Earning the Most Amount of Points for My Family: Hilton vs. Hyatt vs. Marriott

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My husband Adam is the business traveler in the family and with a new year starting soon we are starting to re-think his business hotel strategy. Up until now he has been a legacy Starwood guy and that has helped our family earn a ton of points and receive some great perks at Starwood properties. I was always a Marriott person when I was traveling for business (every single week M-Th for many many years) and that allowed me to earn Lifetime Platinum Premier status as well as a boatload of points. This means there is no reason for Adam to earn Platinum status again at Marriott for our families needs and we are thinking about moving onto another hotel chain. Our real goal is to earn the most amount of points to maximize our number of free hotels as well as reap the best benefits that come with top tier status. Reaching top tier status won’t be a problem since he’s able to combine credit card spend/benefits with probably 35 business nights over the course of the year.

  • Hilton: With the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card you automatically receive top-tier Diamond status. Getting this status right off the bat would be great and alleviate the stress with having to actually earn status the hard way!
  • Hyatt: You need 60 nights to earn top-tier Globalist status. While this is definitely not as easy to earn as some of the other hotel chains, the World of Hyatt Credit Card will give you 5 nights towards status plus you’ll earn you 2 nights towards status with every $5,000 put on card. Assuming 35 nights a year, that means if we spend $50,000 a year on the card, it will earn Adam Globalist status. While $50,000 a year is quite expensive, he will be able to hit half of that just with business spend. The other half we will earn with regular everyday spend and possibly some alternative methods (i.e., buying gift cards, etc.). The disadvantage of this is that it would take spend away from other credit cards and definitely require some more effort on my part.
  • Marriott: You need 50 nights a year to earn Platinum status and the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card will give you 15 nights towards status a year (all 5 Marriott/Starwood credit cards will give you 15 nights a year, but they cannot be combined). While Platinum status is no longer their top-tier status, the benefits that come with this status are good enough for Adam’s travel habits and we’d use my account anyways for family travel.

Maximizing Our Points

The #1 thing to know is that all points are not created equal! So while you might earn more points at one chain over another, you also have to look at their redemption value. There are also other factors to take into consideration — points earned from status and points earned from the hotel chains co-branded credit card. With the chart below I took a few things into account: 1) The credit card that will earn you the most number of points, and 2) Top Tier status with Marriott is Platinum (not Platinum Premier). This is because the number of nights needed to earn Platinum status is similar to earning status with the other two chains.

Because of the amount my husband travelers and combined with credit card benefits, I am assuming top status with all chains when figuring out which hotel group will earn us the most amount of points. I am also assuming 35 nights/23 stays a year at an average of $200/night ($7,000 spend a year).

  • Hyatt: Will earn 10.5 points per dollar spent –> total points earned = 73,500 World of Hyatt points
  • Hilton: Will earn 34 points per dollar spent + 1,000 points per stay (Diamond benefit) –> total points earned = 260,000 Hilton Honors points
  • Marriott: Will earn 21 points per dollar spent + 500 points per stay (Platinum benefit) —> total points earned = 158,500 Marriott points

Based on my families typical travel patterns, we stay at the lower end of the high end properties — 20,000 points with Hyatt, 50,000 points with Marriott, and 80,000 point properties with Hilton. Based on the number of points we’ll earn, that will get us 3.68 nights at a Hyatt hotel, 3.25 nights at a Hilton hotel, or 3.17 nights at a Marriott hotel. Of course this doesn’t account for the various promotions throughout the year or the fact that Hilton and Marriott both give you  your 5th night free when using points. Over the past few years, none of the hotel chains have actually offered outstanding promotions, but Hilton has seem to be the “better” of the bunch. With the 5th night free opportunities and the bonus points earned with promotions, Hilton would probably give us the biggest bang for our buck.

