August 18 is the kickoff date for Marriott International’s new rewards program for individual travelers. Throughout September, members enrolled in Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards will be assigned Marriott Rewards accounts, the new home for all of their points earned through the company’s many brands.
With much attention on hotels’ consumer-facing reward programs right now, it seems like a good time to revisit the meeting reward programs the major hotel chains have developed to thank groups for their business and keep them coming back. Many of the programs come with exclusions, caps, and other fine print, and some lack transparency about how points convert to hard dollar credit toward future meetings. But for those who persevere, points can be good way to shave a little off the bottom line.
Here’s how five major hotel meeting reward programs stack up:
Hilton Honors Event Planner Program
• Ground rules: Hilton brands award one point per $1 spent on guest rooms, meeting rooms, and “other charges.” Points are capped at 100,000 per event. Unlike other programs, there is no spending or guest room minimum, and contracts for guest rooms only, meeting rooms only, or both are eligible.
• Redeeming points: Points can be credited toward future events. For every 50,000 points groups can earn $100 in credit. Meeting points can also go toward personal stays, merchandise, dining, experiences, charitable donations, and other Hilton Honors rewards.
• The fine print: Not all Hilton hotels participate. Event Planner points must be stipulated in contracts; eligibility of “other charges” is at the discretion of each property. Events must be booked in advance through the hotel’s sales and catering department. Brands include Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and Doubletree, among others.
World of Hyatt
• Ground rules: Events that include at least 10 guest rooms or qualifying F&B earn one bonus point per $1 spent. Charges for guest rooms, meeting rooms, and F&B all count toward the total, up to 50,000 per contract.
• Redeeming points: Rewards revolve around all things travel. Hyatt’s generous meeting credit formula works out to 7,500 points per $100 of meeting credit.
• The fine print: Booking three meetings in one year earns basic elite World of Hyatt status; 10 earns the next higher status. In addition to earning points at Hyatt brands such as Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, and Mirval, World of Hyatt members can also earn points from meetings at MGM International’s hotels that participate in the M Life Rewards Program.
Marriott Rewarding Events
• Ground rules: Under Marriott International’s recently updated meeting reward scheme, planners can earn two bonus points per $1 spent (down from three points in the past). The cap on the number of bonus points that can be earned per event depends on the member’s status. For example, a Silver Elite member can earn up to 66,000 bonus points per event while a Platinum Premier Elite member can earn up to 105,000. Spending on guest rooms, meeting space, F&B, audiovisual, and décor supplied by the hotel qualify. Events must involve at least 10 guest rooms for one night.
• Redeeming points: Meeting professionals can redeem their points for preloaded cards with credits toward future meetings, or a variety of other rewards including hotel nights, vacation packages, cruises, air miles, or gift cards. Points can also be redeemed for donations to charitable causes.
• The fine print: The points needed for a hotel stay depend what category the hotel is in and whether the booking is peak or off-peak. (There are seven categories, with an eighth coming in 2019.) Next year it will take 100,000 points to stay in a top-tier hotel in peak season versus 5,000 points for a off-peak stay in a lowest-tier property. Planners can earn meeting points at most Marriott brands, including W Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, JW Marriott, Westin, St. Regis, Aloft, Edition, Le Meridian, the Autograph Collection, and the Luxury Collection. Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Design Hotels are excluded.
IHG Business Rewards
• Ground rules: IHG awards three points for every $1 spent on accommodations, meeting spaces, and F&B. There is no minimum qualifying spend. Points are capped at 60,000 per event at each hotel’s discretion.
• Redeeming points: Credits toward future meetings, office supplies, hotel stays, retail vouchers, digital downloads, and other options are available. IHG Business Rewards accrue in one account, IHG Rewards Club (for individual travel) in another, but they can be managed together. Meeting credits can be loaded onto an IHG MasterCard for future bookings.
• The fine print: More than 4,600 of IHG’s properties participate in Business Rewards. (Here’s a list of properties that don’t.) IHG brands include InterContinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn, among others.
Wyndham Go Meet
• Ground rules: Wyndham does not cap points. Groups earn one Wyndham Rewards point for every $1 spent for meeting space rental, f&b, and guest rooms. There is no minimum spending requirement, but events must include at least 10 rooms for one night.
• Redeeming points: Points can be redeemed for a prepaid Visa, which can be used toward payment for a meeting. They can also be redeemed for travel, merchandise, charitable donations, gift cards, and other rewards. For individual travel, Wyndham follows a simple formula for booking a hotel with points: Regardless of the property, it’s a flat 15,000 points per night.
• The fine print: Not all Wyndham hotels participate in the Go Meet program. Attendees and planners who belong to Wyndham Rewards and are paying for their rooms directly can earn a minimum of 1,000 rewards points. In addition to Wyndham brands, including Wyndham, Wyndham Grand, and Dolce, planners can earn points at participating Caesars Entertainment properties.