Hotel loyalty programs and why I started with Radisson

Up until this year, I haven’t paid too much attention to loyalty programs on the hotel side. I generally would just research historical winning bids over at betterbidding.com, and go on a bidding spree on Priceline. I got pretty good at it, actually, and enjoyed the challenge & frequently won lower winning bids than those I saw posted.  Otherwise, I’d just look for the least expensive of the mid-tier type of hotel, such as Doubletree, Crown Plaza or Radisson.

Early this year, I ended up staying a few times at the same Radisson as their rates were always reasonable, not to mention they didn’t charge for wi-fi service. I would always put my United Airlines Mileage Plus number down to earn the 500 miles per stay, and didn’t think much else of it. A few months ago, I received an email offering Silver status in their goldpointsplus program after my very next stay. Lured in with the appeal of a new elite card to add to my collection, I booked a stay.

I know I am definitely in the minority by going with Radisson for my primary hotel elite program, but I’m going to stick with them at least for a few months, maybe all of 2011. I came across this fantastic comparison of hotel loyalty programs by InsideFlyer, and although it’s a couple of years old, it provides the best side-by-side breakdown of each program. I fall into the “low spend traveler” category, meaning I stay approximately 19 nights per year at an average rate of around $100/night. Here is what that stay pattern would yield in the Radisson program after one year:

(Note: # of free nights would be at their lowest category 1 level)

Now here’s the reason I’m sticking with Radisson for now. Through combining a couple of mattress runs with already planned stays, I will have 53,858 points at the end of this month. I purposefully stayed at a couple of bonus point properties (15,000 and 10,000 respectively) to bolster my account, and will have only spent about $650 for all six stays. Now I’m torn whether or not to continue on with Radisson, or bank the free nights/miles, and switch over to another program, such as Hilton HHonors. According to InsideFlyer, Hilton is where I should focus my very limited hotel spend dollars:

“The overall champ here is Hilton HHonors by finishing with the pack on basic award redemption at the lowest level but excelling in the Opportunity offer and the tie-breaker is, of course, all those additional frequent flyer miles earned because of their Double Dip Options program.”

The lure of double-dipping to earn both points and miles with Hilton might just make me break-up with Radisson before they even had a chance. Decisions, decisions.

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