To many travelers, there is really not much difference among various types of hotels or apartments because these lodging products are basically all fulfilling one need: accommodation for those who are away from home. As such, hoteliers often find it difficult to distinguish their products from the competitors.

Now, with the threats of Airbnb and OTAs (online travel agents), the competition in the lodging industry is getting even tougher.

Hoping to attract and retain more repeat customers, hotels are reinventing their loyalty programs. The following examples highlight some of the recent changes, according to USA Today:

Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham operates 30 hotel brands globally, including Super 8, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada Hotels, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and several others. The Wyndham Rewards Program now allows travelers to earn and redeem at the chain's 8,000 hotels, plus the 17,000 condos and homes the company also manages.

Largely because of this change, the Wyndham Rewards Program just took the crown of the best hotel rewards program in 2016.

Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Program

As Marriott is finishing up the acquisition of Starwood, travelers can now merge the travel reward programs of these two hotel chains into one, allowing them to earn and redeem points in the 30 brands within the world's largest hotel chain.

Additionally, once a traveler merges his/her two reward programs into one, the hotel giant will recognize a traveler's highest elite status of the two programs in all Marriott and Starwood hotels. For example, a Gold member of Marriott who has no elite status in SPG can also enjoy all perks for a Gold member in any Starwood Hotels as soon as s/he links two accounts, and vise versa.

In 2016, Marriott Rewards and SPG were ranked No. 2 and No. 11 respectively in the best hotel rewards programs list. We'll see if the merger of these two programs will move Marriott Rewards to the No. 1 spot in next year's ranking.

Choice Privilege

Choice Hotels operates about 6,400 hotels in more than 40 countries and territories. Some of the company's well-known brands include Comfort Inn & Suites, Quality Inn & Suites, Clarion Hotels and Ascend Hotel Collection.

Different from most hotel reward programs where travelers can only redeem the points they earn after they complete a stay, the Choice Privilege Program allows their members to earn immediate gifts even during their stays, such as credits at Uber and

In 2016, Choice Privilege was also ranked the second-best hotel rewards program, tied with Marriott Rewards.

Hyatt Gold Passport

The Hyatt Gold Passport Program will be turned into a new World of Hyatt Program, where members will be grouped into three categories: Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist. In the Hyatt's new reward program, points can be redeemed for the hotels' dining or spa treatments.

Moreover, guests can earn a free night as soon as they complete their stays in five out of the 12 Hyatt brands. Elite members can confirm a suite upgrade as early as they make a reservation. In the past and in most hotel reward programs, upgrades will only be granted when an elite guest checks in into the hotel and under the condition that rooms are available at that time.

The most common change in all programs

As a strategy to attract travelers to make reservations directly on the hotel website, almost all hotel companies now guarantee that their reward program members can get the best price on the hotel website. Travelers can possibly save more if they book direct.

The catch is hotels usually ask travelers to pay in advance for the best price (usually nonrefundable), which may not work for everyone.

What do you think of these new reward programs? Are they working in your favor? What other changes do you want to see?