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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 9, 2011

Seaport Boston LobbyNot that long ago, Jeff Low was a road warrior for Expedia spending way too many nights a month in Manhattan, most of them at the 210-room Affinia 50, an independent boutique property in Midtown that he had come to enjoy. So much time, in fact, he realized he was missing out on earning serious loyalty points. Only thing is, the hotel didn't have a loyalty program. "It really got me thinking that there is something here to be developed. The idea just took hold from there," says Low.

A self-described point junkie and hard-core techie, Low pondered his idea for months. What if independent hotels could join forces to offer points for stays? And what if the program was simple and uncomplicated, with no fees, no blackout dates, no 800 number, no password to remember and no expiration date for points? So, on his next visit to New York City, Low called on Affinia's management offices and asked to speak to someone about a loyalty program. John Moser, chief brand and marketing officer for Affinia Hotels remembers the day well. "His timing could not have been better," says Moser. "We weren't big enough to have our own program, and I didn't want to join anything I'd seen out there. We were really between a rock and a hard place." Problem solved.

Today, Stash Hotel Rewards is fast becoming the darling of loyalty programs among independent hotels. The company, which launched in January with 65 member hotels, now boasts more than 150 and counting, with new hotels jumping on board every month. Low's goal is to have 200 member properties by year's end. "The hardest thing in the beginning was finding independents who were willing to take that leap of faith," Low says. "Small hotels are used to thinking of each other as competitors. Once they get that the program is designed around collective cooperation, they embrace it." For Affinia, the rewards of being a flagship member have proven huge. The company's seven properties snagged $600,000 worth of new business in the first six months of this year alone, 80 percent of that corporate.

Among the upstart program's members are a range of fiercely unique properties, from the smart and lively 112-room Hotel 43 in dowtown Boise, Idaho, to the upscale 428-room Seaport Boston Hotel with 20,736 square feet of meeting space. Members earn five Stash points for every dollar spent on room rate, and points can be redeemed for any partner hotels within the Stash collection. And one more unique caveat: During slow periods, many member hotels opt to reduce the number of points it takes to get that comped room. To get started go here.