The Best Hotel Loyalty Programs for College Students

The College Points reviewed the loyalty programs of major North American hotel chains to determine which programs made the most sense for college students and other younger travelers. Here are the top hotel loyalty programs for college students. As college students and young professionals typically spend less than business travelers, elite status benefits offered through a hotel’s loyalty program carried less weight than other categories.

With college students and young professionals typically spending less on lodging than other travelers, the ability to earn and redeem points or miles without spending a great deal was the single most important metric in our evaluation of each program. Here are the top 4 hotel loyalty programs for college students.

Top Student Hotel Loyalty Programs

Overall
4.5/5
Earn
4.5/5
Redeem
4/5
Value
4/5
Overall
4/5
Earn
3/5
Redeem
4/5
Value
4/5
Overall
3.5/5
Earn
3/5
Redeem
3.5/5
Value
3.5/5
Overall
3/5
Earn
3.5/5
Redeem
3/5
Value
3/5

Marriott’s Bonvoy program has received quite a bad rap since the program’s creation following Marriott’s merger with SPG. While there are valid complaints and concerns with the Bonvoy program, The College Points has determined that the Marriott Bonvoy program is the best hotel loyalty program for college students and younger travelers. This is for a number of reasons including a wide variety of both budget-friendly and luxury properties and easy to earn elite status. Plus, Bonvoy points can be transferred to numerous major airlines should you wish to use your points for award flights.

Program Details:

  • Earn: 10 points per $1 spent*
    • *5 points per $1 spent at Element, Townhouse, and Residence Inn properties
  • Redemptions: from 5,000 points (4,000 with PointsSaver)
  • Points Expire: 24 months from last account activity
  • Use Points for: Free nights, upgrades, transfers to major airlines, concerts & events, gift cards, vacation packages
  • Points Available: up to 10 business days
  • Qualifications for Elite Status: 10 nights for Silver, 25 for Gold, 50 for Platinum, 75 for Titanium
Overall
4.5/5
Earn
4.5/5
Redeem
4/5
Value
4/5
Marriott Bonvoy Best Hotel Loyalty Program Students
Moxy is one of Marriott's newest Millennial (and Gen-Z) centric brands. Bonvoy members earn points with each stay at Moxy Hotels. (Image by Max Prosperi/The College Points)

What We Love:

  • Well-rounded portfolio of brands including value, millennial-centric, and high-end properties.
  • No blackout dates.
  • Solid elite benefits.
  • Redemptions start at just 5,000 points
  • Points expire two years after last account activity.
  • Free Wi-Fi across almost every brand.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Unusually difficult to achieve second-tier elite status.
  • Devalued elite benefits in recent years.
  • Aside from value and budget-tier hotels, redemptions can be quite expensive.

There’s an entire portfolio of hotels that fit a college student’s budget. Choice Hotels features a variety of value and mid-tier brands with properties across the globe. Additionally, the Choice Privileges loyalty program is quite competitive and rewarding. If you’re looking to earn points at hotels without draining your bank account for a one-night stay, Choice Privileges is the program for you.

Program Details:

  • Earn: 10 points per $1 spent
  • Redemptions: from 8,000 points
  • Points Expire: 18 months from last account activity
  • Use Points for: Free nights, transfers to major airlines, Amtrak redemptions, gift cards, vacation rentals
  • Points Available: in 72 hours or less
  • Qualifications for Elite Status: 10 nights for Gold, 20 for Platinum, 40 for Diamond
Overall
4/5
Earn
3/5
Redeem
4/5
Value
4/5
With a variety of properties for cost conscious travelers, Choice Privileges is a fantastic loyalty program for college students.

What We Love:

  • Thousands of properties across the globe that won’t break the bank.
  • Earn Gold status after just 10 nights
  • Practical elite benefits even at entry level-tier.
  • No blackout dates.
  • Free Wi-Fi across almost every brand.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Few options to redeem points for properties that offer luxury amenities.
  • Aside from value and budget-tier hotels, redemptions can be quite expensive.
  • Points expire in just 18 months.

Hilton’s Honors (formerly HHonors) program is surprisingly rewarding compared to other major hotel brands. Award redemptions start at just 5,000 points per night. Additionally, Hilton offers a variety of both entry-level/budget and luxury options. With a wide reach across the globe, the Hilton Honors program offers no shortage of opportunities to earn and redeem points. However, Hilton Honors members shouldn’t expect 5,000 point award redemptions to be the norm. Luckily, Hilton Honors points can use a combination of cash and points at almost every Hilton Hotel worldwide.

Program Details:

  • Earn: 10 points per $1 spent*
    • *5 points per $1 spent at Tru by Hilton and Home2 properties
  • Redemptions: from 5,000 points
  • Points Expire: 12 months from last account activity
  • Use Points for: Free nights, upgrades, transfers to major airlines, concerts & events, gift cards, vacation packages
  • Points Available: up to 5 days (North America), up to 2 weeks (outside of North America)
  • Qualifications for Elite Status: 4 stays/10 nights for Silver, 20 stays/40 nights for Gold, 30 stays/60 nights for Diamond
Overall
3.5/5
Earn
3/5
Redeem
3.5/5
Value
3.5/5
Hilton Honors Top Loyalty Program for College Students
With a solid loyalty program and properties across the globe, Hilton is a great choice for college students and young professionals when on the road. (Image by Max Prosperi/The College Points)

What We Love:

  • Thousands of properties across the globe that range from value properties to luxury hotels.
  • Earn elite status after just 4 stays.
  • No blackout dates.
  • Redemptions start at just 5,000 points.
  • Free Wi-Fi across almost every brand.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Unusually difficult
  • Elite benefits limited at entry-level tier.
  • Luxury properties and vacation resorts can be quite pricey when redeeming points.
  • Points expire in just 12 months.

While redemptions start at just 5,000 points per night, World of Hyatt offers a limited number of budget options for college travelers. Hyatt properties are often quite pricey especially in major cities. However, World of Hyatt still offers significant value to its members. Additionally, World of Hyatt is partners with American Airlines and allows members to earn AAdvantage miles rather than earn hotel points. This partnership can be extremely rewarding for travelers who prefer to stay at Hyatt properties. Ultimately, while still valuable, the World of Hyatt program comes up short compared to other major programs.

Program Details:

  • Earn: 5 points per $1 spent
  • Redemptions: from 5,000 points
  • Points Expire: 24 months from last account activity
  • Use Points for: Free nights, upgrades, transfers to major airlines, concerts & events, gift cards, vacation packages
  • Points Available: within 7 days
  • Qualifications for Elite Status: 10 nights for Discoverist, 30 nights for Explorist, 60 nights for Globalist
Overall
3/5
Earn
3.5/5
Redeem
3/5
Value
3/5
World of Hyatt Top Loyalty Program for College Students
While Hyatt's World of Hyatt program is a strong loyalty program, a lack of budget options puts Hyatt at #4 on our list.

What We Love:

  • Thousands of properties across the globe including top luxury hotels.
  • No blackout dates.
  • Points expire 2 years after account inactivity
  • Earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles with every stay
  • Redemptions start at just 5,000 points
  • Free Wi-Fi across almost every brand.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Elite benefits limited compared to other programs.
  • Value and budget options are quite limited.