When it comes to hotels, I’ve had a semi-complicated strategy over the past few years, involving a combination of Hilton, Marriott, and IHG hotels (and independent hotels sprinkled in since I seem to end up in a lot of locations without chain properties):
- Marriott has been perfect for cheap, one-night stays that qualify for their frequent MegaBonus promotion. Two separate one-night stays can cost me no more than $200 (sometimes less!) and then I turn around and redeem my free night certificates at hotels like the Fairfield Inn at Asheville/Biltmore, saving about $150 in peak season. That’s a 75% rebate if you’re careful about earning and burning, not even including the base points you earn on your stays. No wonder Marriott is earning more of my loyalty.
- IHG has been great for earning 5,000+ points per short stay and then turning around and redeeming 25,000 points for a night at a basic, but centrally located, property in expensive cities. Played correctly, I’d spend ~$400 total on 4-5 hotel nights I needed anyway which would collectively earn me enough points for one free night at places like the Holiday Inn London Mayfair, saving about me at least $150 compared to what I’d pay out-of-pocket for a one-night stay in London. (Technically, that particular hotel retails for over double that, though I’d never consider paying that!) All said and done, that’s about a 37.5% rebate, which is a pretty great deal.
- Hilton has been a less valuable option for me, but one that is gaining loyalty anyway because I’ve had consistently great stays with them and collect on other benefits like free breakfast seven days a week from holding gold status. Because quality of stay, free breakfast, and free internet mean more to me on long stays than on one-night stays, it’s a logical step to book Hilton rather than a different chain when I stay for a few nights. Throw in double points promotions and I usually earn about 35-40 points per dollar. While some people claim great redemption rates with Hilton by using 50K points for a night that would otherwise cost $500+, the fact of the matter is that I’d never value those stays anywhere near sticker price and instead I’d value my rebate with Hilton closer to the 20% range, more if you factor in free breakfast. A solid savings that is enhanced by knowing I’ll enjoy my stay – every time.
Unfortunately, Priority Club has now released their new redemption costs, and it ain’t pretty. While it’s true some hotels have gone down in price, the ones that I’d typically redeem for have only gone up. Goodbye Holiday Inn London Mayfair, Staybridge Suites Times Square or Holiday Inn Munich City Centre at 25K points…and hello to 35,000-point costs. My typical rebate value with Priority Club has definitely decreased, and it’s been devalued enough that for this year, I won’t be going out of my way to stay with any IHG properties.
For 2013, my stays will be mostly at Hilton and Marriott properties in order to try and maximize rebates and benefits. Will there still be an IHG stay or two mixed in? Maybe…for a spectacular rate or exceptional property…the same way I consider options with Hyatt, SPG, or independent hotels.
Remember, you have until March 18 to call in and request the old award costs for any Priority Club stays. Loyalty Lobby has done a great job compiling a list of old rates for reference, so be sure you aren’t overpaying if you don’t have to.