Marriott tops loyalty programs list

This week, U.S. News & World Report released its annual list of the top hotel loyalty programs. The top five programs were ranked based on metrics such as the size of the rewards network, as well as how fast guests can accumulate points to receive benefits and the types of benefits guests can acquire.

U.S. News & World Report's list is as follows:

1. Marriott Rewards
2. Wyndham Rewards
3. (tie) Best Western Rewards
4. (tie) Club Carlson
5. IHG Rewards Club

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Marriott is listed as No. 1 as a result of it offering "a variety of lodging types and price ranges, as well as relatively easy ways to earn free hotel nights and other benefits." Most recently, Marriott announced a partnership with the National Basketball Association to make Marriott hotels the "hotel of choice" in certain markets for marquee NBA events. This partnership includes the NBA Global Games 2015-16, NBA Africa Game 2015, and NBA Canada Series 2015, and will give Marriott Rewards members access to games and player meet-and-greets in specific markets.

“Similar to what we are doing with music and entertainment, our NBA partnership helps us create memorable experiences for our Rewards members and amplify the benefits of the program for both new and loyal guests," Karin Timpone, global marketing officer, Marriott International, told The Financial.

Wyndham Hotel Group, who secured the second-place position on U.S. News & World Report's list, recently launched a new loyalty program -- Wyndham Rewards -- as well as a multi-million-dollar umbrella marketing campaign. The new program emphasizes a flat, free night redemption rate where members earn 10 points per dollar spent and a guaranteed 1,000 points per stay at any Wyndham hotel. The program also scores big points for emphasizing its ease of use.

Best Western and Carlson tied for third and fourth place, and were praised for their budget-conscious focus but lost out due to some restrictions on earning points (such as not being able to earn both hotel points and airline miles in the same stay at Best Western hotels). However, Best Western Rewards points never expire for North American travelers, and both companies have a long list of hotels for travelers to seek out.

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) earned fifth place for its massive volume of hotels, lack of blackout dates on rewards and the ability to use points for free nights at hotels not within the IHG network. However, points are not awarded for discounted rooms, and reward options are slightly more complicated than others as they vary by location.

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