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  • Writer's pictureAdam Garrett

Basics of Hotel Points

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

After sharing how points helped with the hotel portion of my honeymoon, in this post I'll go over:

I. Hotel Points vs Airline Miles

II. Some of the best current options to acquire hotel points/free night certificates

III. Ways to reduce the # of points above

IV. Fees

V. Meals

VI. 2+ bedroom suites

VII. Ways to attain higher value

I've used hotel points to stay at some incredible hotels as well as some low cost ones. On my 2 week honeymoon, I used points/certificates to cover the majority of my flight and hotel expenses. On anniversary trips and other trips, I'm typically using points/certificates/credit card benefits for most travel expenses, & I probably haven't used $ for most travel expenses on any trip in years. Even since I was a kid, I was using my dad's points for family trips and mission trips, but while he had hotel points, he would use them exclusively for airfare.

While we opted for a hotel for 2 nights where there weren't good points options to start our honeymoon, we chose another hotel for the remaining 12 nights of it in large part based on where we could get a lot of value with points/certificates at the kind of destination that we wanted. Here is what 7 nights of my honeymoon would have cost in $ if I wasn't using a 7 night Marriott certificate:

Because I had gold status, it also covered our breakfast & upgrade to a mountain view (not included in the cost above). We covered the other 5 previous nights at this hotel (which would have been cheaper in $ than the above nights due to proximity to Christmas) with Chase's Pay with Points option on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, getting 1.5 cents per point, despite that being not an ideal use of points since you can get much higher value than that with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

I. Hotel Points vs Airline Miles:

Unlike some foreign carrier airline miles when trying to use them on domestic airlines, hotel points typically don't have blackout dates, though you will typically need to find standard room availability to book for the lowest # of points.

Like airline miles, there are ways to purchase them, earn them with travel, and earn them with credit card points. Like airline miles, many hotels have transfer partners where you'd get the points from a credit card not specific to the hotel.

Like airline credit cards, most hotel credit cards provide some benefits in stays.

II. Some of the best current options to acquire hotel points/free night certificates:

Watch out for points purchase sales on travel blogger websites where the cost of points is lower than the TPG valuation of those same points, or join my Facebook group where I try to pull some of the best options on points/travel deals so you don't have to sort through as much.

Credit card sign up bonuses are a solid option for acquiring points, as is ongoing spending. Credit cards like the Wyndham Business Earner can be excellent cards to have. It has a strong sign up bonus and strong ongoing annual points earnings just by holding the card.

With that Wyndham card, paying the $95 annual fee each year gets you keeping the Diamond status (including perks like suite upgrades if space is available), 15k points ( valued at 1.1 cents per point by TPG while the actual value can vary; good for 2 nights at a category 1 property or 1 night at a category 2 property), & a 10% discount on all points bookings. It comes with excellent earning potential as well. You can also "Earn 45,000 bonus points, enough for up to 6 free nights at participating properties after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days."

If you wanted to go with a personal partner credit card with strong sign up bonuses, the Citi Premier card & Chase Sapphire Preferred cards are solid options.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred's 60k bonus points after spending $4k in the first 3 months can be transferred 1:1 to Hyatt to get up to 12 nights in standard category 1 rooms, 2 nights in category 7 standard rooms, 4 nights in category 4 standard rooms, or up to 17 nights off peak in category 1 properties. It carries a $95 annual fee with great options to downgrade to no annual fee cards if you are not getting value from it after the 1st year. That said, this bonus has been higher before (i.e. 80k).

The Citi Premier's 80k bonus after spending $4k in the first 3 months can be transferred 1:2 to Choice hotels for 160k points. With properties starting at 8k points/night, that's up to 20 nights at Choice Hotels. It carries a $95 annual fee with great options to downgrade to no annual fee cards if you are not getting value from it after the 1st year.

While there are many other possibilities, those are just a few that are strong options for helping your stay at hotels. Other strong possibilities include:

1. The Venture X (currently a 75k sign up bonus after meeting $4k minimum spending, which could be transferred to hotel partners including Wyndham at a 1:1 ratio or typically more lucrative airline partners). The $395 annual fee is offset by the $300 annual credit & 10k annual points, not evening counting the additional perks.

2. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless (5 free night awards up to 50k points each after meeting minimum spending requirements, ending on 7/20/22). This one's a historic high.

3. The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (140k points + a free night up to 40k points after spending $3k on purchases in the first 3 months, as well as every 4th reward night free by holding the card). This one's a historic high.

4. The Hilton Honor Surpass (130k pts after spending $2k in first 3 months w/ option for even higher bonus)

5. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points

after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.) The $450 annual fee is offset by the annual credits and perks.

