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Forget “CPP” – My Noncents Ranking of Hotel Points

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Ranking Hotel Points
Image source: Choice Hotels

Ranking Hotel Points

We’re often too logical in our points and travel hobby.  A purely cerebral perspective to our shared fascination can and does lead to many questionable decisions – say, bowing at the altar of Hyatt, for instance.  (I kind of, sort of get that, as a former top-tier Diamond in their previous Gold Passport program.)  It’s simpler to look at hotel point value in cents per point (cpp), although I’d argue we try to make that as complex as possible, too.  Beyond that, I know I have a different relationship with each hotel chain and their respective point currency.  Just looking at these rewards in terms of monetary value isn’t the full story – far from it.  Greg over at Frequent Miler touched on this a bit in his “Joy of Free” post.

Undoubtedly, monetary value plays a major role for many in the hobby.  It’s the closest item the masses have for what they determine to be a “good” redemption, whatever that is.  Instead, I focus on goals to drive my earning and redemption strategies.  Of course, each program’s wrinkles can play a role, though.  So today, I’m ranking hotel points currencies based on feel.  We’ll count down, starting with my lowest ranking first.

Note:  To be extra clear, this ranking is purely based on my own situation.  I expect hobbyists’ rankings will vary widely.  Additionally, this isn’t an all-encompassing reference piece including each characteristic of every program.

Ranking Hotel Points

#8.  Sonesta

Sonesta has a few attractive properties and a large share of disappointing ones.  Many of the latter were previously other brands and are still ordinary at best.  Perhaps Sonesta having relatively few properties is a positive.

Bank of America’s Sonesta credit card is similarly mundane.  I picked it up a few years ago when I had nothing else better going on with BoA.    Their 65k welcome offer is okay, but most can do better going after other BoA cards these days.  There’s little incentive to spend on the card, with other cards earning more points and ease of use.  I closed the card after the first cardmember year.

Sonesta points expire after two years of inactivity.  That may not seem like a big deal, but it is for me.  Only a few eligible activities exist: earning points with a paid stay, co-branded card spend, or completing an award stay.

I’ve saved the worst for last: Sonesta awards cannot be booked online.  A member must call in to book.  Ridiculous!

Ranking Hotel Points

#7.  Best Western

Best Western hasn’t done anything for me lately, but they aren’t Sonesta-bad.  First off, BW points do not expire.  I often forget I have any until I log into the Best Western site.  We stay at these properties very infrequently, but they come in handy when we need them.  Best Westerns are often available where other points properties aren’t.

Over the years, I’ve applied for the Best Western Premium Mastercard three times, all ending in denials.  Thanks, FNBO.  The card often sports an elevated signup bonus, and Best Western enthusiasts will probably find the big spend bonus worth their time (40k points on $5k spend in a cardmember year).

The quality of Best Western properties varies widely.  I recommend doing homework before booking one.  The payoff can be noteworthy, especially for stays at foreign properties.

Ranking Hotel Points

#6.  Wyndham

Many hobbyists love Wyndham right now primarily for one reason – Vacasa redemptions.  But that’s just not a redemption my family’s into right now.  Short of that, we’re left with many dusty options we won’t consider, some middle of the road (Wingate, Wyndham Garden) and fewer, supposedly nicer options (Wyndham, Wyndham Garden).  A few other brands are under Wyndham’s banner, most I have no patience to consider.  On the plus side, points are easily redeemable across their properties, members can simply redeem for solid value in Vegas, and Wyndham offers multiple credit cards for enhanced earning and status.  My wife and I each only earn points once annually – when the legacy card’s 15k bonus hits at cardmember anniversary.

Ranking Hotel Points

#5.  IHG

For better or worse, IHG primarily boils down to one brand for my family – Holiday Inn Express.  In the last several years, we’ve only redeemed our points at Express properties except for one regular Holiday Inn stay.  We feel just fine about these redemptions, but nothing stands out.  These award stays meet our travel needs but nothing else, really.

