A few years back I went on a bit of a kick about Choice Privileges, the loyalty program of Choice Hotels International. My conclusion was that while the program wasn't for me, its very low starting redemptions (just 6,000 points per night) and decent earning potential on the Barclaycard Choice Privileges Visa made it a decent option for some folks under some circumstances.
One of the key problems with the program was their terrible award availability, since they allowed non-elite members to book award nights just 30 days in advance, which basically required non-elite members to book backup reservations at other properties in the hopes award space would still be available when the 30-day mark came around.
The other day, reader rap commented that Choice had changed their award booking policy: now, all members have access to the same 100-day award window.
And it turns out, rap was right! I've been plugging in award searches for late November (100 days from now) and have found award night availability in destinations like London, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and so on at virtually every Choice Hotels property in each city, with just a few claiming they're already "sold out."
I haven't found a single property charging more than 35,000 points per night, a $350 imputed redemption value if you're earning Choice Privileges points on unbonused spend with their co-branded Barclaycard credit card, which earns 2 points per dollar everywhere.
In principle their terms still say properties in Australasia can cost up to 75,000 points per night but I'm not sure which property or properties that is supposed to apply to. I wasn't able to find any such properties in Australia or New Zealand.
The most stunning thing about Choice Hotels International is still their comprehensive footprint — they're everywhere. Good award availability and a global footprint makes them worth thinking about for folks who rely on unbonused manufactured spend and don't worry about the perks of elite status (many Choice Hotels seem to include breakfast for all guests anyway, and you can always ask for late checkout).
As long as you're willing to speculatively book awards exactly 100 days in advance, I think Choice Privileges has been upgraded from a solid to a great choice for no-frills hotel stays in every corner of the globe.