Other strong options with sign up bonuses for business credit cards include:

A. Chase Ink Cards - Chase is a 1:1 transfer partner of Hyatt

  1. The Ink Business Unlimited - to convert the $750 sign up bonus (after spending $7500 within 3 months of account opening) to 75000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 to Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the right card, be sure to hold an annual fee incurring Chase UR card at the time of transfer. No annual fee

  2. The Ink Business Cash - matches the Ink Business Unlimited offer. No annual fee

  3. The Ink Business Preferred - 100,000 bonus points sign up bonus after spending $15k in 3 months. Since it has a $95 annual fee (which can be downgraded to a no annual fee Ink Business Cash or Ink Business Unlimited if desired after 1 year), you can transfer directly to transfer partners.

B. Amex Business Cards these cards have higher annual fees than Chase cards, and are generally not as ideal as Chase for hotel partners since, if transferring from Amex to a hotel partner, I recommend waiting until 50% bonus transfer promos to Hilton. There is no guarantee that will happen again, but it's happened at least a few times in the past. That's how I have most of my Hilton points since during that time it transfers at a 1:3 ratio. That said, there are many more category 1 US-based Hyatt properties than Hilton properties, despite there being many more Hilton properties than Hyatt properties, with Hilton properties being value slanted heavily toward their high end properties.

  1. Amex Business Gold - 120,000 Membership Rewards - 70,000 Membership Rewards for spending $10,000 in the first 3 months - $295 annual fee without a solid downgrade path to a no annual fee card

  2. Amex Business Platinum - 120,000 Membership Rewards for spending $15,000 in the first 3 months - $595 ($695 after 1/13) annual fee without a solid downgrade path to a no annual fee card

While I offer free credit card recommendations based on your spending patterns, if you'd prefer to do your own research without free assistance, I find that looking at Doctor of Credit's list combined with the TPG valuations is ideal, though there are some cases where I diverge from the TPG valuations. For instance, I would never want to use a Choice Hotels point when it's only worth .6 of a cent, the current TPG valuation. Note as well that since my recommendations can at times be assisted by me getting referral credit for your credit card, I might get something out of it as well, so don't feel as though you're asking too much of me by seeking my help. Even if I don't get one, I still love to give advice about this subject.

III. Ways to reduce the # of points above when it comes to spending your points:

If you have the Wyndham Business Earner card, you get a 10% reduction on the number of points required on points only stays.

If you have the (discontinued) IHG legacy annual fee incurring card & the current highest annual fee incurring card, you can stack a 10% rebate on points from the legacy card with the 4th night free on points with the current card.

Marriott & Hilton provides 5th nights free on points for every 5 nights in a row (i.e. 5, 10 or 15 nights), although to get that with Hilton, you need some form of status, but even their no annual fee variety credit card provides silver status.

IV. Fees:

Some properties are better than others about not charging fees. Marriott will sometimes pass fees on, like resort fees, even on a fully points stay. Typically if a hotel charges for parking on a typical stay, it will pass onto you unless you have status to eliminate that (only available w certain brands like Hyatt for globalists and guests of honor).

V. Meals:

Some brands within hotel brands are better than others about providing free meals. Typically if anything is provided, it's breakfast. There are some exceptions though. For instance, in Northern Europe, many Choice Hotels brand Clarion Collection hotels provide both complimentary breakfast and dinner. Status also can help you attain breakfast and in some cases in properties with club lounges, other meals.

VI. 2+ bedroom suites:

Some Choice properties have 2-3 bedroom suites bookable at the same rate as a 1 bedroom. I am not aware of any tier 1 properties where that's available, but I wouldn't rule it out). With 2+ bedroom suites with Wyndham, you pay per bedroom. With some Marriott properties, 2+ bedroom suites can be had for a bargain, though typically not the bargain you find with Choice.

VII. Ways to attain higher value:

There are many credit cards that can provide status, whether by holding onto the card itself or after meeting a certain spending threshold. Status benefits vary by brand, but can include free club lounge access at certain brands within the hotel group (i.e. Hilton Diamond, Marriott Platinum or Hyatt Globalist), free breakfast when the hotel typically doesn't provide it, upgrades up to standard suites at certain brands within the hotel group (i.e. Hyatt Globalist, Marriott Platinum or higher, Hilton Diamond, etc.), etc.

One of the easiest paths to status is the Wyndham Business Earner card, which provides free Diamond status, 15k points per year, an excellent earning structure, & has an annual fee of only $95/yr.

Keep in mind that #'s mentioned above and offerings are current as of the date of they were written but it is still best to consult the hotel and issuing bank websites for the most up to date information.

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