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July 10, 2021

Collecting hotel or airline points - which is better?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Though travelers earn millions of points through hotel loyalty programs each year, a great many of them fail to recognize the value of these points, especially when compared to the airlines' frequent-flyer miles. The truth is, lots of travelers view hotel programs as merely a way to add extra mileage to their airline accounts.

But this is changing, thanks both to hotel chains making improvements to their programs and the relative ease with which travelers can redeem hotel points versus frequent-flier miles. So, if you've been funneling those hotel points into your airline program, it might be time to rethink that strategy, suggests Tim Winsip, publisher of FrequentFlier.

Even though you’ll spend more hours in your hotel room than you do in the air, a flight upgrade is generally more appreciated than an upgrade to a hotel suite, he admits. And that’s certainly the view of most of the road warriors who frequent FlyerTalk, an interactive community that provides up-to-date information on travel-related loyalty programs.

Nonetheless, while airline points are still a good bet for those frequent travelers with ‘elite’ status, more casual vacationers should understand that, dollar-for-dollar, hotel awards are in some cases becoming the better deal.

The recession has hit hotels hard and they are now stuck with more rooms than they can sell which translates into discounted rates and improved loyalty program bonuses. The airlines, by contrast, have already shed flights and appear poised to ratchet up fares.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips from Randy Peterson, publisher of InsideFlyer, a resource for for frequent-flier and frequent-guest program members.

Who has the best deal right now? Marriott took top honours in 2008 at the Freddie Awards, the Oscars of the travel industry, for best hotel loyalty program in the Americas so that might be a good place to start.  



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...