Wyndham Rewards is a pretty good program. But is it necessary?

The "news hook" for this post is the launch of a new landing page for Barclaycard's Wyndham Rewards Visa cards, raising the annual fee on the Visa Signature card from $69 to $75 and cutting the earning rate on purchases to 1 Wyndham Rewards point per dollar except on gas, utilities, and grocery purchases.

Meanwhile, the landing page for the old offer is still live, showing a $69 annual fee, a signup bonus of 45,000 Wyndham Rewards points after spending $1,000, and an earning rate of 2 Wyndham Rewards points everywhere.

Barclaycard has, in the past, been pretty good about preserving benefits for existing customers after a product has undergone significant changes. For example, Barclaycard US Airways customers who signed up under a 10,000-anniversary-mile offer continue to receive those anniversary miles, to the best of my knowledge (I cancelled my anniversary-mile card when I wasn't offered a retention bonus).

That means that in all likelihood there's a narrow and narrowing window to sign up for the current, superior offer, and retain its superior earning rate on otherwise-unbonused spend.

So, should you?

Wyndham Rewards is a pretty good program

I'm on record from all the way back in April, 2015, saying that the new fixed-rate Wyndham Rewards program would be great.

I think that prediction has been borne out by events. Wyndham hasn't gone to aggressive lengths to exclude properties or dates from their 15,000-point fixed-rate awards, and the program doesn't seem to have experienced mass defections from properties unwilling to accept however much Wyndham is compensating them for these fixed-rate awards.

Compared with a 2% cash back card, the imputed redemption value of Wyndham Rewards award nights is $150, since the same $7,500 in unbonused spend can earn you either $150 in cash back (which can be spent on paid hotel stays or anything else) or a free night at any Wyndham Rewards property in the world.

Comparing Wyndham Rewards

Whether Wyndham Rewards makes sense for your own travel hacking strategy depends on both your goals and your alternatives. First, here's a quick glance at the imputed redemption value of Wyndham Rewards award nights compared to the imputed redemption value of award nights with Hilton HHonors (earned at 6 points per dollar), Hyatt Gold Passport (purchased for one cent each in Ultimate Rewards transfers), Starwood Preferred Guest (earned at 1 point per dollar), and Club Carlson (earned at 5 points per dollar):

What you see, as you'd expect, is that fixed-rate Wyndham Rewards stays cost less in foregone manufactured spend than higher-tier properties with the other chains, but cost more in foregone cash back than lower-tier properties with the other chains.

In other words, you can save money staying at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront instead of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago (Hilton), staying at the Wyndham Midtown 45 instead of the Park Hyatt New York (Hyatt), the Wyndham Garden Manhattan Chelsea West instead of the Gramercy Park Hotel (Starwood), and at the Days Inn London Hyde Park instead of the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Sussex (Club Carlson).

Meanwhile, the other programs shown above offer award tiers with imputed redemption values below $150 (highlighted in red) and, of course, some hotel nights simply cost less than $150 in cash, especially when combined with cashback portals and online travel agency rewards programs.

That means that by combining Wyndham Rewards with one or two other programs, as well as a cash back card, you could theoretically limit your downside (since the most you'd ever pay is $150 in foregone cash back) while having almost unlimited upside as you take advantage of cheaper room rates and lower-tier properties in other loyalty programs.

But is Wyndham Rewards necessary to a travel hacker?

All the foregoing is meant to say that I commend Wyndham Rewards for trying something new and fun.

The trouble is that it's difficult to come up with an actual travel hacking strategy that incorporates Wyndham Rewards.

Let me put it this way: I'm totally indifferent between road trips with your kids and luxury vacations with your romantic partner. You do you!

But if you're taking road trips with your kids, you should be able to take advantage of the dirt cheap low-category properties with the chains highlighted in red above.

And if you're taking luxury vacations with your partners, the difference in imputed redemption value between the most luxurious Hilton and Hyatt properties and the most luxurious Wyndham properties just isn't that big.

Conclusion: the right way to use Wyndham Rewards is to plan Wyndham Rewards trips

The $69 Wyndham Rewards Visa credit card has a good signup bonus (3 nights at any Wyndham Rewards property in the world) and a good earning rate ($150 per night in foregone cash back for a night at any Wyndham Rewards property in the world).

But if you have a developed travel hacking strategy already involving Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood or Club Carlson points, you're unlikely to accidentally get a good value from a Wyndham Rewards credit card.

That means the right way to pay as little as possible for the trips you want to take is to proactively look for the Wyndham Rewards properties that are going to get you outsized value, earn the points necessary for your stays, and then redeem them. Speculatively signing up for Wyndham Rewards credit cards and speculatively manufacturing spend is unlikely to yield savings any greater than those you can earn much more consistently with other programs.