Loyalty Points Battle: Wyndham Rewards vs. Bonwi

Wyndham Grand Clearwater

How does Wyndham Rewards compare to Bonwi?

How many points will you rack up if you always stay with Wyndham hotels and are loyal to that brand collection, as opposed to staying wherever you want and earning Bonwi points?

Let’s take a look at points earnings and payoffs with the two programs: Wyndham Rewards and Bonwi Rewards. Wyndham’s program often shows up at #1 among the major international hotel brands when companies do a head-to-head benefits comparison. This is partly because their points don’t expire like the ones from Hyatt, Marriott, and the others do. They also used to have a flat redemption rate for all hotels, but that disappeared in 2019, so that might cause a slip in the rankings.

Do they have a chance of toppling Bonwi in the loyalty points payback race? Let’s take a look.

How the Wyndham Rewards Program Works

As with most branded loyalty programs, you only earn points by booking direct with the company, not if you use a third-party service like Expedia. Your earnings are determined by how much you spend. You earn fewer points for a cheap place than you do for an expensive resort. The program is straight-out dollar-based though, so it’s easy to determine.

For every qualified stay at a Wyndham Rewards hotel, vacation club resort, or vacation rental, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar or 1,000 points—whichever is more.

They have “9,000 hotels worldwide across 90 iconic brands,” but those icons may not be ones you want to look up to. If you go to cash in points, your only options might be a Days Inn or Super8 motel beside the interstate highway, with questionable business going on in the next room.

Your points earnings are limited only by your spending, though be advised the rip-off resort fees collected as some properties—including many of their Vegas ones—don’t count for points earnings. You can also earn points at their partners, like the usual rental car companies and  shopping partners, but also for booking tours at Viator or buying gas at Marathon stations.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Compares

With Bonwi.com, there’s no set formula by brand on the earnings side and the points you earn are variable. Some properties may earn you less than the 10 per dollar Wyndham is offering, others will offer more. You have the whole market to choose from, however, not just one company’s brands. You can often earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

If we travel to Vegas, where Wyndham has its own properties plus the Caesar’s ones, we can do a nice head-to-head comparison. Booking with Wyndham would get you 1030 points at Paris Hotel or 950 at Bally’s. Here’s how many points you’d earn with Bonwi though, four times more and 50% more.

Bonwi points at Caesars Hotels

For other cities it’s less clear-cut. The 10 points per dollar level is pretty generous by brand loyalty standards, so in some cases that wins, especially at the cheap motels. In others, especially internationally, Bonwi comes out ahead.

Redeeming Points With Wyndham Rewards and Bonwi

Wyndham now has three tiers of redemption, which in all fairness is still much less complicated than any of its competitors. (Marriott Bonvoy has eight.) I can’t find an award chart for them anywhere, so you have to go through the booking chart to know how many points you need. But they say 200 properties are at the highest level of 30,000 points. So that will get you into one of the Caesars properties in their portfolio (which includes Rio, Paris, and Planet Hollywood in Vegas) or a Wyndham Grand, like this one in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Wyndham Grand Clearwater

At the other end of the scale, you only need 7,500 points to get into 3,000 of their hotels. That sounds like a lot, but remember they have Microtel, Day’s Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, La Quinta, Baymont, and Travelodge.

Everything in between is a flat 15,000 points. That is the most common, applied to more than 6,000 properties.

At Bonwi, the points redemption is variable based on demand and what the individual properties are offering. You may be able to get a room for less than 5,000 points a night, so you could get three nights for the price of one at Wyndham.

Other Redemption Opportunities

You can also transfer points to certain airlines or Amtrak to top off your balance at one of those. Usually this is nowhere close to a 1:1 trade though and you have to log in and start the process to see how many Wyndham points it will take. It requires 6,000 Wyndham points to get 1,200 American Airlines miles, for example, so you only want to do this as a last resort.

Bonwi points are always worth one cent each though, no devaluation required. So the math is easy: 6,000 Bonwi Rewards points are worth a $60 airline credit. Get to 30,000 points–which would only get you 6,000 AA miles with Wyndham–and you’ve got enough for a $300 round-trip flight.

The same is true for Wyndham redemptions for merchandise, gas cards, or gift cards. You’ll take a big hit to your points value to do this. With Bonwi, however, 10,000 points is a $100 gift card.

Overall, if you normally stay at Wyndham properties a lot and can compound your earnings by hitting elite status, it’s a better program than most. The earnings and redemptions are both clear-cut, so it doesn’t require an hour of research to figure out how to earn or redeem for what you need. This is an especially good program if you’re a road warrior staying at a lot of inexpensive motels by the interstate highways. Since it’s tied to a vacation ownership program, it’s also one of the few that can get you into a real condo with a kitchen when you’re with your family.

With Bonwi though, you have the flexibility to choose whichever hotel you want to stay at or whichever one gives the best point redemption where you’re going, regardless of brand. Your points also don’t expire here and you have a wider net you can cast for redemption since they’re worth a straight one cent each for flights or gift cards.

Check rates where you’re headed on the Bonwi home page.

 

 

Reward Points Battle: World of Hyatt vs. Bonwi

Hyatt Clearwater Beach

World of Hyatt versus Bonwi Rewards payoffs

How many points will you rack up if you always stay with Hyatt and are loyal to that brand, as opposed to staying wherever you want and earning Bonwi points?

Let’s take a look at points earnings and payoffs with the two programs: World of Hyatt and Bonwi Rewards.

How World of Hyatt Works

Like most major brand hotel programs, the World of Hyatt one is purposely complicated. It’s not as bad as some on the earnings side since it’s dollar-based with few exceptions, but that amount varies depending on your elite status (or lack of). Then how many points you have to spend to get a free night also depends on the class of hotel, the city it’s in, and whether it’s busy that week.

On the earnings side, as a regular member you receive 5 points per dollar spent on your room and regular services in the hotel, such as dining or drinking. This also applies to partner hotels from Small Luxury Hotels of the World when you want something with more character. If you stay enough to move up the elite tiers, you earn more points per dollar. But as a regular member, $300 spent on your tab at checkout gets you 1,500 points. See the details here.

So if we pull up hotels in New York City, we find that you could earn points from Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, The Beekman, and more. With rates on our random dates ranging from $231 to $895, you could earn between 1,155 to 4,160 points per night on the room charge.

Now let’s say you’ve racked up 50,000 points over many,  many stays and want to spend them. What will that get you?

If we pull up a warm-weather vacation destination like Cancun, you can get… not much.  It’s 25,000 per night to stay at either Andaz Mayakoba or Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen. If you head to Miami instead, it’s a little better: from 12,000 to 20,000 per night depending on the property level. So you could manage two or three nights there with your points.

World of Hyatt point redemptions

How Bonwi Rewards Works

With Bonwi.com, there’s no set formula by brand on the earnings side and the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 5 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

If we pull up New York City again for the same dates, you’ll see that you’d receive 6,231 per night for booking Hyatt’s Andaz Wall Street. So the same stay that would get you 311 X 5 from Hyatt’s program—1,555—gets you more than four times as many points from Bonwi.

Bonwi rewards points for Hyatt Andaz stay

This isn’t always the case. The super-expensive Park Hyatt New York is an exception because it would earn you 5 points for every dollar. But as we’ve shown with Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards in the past, you usually have the opportunity to earn more points by picking the hotel of your choice than by being loyal to a certain brand. If you stayed at The Plaza in New York instead of the Park Hyatt, you’d pay about $100 less per night and would earn a whopping 13,673 points per night you could apply to any hotel stay or airline flight.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night.

If we pull up Cancun, for instance, where your only Hyatt choices were the two at 25,000 points per night before meals and drinks, here’s a taste of what you could get, it’s a different story for those same 50,000 points at Bonwi Rewards.  You could choose from:

  • 9 all-inclusive resorts for 22,500 points or less
  • 6 beachfront all-inclusive hotels for 18,000 points or less
  • 14 Playa del Carmen boutique hotels for 9,000 points or less

In Miami, it’s even better. For the same 12,000 to 20,000 points per night, you would have hundreds of hotels to choose from.

Hyatt Clearwater Beach

Other Redemption Options for World of Hyatt

What if you don’t need free hotel nights from Hyatt or they just plain don’t have any properties in your chosen vacation spot?  Well you could exchange them for airline points, but at a huge loss. Here’s the best-case scenario from the World of Hyatt website:

Planning your next trip? You can turn your points into airline miles. Transfer as few as 5,000 points for 2,000 miles

“As few as?” Ouch. That’s quite a haircut.

You can also exchange them for dining or spa credit, but again at a terrible redemption rate.  If you exchange 10,000 points you only get $50, which means Hyatt points are only worth half a cent each. It gets better with huge transfers, but still never gets up to a penny per point.

You cannot exchange them for gift cards, even at a bad rate. That option is not available.

Other Redemption Options for Bonwi Rewards

At Bonwi, your points are yours to do what you want with and if you don’t want to use them for a hotel stay, you have lots of other options, all at a level of a penny per point.

So if you have 10,000 points, that’s worth a $500 flight. No blackout dates, no specific airlines you have to use, no transfer formulas.

Exchange Bonwi points for gift cards

If you want to get a gift card instead for Best Buy or a restaurant chain, 10,000 points gets you $100. Simple and valuable.

Book your next hotel stay here and start earning more.

Story by Tim S. Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop and Luxury Latin America, author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

 

Rewards Points Battle: Bonvoy vs. Bonwi

Marriott Starwood hotel brands

Bonvoy Rewards Marriott Starwood

If you were part of the Marriott Hotels loyalty program or the Starwood Preferred Guest points program, you’re now a part of “Bonvoy.” After a merger between Starwood and Marriott, this behemoth of a company now has either 29 or 30 different brands (apparently even they can’t keep track of these different hotel names). You can now earn points at a staggering 6,800 hotels in 127 countries as a Bonvoy Rewards member.

