The concept of loyalty and the Wyndham Rewards revaluation

I had an interesting exchange on Twitter the other day with Seth, the Wandering Aramean, who was arguing in response to Trevor at Tagging Miles that loyalty currencies are on a perpetual downward valuation spiral. While they devalue at different rates and different times, Seth claimed, they never increase in value.

My response was, "What about Wyndham?" After all, the May 11, 2015, revaluation of the Wyndham Rewards program made the 4 cheapest award categories (5,500 to 14,000 Wyndham Rewards points) more expensive, while the 5 most expensive award categories (16,000 to 50,000 Wyndham Rewards points) became less expensive when all properties were realigned at 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night.

Meanwhile, the Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards credit cards continue to offer 2 Wyndham Rewards points per dollar spent everywhere.

Reconciling these two positions is easy, as long as you can tell the difference between loyalty programs and loyalty.

If you were a loyal Wyndham guest, you probably got screwed

I admit that I've been travel hacking so long that it's a bit tough to remember what "loyalty" is supposed to signify.

But if "loyalty" means anything, it's surely the willingness to pay more to direct your stays or flights to a particular travel provider, not for any short-term interest but because over multiple nights, flights, stays, and years, your business will be rewarded in a way it wouldn't if you stayed at the cheapest possible hotel and booked the cheapest possible flight each time you traveled.

Since most travelers, most of the time, are traveling domestically, and only rarely staying in the most expensive categories of property, the change of cost of Wyndham Rewards nights to a flat 15,000 points was, as Seth asserted, a radical devaluation for "loyal" travelers, which is to say for travelers who directed their paid stays to Wyndham in order to secure cheap future award nights.

If you're a travel hacker, the Wyndham Rewards revaluation was a godsend

Compared to putting the same spend on a 2% or 2.105% cash back credit card, the Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards credit cards allow you to purchase a night at any Wyndham Rewards property in the world for between $150 and $158. As it is for a "loyal" Wyndham Rewards customer, at many properties that's an increase over the cost prior to the May 11, 2015, revaluation.

But the key takeaway for the travel hacker is that other, cheaper options remain for the nights you'd otherwise have redeemed Wyndham Rewards points for. There's a difficulty in analyzing the situation precisely, but fortunately Wyndham still makes available the list of properties which went up and went down in category in 2013, which at least gives a sense of what properties were in which categories prior to the 2015 revaluation.

With all that in mind, here are some United States properties which, as of 2013, cost less than 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night. These are properties that became more expensive after the 2015 revaluation. Next to each property I also suggest the cheapest nearby competing property and its imputed redemption value.

I don't claim this is exhaustive research — anybody can do the same research and find more extreme examples at their leisure using the links provided above.

  • Baymont Inn and Suites Florence/Muscle Shoals. Was 14,000 Wyndham Rewards points ($147 IRV). Nearby: Hampton Inn Florence-Midtown. 20,000 Hilton HHonors points ($70 IRV).
  • Days Inn Tempe ASU. Was 10,000 Wyndham Rewards points ($105 IRV). Nearby: Embassy Suites Phoenix - Tempe. 30,000 - 40,000 HHonors points ($106 - $141 IRV).
  • Days Hotel Oakland Airport-Coliseum. Was 14,000 Wyndham Rewards points ($147 IRV). Nearby: Hilton Oakland Airport. 30,000 HHonors points ($106 IRV).
  • Ramada Denver Midtown. Was 10,000 Wyndham Rewards points ($105 IRV). Nearby: Hampton Inn & Suites Denver-Speer Boulevard. 30,000 - 40,000 HHonors points ($106-$141 IRV).
  • Knights Inn Lafayette Midwest. Was 5,500 Wyndham Rewards points ($58 IRV). Nearby: 
    Homewood Suites by Hilton Lafayette. 30,000 - 40,000 HHonors points ($106-$141 IRV).
  • Travelodge - Columbus. Was 5,500 Wyndham Rewards points ($58 IRV). Nearby: 
    Hyatt Place Columbus/OSU. 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points ($80 IRV). Also
    DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Columbus Downtown. 20,000 - 30,000 Hilton HHonors points ($70 - $106 IRV)


The point of this post is not that the Wyndham Rewards revaluation was "a good thing." Whether or not a particular individual benefited or suffered from it depends on that person's past and future pattern of paid and award stays.

My point is that for a travel hacker the increases in prices at Tier 1-4 Wyndham Rewards properties are easily offset by balances in competing programs with more reasonably priced properties in the same markets.

Meanwhile, the decrease in prices for properties in Wyndham Rewards tiers 5 to 9 (16,000 to 50,000 Wyndham Rewards points) make their top-tier properties radically more affordable in the same markets as their competitors continue to charge high prices, whether you choose to pay in cash or in points.