But… we think we are going to stick with Hyatt. Here are the two reasons why:

  • Suite Night Upgrades. When we travel with our kids, having a suite is amazing. Our kids are still young, they go to bed at different times, wake up at different times, and do not always sleep through the night —  having some separation overall is definitely a requirement. When you earn Globalist status (top tier status) with Hyatt, they give you 4 Suite Upgrades to use (1 certificate can be used on a stay up to 7 nights). These upgrades can be used at the time of booking and are not based on availability when you check in. For us, knowing ahead of time that we are going to have a suite is huge! We might even pick a vacation destination based on knowing we will get a suite.
  • Complimentary Breakfast for Us AND our Kids. At all three hotel chains, if there is a Club Lounge, then there is no issue (usually) getting us and the kids breakfast. But, when there is no Club Lounge (for example, almost every Marriott resort!), Marriott and Hilton only grant breakfast to two guests in the room. Hyatt, on the other hand, will provide breakfast to two adults AND two kids. This means our kids can eat for free as well and we do not have to have the added expense! Also, Marriott and Hilton only offer continental breakfast as a benefit, where Hyatt offers “full” breakfast.

What is your families hotel strategy next year for maximizing your points earned? While I am pretty convinced we are going to go the Hyatt route, I am definitely open to hearing your opinions and could definitely be persuaded otherwise! Of course another option is just being a “free agent” and going based on the best hotel promotions at the time! That would fully maximize the points earned, but not allow us to earn top tier status with Hyatt.
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  1. I end up staying at more than one chain. But to my Hyatt gets great value, treated well and also some good low point award travel plus the guaranteed upgrades. Not close IMHO if you can hit the 60. Without credit card at about 65 and only needed 55. Will get the credit card after first of year and make getting globalist very easy.

  2. I would strongly suggest considering the opportunity cost of that 50k Hyatt credit card statement – not just in the value of points but in terms of many ‘easy’ sign up bonuses that require spend to earn.

    You also mention that you might have to buy gift cards, which signals that 50k is indeed stretching it and not a good long term strategy to place stays. (Might be worth it to hoard Hyatt points for a few years then burn them all with a well timed status run).

    But back to the opportunity cost. I think it makes more sense to do some slow churns every year – maybe 2 regular credit cards each and 1-2 business cards (each). There are still plenty of $500-1000 value sign up bonuses (or with AMEX, upgrade bonuses) on $3-5k of initial spend. Could bank 3-4k/yr easy by using that 50k (or even 30k) earmarked for Hyatt status.

    Aspire card has diamond as you mentioned, yearly goodies that also have a lot of value and a decent sign up bonus. It might be more lucrative to get the free one then upgrade to the aspire, get a second bonus, and time it to take advantage of the calendar year airline fee, the cardmember year free night and cardmember year $250 resort credit).

    • @FeelsGood – I 100% agree with you with the opportunity cost of having to put that much spend on the card. That is the one downfall to my plan and probably the one thing that is holding me back from fully committing. I am confident we can reach $50k spend in the year without too much hassle, but that definitely will impact other sign up bonuses.

      • I’m also pretty worried the CC signup bonuses will dry up relatively soon. I mean I have no idea how these companies haven’t completely cracked down on it (it being churners… and slower churners too) given the data out there.

        But I’d say cash in on the signups now, and free agent it until you get a ton of Hyatt points. Then time status to use all hyatt points in a year where you want to travel to hyatt locations, with that being the year after going all out for Globalist status.

        If that’s the year after next (2020 after a run in 2019), great. Can’t see multiple years of top Hyatt status being worth it- given travel patterns- is all I’m saying.

  3. Now that Marriott has taken over and destroyed SPG, I will start with Hyatt next year. I get far better redemption value in big cities with Hyatt. Will burn some SPG points and take advantage of my Plat status this year but no more paid stays for me.

    • I am a life time Platinum on Marriott, lifetime diamond at Hilton and switched to Hyatt 3 years ago at the merger start. The two things that are different. HYATT service- knows the socks off off of both Marriott and Hilton. Suite redemption. I tried using my Marriott suite redemption award this week and while there was a suite available for my stay, the new Marriott hotel refused to honor. “We want to try and sell the room and won’t let you use a suite night award. If you have 2 million points you redeem. That’s. 400,000 points a night with a suite that was open. Marriott just completely lost my loyalty. While HYATT may not have as many hotels, try the service, it is great

  4. I’m so torn, so thanks for the article. I’m currently Platinum Marriott, Diamond Hilton and Platinum Choice. I have auto diamond at Hilton bc of the Aspire. Most of my stays are at like Hampton/Garden Inn/Springhill Suites/etc. And most of my stays are all 1 night stays, so the Hilton bonuses for stays always really help me, and I earned a TON of Lufthansa miles this year bc of that bonus of 2500 per Hilton stay. I love the Hyatt near my main city of trips, but it’s not in any of my other. So I’m not sure I could earn 45 nights at a Hyatt. So do I chase lifetime Marriott platinum (I’m just starting – only like 55 nights) or do I go get Hyatt Globalist?

