I love hotel reward programs, they allow to gain rewards for staying at certain hotels and often once you hit certain criteria you get "free" or complementary items, such as "free" breakfast or snacks. Between my fiance we belong to clubs from the Marriott, the Hilton and Holiday Inn (priority club).
So far, we have redeemed points from only the Hilton (one in Hawaii and one in San Fransisco) both for our honeymoon. We should however, get enough points through priority club to redeem for three nights before the wedding in California.
My fiance travels for conferences paid for by grants, his boss or the department depending on why he is traveling to conference. Two years ago we both were going to the same conference and one of the professors told us we should look into Marriott's reward program. We checked into it and seeing no fees, we signed up. Because we were there for a conference we received extra points on top of the points for the cost of the room but we still do not have enough points for another stay. Part of the reason for that is I prefer Hilton.
Both my fiance and I have Hilton credit cards, one visa and one american express and we have gotten most of our points through their signup bonuses, however, we also got quite a few when my fiance went to yet another conference.
My fiance could have stayed at a Marriott for this conference but decided on Hilton because the credit card we had gave him silver membership (instead of the lowest membership, blue). We chose to get Hilton credit cards instead of a card through Marriot because Hilton has two credit cards without annual fees, Marriot does not even have one. He got a Hilton visa and received 20000 points for signing up. Between the sign up bonus and conference stay he had enough for our night in San Fransisco. This will allow us to not fly fifteen hours from Hawaii straight back to buffalo but have a night's rest in San Francisco.
We also have gotten points for Hilton by doing surveys for erewards. Erewards also gives points for priority club. The other reward programs we joined expecting to get the most points when my fiance traveled for conferences, priority club is different. Most holiday inns and other priority club hotels include complementary breakfast and lower prices than other reward program hotels. Even we compared the cost of motel 6 to priority club, if we included breakfast and two people per night priority club normally won. Priority Club hotels are where we plan to stay on our vacations if we do not have enough points to stay at the other hotels for free.
I signed up for priority club and was able to find a code to start me off with 300 points. Granted that is not a lot, I need 5000 just to get a discount at the hotels, but it is something. This brings up a great benefit of priority club hotels, unlike the other hotel programs, you can use your points at 5000 intervals to lower the cost of your room. I do not however, like priority club's credit card. It has a $49 annual fee, though it is waved the first year. We did decide to get the credit card for the points after the first purchase, however, I just received the card and have not had a chance to use it yet. I will report how long it takes them to credit the points, they say it will take 6-8 weeks.
Now I know most students are not like my fiance and do not get a "free" trip at least once a year but I still think students should join multiple hotel rewards programs. As young people we will be traveling, visiting friends, seeing new places or even interviewing for a new job. It may take a while to get free night using these programs but they are free and why not take advantage if you can? Also, often hotels will give free points if a problem occurred during your stay, if you belong to their program, they will not offer if you do not.