Monday, March 4, 2013

More Points for Your Pillow

Well, this will keep some travelers up at night!

CNN Money is reporting that a number of major hotel chains are getting stingier with their loyalty programs. Apparently, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood Hotels (which encompasses St. Regis, W Hotels, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, Element and Loft Hotels) will be raising the minimum points needed for a nights stay in May.

Hilton will nearly double the points needed for a freebie in peak season (starting at the end of this month) and Starwood will be implementing a minimum that's about 25% higher for most of its brands. Marriott's uptick isn't as extreme but is still significant.

So is it all bad news for point counters? No. Hilton will be adding fifth nights free for Elite Members; and recently Starwood starting partnering with Delta Airlines, so that members could earn points in the air as well as in bed.

The take away: You're going to have to be even more strategic than ever to make these loyalty programs work. So, look at what you're earning as compared to the price you're paying for a night's stay. It may make more sense, in the long run, to book a cheaper, non-loyalty hotel in many cases. Though that will depend on your travel patterns and the amount of time you spend on the road.

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