Over time, I’ve noticed remarkably plain IHG properties cost a lot more points.  I find myself increasingly uninterested in spending on the IHG Premier card, even at 5x/7x limited-time rates.  I have little confidence earning points in their program, as they keep devaluing it more often than other programs.  With every passing year, the free night cert from the card is less worthwhile to us.

Ranking Hotel Points

#4.  Hyatt

This isn’t a mistake.  Hyatt is middling amongst the eight chains in this article.  Why?  Hyatt offers a limited footprint.  Okay, they’re improving some, but nothing I consider substantial.  I’ve stayed in my share of Hyatts – primarily Regency, Grand, and Park properties – and have largely enjoyed them.  But right now, Hyatts generally aren’t located where my travel goals are.  That makes their points largely useless to me.

Most of the people who love Hyatt are top-tier Globalists.  Those benefits are great for those members.  But I’m not one of them, and I have no desire to put the effort in to become one.  After all, to me, Hyatt status is like owning a boat.  Thanks to Guest of Honor, I’d rather know someone with Globalist status than put in the work to have it myself.  And in those very few cases, I’m happy to redeem my Hyatt points.

a black and orange text

#3.  Marriott

As a Starwood loyalist, I gave up on Marriott soon after the two programs combined.  On principle, I ignored Marriott for a few years.  A bit later, I returned to Marriott, and I’ve been pleased overall with the experience since.  I’ve had no problem using points on travel needs and aspirational stays, sometimes combined with free night awards thanks to Marriott’s top off feature.  While not Hilton-level, Marriott points are increasingly easy to earn in my experience.  Status wins have been modest but appreciated.  And the new cooperation with MGM is good news, as well.

Ranking Hotel Points

#2.  Choice

I’m probably having more fun earning and burning with Choice Privileges than any other hotel program currently.  First, I absolutely love the new Choice Select card from Wells Fargo.  Earning 5x at grocery stores where I pick up practical value on the redemption side is huge.  Their program isn’t as user-friendly as others, and I actually like that.  I’m happy to put in the extra effort with Choice while some others aren’t, perhaps leaving more good stuff for people like me who enjoy the grind.  For that same reason, I embrace their stringent 100-day award booking limitation.

Comfort Inn and Suites properties work great for many of our travel needs, and I can find nicer stays via Cambria and Choice’s partnership with Preferred Hotels and Resorts.  Choice bringing in domestic Radisson properties soon makes this points currency even more attractive to me.

a black and white logo

#1.  Hilton

If you’ve read my content in the past, perhaps this one doesn’t surprise you.  I’m a huge fan of easily-earned Hilton Honors points, which addresses many of our travel goals.  Hilton offers the best free night certificates in the industry, from my perspective.  They can be used at most any property with a few exceptions we aren’t interested in, anyway.  Hilton routinely recognizes my Diamond status on stays, where we’re often upgraded and use the daily food and beverage credit.  The latter benefit can be tricky, but it’s a worthy endeavor.  Last, but certainly not least – there seems to be a Hilton property most everywhere.

Ranking Hotel Points – Conclusion

That’s how I’m ranking hotel points now; these rankings will change over time.  Indeed, I’d love the major chains giving me reasons for doing so.  Most changes come with some sort of devaluation but often are paired with unique opportunities for those who put in the effort.  That’s me and many of you, so embrace the grind!  What does your hotel points ranking look like right now?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I don’t have a favorite necessarily but lately Wyndham has really come to the rescue. I use and appreciate all of the programs except BW and Sonesta. I feel like every program has saved me at some point from having to spend way more points or $ on other options in that city. Wyndham has saved me multiple times recently. Wyndham award nights opened up for a music festival a week before the Rock the South festival for 13,500 points/night. Also 13,500/night for a Vacasa rental in downtown Asheville when other points options were ridiculous. Wyndham is also great for stays near National Parks when other options are limited or really pricy. At this point, redemption value matters more to me than how easy points are to earn since I’m typically working on a SUB.

