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It’s no secret that I love using points and miles to book award travel.
If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you do as well.
When I begin making new travel plans, I always look at my miles and points balances and make decisions about how best to use them.
And, in some cases, when not to use them at all.
In this guide, let’s look at hotel redemptions specifically, and why booking with actual money sometimes makes a lot of sense and can actually work to your advantage.
Why It (Sometimes) Makes Sense to Pay for Hotel Stays
With each redemption, the goal is to get the best possible value while booking flights, hotels, and activities that align with your trip goals.
The more your research and plan your trip, questions may pop up about whether something is the best use of your points or not. Here are a few factors that could help you decide.
1. Cheap Cash Price
Early on in your research, you may stumble upon super-low nightly rates. This could be because you’re traveling in an off-peak period or perhaps you found a fantastic budget-friendly place to stay.
Either way, it’s important to take note of the math staring you straight in the face.
The value of hotel points is generally less than 1 cent per point. However, you’re always trying to get the most from them.
If the hotel you’re considering is a loyalty program hotel, compare the cash rate to the number of points needed per night.
What’s the value you are getting on your hotel points? Is it .005 cents (half a cent) or less? You might consider paying the low cash rate to earn points for the stay and add to your hotel points for another trip.
If you have the co-branded hotel credit card for that hotel loyalty program, you’ll earn bonus points for every dollar spent at that program’s hotel by using their card.
If the hotel is independent, and not part of a loyalty program, you have some options for maximizing your stay instead of perhaps using Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Capital One miles for a portal redemption.
Flexible points & miles like Chase and Capital One are much more valuable than hotel points.
If the cheap cash price you found is also showing on one of their travel portals, why not use your Capital One Venture X or Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 10x the points on travel portal hotel bookings?
If it’s not, can you book through a website with its own loyalty program?
Hotels.com Rewards lets you earn a free night for every 10 you stay. Can the nights you need for this trip help you earn a free night for another trip?
And remember, to use the best credit card in your wallet for travel and hotel purchases! You’ll earn these rewards on top of anything else.
2. Cheap Destination
New York and London are expensive but there are plenty of places around the world where hotel accommodations are downright cheap compared to what you might expect in the United States or Europe.
It’s not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars per night in places like Thailand, Cambodia, and India, to name a few.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia, for example, $50 a night amounts to a comfortable, even upscale stay, with free airport pickup, free wifi, air-conditioning, breakfast, a pool, and even complimentary massages!
So while you could stay for 15k Hyatt points at the luxurious Park Hyatt Siem Reap, I’d argue (as beautiful as the property is) you don’t need to spend the Hyatt points or even pay the $200+ in a destination like Siem Reap.
In places like Southeast Asia, prices are cheap and the U.S. dollar stretches a long way. Research your destination to understand the landscape of prices in your destination to make the best decision for your points and miles.
3. Hotel Loyalty Program Promotions
However, some promotions are worth the hotel spend.
ProTip: Whenever you receive an email or update about a hotel promotion, register for it even if you don’t have a planned stay. If your plans stay you’ll be all set.
Consider the value of what you’d be earning. Sometimes paying for the hotel nights for one trip, stacked with a bonus, can mean an amazing redemption for your next trip.
Many moons ago, I did this with Radisson. There was a fantastic promo and I maxed it out on a weekend getaway to D.C. and then used all the earnings to pay for a week plus of stays at luxury hotels in Europe.
Typically promotions include earning bonus points per stay or every couple of stays. Sometimes, they’re tiered like earn X number of points for 2 nights and then earn an additional number of points for staying 5 nights, etc.
Other promotions might not have anything to do with earning points, but with status or milestone awards. Hotels might offer double elite qualifying nights to help you reach a particular status level or award.
Hyatt, for example, gives 2 suite upgrade awards when you stay 50 qualifying nights in a calendar year. These suite upgrades are each good for a week-long upgraded stay.
Now imagine, that perhaps a paid stay helps you get there and earns you a fabulous suite for a bucket list trip in the future. That’s a fantastic return value!
Earning status can also earn you a ton of benefits. Some hotels offer free breakfast, lounges with snacks and drinks, free parking, late checkout, and room upgrades.
When a family of 4 can all have breakfast for free for every day of their stay, that’s a tremendous amount of money saved in the long run.
Just be sure you have use for any status you’d be earning. Obviously, you have to stay again at hotels within the same loyalty program to see the return on your spending in perks and benefits.
Always do your research on hotel rates, your destination, and any available hotel promotions to make sure it’s smart to use points to pay for your stay.
Paying cash for an upcoming hotel stay could also earn you more hotel points, status, and other rewards that you can use for future trips.
How do you decide to pay for hotels instead of using points?
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