Saving on accommodation is the easiest way to stretch your vacation budget.
For many, the sharing economy provides a low cost and unique means of travel. It’s no secret Airbnb and other room and house rental sites like VRBO have done a number on the hotel industry. In 2015, one-third of US leisure travelers stayed in private accommodations, according to a report by Deloitte.
Still, hotels maintain one essential perk you won’t find elsewhere: Loyalty programs.
Many of these programs hook travelers by touting free nights, room upgrades, personal concierges, and other rewards for racking up overnight stays – but some are better than others.
On Wednesday, U.S. News & World Report released their annual ranking of the best hotel rewards programs for everyday travelers, based largely on the ease of earning and redeeming free stays.
To compile the list, U.S. News considered 17 loyalty programs associated with major hotel brands that have at least 50 US properties and allow you to join without any prerequisites, like a previous stay at one of its hotels.
U.S. News also factored in membership benefits, like free amenities, affiliated credit cards, redeemable experiences, and geographic reach, including number and size of locations. The hotel groups vary in size, the smallest with 375 locations and the largest with more than 5,000 worldwide. You can read U.S. News’ full methodology here.
Marriott Rewards came out on top, in part because of its large network of hotels in desirable locales, and its generous rewards, which include a complimentary night stay for all new members, and the ability to book sporting events and concerts with points.
Below, check out the rest of the top 10 travel rewards programs for 2017 (for detailed information on each program, follow the links back to U.S. News):
1. Marriott Rewards
- Overall score: 4.92 Ease of earning a free night score: 4.8 Geographic coverage score: 4.5 Additional benefits score: 5
2. Wyndham Rewards
- Overall score: 4.74 Ease of earning a free night score: 5 Geographic coverage score: 4.5 Additional benefits score: 4.4
3. Choice Privileges
- Overall score: 4.53 Ease of earning a free night score: 4.9 Geographic coverage score: 5 Additional benefits score: 3.6
4. World of Hyatt
- Overall score: 4.43 Ease of earning a free night score: 4.8 Geographic coverage score: 3.3 Additional benefits score: 5
5. Best Western Rewards
- Overall score: 4.28 Ease of earning a free night score: 4.6 Geographic coverage score: 3.5 Additional benefits score: 4
6. IHG Rewards Club
- Overall score: 4.24 Ease of earning a free night score: 3.9 Geographic coverage score: 4.8 Additional benefits score: 4
7. La Quinta Returns
- Overall score: 3.94 Ease of earning a free night score: 5 Geographic coverage score: 2.7 Additional benefits score: 3.2
8. Club Carlson
- Overall score: 3.66 Ease of earning a free night score: 4.1 Geographic coverage score: 1.8 Additional benefits score: 3.6
9. Starwood Preferred Guest
- Overall score: 3.55 Ease of earning a free night score: 2.3 Geographic coverage score: 4.7 Additional benefits score: 4.6
10. Leaders Club
- Overall score: 3.51 Ease of earning a free night score: 5 Geographic coverage score: 1.7 Additional benefits score: 2.6