The first three letters are the same as “Bonwi,” but with Bonwi Rewards you can earn points at any hotel brand and redeem them for any hotel. But where can you get to a free night faster? Let’s take a look at which rewards program will reward you more quickly.

How the Marriott/Starwood Bonvoy Program Works

As with most of these big brand programs, the earning part of the equation in is relatively straightforward. You’ll earn 10 points per US$1 spent on the hotel charge itself at most properties (minus taxes), plus the same for eligible hotel charges like your bar tabs or restaurant bills. You earn 5 points per dollar at lower-priced brands Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels.

With this system, if you pay $250 per night for your JW Marriott hotel for two nights and charge $200 of other services, you would earn 7,000 points total for that two-night stay. Or 3,500 points at what they consider a lesser brand in the portfolio. That’s rather underwhelming, probably on purpose: they want you to stay at least 10 nights to get the bottom elite status, where you earn an extra 10%. If you stay 25 nights in a year you bump up to 2.5 extra points per dollar spent as a Gold member. The sales reps on the road who never see their family are the main targets of this program: to get to the highest “Ambassador Elite” level, you need to spend nearly 1/3 of your year in a Marriott property and spend at least $20,000. Do that and you get a 75% points bonus and some extra perks, like room upgrades, breakfast, and late checkout.

JW Marriott Hotel Cusco
JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco, Peru

Earning Free Nights With Bonvoy Rewards

Where it gets tricky is on the redemption side. There are now 8 tiers of redemption at Marriott/Starwood’s new Bonvoy Rewards. In theory these start at 7,500 (or occasionally less during an off-season promotion for an empty hotel), though in my experience, spotting a hotel available at that level is like spotting a rare species of bird in the wild. Plus it will be the bottom of their barrel, usually their version of a roadside motel. The rest range from 12,500 to 100,000 per night, roughly based on brand and price. So at the bottom level you’ll probably get a Residence Inn, at the top level you have a shot at a Luxury Collection or Ritz Carlton property.

In that two-night JW Marriott Cusco example before, the 7,500 points you earned won’t get you very far. You probably need about 5 stays like that to get a free night at this JW Marriott or an equivalently priced ($237) property.

Marriott Rewards redemption level

The combined Marriott and Starwood Bonvoy Rewards program is mostly an improvement, especially considering the wider breadth of properties available now, but how does being loyal there stack up to no loyalty at Bonwi? It might if you sign up for one of their premium credit cards, spend $5,000 within three months, and also pay an annual fee of $100+. But otherwise…

How the Bonwi Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less straightforward on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 10 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night. Let’s say you regularly have to go to Houston on business, but you’re thinking about going to Peru on vacation. How would that play out with Bonwi?

Earning Bonwi Reward Points for Your City Hotel Stays

Pulling up a random week in Houston, Texas, we find that some of the highest-earning hotels are actually Marriott ones, so we can do an apples to apples comparison. In the screenshot example below, a two-night stay would earn you from 16,171 to 20,311 points.

earning more hotel reward points with Bonwi in Houston

Based on the price of those stays, if you booked them direct with Marriott, you would only earn 4,820 to 7,840 points in their rewards program (not counting food and drink charges that could bump it up).

What if our budget is lower? Other options are the Houston Marriott North, earning 8,371 points for a mere $135 rate (that would get you 2,700 points with Marriott) or a SpringHill Suites by Marriott at the airport. That would earn you 7,789 Bonwi points for a $131 rate (that would get you 2,620 at Marriott). Check your own business travel city here.

Redeeming Points With Bonwi

On the redemption side, you’re also far better off with the non-loyalty Bonwi Rewards points. When we head down to Cusco for our Peru vacation, here’s a sampling of what’s available to us.:

JW Marriott El Convento – 24,200 per night
Sonesta Hotel Cusco – 10,430 per night
Casa Andina San Blas – 7,875 per night
WakaPunku Boutique Hotel – 6,184 per night

So first of all, you need 11,000 fewer points to book that JW Marriott than you would with Marriott, even though we earned far more by booking our Marriott property through Bonwi in Houston. Next, with Marriott you only have two choices in Cusco, whereas with Bonwi you have more than 100 choices. Some of the smaller B&B type places go for 5,000 points or less. So if you had the kind of points Marriot requires of you just to get a one-night stay, you could get a whole week’s vacation in Cusco and the Sacred Valley via Bonwi.

vacation in Cusco Peru with reward points

In this example, just one two-night business trip to Houston would earn you enough points for a two-night stay at many hotels in Cusco. Earn from a few other business trips and you could upgrade to that JW Marriott easily. In this example, six domestic business travel trips in the USA could probably pay for six nights in Peru between Lima, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. Do this a few more times or stay more than two nights on your biz trips and you’ve got enough points to pay for airline tickets too—at the simple redemption level of one point = US 1 cent.