    • @Kyle – For one night stays, Hilton promos have definitely been better than Hyatt and Marriott. Hilton also always offers a promotion, where the other two not always. I personally wouldn’t chase lifetime Marriott Platinum status — it will take a minimum of 10 years! In my opinion that is just too far away to think about now. If it happens organically and 5 years in you are there, then I say go for it. But I am not sure I would stay at Marriott properties solely to earn lifetime platinum at Marriott. You also never know when Marriott will change their program.

  5. If you are sticking with Hyatt, why not still get the Aspire? Good to have backup top tier status with Hyatt’s limited footprint. It’s a ridiculously lucrative card too.

  6. Agree 100%. Next to Marriott, Hyatt is the best for our redemption needs and has properties everywhere we like to go except weak in Europe. Suites and breakfasts are big plus for families. Hilton is a joke at high end & resorts.

  7. We like Hilton for the wide range of properties offered and even though we already own an every other year Marriott timeshare, we prefer the flexibility of Hilton’s every other year timeshare that we just purchased in DC that provides hotel points that we can use and we no longer have to qualify for Gold status since retiring last year. I also get points that I can use on any airline or hotel on my Merrill Visa Signature card that provides the flexibility rather than be limited to any one airline or hotel so using these points for travel to Ireland in 2019.
    Thanks for the comparison analysis!!!

  8. RANDOM THOUGHTS (and remembering that, clearly, no one size fits all):

    For me, the problem with Hyatt remains their small footprint. In many of the places I travel — and it’s important to note I’m semi-retired, and my “road warrior” days are long past — Hyatt properties are either nonexistent, or what’s available are only the low-end properties (Hyatt House, Hyatt Place). Generally this means Hyatt is a non-starter.

    Like Adam, I was an SPG loyalist, and in the pre-merger world, Starwood was my “go to,” followed by Hilton, with Marriott third. For 2018, “Marriwood” was still my go to, followed by Hilton, but I now have Diamond status with Hilton through the Hilton Aspire Amex. And now that I can no longer earn status through the number of stays, only nights, it’s more difficult for me to earn status with Marriott.

    That said, I somehow managed to earn Platinum with Marriott through 2019. (Personally, I think that’s an error on Marriott’s part, but until they figure it out…) Being semi-retired, I *know* there is no way I’m going to stay 35+ days/year (I already get 15 nights’ credit with my SPG Amex). So I’ll stay at Marriotts in 2019, but will probably be switching my loyalty over to Hilton …

  9. Just curious if there is any reason you didn’t include IHG in your article? When I started my travels I was Hilton, then I moved to Marriott, now I’m with IHG (mainly based on point value). I must confess, I’ve not really even looked in the Hyatt program.
    With IHG I get 10 regular points per stay, a 100% bonus for being Spire Elite, and then 5 points per $ using my IHG card (the new credit card with an $89 annual fee will get you 10 points rather than 5). So 25/30 points per dollar depending on which card you calculate. I don’t recall ever spending more than 25k a night for a free night (and that was boutique type hotel in downtown Chicago on a weekend). This seems to be almost double the amount of free nights.
    I feel like IHG was giving me the biggest bang for my buck (which is why I made the switch) and I can usually always find a hotel where I’m staying domestically and internationally, but I rarely see anyone writing about them. Just wanted to get your two cents… great article btw!

    • @Sheena – That is a good point. I really should compare against IHG. IHG absolutely allows you to earn a ton of points, but the real reason I am not an IHG fan is because it doesn’t provide any useful benefits for my family — no concierge lounge or breakfast and no upgrade opportunities. There also aren’t enough IHG properties in resort destinations for my family. But with that being said, I absolutely should put a post together comparing the other chains against IHG as there are many readers out there that might be interested in IHG.

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