Is the Right Travel Reward Program Card in your Wallet?

Life before kids, I was a member of seven hotel reward programs and two airline programs. I traveled on business more back then plus I planned a lot more personal trips. For one, I had more disposable income and it cost the two of us less to travel than it does now with four people. 

Now I write more about travel than I actually travel with two kids in school nine months out of the year, but I still have reward cards in my wallet.  According to U.S. News and World Report, I have the right hotel reward card in my wallet. 

Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, N.C
Renaissance Asheville, a Marriott Property. Marriott Ranked No. 1 for the best 2017-2018 Best Travel Rewards Program

Marriott gets the top spot in a new study released where they announced the  2017-18 Best Travel Rewards Programs. The annual rankings identify 26 hotel and airline loyalty programs with the most rewarding perks for everyday travelers. Marriott Rewards ranks No. 1 in Best Hotel Rewards Programs, while Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan holds on to the top spot in Best Airline Rewards Programs.

Marriott Rewards is No. 1 among the Best Hotel Rewards Programs due in part to the ease of earning points and its large network of hotels in popular destinations. The program offers complimentary Wi-Fi access and the ability to use points toward booking experiences such as sporting events and concerts. Two years ago, I changed my Marriott card to Ritz-Carlton Rewards, which is my favorite brand. With Ritz-Carlton rewards, you can earn Marriott points at any Marriott hotel, but not always vice-versa.  SPG Preferred (Starwood) which is now owned by Marriott is number 9 on the list, but it believed that Starwood points will eventually merge with Marriott on its point program, making it the largest hotel chain in the world for places to stay. (Side note: I am proud to be a media affiliated with both hotel properties so when you visit their sites from my blog, and book your hotel stay then I earn a small commission to help pay for this blog's expenses. I'm also with hotels (dot.) com and Expedia so you can book any hotel in the world right from my Book Your Hotel Tab now.) 

Out of the top five in hotel card rankings, I only own the No. 4 World of Hyatt rewards. 

Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C. World of Hyatt Ranked No. 4 on the list for best Travel Reward Program

At No. 2, on the list Wyndham Rewards continues to earn high marks for ease of earning a free night, member access to reduced room rates and the availability to earn points through two affiliated credit cards.

Soon to merge with the Virgin America Elevate program, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the Best Airline Rewards Program for the third consecutive year. Its mileage-based earning structure makes it easier for travelers to earn miles at a faster pace than with revenue-based earning programs. Delta SkyMiles moves up to the No. 2 spot because of its competitive redemption rates for award flights and diversity of benefits, such as using miles for hotels stays, cabin upgrades, experiences and free flights.

"Today's travelers have so many rewards programs to choose from, comparing and contrasting them based on your specific needs can be a challenge," said Christine Smith, associate travel editor at U.S. News. "Our Best Travel Rewards Programs rankings emphasize the ease of earning points and miles, and redeeming them for free nights and flights, which everyday travelers identify as a top reason to join a loyalty program."

U.S. News ranks the Best Travel Rewards Programs in two categories: hotel loyalty programs and airline frequent flyer programs. The methodologies take into account membership benefits – such as free amenities, program-affiliated credit cards and redeemable experiences – network coverage and a strong emphasis on the ease of earning and redeeming free flights or nights. Additionally, U.S. News factors in property diversity for the Best Hotel Rewards Programs and Airline Quality Rating scores for the Best Airline Rewards Programs.

2017-18 U.S. News Best Travel Rewards Programs

Hotel Rewards Programs                        
1. Marriott Rewards                                    
1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
2. Wyndham Rewards                                 
2. Delta SkyMiles
3. Choice Privileges                                      
3. JetBlue TrueBlue
4. World of Hyatt                                           
4. Southwest Rapid Rewards
5. Best Western Rewards                                
5. United MileagePlus 

What are the Best Travel Reward Programs

What reward program do you use most?


  1. This info is so timely for me. I've been doing a lot of research on this topic as I'm traveling a lot more with three kids in college. I've always been a big Marriot fan, nice to see them on top and so interesting that you mention Alaska Airlines. They actually were lowest fare for a trip I was researching and I was going no where near Alaska!

    1. Great to hear, Crystal. Marriott and Starwood's portfolio is the largest now in the world. They better stay on top with good perks for its customers.

  2. We've started doing more traveling so I'll have to ask my hubby if we have the right reward card. I know we have the Southwest card and a hotel one, but I'm not sure of anything else we might be signed up for. lol

    1. I definitely think these reward perks go farther with the business traveler. It takes a while for leisure travelers to build up points.


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