Airline Transfer Options Bonvoy vs. Bonwi

You can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to airlines, which does make them more valuable than your typical hotel loyalty program points. That doesn’t mean it’s a great deal, however. I’ll leave the math to this post on the Boarding Area because, as with most things in the Bonvoy program, it’s kind of complicated.

Marriott Bonvoy points are transferable to a huge selection of airline partners. In most cases the transfer ratio is 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. However, if you transfer 60,000 points, you’ll get 25,000 miles instead of 20,000. That makes the transfer ratio 3 to 1.25. Additionally, when you transfer to United Airlines miles, you get a 10% bonus. 60,000 rewards points converts into 27,500 United miles (a 3 to 1.375 transfer ratio).

What’s the ratio for Bonwi points? The math is much simpler. If you have 60,000 Bonwi points, that will get you a $600 flight. Any airline, any time, no transfers necessary. No downgrades, no blackout dates, no time on the phone with the oh-so-helpful reps at United.

Oh, and those 60,000 points will also get you a $600 gift certificate to a retailer if you prefer. Again, no complicated formulas. Just move the decimal.

Once again, it’s no contest. Bonwi Rewards is going to earn you freebies far faster than Marriott Rewards.

Book your next hotel stay here and start earning more.

TRAVEL ADVISORY from Wonderlust Travel

santorini
santorini
Photo by Charlie Marusiak on Unsplash

WONDERLUST took a look at Bonwi and issued an in-depth and very flattering Travel Advisory about us. If you haven’t heard of WONDERLUST, it’s Bob Guccione, Jr.’s new addition to the travel inspiration landscape, with a unique perspective  and a pretty humourous take in an effort to breathe new life into our industry. And what can we say, they think Bonwi rewards are the best value around.

Little known in the Death Match Arena of travel booking sites, because they don’t advertise a lot, is Bonwi and to distinguish themselves from the all conquering giants in the market, they have carved out a niche in offering the most competitive rewards program.

...the most competitive rewards program Click to Tweet

Read the full Wonderlust Travel Advisory here.

UponArriving Names Bonwi #1 Best, Most Popular of 2018

We are way too excited (and humbled) to keep up the suspense. Thank You to Daniel Gillaspia for the honor of the top spot as Best Hotel Booking Site for 2018!!!

Deep breath. OMG OMG OMG!!! UponArriving.com has named Bonwi as #1 on the list of The 15 Best (and Most Popular) Hotel Booking Sites [2018] . Here’s what Dan said about Bonwi:

Bonwi is a standout OTA for one very special reason. It offers ridiculously high returns on… Click to Tweet

Dan also does a nice job calling out our sometimes slower search speed, too. Truth is, it’s seconds – less than 15 on a really exciting deal-packed day. It takes those extra 7-10 seconds on top of the other, lesser OTAs because we are pulling in Every Single Deal out there. Just for you.

“You’re not going to beat the best deals on Bonwi even if you have top-tier Platinum status with another hotel loyalty program.”

That’s why we’re Number One!

Now, if you’re new to the world of online travel booking site, deals, incentives, points, rewards, loyalty and redemption, Dan’s article is a go-to read. Yes, we also love it because we’re Number One, but it’s a comprehensive and definitive guide to who’s who, what’s what, all the choices out there and how you benefit from the major deals sites. Read the full story here.

 

 

Reward Points Battle: Hilton Honors vs. Bonwi

Hilton Honors versus Bonwi Rewards points

Hilton Honors versus Bonwi Rewards points

If you could spend the same amount for hotel bookings with Hilton compared to the same hotels booked with Bonwi, which would pay off faster in a free night’s stay? We’ll run through the numbers and see.

The Hilton Honors program has been one of the best hotel reward programs in the world for many years running. Now that it’s gone from Hhonors to just Honors, however, recent changes have sliced the earnings potential for most customers.

Until a change that goes into effect this month, you could earn hotel miles plus airline miles, leading to a nice double-dip bonus. Every time you stayed at a Hilton property, you could work toward a free hotel room and also a free flight. Alas, the double-dipping is coming to an end and their program will be just like the others, keeping it all in the family.

If you didn’t choose the airline points before, you could go “points and points” and earn 15 per dollar as a regular customer, 16.5 as a silver elite member. Now the points have dropped by a third.

Earning Points With Hilton Honors

For higher elite members they are better off now, so we see where Hilton’s priorities are. You have to stay 10 times just to reach the lowest elite level, so for most people that’s no applicable. If you get their branded credit card, however, you’re Silver automatically. That means instead of getting 10 points per dollar, you get 12 per dollar. So if you spend $1,000 at Hilton properties, you’ll get 10,000 to 12,000 points. The big payoff is if you practically live at Hilton: if you’re a Diamond Elite road warrior, you’ll get 20,000 points for a $1,000 spend.

