The good news is that hotel loyalty programs are free; and, as of late, most come without any blackout dates. The even better news is that hotel chains are currently at war for rewards plan members. In other words, you win.
Maximize Your Hotel Points by Being In the Know
Frequently check on the website for your rewards program, and read sites like PointMaven.com and Flyertalk's hotel programs forum to stay current on specific deals. And, as with airline miles, it pays to belong to many different programs, in case you stay over with multiple chains.
Use Your Points Charitably
Many hotel loyalty programs allow you to donate your points to charity, such as the InterContinental Priority Club Rewards program, which is partnered with charities like the American Red Cross, UNICEF, and Habitat for Humanity. Similarly, Starwood Hotels work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help children with life-threatening illnesses fulfill their travel-related wishes. Check with your preferred hotel program for more details and read this article with lots of information of donating both hotel points and airline miles specifically to Haiti.
Check out our chart comparing how the major hotel loyalty programs stack up:
The Hotel Loyalty Wars Will Help Your Bottom Line
In January, Hilton Hotels set things in motion by raising the number of points required for a free night's stay at one of its top properties, essentially devaluing points by 20%. Competitors swooped in to offer status-matching deals. That means that you'd get the equivalent number of points and the same status level that you earned at the Hilton—but at rival hotel chains instead. Keep in mind that you'd get these benefits in addition to other deals and promotions being offered at these chains.
If You Don't Rack Up a Lot of Hotel Points ... But Have A Lot of Airline Miles
Lots of airlines' frequent flier programs will let you redeem air mileage for hotel stays. For example, we found a hotel stay on Miami Beach for just under 12,000 American Airlines points. To find out specifics, check with your preferred airline's program.
One Last Thing
In a recent study about loyalty programs, respondents complained mostly about receiving spam and junk mail. So, be forewarned: If it's simplicity and an uncluttered inbox you're after, these might not be for you. Otherwise, give the companies your "junk" email address, and reap the rewards.
Before we go ... here's a listing of every hotel loyalty program, with links! Any missing? Have a favorite? Add your $.02 in the comments section below.
Now, sit by the pool, sip your mojito, and let the rewards cannonball past you.