Posted by Ric Garrido

Here are a couple of posts merged together. The first piece is an expanded version of my response to a FlyerTalk question on the relative value of 100,000 points in Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport and IHG Priority Club. The second piece is about my plans for fulfilling several hotel promotions over the next three months to earn loads of free nights. This is the time to plan summer travel if you want to use hotel loyalty programs to pay low rates now and redeem for high rate hotels this summer.

Comparing the value of hotel program points

1. Hyatt and IHG do not have extended stay discounts. You pay the same nightly reward rate for a five night stay as a one night stay. 15,000 points a night will cost 75,000 points for five nights.

Hilton offers 15% off standard award rate for VIP 4-night stays, 20% off 5-night stays (same with Marriott and Starwood) and 25% off for 6 nights and longer stays. This makes a category 7 hotel reward for six nights drop from 300,000 to 225,000 points with HHonors. 

2. In terms of earn/burn the programs are comparable in that HHonors for a Points & Points earner takes $3,334 in spend to earn a top category 7 reward night at 50,000 points.  This amount is reduced by 15% to 25% for extended stay VIP rewards. HHonors elite status also reduces the hotel spend needed to earn 50,000 points. 

IHG takes $4,000 in hotel spend to earn a 40,000 points high-tier InterContinental Hotel reward or $3,000 for low tier hotels. $2,500 earns a free night at any Crowne Plaza which will likely be a comparable category 7 Hilton in many cities. Again, Priority Club Platinum elite status reduces the hotel spend needed. Priority Club has a lower earn rate of 5 points/$1 with extended stay brands Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. InterContinental Hotels are limited to 2,000 points per stay which generally require more than $200 in hotel spend for this luxury hotel brand. 

Hyatt takes $4,400 for a category 6 hotel reward at 22,000 points or $3,600 for a category 5 hotel at 18,000 points. Gold Passport only gives a 30% bonus for Diamond elites compared to 50% bonus points for HHonors and Priority Club top elites. 

3. The distribution of hotels among hotel reward categories is an important consideration when comparing the value of points across hotel programs. 

Hilton is top heavy. Hilton has a higher percentage of hotels in its top two categories of 6 and 7 than any other major hotel program has in its top two tiers of hotel rewards. Hilton has a 7,500 points category 1 reward, but only about 40 hotels in that category or about 1% of Hilton brand hotels worldwide. 

Hyatt is bottom heavy, meaning your 100,000 points will go a long way in Hyatt if used at Category 1 (5,000 points) and Category 2 (8,000 points) hotels. Hyatt has over 60% of its hotels in category 1 and 2.

A category 5 or 6 hotel in Hyatt is generally something pretty special. A category 6 or 7 hotel in Hilton may be really nice or just a mediocre hotel in a popular location. My local Embassy Suites is a category 7 and in no way compares to the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn at category 6. The Highlands Inn typically commands summer rates in $600 range compared to Hilton in $200 range.

IHG is brand specific reward cost meaning there are some great deals and some not so great deals. Crowne Plaza is 25,000 points per night regardless if the hotel is an average of $100 per night or $300 per night. 

Bottom line for mid-tier to upper-tier hotel reward redemptions:

100,000 Hilton buys 2 to 4 nights. Pointstretchers increase this to 3 to 6 nights. VIP rewards require more points, but give big savings on high category rewards.

Assume 30 hotel nights at $100 per night and 100,000 Hilton points are likely to be earned with $3,000 to $4,000 in hotel spend.

100,000 Hyatt points buys 5 to 12 nights. Even up to 20 nights. Assume 30 nights and 100,000 Hyatt points are likely to be earned for about $3,000 to $4,000 in hotel spend with the current promotion, Diamond amenity points and base points. As a Diamond member I have received over 6,000 points on a $100 hotel night with 1,000 points Diamond amenity bonus; 2,500 points for closed Regency Club, 650 points for stay and 2,000 points for a property specific bonus (aka “G” bonus).

100,000 Priority Club buys 3 to 6 nights. Discount reward rates increase this to 6 to 12 nights. Priority Club members can earn 100,000 points for under $1,000 in hotel spend. Priority Club is an amazing program for cheap points. I earned over 10,000 points on my $100 hotel stay two weeks ago. And I bought 10,000 points for $60 on my recent reward night at The Palazzo Las Vegas.

Planning out loyalty promotion hotel stays

Looking at our tax return and thinking “vacation”.  So I am planning out hotel stays to fulfill a variety of promotions for earning free nights for summer vacation travel. My wife Kelley gets a full six weeks out of school before needing to set-up class for next school year.

Here are promotion offers I am looking to fulfill:

  • Club Carlson – 2 stays by June 15 = 1 free night at any of 1,000+ hotels around the world.
  • Priority Club – Crack the Case – I can’t believe I still need 3 more hotel nights to get my 91,000 Crack the Case Priority Club bonus points. I am reprimanding myself right now for not getting all the hotel stays between October and December 2010 when every two stays earned a free night. Too much time away from my working wife and too little money to spend on travel seems to be the primary obstacles to living an Intercontinental Priority Club life.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest – every three stays earns a free night at a Starwood Resort. There are over 200 resorts around the world where $300 in hotel stays between May 1 and July 31 can earn a free night for a $300+ resort night.