You can buy your way there though with premium American Express cards. A Platinum card gets you automatic Gold status, while a Centurion card gets you automatic Diamond status. Pay more for your card, earn more bonus points.
Of course if you were using that regular Hilton Amex credit card for the charges, you would get another bonus on top of 7 points per dollar. Now that $1,000 spend turns into 19,000 points. That should be getting us in free night territory, right?

Earning Points With Bonwi Bookings

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,200 points for a $100 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points. You can sometimes see a payback of 30% on your spend if you pick the right hotels.

Earning Bonwi points faster free stay

Who Gets You to a Free Night Faster?

In our hypothetical example of spending $1,000 with Hilton, you would earn 12,000 points without a Hilton-branded credit card, 19,000 with. So let’s look at what it would take to get there with Hilton and with Bonwi, then see what you can get for your points.

I picked the busy business hub of Atlanta for this example because the city has a lot of Hilton properties across a variety of brands. (Note that you only earn half the points with two of their brands: Tru and Home2. So we have to skip over those. Why, since points are based on dollars spent? We’re not sure.)

If I pick a weekday in May, we could get to around $1,000 by staying at Hilton Garden Inn Millennium Center. By booking with Bonwi, we would earn 23,968 points.

If we book that hotel at Hilton.com, the cost looks to be about the same, though it’s hard to tell since they don’t show taxes and fees until you start actually booking it. If we assume the same amount, you would earn a shade more than 12,000 points.

If we book the Atlanta Hilton without being an elite Honors member, we would earn 12,000 with Hilton or 16,436 with Bonwi. So you’d have a slight advantage with Honors elite level bonus points, but otherwise you’re still earning more with Bonwi.

Using Your Points

So let’s say we want to make it up to our honey for being away for a week and we’re going to take a weekend trip with it. How about nearby Savannah?

If we check what you can get there for the points we earned, here’s what we get:

Hilton Honors – 12,000 points gets us…nothing. The downtown historic district properties would cost us 60,000 points on a Saturday night in June and all we can get for the lowest level of 30,000 is airport hotels. So even if we booked this 5-day business trip three weeks with Hilton, we’d still only earn enough to stay out by the airport.

Using Hilton Honors points

Bonwi Rewards – 23,968 points gets us…more than 50 hotels to choose from on that same Saturday night in Savannah! Granted, the cheapest ones are roadside motels by the interstate, but it doesn’t stop there. That same airport hotel offered by Hilton for 30,000 points is just 15,640 with Bonwi. Or you can get closer to town with SpringHill Suites. For 18,400, you can get a Fairfield Inn right in the historic district. “Honey, we’re all set!”

Using Bonwi Rewards points instead of Hilton

Did you notice that last advantage—that you can pick any hotel you want? This is not a loyalty program where you are locked into one corporation’s brand offerings. Earn points with any hotel brand, spend them with any hotel brand—including independent ones.

The Hilton Honors system isn’t bad on the earnings side, but when you go to actually spend those points they don’t go very far. It often takes 60,000 points – which is a spend of $6,000 for a normal person – just to get a night at a regular Hilton business hotel or Embassy Suites.

Book with Bonwi and you’ll get free stays much faster. That’s true compared to IHG Rewards and it’s true compared to Hilton Honors.

Most Loyalty Rewards Programs Are Really Only for Road Warriors

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

A recent travel trade article on airline and hotel reward loyalty rewards programs pointed out a clear trend: for most of us, these programs are getting worse. While the road warriors at the top elite levels are getting showered with perks – those who stay 75 nights a year out of 365 with Marriott for instance – the rest of us are getting less and less for our flights or hotels stays.

As U.S. airlines moved from a distance-based to revenue-based model, the only loyal members with something to gain were those who bought expensive business class tickets. Those at the top of the elite pyramid. Everyone else started finding that their 6,000-mile flight was earning them 1,000 “miles” now because it was based on ticket price. At that rate it can take 25 flights to earn even the lowest domestic ticket.

That model has already spread to one major hotel chain. Hyatt gave its loyalty program a new name, World of Hyatt, and promptly made it more difficult for all but the most frequent biz traveler guests. The new system awards 5 points per dollar instead of a set amount per stay, though you’ll need to spend at least 10 nights at Hyatt properties in a year to get to the lowest of three elite levels. The head of the program, who is now gone, made it clear in interviews announcing the change that the program was aimed at one tier of guests: the most loyal ones, those spending the most money each year.

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

As we’ve seen in the airline industry, this kind of program quickly leads to a two-tiered system. The highest elite level members get most of the freebies, get the best rooms, and earn the most points for every stay. The rest of us get stuck with what’s left, whether it’s a cramped middle seat or the smallest room with no view.

Like a well-trained magician performing a sleight of hand, the bad changes for consumers are usually buried within news of big “improvements” the loyalty rewards program will bring. With the hotel programs, they’re usually touting your ability to combine points and dollars (a dubious win at best) or buy merchandise with your hard-earned points.

