)
  14. Omni Select Guest (2.93)
  15. Kimpton Karma Rewards (2.80)
  16. Fairmont President’s Club (2.14)
  17. Loews YouFirst (1.51)

As with any such rating exercise, there are quibble-worthy features of the methodology.

For example, there would seem to be significant overlap among the rating criteria. “Ease of Earning” and “Number of Properties” are inextricably linked in my mind. The same with “Number of Properties” and “Geographic Coverage.”

Nevertheless, taken together, the criteria do a fair job of capturing the primary concerns of many travelers. And while I’d withhold any categorical judgment of “the best,” I would agree that the top-rated programs are indeed the ones that are likely to work best for the most travelers.

Reader Reality Check

How do the U.S. News ratings compare to your own assessment of the best and worst hotel programs?

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This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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