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Hotel Programs Worth The Effort To Learn | Smart Change: Personal Finance

While many of us tend to trust large chain hotels like Marriott, Hilton, IHG and Hyatt to provide a reliable roof over our heads, properties belonging to these western brands cannot always be found in every corner of the world. Or, if these hotels have properties available, they may be costly compared to competitors. Oftentimes, these overpriced hotels represent a poor redemption value for points earned from credit card programs or work-related travel subsidized by an employer.

Below, we’ll dive deep into four lesser known hotel programs—Best Western, AccorHotels, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Choice Hotels. While these hotels may not be as popular, they can unlock immense value that can enable equally rich experiences during your vacations.

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Here are the four brands and their vast property portfolios, compelling redemptions and the co-branded credit cards they offer.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts: The Biggest Little Hotel Chain You Never Knew

Best Western boasts a global network of approximately 4,700 hotels in over 100 countries and territories worldwide. The brand includes everything from budget friendly accommodations to high-end luxury. For example, you’ll find upscale and luxury properties such as BW Premier Collection, Executive Residency and World Hotels Luxury on one end in addition to the familiar mid-tier Best Western hotel brands like SureStay and Best Western Plus on the other.

Best Western shines in two areas where major programs often fall short: National Parks and European cities. Another unique feature of the Best Western Rewards program is the ability to use points towards hotel stays at .5 cents per point, which unlocks all room categories. This perk is especially useful for families who can’t utilize many standard room redemptions with other chains.

Like the Hilton Honors loyalty program, Best Western Rewards does not have a formal award chart with pricing. Instead, Best Western utilizes dynamic pricing—as the cash price goes up, so does the cost of award nights. Redemptions can vary drastically—from 5,000 to 70,000 points nightly.

Besides redeeming points for free stays, you can also transfer your rewards to a number of airline loyalty programs around the world. While this doesn’t normally represent amazing value, transfer partners include Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Asiana Club, miles that are highly sought after and particularly difficult to earn. Transfering your points to these airlines can sometimes make sense, especially if you don’t have any plans to use your points for award nights.

To earn Best Western Rewards, you have plenty of options. First, you can load up on Best Western Rewards points through co-branded credit cards. First National Bank of Omaha offers two flavors of Mastercard that earn Best Western Rewards.

  • The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard* carries an annual fee of $89, but it is offset in the first year by the current welcome offer for new card members: . Additionally, after every 12 billing cycles (at every card account anniversary) 40,000 bonus points are awarded if you spend $5,000 within the year. Best Western Rewards Platinum elite status is also included, which grants guests 15% bonus rewards on every stay and the choice of a complimentary thank you gift or points upon arrival.
  • The $0 annual fee Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®* earns . After every 12 billing cycles (at every card account anniversary), 20,000 bonus points are awarded if you spend $5,000 in the year. Best Western Rewards Gold elite status is also included with this $0 annual fee credit card, which grants guests 10% in bonus rewards on every stay and the choice of a complimentary thank-you gift or points upon arrival.

Accor: The Global Luxury Brands You Know and Love

Nearly 5,100 Accor properties are found in 110 countries and include some of the most luxurious brands in hoteling, including Orient Express, Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Pullman, Delano, SLS, Mondrian and Banyan Tree. Interestingly, the chain also owns the Ibis budget chain so you could earn low-brow and redeem upscale.

Accor’s elite loyalty program is called Accor Live Limitless (ALL) and offers straightforward redemption that can help to settle any Accor hotel stay: for every 2,000 points redeemed, 40 euros can be saved. ALL points can also be redeemed with onefinestay private vacation rentals at a rate of 7,200 points redeemed to save 100 euros.

Additionally, ALL points can be transferred to dozens of airline partners globally for air travel redemptions. Participating airlines include: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles, Iberia Avios, Qantas Airways Frequent Flyer and United MileagePlus.

Accor does not offer a co-branded credit card, but Capital One has added ALL as a transfer partner. This means that for Venture and Spark credit cards, you can convert 2 Capital One miles to 1 ALL point. Although this doesn’t sound like excellent value, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card as well as the Capital One Spark 2X Miles* earn a solid . It gets even better when the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is paired with the Savor Rewards Credit Card*. You can get with Savor Rewards Credit Card* and by having the Venture card alongside it, you can convert your cashback to Capital One miles.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: Diverse Hotel, Resorts and Timeshares Around the World

With over 8,900 hotels, Wyndham welcomes travelers across nearly 95 countries around the world. As a compelling hotelier with diverse travel experiences, the chain offers accommodation suitable for nearly every trip type. From the distinctive and upscale brands like Wyndham Grand and Dolce, to the economical Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Microtel, Super 8, Travelodge and Hawthorne Suites, Wyndham Rewards presents loyal travelers with a diverse set of hotels for all budgets.