The dirty little secret of the latter is that your points value plummets if you do a merchandise buy instead of cashing in points on a hotel. Here’s what Skift noted in their article:

While these new tools are a boon for airlines and hotel mileage programs, their value to consumers is still somewhat mixed. When United launched its pay-with-miles Wi-Fi service, Maphappy took a look at the value of the purchase in cash or in miles. Its conclusion? ‘The premium on paying in mileage was about 117 percent higher than the cash price,’ Maphappy found.

If you purchase a pair of headphones or get a Best Buy gift card, it can be even worse. Often these transactions can degrade the point value to a small fraction of what it was in hotel or airline value. Here’s what you’ll have to pay for a $30 item via IHG’s program:

$180 of rewards for $30 item

Where You Can Earn More and Not Lose Value

With Bonwi Rewards points, you have a lot of advantages over these programs from the airlines and hotels:

1) You can use your rewards on any hotel, not just one company. When you cash them in for a hotel, you can get 20%, 25%, or 30% return on your spend. With the average direct loyalty program you’re lucky to rise above 10%. (In other words, you have to spend $10,000 to get $1,000 in value–even if you do everything right.)

2) You don’t have to be loyal to one company. You can choose any hotel in any location at any price and earn Bonwi Rewards, even picking which one has the highest payoff to maximize your return. When it’s time to cash them in, you have just as many choices.

Bonwi points payoff
3 nights at either earns you a plane ticket or a night’s hotel stay.

3) Points earned on hotel stays can be redeemed for flights. Forget about blackout dates, restrictions, or the lack of seats at lower tiers. With your Bonwi points you can book on any airline at any time, based on a simple 1-cent per dollar redemption figure. If you have 30,000 points, you have $300 for a flight, and no, you won’t have to still pay for the taxes if they’re included in the fare, as you would with the U.S. airlines.

4) You aren’t penalized for choosing a rental car or gift cards. That 1-cent per mile redemption figure that’s so easy to understand applies to rental cars and gift card purchases too. You won’t see your rewards value decrease just because you made one spending choice rather than another. Your Bonwi points have a clear intrinsic value.

So book your next hotel stay with Bonwi and see how easy it is to be on Easy Street, instead of feeling like your loyalty is only getting you kicked to the curb.

Article by Tim Leffel, editor of the Cheapest Destinations Blog and author of the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

Rewards Points Battle: PointsHound vs. Bonwi

earning loyalty points Las Vegas
earning loyalty points Las Vegas
Who has the higher points payoff in Las Vegas?

Who is going to get you to a free flight faster: PointsHound or Bonwi?

We say the best way to rack up rewards points fast is to use Bonwi for hotel bookings, but how much more do you really earn in practice? We’ve put services to the test before, showing you how much faster you could earn rewards compared to both an online travel agency like Hotels.com and a direct booking program with a hotel chain like IHG Group.

Now let’s look at another site focused on rewards: PointsHound.

How the PointsHound Program Works

For this program, you choose your city and dates for a hotel booking, then earn points based on which hotel you choose. Points are applied to one of 19 airline frequent flier programs, such as American, United, or Finnair. On most there is no maximum, but you have to play by the specific program’s rules, so the site says, “For example, United MileagePlus imposes a maximum of 100,000 Miles annual limit that can earned through PointsHound.” Since it says you can earn “up to 10,000 points per night,” we assume you’ll never see earnings higher than that either for individual nights.

All programs are not equal either. So you could possibly earn 6,000 miles on JetBlue for a booking, but maybe only 2,000 if you picked Eithad instead. The only way you’ll know is to start the process over. You eventually get rewarded for loyalty here: you earn a bump up in points after your 5th and 20th stays, though it doesn’t say by how much. The program covers more than 300,000 properties worldwide.

How the Bonwi Program Differs

With Bonwi you don’t have to choose an airline program ahead of time since your points can be applied to any flight on any airline, with no blackout dates, no restrictions. It’s a simple 1-cent redemption value.

If you want to use your points for something else, no problem. You can cash them in for hotel rooms (at a better than 1-cent value) or use them for rental cars or gift cards to top-brand retailers—without the devaluation you see with airline points used elsewhere.

There’s no cap on how many points you can earn per night (sometimes it can top 20,000 at luxury properties) and no cap on how many points you can earn per year.

Comparison of Points Earned

So how do the differences play out in the real world? We pulled up sample dates a month from now to see how many points we would earn in different programs. We randomly chose United as our airfare carrier on PointsHound since it’s part of the Star Alliance, with the best partners overall. We chose popular business travel cities that road warriors spend a lot of time in.

First up, we headed to Las Vegas, home to the largest hotels in the world and some of the biggest convention spaces. As luck would have it, the two top points earners in both programs were the same, so let’s start there. Here’s what you would get on PointsHound:

PointsHound earnings Las Vegas

Not a bad payoff. Thanks to a promotion, you would get 6,700 or 7,150 United miles total by booking one of these hotels at $180 to $199 per night before the dreaded “resort fee.”