In my economic reality this means 3 hotel nights are free for the next three months when I consider the actual daily rate of a luxury resort hotel. In other words, one guest pays $3,000 for a one week resort vacation, while another SPG guest like me pays zero dollars in room rate and tax for the same $3,000 one week resort hotel while spending $2,000 for 21 separate one-night hotel stays that earn 7 free Starwood Hotel nights. 

The loyalty traveler plans to be the type of guest who gets a week-long luxury resort vacation after three weeks in paid stays hotel travel. I have my spreadsheet I created showing Starwood Hotel rates over the next few months for the San Francisco Bay Area and other locations I plan to be and I check it daily.

Yesterday I filed three Starwood Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) claims for lower rates found on Hotels.com compared to the Starwood Hotels site. Since the Hotels.com rates still show a lower rate this morning I assume the BRG claims will be approved in the next few hours.

(Update May 2, 6:30pm – all three Starwood BRG claims approved. $228 for three Starwood Hotel stays will earn over 6,000 BRG bonus points and a free Starwood Resort night.)

SPG Platinum membership with 25 stays in a calendar year means this Loyalty Traveler should requalify for SPG Platinum elite for 2012.

“Upgrades” whispering in my ear. 

Basically I am looking to earn around 12 free hotel nights through points and certificates at luxury hotels with average nightly rates in the $400 range for 25 paid nights in hotels at the $100 per night range. 

$2,500 in spend to earn $5,000 in free rooms means I will have 37 nights in hotels rooms with a fair market value room rate around $7,500 for $2,500 out of pocket. 

My travel plans calculate an average of $68 per night for 37 nights in hotels with at least 12 of those nights in luxury hotels. That is what loyalty travel and Loyalty traveler are all about. 

Also, I am checking daily for the results of Best Western’s 650,000 bonus points promotion for the first ten people who stayed at all three Best Western tiers beginning February 6, 2011. I completed those three stays on February 9. The winners were supposed to be chosen April 29 and I am hoping to be one of the lucky ten.

650,000 bonus points is sufficient for about 20 nights of free rooms at the high tiers of 32,000 and 36,000 points Best Western hotels. The points will go really far at low level properties in 12,000 to 16,000 points for 40 to 50 free room nights. Just depends on where I need hotel rooms. 

Loyalty Traveler shows you how to jumpstart your hotel travel on a budget.

Check-in,  turn on, and check out  – through a hotel lifestyle.

W Silicon Valley, Newark, California

5 Responses

  1. @Ric, Hyatt does offer an award discounted 5 night or 7 night stay called Hyatt Passport escapes with breakfast and dinner for two. It also is a lot harder to earn all these Hyatt points.

    Hotel Category:1 2 3 4 5 6 5 Night Passport Escape
    Includes 3 dinners for two

    60,000 75,000 95,000 110,000 125,000 145,000

    7 Night Passport Escape
    Includes 5 dinners for two

    90,000 110,000 140,000 160,000 180,000 210,000

    The real pandora of Hyatt’s program is Faster Free Nights(FFN) where 2 cheap mattress run stays earn a free night at any Hyatt worldwide. I like the idea of 2 Hyatt Place stays to earn a free nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. I am eagerly waiting for the return of FFN, hopefully in the fall!

    Comment by chitownflyer on May 2nd, 2011 at 11:42 am
  2. Very insightful analysis but why was Marriott not included?

  3. @chitownflyer – There are more benefits with Passport Escape meals, but they also cost more points than just booking room only. 56,000 points for five dinners at a category 6 hotel may be worth it depending on location, but I really do not care for restaurant dining that much and I wouldn’t want to be tied to the hotel for food.

    Category 6 hotel reward for 7 nights = 154,000 points
    Category 6 Passport Escape for 7 nights + 5 dinners = 210,000 points.

    Now at the Maldives this would probably be a great deal. Lucky’s post?

  4. @dayone – Marriott was not included in the original FlyerTalk question and I just left it out of this expanded repost.

    Marriott -
    1. Offers extended stay discount of 20% for 5-night stays with its 5th night free program.
    Air+Hotel rewards are big savings on air miles and a reward stay, but they require loads of points. That is an option for people with 200,000 or more points.

    2. Earn/burn rate is better than Hilton or at least comparable. My reasoning for this is based on the earn rate being lower for Marriott at 10 points/$1 or 5 points/$1 for Residence Inn. The lower earning for Residence Inn can have a big impact on annual earning since this brand is 20% of the Marriott chain.

    The burn rate is Marriott’s advantage since, like Hyatt, most properties are in the lower category rewards of the eight category Marriott Rewards system. Excluding Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites, the Marriott Rewards member needs $4,000 in base spend to earn 40,000 points for a category 8 reward. Marriott has few properties in its top category 7 and 8 rewards relative to Hilton category 6 and 7 rewards.

    I think a Marriott Rewards member can earn 100,000 points with about $3,000 in hotel spend over 30 nights if planning stays around bonus promotions. Elites can earn for less spend. 100,000 points will buy 3 to 5 nights at a category 5 to 7 Marriott hotel. PointSavers can add another night or two.

  5. [...] Ric’s analysis shows why the Hilton HHonors program is actually one of the best for elite members as the VIP multi night stay discounts are great: http://boardingarea.com/loyaltytraveler/2011/05/02/comparing-the-value-of-hotel-program-points… [...]

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