Best Western hotels have been off of my miles and points collecting radar. They are an ubiquitous American Brand and we don’t even notice the roadside hotel signs as we drive by. They are just part of the ever repeating franchise iconography that we drive by every day. We see and don’t notice MacDonald’s, CVS, Ace Hardware, Days Inn and other familiar franchises ad infinitum and ad nauseum. When I stay at a Best Western, I don’t expect a suite upgrade or amenities–I’m expecting plain vanilla at a decent price.
However, when I’m traveling in Europe, an American brand will stand out, and I do notice Best Westerns in some of the larger European cities. For example, Athens has 7, and Naples has 3. I have stayed at the Best Western Museum hotel in Athens, and I was pleasantly surprised at the value it offered. We got a very comfortable room and enjoyed a nice buffet breakfast for about €60, So I wanted to look into the Best Western credit card and their rewards program to see if it offers any value.
I have walked by the BW Plaza Hotel in Naples, Italy, and thought it looked like a nice hotel in a good location near the port. The cash price on tripadvisor.com is $68 all-in for a non-refundable rate. I then went to the Best Western website to see what a refundable room would cost, and also to see the price in BW points. I chose an arbitrary date of the night of August 1, 2015.
The cancellable room rate is from €73 (member) to €77 (nonmember), or about $80-$85. The price using reward points is 16,000 points, making each point worth about half a cent. So how easy is it to accrue Best Western Reward points?
We can transfer in American Express Membership Rewards at a rate of 1:1. Ouch! MRs transfer one-to-one to a variety of airline miles, and I like to get at least 2 cents per mile value from those. This is a very poor value proposition. How about their credit card bonus?
You can get 70,000 points as a sign-on bonus. If each point is worth 0.5 cents, then the bonus is $350. However, you must spend $10,000 on the card to get this bonus. If I spend $10,000 on my 2% cash back card, I will earn $200 cash back. This lowers the value of the bonus to $150. I like to get AT LEAST $400 of value from a credit card application, so the Best Western credit card has struck out on the basis of the sign-on bonus.
How many stays would I have to book to get a free night? If one night’s stay will cost me 16,000 points, and I spend an average of $75 a night on rooms, it will take me 11 nights of paid stays to earn one free night. This does not excite me.
Where might I stay in Naples if I’m not at the Best Western? If I am not staying in a free hotel with points, I go to Booking.com and choose the “sort by best price for 2 people” option. I usually am satisfied with any of the cheaper rooms in a location that I like. Here is the Booking.com search for Naples on the same dates as that I used above for Best Western.
There are plenty of rooms for less than $40. I don’t travel to stay in fancy hotel rooms that are the same size of my bedroom at home, and I really don’t care about being upgraded to a suite. I like to spend my travel money on FOOD and WINE, so any of these rooms would be adequate for me.
I will continue to stay in Best Westerns if they have a superior location and a reasonably priced room, but I am not wooed by their loyalty program or credit card.
Conclusion–getting the credit card is not worth it. Trying to get free nights with their reward is not worth it.