Bonwi points earned Las Vegas

If you booked either of these properties with Bonwi, however, you’d earn several thousand more miles—without paying more. 11,090 at the Aria or 12,215 at Cosmopolitan.

What about if you go further down the list? Bonwi comes out ahead almost every time. You get 7,783 at The Palazzo compared to 5,850, or 8,047 at Rio instead of 4,850, or 3,488 at the Hard Rock instead of 2,400.

Vegas is a strange animal in many ways though, of course, so let’s head to Chicago and see how it looks there.

Here are the top two “Big Earn” listings for PointsHound, giving you 3,800 or 3,750 United miles for a two-night stay.

Pointshound earnings Chicago

Now here are the top-earning listings for Bonwi. The difference is certainly not minor. You have to scroll to their second page of listings (#16 on) to get less than 10,000 points. You have to get to listing #65 in points order on Bonwi to finally get to a hotel offering what the #1 listing does on PointsHound.

Bonwi rewards points Chicago

Using Your Points

With PointsHound, the idea is that you are adding to your frequent flier balance at the program you use most, or you’re “topping off” an account to get to a desired level. You’re not expecting to use those miles right away. Good thing, because you wouldn’t have enough. You’ll need 12,500 miles even for the lowest tier one-way domestic ticket—if you can find availability.

If you booked the top two earner hotels in these examples, your four nights at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and the Waldorf-Astoria in Chicago got you 10,950 United miles for your $1,080 rooms rate (before taxes and added fees). That’s a pretty good payoff if you really needed those miles, but it’s not enough to do anything with yet.

On Bonwi, that same expenditure would have earned you 29,587 points. Not only do you have enough for a one-way domestic flight, you have enough for a round-trip one in many cases: any flight that’s $295 or less! Here’s what else you could get with those points:

– A Saturday night at the Marriott, Hyatt, or Sheraton in Anaheim, CA (take the kids to Disneyland)
– A $250 gift card to the Apple Store, Best Buy, or Amazon
– A rental car for five days

Not only does Bonwi come out way ahead on earnings, it also gives you more options on what to do with those earned points. Do a search for your next hotel here.

 

Reward Points Battle: IHG Rewards Club vs. Bonwi

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

We say that Bonwi gives you a better loyalty points payback than any hotel booking site out there, but what about individual hotel chains? Could you earn a free night faster by booking direct?

From our research, we haven’t found any program that allows you to get to a free stay faster. Let’s look at one of them in detail: the IHG Rewards program that includes 12 brands across 5,000 hotels and resorts.

How the IHG Rewards Program Works

In some ways the IHG Rewards Club is the best of the direct booking ones. They have the most properties to choose from in a whole lot of markets, the point earning levels are transparent, and most of the redemption levels are in the range of 10,000 to 35,000 points. (With Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton you can easily be looking at twice that much.) Their brands range from good-value suite hotels to Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental. When they finally consolidate their program with the Kimpton chain they bought, that will be another option for redemption.

To earn points, you stay at any of their properties. You earn 10 points per dollar at most of them for your stay, but 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you have their credit card you earn many more by paying with that and IHG frequently runs promotions that give you bonus miles. (It takes a while to hit elite status normally, but the credit card ups you to Platinum automatically.)

With 10 or 5 points per stay, that means you would earn 1,500 points for spending $150 for most of their properties, but 750 points at Staybridge or Candlewood. The lowest possible redemption is 5,000 in their “Points Breaks” promotions, but those are usually hotels that nobody is booking, in obscure locations. Think Gadsden, AL; Anderson, SC; or Silao in Mexico. The more common minimum is 10,000, for a Holiday Inn Express. So it would normally require at least $1,000 in spending at their properties before earning an award, or $2,000 if staying at the bottom category ones. At $100 a night that’s 10 or 20 nights. At $150 a night it’s 7 or 14 nights.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,500 points for a $150 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

Comparison of Earnings in Two Markets

Let’s say you’ve got two business trips coming up in California. One is in San Francisco and one is in San Diego. How would your earnings differ between IHG and Bonwi?

Bonwi points back San Francisco

If you booked your San Francisco stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center for two nights, you would pay $449 with tax either way. If you booked direct through the IHG site, that would translate to 4,490 points. If you booked it at Bonwi, you would earn 12,220 points.

A month later you need to spend two nights in San Diego. You pull up the IHG site and see the Crowne Plaza Hanalei is a pretty good deal at $166 per night before taxes. The total tab for two nights is $366. If you go ahead and book it through the IHG site, you will earn $366 X 10, or 3,666 points. If you book it through Bonwi instead, you will earn 10,289 points. Another big difference.

Bonwi vs. IHG points in San DIego

Cashing in Your Loyalty Points

Now that you’ve earned some points, what can you get if you take your kid to Orlando for a weekend getaway in March?

