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Well, this comes as a surprise! US News & World Report has ranked Choice Hotels as one of the top hotel rewards programs.
They put Choice Hotels at #4, right behind Marriott, Wyndham, and Hyatt. Popular programs like IHG and Hilton ranked 6th and 11th, respectively.
This seems a little bonkers to me.
I’ve stayed in various Choice Hotels here in the states, and they aren’t anything special. Using Choice points for stays doesn’t usually make much sense either, because most Choice Hotel brands are pretty cheap already…think Econo Lodge, Comfort Inn, and Roadway Inn. So it’s harder to get a good value from your rewards.
For example, the Comfort Inn University in my hometown of Missoula, MT, costs 30,000 Choice points per night. While the cash rate can be as low as ~$71 per night. If you used points here you’d be getting a value of just ~0.2 cents per point.
In comparison, you could use 70,000 IHG points for a night at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. That can cost $320+ per night! At that rate you’re getting a value of ~0.5 cents per point. This isn’t the most lucrative hotel award you can book, but it’s a much better experience than the Comfort Inn!
That said, I HAVE been able to get a decent value on various Choice Hotels stays in Europe. And that’s the only reason I’ve purchased discount Choice Hotel points in the past when there’s been a good sale. But overall, I don’t think Choice Hotels locations worldwide are better than what Hilton or IHG has to offer.
Maybe It’s Just Bad Methodology?
To me, it’s clear there’s something off with the way US News & World Report calculates their rankings. According to their methodology, they apply a different weight to factors like ease of earning a free night, geographic coverage, and additional program perks.
Still, I can’t quite grasp why Choice Hotels would end up ranking higher than IHG, for example. In my personal experience, it’s been far easier to get a LOT more value from my IHG points than my Choice Hotels points. Especially given the wide range of property types (luxury, mid-range, budget) available all over the world.
Not only that, but Choice Hotels only lets you book award stays 100 days out, and even that’s a fairly recent change. Before, you’d need the highest level of elite status in order to book award stays that far in advance.
Most of us don’t have much flexibility in our schedule and need to plan vacations ahead of time. And lots of the best award flights are snatched up more than 3+ months before departure. So how helpful is an “easy-to-earn” free night if I can’t coordinate it with my other travel plans?
Plus, Choice Privileges has fewer note worthy promotions. Even though IHG’s PointBreaks promotion is a shell of what it used to be, it’s still better than just about any Choice Privileges promotion I’ve seen recently. Plus, IHG has lots of other potentially lucrative deals, like IHG Accelerate and 50% off award night sales. And Hilton regularly has decent promotions that sometimes even earn bonuses for award stays or can be stacked together!
What do y’all think? Is Choice Hotels really one of the best hotel rewards programs out there? Am I missing something?