Award night redemptions are easy to understand with “Go Free” rewards. Essentially, Wyndham divides its hotels into 3 categories and structures them simply at a cost of 7,500, 15,000, or 30,000 points per night. Fortunately, less than 300 of Wyndham’s hotels are priced at the 30,000 category.

If you want your Wyndham Rewards points to go further, you can opt for “Go Fast” rewards instead. This option charges a reduced rate of 20% of the points normally required per night, plus a cash copay. You can use 1,500, 3,000 or 6,000 points per night to bring down the total cost out-of-pocket.”Go Fast rewards are tied to cash rates, and therefore, the cash copay varies based on the daily rate of the room. Ultimately, this means you may not see a large discount on peak travel dates. Always make sure to check rates and make sure you are choosing the option that represents the most value for your situation.

Capital One Miles can be transferred from Venture and Spark credit cards to Wyndham Rewards at a rate of 1 Capital One Mile for every 1 Wyndham Rewards point.

Wyndham partners with Barclays and offers credit cards that earn Wyndham Rewards points. Currently, Barclays has two personal cards and one business credit card to choose from. Each card comes with a welcome bonus to new cardholders as well as ongoing bonus rewards categories. Cardholders also receive automatic status upgrades (and the corresponding in-property benefits) as well as a 10% redemption discount on free nights.

Personal Cards

  • The Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Plus Card* comes with a $75 annual fee. However, cardholders receive an extra 15,000 points as part of the welcome bonus (potentially worth two free nights at category one hotels) and 7,500 points each year on their card anniversary. Cardmembers will be upgraded to Platinum status.
  • Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Card* comes with a $0 annual fee. New accounts can receive . For a card with no fee, it comes with a solid earning structure, especially on fuel spending: .

Business Cards

  • With the Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Business Card* you can earn . You’ll also get
    . Since Wyndham is known for its quick-access-to-the-highway properties, it just makes sense that the card would earn an industry leading eight points per dollar spent at fuel stations and it’s all for $95 annual fee. Top-tier Diamond status comes standard with this card.

Choice Hotels: So Much More Than The Rest Stop Motel You Know

Choice Hotels offers more than 7,000 hotels in more than 40 countries and territories globally, from the economical Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn and Comfort Inn and Suites brands, to the upscale Ascend Hotel Collection and Cambria Hotels, Choice Hotels’ numerous properties outnumber IHG and Hilton and should be considered by any global vacationer or business traveler.

Through Choice’s loyalty program, Choice Privileges, award stays can be booked with points. Award nights range from 8,000 points to 75,000 points per night. Notably, award stays can only be booked 100 days in advance, and properties in the Asia-Pacific region or Preferred Hotels & Resorts locations may cost between 35,000 to 75,000 points per night. Travelers who want their earned points to go further can book a “Points Plus Cash” stay that starts at 6,000 Choice Privileges points plus a cash copay.

An interesting quirk of the Choice Privileges program is that if a hotel offers a room on points, you can generally book any room size for the same price. This is not a published benefit but has worked for years.

American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Choice Privileges points at a 1 to 1 rate. Capital One Miles also transfer to Choice Privileges at a rate of 1 to 1. The most rewarding transfer partner is Citi ThankYou Points, which transfer to Choice at a rate of 1 to 1.5 or 2 depending on which Citi card you hold.

If you want a quick and easy way to add a chunk of Choice Privileges points to your arsenal of travel rewards, the Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card*, which carries a $0 annual fee and has solid earnings. The current new cardmember welcome offer is . You’ll also earn . If your annual spend on the Choice Visa credit card exceeds $10,000 you’ll earn an 8,000 point bonus. The credit card also grants cardmembers Choice Privileges Gold Elite loyalty status, which comes with perks like early check-in, late checkout, elite reserved parking, a dedicated elite customer hotline, a welcome gift and 10% bonus points earned on stays.

Bottom Line

It’s easy to trust that large chain hotels like Marriott, Hilton, IHG and Hyatt will provide a memorable vacation, but these western brands cannot often be found in every corner of the world. Where these brands fail, Best Western, AccorHotels, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Choice Hotels come in and can each offer tremendous value.

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