Let’s get the basic out of the way. So what exactly are hotel programs/points? How do they work?

An official definition: Frequent guest programs are the hotel and hospitality sector equivalent to frequent flyer program. The target of most frequent guest programs are business travelers. Frequent guest programs allow hotel guests to earn points as part of a reward program, and such points can be redeemed for free extra nights. These points are accrued in direct proportion to the amount spent, and as such are equivalent to a percentage price reduction. Some large hotel chains offer bonus points for staying in certain locations or for staying multiple nights in the same hotel. A common example is a deal whereby a guest will stay ten nights and get one night free. For frequent business travelers, the points can rack up quickly and can be applied to nights spent in hotels in different locations of the same hotel group or brand. Some of these programs, if you are short on points, allow guests to pay the difference between points earned and the actual room rate.

1. Why does it matter to me?

  1. They’re free at no charge
  2. They treat you better (especially if you have a certain status they call you by first name!)
  3. The more you travel, the more free rewards you’ll get! Which may include free rooms, promotions, free food/free service in your room, free upgrades to corner suites (my favorite!), etc.

2. Great, how do I rack up points?

  1. Always, always put your personal program # down when you make reservations; every point counts!
  2. Apply and use the hotel credit card when booking your travels particularly if you’re staying with that hotel company (e.g. Starwood American Express Card)
  3. Sign-up for promotions which always happen a lot
  4. Preferably, stick with one hotel so you can continuously accumulate points

3. That’s great, I could have read all this online. What are some insider personal tips?

  1. The 3 largest programs are: Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred Guest, Marriott Rewards; Personally, I feel Starwood offers the best rewards and the most pleasant, gracious hotels around the world. They don’t have as many worldwide hotel locations, but I guarantee you once you reach status they’ll take care of you and points DO NOT expire (unlike HHonors). I’ve heard the Starwood AMEX card allows you to collects points FAST as well as their promotions are ridiculously generous!
  2. Want to do a fast track to get status for these programs? Talk to their customer care and explain that you’ll be staying with them frequently in the next coming weeks and if they can put you either on a special fast-track promotion or get you a certain status immediately. If you travel for work this is particularly easy. Better yet, I know if you have reached the highest status for a competitor’s program – they’ll likely match it to try to win your business (just have to show proof).
  3. Go to Flyertalk.com and go to their discussion forums. This is like the GOD site for folks trying to maximize their points and discussions about promotions, etc. They’ll have a lot more detail about each of the programs and current promotions and even reviews on actual hotels!

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) – simply why its better in my opinion.. (most comfortable beds!

This wasn’t my picture, but I got upgraded for free to this corner suite since I had status. This is from the W Hotel in downtown Seattle. Exactly like how I remember it.

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