While the main concern of bikers who prefer a bed to a sleeping bag may be finding a room that’s conveniently located along the planned route, smart motorcycle enthusiasts should consider hotel reward programs. They are what they sound like, hotels reward members with points which in turn can be used for free nights and other perks. Sometimes the reward program itself offers better rooms, free water or services at no additional cost, all simply for being a member.
For bikers who insist on clean sheets and a warm bed when conquering the open road, joining a hotel rewards program is a given. Riders who travel for a living should certainly consider this kind of membership, with bookings made for work possibly earning free rooms for the next motorcycle trip.
But which one is the best? Like many of the reward programs offered by a myriad of services and industries in today’s world, hotel reward programs can be confusing, made up by a maze of varying point values, confusing status tiers and exhaustive terms.
The choice will ultimately come down to personal preference and geography, but a new study from WalletHub makes it possible to cut through the complexities and compare options on equal footing. WalletHub compared the rewards programs operated by the 12 largest U.S. hotel chains using 21 key metrics, ranging from point values and expiration policies to booking blackout dates and brand exclusions.
The study breaks down travelers into three groups based on how much is spent on hotels every year, ‘Light’ is considered as $487 spent per year on hotels, $779 per year earns a label of ‘Moderate’ and spending $1,461 per year is ‘Heavy’.
As with any study, there are different ways to judge what’s good and which is better. Regardless, two-thirds of hotel loyalty programs are offering as much or more rewards value as in 2015, which can only be considered as more encouragement to join.
However, none of the hotel rewards programs allows members to earn points on reservations booked through third-party websites, such as Kayak.com or Expedia.com. If a rider decides to go down this road, they need to get in the habit of booking through the hotel’s website.
The nitty gritty
For the second year in a row, the study found Wyndham Rewards is the best hotel loyalty program for travelers of all spending levels, earning an average WalletHub Score of 71.10. Best Western and Marriott come in with a close second. Starwood Hotels brings up the end of the results for all traveler types.
As far as the best bang for the biker-buck, La Quinta offers up to $14.17 in rewards value per $100 spent, the most among major hotel loyalty programs. It should be noted however, the ‘light’ traveler doesn’t fair to well in this category with La Quinta. Wyndham and Drury Gold Key Club are not only better for the ‘light’ group but second place for all spending groups when considering ‘Reward Value per $100 Spent’.
Another important part of reward points to consider, how long will they last? While it varies from program to program, Best Western is the only major hotel chain whose rewards points do not expire due to account inactivity.
Out of the three top contenders in the different categories, Wyndham and Best Western show some degree of motorcycle love. Wyndham offers a searchable database of which locations provide motorcycle parking, important to many riders.
Best Western has long called to bikers. Established some time ago, the hotel chain offers a reward program created specifically at motorcycle enthusiasts. Called Ride Rewards, automatic enrollment in Gold status for all riders and no black-out dates are just two of the program’s benefits. Members of Harley-Davidson’s riders group, H.O.G. are automatically upgraded to Platinum status and earn additional points.
There are no limit to the number of reward programs riders can join and they all come with a welcomed familiarity at the end of a day on the road. That warm greeting a rider enjoys while checking in with a rewards membership card is more than a scripted prompt. Hotel chains reap an average of 50% more revenue from customers who belong to their loyalty programs than those who do not, according to a study from the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University.
So enjoy that upgrade, free water and wifi, after all, tomorrow is another day of two-wheeled heaven.