  2. This is probably no longer the case but IHG treated me better than brands that I spent all of money on, like Starwood or Hyatt. I filled out postcards with my wife for their free night promotion back in 2015 and we earned a ton of points. And those points plus credit card points transferred from Chase all counted towards elite status. I went to Bora Bora with my wife on points – never having stayed in an IHG property before – and they upgraded us to an overwater bungalow. On the boat ride from the airport to the hotel we shared it with two other people- Lea Thompson from Back to the Future and her husband (Howard Deutch), the director of Pretty in Pink, among other famous movies. I will never forget how IHG treated us like royalty, on an even better level than being a Hyatt Globalist. And Starwood was worthless, and never ever gave me anything.

  3. Thanks BenJy. My wife and I are living both in the Philippines and US. I am a big Hilton fan especially due to the wonderful treatment Dimond members get overseas, but needed a second hotel option after dumping my Bonvoy Brilliant card. Also can’t use my AX BCP much overseas for groceries. I took your advice and was instantly approved for the WF Choice select Visa with a 16 k CL. This will be our grocery card in both countries. I wish the Radisson acquisition would also include foreign properties.

  4. I agree that Hyatt has a limited footprint. That is why I I like the combination of Hyatt and Choice. Hyatt for the value of a redemption, plus the 15K sweet spot for a second free night. Choice is usually everywhere Hyatt isn’t. Plus the 30K renewal bonus each year, cellphone protection and four 5X categories, groceries, gas, home improvement and cellphone.

  5. For the disabled the Holiday Inn Express is not a choice. The beds even in the handicapped rooms are too high for most senior citizens, and handicapped people to use.

  6. Your note about this ranking being based on your own situation is well taken. Without having said as much, this ranking is from the perspective of a predominantly domestic, budget traveler. It’d be a very different perspective if examining footprints, hotel quality, and programs from the perspective of luxury, international travel. For instance, IHG properties and redemptions are far superior in many other parts of the world (i.e. Southeast Asia) than in the U.S. Hyatt choices around the world – not to mention CPP – make the U.S. shabby by comparison. I love Hilton also – but wouldn’t waste even .04 CPP in the U.S. when there are so many awesome Hilton properties in aspirational locations around the world. Choice just doesn’t match my traveler profile.

    • Akin to ranking JetBlue, Southwest and Frontier as favorite airline programs. All good, but predominantly domestic, with no (or limited) luxury product.

  7. ok – back to ppc – while I agree Hilton is best I’ve noted in the past year when looking at points stay (most value Hilton points at .005 cents per point)…..many work out to .004 cents or even less. Not going to spend 40,000 points on a Hampton Inn that cost $150/night cash which would work out to .00375 cent per point. They need to get back to .005.

    • Randy,
      I’m okay with low cpp redemptions as long as they meet my goals. So accepting that with Hilton (and other chains) is part of the deal for me, and the past year has been no exception. For those who put a lot of weight into cpp, I recommend calculating in the taxes and resort fees (if applicable) saved during points stays.

  8. Logical list, and your reasoning is very good. We don’t use any branded CCs right now, so points come through transfers or a few legit stays. We want “more than we paid for” from points, which means our ranking is obvious before listing it:
    1. Hyatt – UR transfers, award chart, plenty in locations we’re traveling to in the next 3 years
    2. Marriott – always “pretty good” to great, huge footprint, good for “necessary” or vacation travel, but no big wins possible
    3. Choice – Nordic Choice ftw. Radisson should be interesting.
    4. Hilton – I hear they’re great, but stays are pricey in $ and points redemptions aren’t exciting except aspirational (which we’re not usually interested in).
    5. IHG – sure, why not. Like Hilton but less.

  9. Agree Choice has underrated opportunities, but why put grocery spend on that card for 5x when a basic citi double cash earns 4x (2x plus xfer bonus if you have the premium citi cards) with many other options besides choice or 10x if you use $500 spend on a citi custom cash.


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