This blog post was updated on October 12, 2018.
When the traveler arrives to a hotel, they might be placed in the worst room, pay for Wi-Fi and charge up a bill for using the mini bar. However, those charges can be avoided by merely joining hotel programs. Many major hotels have rewards programs chalk full of upgrades, promos and perks. At the same time, not all of these programs are created equally. Before you decide to join, ask your hotel membership club these four questions in order to score free hotel nights as a result.
How many points yield a free night?: Most of these loyalty programs for hotels require the member to build up a certain amount of points before they can cash them in for free hotel nights. If you are looking to build a relationship with one hotel chain and focus on acquiring points under their program, you need to make certain that it won’t take you centuries just to have enough points for a free night. Some go off of the price you pay for hotel nights while other programs merely have a set number that you gain after staying a night. In order to decide if the program will be worth it, you need to know how many points you will need to cash in in order to receive a free night.
What perks do I get for signing up?: One important element to hotel programs that you might want to consider is that you don’t necessarily need to be loyal to one chain. When I was in Munich, the hotel that I was staying at had a program that I could join. At first I resisted, as I didn’t think I would stay at this chain. However, I quickly learned that their were perks I would get for signing up. I received free Wi-Fi, which would have cost $15 for the night. I also had two bottles of water waiting for me in my room. If you know anything about European hotels, those bottles of water usually come at a pretty price. The moral of my hotel program story is that many of these programs do have perks for your stay when you sign up. You don’t necessarily have to remain loyal to that chain alone, but you can reap the rewards with free WiFi, water or maybe even minibar credit depending on the hotel.
Are there other ways to acquire points?: Just like airline miles, you should be able to acquire hotel points through different means. Some travel credit cards have partnered up with hotel chains to offer points on dollars you spend on items like groceries and gas. You should have at least two ways of acquiring points from your program to truly reap the rewards. For some reward programs, you can only rack in points by staying a night or using a credit card synced up with a program. Other programs will bump up your status if you stay at a variety of their hotel brands.
Do my points expire?: Airline miles can expire. The same can happen with hotel programs. You need to ask your hotel program if and when your points expire. Some expiration dates will reset if you keep staying within the chain. Knowing the expiration will also determine if the reward program is worth it. If you can’t acquire points in the time that they will expire to actually use them, it might not be the best program to join.
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