Unless we're staying at the Four Seasons, there's a rewards program attached to our hotel stay, and it may be coming from a few different sources, including the hotel brand, the booking agency, and the credit card we're using. Almost all of us will check the rewards and try to apply it to the cost of the room. The amount on the receipt minus the rewards earned plus the reward redeemed equals the cost of the room... but how do you value a warm cookie? (That's a reference to Up in the Air, and we have to watch 55 seconds into the clip to catch the reference, but it's priceless.)
We've seen quite a bit of speculation about how the Starwood and Marriott loyalty programs will be merged, and it's likely that Starwood's simple, generous program is going to get more complicated. Even the Editor-in-Chief at the publication Hotel Management complained about the complexity of most points programs.
What's clear is that customer volume is so important that hotel chains try to appeal to everyone. And there are only two things that appeal to everyone: cash and a free night. Wyndham has taken the straightforward approach of making it easy to earn and redeem a free room. Marriott has taken the opposite track of having an elaborate program with many different types of rewards that appeal to many different types of travelers.
Cash (even in the form of rebates) has got to be better for some of us who can't travel very often. I wonder if one of the hotel chains will ever consider that.