If you wanted to redeem what you’ve earned from these two stays, you wouldn’t have enough points with IHG Rewards. From those four nights, you only earned 8,156 points. Only a Points Break promotion would be available. Let’s assume you already had a couple thousand in the account though or you got past 10K with credit card spending.

From Bonwi you have a total of 22,509 points.

For weekends in March, with 10K IHG points from IHG, you’re going to come up empty. There is nothing available on a Friday or Saturday night in March for under 20,000 points, the amount that three of the four hotels below would require. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Waterpark hotel would require 35,000. So you would have to use their “points and cash” option and pay at least $70 on top of the 10,000 points.

IHG Rewards points in Orlando

For the same weekends in March with the 22,509 Bonwi points earned from four nights paid, you have lots of choices for a free night’s stay at IHG properties. These are just a few of them, including taxes:
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – Lake Buena Vista – 17,663
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark – 20,273
– Holiday Inn Orlando SW – Celebration Area – 15,139
– Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at Seaworld -20,412

If you want to use your points for something else, you’re much better off with Bonwi. With us you can use your points for any flight of $225 or less with those 22,509 points, or you can get two $100 gift cards from major retailers and still have some left over. The points are valued at a penny a mile. If you want to cash in for a reward card with IHG, you usually pay 20,000 points for just a $50 gift card. That’s one-fourth the value, on points that required more spending to start with.

So which program offers you a faster payoff? This one is a no-brainer.

Reward Points Battle: Hotels.com vs. Bonwi

Las Vegas hotel rewards

hotels.com rewards compared to Bonwi

If you use Bonwi to book your hotel stays, you’re probably going to earn a big reward payback much faster than with other services. How much faster? Let’s compare how long it would take to get a free hotel room night from Hotels.com compared to Bonwi.com.

We picked three cities in the USA and assumed you had a budget of less than $150 per night. Then we looked at how many nights you would have to book to get a free hotel stay in return.

How the Programs Work

With Hotels.com, the rules are easy to understand: stay 10 nights and get one free. “The value of your free night is the average price of the 10 nights you collect.” Once you have completed 10 hotel stays, you can book whatever hotel you want at any time with the credit based on the average stay amount.

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple but that’s because the points you earn are variable. The upside is much greater. Instead of having to stay 10 nights to earn an award, you could earn a free stay after just two or three nights. See some real examples in this video.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

What Would You Get From 10 Nights of Stays?

Let’s say you actually do stay 10 nights in hotels over the course of several months. To check out what would happen in a real case scenario, we looked at real booking options for December and January in three well-traveled cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans.

Las Vegas hotel rewards

If you booked three nights at the SLS Las Vegas, you would pay the same at either site: $391 for three nights with taxes, but really $488 once you factor in the rip-off $32 “resort fee” that really should be included in the rate. With Hotels.com you would earn 3 credits of your 10, or 30% of what you need for a free stay. With Bonwi you earn 9,641 points. That’s enough to actually book another hotel already in Las Vegas the following week: one night at Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, or many others.

In other words, 30% of the way to a free night vs. 100% of the way there.

If we then book four nights in Orlando at Holiday Inn Express Sea World we’ll pay $304 total with taxes/fees and earn 9,321 Bonwi points. The Ramada Plaza Resort would be $341 for four nights and earn just a shade less.

At Hotels.com you would be four credits closer to your free night, but the average comes down because these hotels are cheaper than the one in Vegas: $74 or $101 per night. At Bonwi, once again you’ve earned enough to cash in for a free night in most cities, or you can combine the points with what you earned in Vegas  and be at close to 19K–enough for two nights somewhere or one night in a luxury hotel instead.

Then let’s say we have to go to New Orleans in January for a trade show. The official hotel is out of our $150 budget range, but either of the choices pictured below will do the trick. For each of them we earn more than 7,200 Bonwi points for our stay. At Hotels.com we pay the same amount and would have finally gotten to our 10 nights.

New Orleans hotel rewards

Yippee—we get a free night’s stay! But hold on: that free night is based on the average of what we have spent per night, which comes out to $102 if we picked  the Hotel Modern for this last stay and the Holiday Inn Express for Orlando. Their formula would be $341+$304+$378 divided by 10. You can now book a hotel with them that is listed for $102 or less.

With Bonwi, in contrast, we are up to 26,525 points earned from those same 10 nights. What can you get for that? Here are some ideas:

  • 3 nights at most Las Vegas off-strip hotels or at MGM Grand
  • One glorious night at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans (dollar value of $349)
  • Any plane ticket valued at $265 or less
  • A $250 gift certificate to Target, Best Buy, Amazon, or the Apple Store.

Your rebate value from Bonwi ranges from 25% to 35% depending on how you use the points. Your rebate value from Hotels.com is always 10% and you can only use it for hotels. With Bonwi you can use your points at any time. With Hotels.com they are useless until you have spent 10 nights in hotel rooms booked with them.

The winner in this rewards program battle between Hotels.com and Bonwi.com? Well, that depends on whether you prefer to earn a little or a lot.