Choosing a Hotel Loyalty Programme:
Choosing a hotel loyalty programme can be difficult as there is no clear cut answer. It very much depends on your travel patterns, the amount of money you want to spend per visit, your brand preferences, etc. I would recommend, generally, picking the programme where you can get the best loyalty status from and the best benefits. For example, do not pick Shangri-La just because it has nice hotels, if you are only going to stay a few nights per year or if you are a budget traveller. For the global budget traveller, I would recommend IHG as they have a lot of budget properties and a good global footprint. For the more discerning traveller who travels across the world, I would generally recommend either Starwood or Hilton, as both have a large footprint and enhanced benefits compared to IHG or Accor.
Personally, I am loyal to Starwood (and Marriott now too, I suppose), Hilton, and Shangri-La. I stay frequently in cities that have all three of these brands. While all three have luxury properties, they also have more budget minded properties which I appreciate being able to stay in when I travel on business, for example, and will not be needing amenities of luxury brands. That being said, I like the luxury of a St. Regis, Conrad, or Shangri-La every now and then. Below, I offer a side-by-side comparison between the major programmes and their most desired benefits.
For more information on each progrmme, please see my review of each: