Best Travel Rewards Programs by U.S. News & World Report

Best Flight and Hotel Loyalty Programs

First Published: Aug, 2015

U.S. News & World Report recently looked at 28 airline and hotel loyalty programs and picked their 2015 best travel rewards programs. The factors used to decide the rankings are the following:

Airline Rewards Programs

Ease of Earning Free Round-Trip Flight (45%)

Additional Benefits (25%)

Network Coverage (10%)

Award Flight Availability (10%)

Number of Daily Flights (5%)

Airline Quality Rating (5%)

Hotel Rewards Programs

Ease of Earning Free Night (45%)

Additional Benefits (25%)

Geographic Coverage (15%)

Number of Hotels in Network (10%)

Property Diversity (5%)

Based on these criteria, here are the top ten airline programs:

Alaska Airlines 
Virgin America 

And the top ten hotel rewards programs:

Best Western (tie) 
Club Carlson (tie) 
Leading Hotels 
La Quinta 

These rankings are on only U.S.-based airlines and hotel rewards. However, most of these hotels mentioned here also have a presence in Canada.

While the rankings might provide important insights, you should not adjust your rewards programs solely based on them. The factors determine these rankings may not have anything to do with the rewards programs you follow and you should stick to your programs based on what makes sense for you.

SPG American Express Offers Free Marriott Night

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express Will Give Anniversary Free Hotel Night

When the Chase Marriott Premier Visa Credit Card closed its doors in Canada, I was devastated because I lost my free anniversary night at Marriott properties across the globe. This was one of my reasons to keep paying $120 on this card each year.

However, due to the Marriott and SPG merger, I was hoping the SPG Amex credit card will offer the free night once the merger completes. And it looks like that’s what is going to happen starting August, 2018.

I received a letter from American Express Canada mentioning that once the SPG and Marriott rewards program combine in August, there are some changes coming to the SPG Amex Card. Here are some of them:

- Earn rate will be 5 points per dollar spent at eligible Marriott + SPG properties

- 2 points per dollar on everything else

- Free annual night every year (Cannot exceed 35,000 points redemption value)

-  Silver Elite Status

And some more benefits. To earn Silver Elite Status, you would generally be required to stay 10 nights per year. But you will be given this elite status just for having the SPG Amex card.

I made up my mind before that I would cancel the Starwood Amex card if it does not provide free nights after the merger. But I don’t need to cancel it anymore, as I got what I wanted.

It makes sense for me to keep this card, paying $120 per year, just for the free night. Depending on where I redeem the free night, I can easily extract $150 to $400 per night or possibly more based on the Marriott/Sheraton property location and time.

The SPG Amex card does not provide any other mentionable benefits, such as travel insurances, no foreign currency fee, or concierge services. But only the free night and Silver Elite Status are enough for me to hold on to this card.

SPG Amex Free Marriott Night

What Will Happen to Canadian Tire Money?

Canadian Tire Triangle Rewards Program

Canadian Tire is digitalizing its rewards program to launch their new “Triangle Rewards Program”. With this facelift, Canadian Tire’s 60-year-old rewards program with 11 million members will be able to blend into the everchanging loyalty program environment on the Canadian market.

Today, I will answer some common questions you might have about Canadian Tire paper money and its new Triangle Rewards Program.

 What Will Happen to My Canadian Tire Paper Money?

Canadian Tire paper money isn’t going anywhere and will still exist. You will be able to earn and redeem Canadian Tire paper money at Canadian Tire stores. When you pay with a non-Canadian Tire credit card or pay in cash, you will be receiving paper money just like the traditional way.

Where Will I Be Able to Earn Triangle Rewards Points?

You will be able to earn Triangle points at Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Gas+, and participating Mark’s and Atmosphere locations.

Do I Need to Sign Up for the New Triangle Program?

If you have a Canadian Tire account or Canadian Tire Option Credit Cards, you don’t need to sign up and you will be a member of the Triangle Rewards Program automatically. If you don’t have either of those, you can sign up in-store or online when the Triangle Program launches.

I have a video on the Triangle Rewards Program coming soon. Also, there will be two new Triangle credit cards: the Triangle MasterCard and the Triangle World Elite Mastercard. I will do a video and write about these cards as well.

IHG Rewards 2018 Award Changes

IHG Rewards Website.jpg

Intercontinental Bora Bora Goes Up

IHG, or Intercontinental Hotel Group, has around 5000 properties around the globe and almost 10% of IHG properties will face a price increase this year. In Canada, 34 hotels will go through price adjustments.

Almost 500 hotels will increase in price by points and 192 are going down. These changes are effective as of Jan 16, 2018. Top tier hotels like the InterContinental Bora Bora, Hong Kong, and many others, will go up 60,000 to 70,000 points a night. Worse yet, these top tier hotels were just 50,000 points a night 2 years ago. So these are massive devaluations in the course of 2 years.

Although 192 hotels will go down in price by 5000 points, not a single property is going down to IHG’s lowest category of 10,000 points a night. In Canada, 34 hotels are changing value in points. 21 properties are going up and 13 are going down. To see the full list, go to the IHG Rewards Night page

This is one of the IHG’s worst devaluations ever and they haven’t notified their members in advance. I have some IHG points and I was hoping to visit upscale Intercontinental locations in Bora Bora and Asia in the future. But with this devaluation looks like it may not make sense and I better use my points for IHG PointBreaks.

PointBreaks is IHG’s highly sought-after feature that allows its members to stay in nearly 100 hotels around the world every quarter and each quarter brings fresh lists of new hotels. I will do a separate article and video on this in the future.

What Is IHG Points Break?

Photo Courtesy:

Photo Courtesy:

How to Travel Cheap Using IHG Points Break

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) Rewards Club is the loyalty program of hotels such as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites. IHG has over 5000 hotels across the globe.

Usually it costs to stay 10,000 to 60,000 points per night. However, IHG runs a promotion every three months (called IHG Points Break) that lets members to stay in hotels for 5000 points only. About 170 IHG hotels participate in this program.

A participating hotel can be booked for a maximum of two stays/reservations for unlimited nights. For example, you can book 2 rooms in the same hotel or book 2 different dates to stay as many nights as you want (if it’s available) and they will be considered 2 reservations. However, that same hotel cannot have more than two reservations/bookings. You can view the list of hotels under points break here.

There are several ways you can accumulate IHG points. I will not go into detail on all of the possible ways to accumulate IHG points in this article. You can find out easily by searching online. My favourite way to earn IHG points is to buy them when they are on sale. At the regular rate, 5000 IHG points cost $67.50 US. However, IHG runs points sales often with 100% bonus points, making it 5000 points for around $34. This means that you are staying at a hotel for $34 per night.

If you act right away when IHG announces their next segment points break, you maybe able to get a hold of an expensive hotel for 5000 each night. The steep discount sometimes can be as high as 90%. To make the most out of IHG points or their points break, learn the ins and outs of the IHG Rewards Program and here is a good article to get you started: The Complete Guide to IHG Rewards