The worst-rated program
Major brands: W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin, Le Méridien
Pros: Large number of hotels in top 10 US cities, number of international hotels
Cons: Some of its sister Marriott brands limit the earning and redemption of points, low rewards value per dollar spent, 26% markup on purchased points
Reward value per dollar spent: $5.12
The Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program was the only program to rate in single digits for total value across all levels of travel. It marked up its purchased points a whopping 26% (still behind Hilton HHonors' 45%). Even after the Marriott-Starwood merger, some Marriott properties have restrictions on Starwood members' earning or redeeming points at those hotels. You can find the fine print on that here.
Of course, not every traveler fits a specific profile, so WalletHub has a handy calculator that allows you to enter your annual hotel budget and see which program works best for you. And remember that no loyalty programs give points for anything booked through third-party vendors, so if you want to cash in, use the Orbitzes and Kayaks of the world to compare prices, then call the hotel directly to book.
No matter which program you're loyal to, there may always be a better one out there -- such is life. But hotels, facing new competition, still tend to treat their regular customers' loyalty better than the airlines. If only there were an Airbnb for airplanes.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.