PointHub.com is a new travel booking website, currently in beta mode, that integrates a Points vs. Cash loyalty program comparison tool to display the cost of a hotel or airline ticket in points or cash and recommend the best value.
I see PointHub.com as an exciting development in loyalty travel searches.
This post describes my first impressions of the website features for the hotel booking portion of the website. There are many features on the site such as loyalty program membership registration, email alerts for mileage and points expiration dates, and side by side display of points cost and cash cost for hotels and airline tickets.
The website is definitely still in Beta mode. When I tried to check the search flights function I discovered the calendar popped up behind the home page graphic and I could not even advance the calendar months to enter dates. I notified PointHub.com and within 30 minutes the website calendar popup changed and worked for searching flights.
San Francisco Hotel Search
Here is the PointHub.com search result when I search for hotels in San Francisco for Friday, September 23, 2011.
Two things I notice:
1. There is not a comprehensive list of hotel loyalty programs. At the very least I should also be seeing Best Western Rewards, Choice Privileges and Hyatt Gold Passport. There is also an issue with Marriott brand hotels not showing up in the Cash vs. Points comparison for several cities I checked.
2. I can filter my results to preferred hotel loyalty programs to just show Hilton and Starwood if those are my preferred programs.
Yelp hotel reviews are incorporated in the hotel search results display. I like the additional information, although I think TripAdvisor with its huge database of hotel reviews provides a much more accurate rating of hotel reviews.
For example, I noticed Hilton Garden Inn, Gilroy, California had a 1-star rating and only one review on Yelp when it appeared in the PointHub.com search results. Checking Yelp.com I find 10 hotel reviews with two Yelp reviews in the past week. The Yelp review on PointHub.com is from 2008.
TripAdvisor.com has 49 reviews of Hilton Garden Inn Gilroy, California with four in past month.
PointHub.com Point Values for Hotel Programs look reasonable
I have analyzed several hotel loyalty program recommendations in PointHub.com searches and I find their recommendation values quite agreeable on a purely point value basis. My search results indicate points valuations for recommendations are consistent with what is commonly used by consumers on FlyerTalk, MilePoint and blogs.
But I don’t necessarily agree with the PointHub.com Cash recommendation in many cases.
Hilton San Francisco Union Square is $279 + 15% tax. That is a $320 room night compared to spending 50,000 HHonors points. I can almost guarantee that I will spend 50,000 points before I spend $320 for a room night. PointHub.com does not consider tax in their recommendation which can be quite high in some cities. The PointHub.com Cash vs. Points is $279 vs. 50,000 points. In real travel, I calcualte points redemption as (Room Rate + Tax)/ points or $320/50 = $6.40 per 1,000 HHonors points.
I have analyzed hundreds of Hilton HHonors redemption values the past couple of years and getting $6.40 for 1,000 points is about as good as I expect from Hilton HHonors. It looks like PointHub.com has about a $6.50 per 1,000 points redemption value (excluding tax) for HHonors before the recommend kicks in. Waiting around to get a PointHub.com recommend for Hilton HHonors points over cash may keep you in points all the way to the next HHonors program devaluation.
Palace Hotel, Starwood Luxury Collection - $289 or 16,000 points. After tax this is a $335 room. Starpoints are worth $20.94 per 1,000 points. That is a low redemption value for Starpoints, but not really low. A site like Nerdwallet.com values Starpoints at $23/1,000.
I regularly get $35 to $50/1,000 points value using SPG Cash & Points awards. There is no Cash & Points available for that night on SPG.com.
Despite $21 per 1,000 points being less than ideal redemption value for SPG, I would certainly consider spending 16,000 points before spending $335 cash for a room night at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco. My observations indicate the PointHub.com recommend points kicks in at around $25 per 1,000 Starpoints redemption value for Starwood Hotels.
Priority Club – Holiday Inn Diamond Bar, California is a $98 hotel or 15,000 points for the date I checked. PointHub.com recommends paying cash. I find that to be an acceptable recommendation, although I would not have any problem redeeming 15,000 points for a $98 room. After tax this room is likely $110. I can probably book this room for $60 and 5,000 points.
Saving $50 cash on the $110 after tax rate for this Holiday Inn by spending 5,000 points for a Points & Cash reward night is a redemption value of $10 per 1,000 Priority Club points. Unless I expect I could earn 3,000 or more points by paying $110 for the hotel night, then I would rather use my points at $110/15 = $7.33 or go with a Points & Cash night and pay $60 + 5,000 points.
As long as I am redeeming for more than $6/1,000 points with Priority Club points nights, then spending points for more than it costs to buy points is good economics in my book.
When there is a lucrative Priority Club promotion where I can expect to earn thousands of points by paying for a Priority Club room night, then I can look at spending $110 as being a more favorable exchange than spending 15,000 points. Without a good value points promotion, I’ll spend points as long as I am getting $6/1,000 points since I know I can buy points at that rate through Points & Cash reward nights.
The recommend points value used for Priority Club hotels by PointHub.com appears to be about $7.00 per 1,000 points redemption value. A $98 Holiday Inn Diamond Bar room for 15,000 points has a Cash recommend ($6.53/1,000 points) and a $109 room at Holiday Inn Long Beach for 15,000 recommends points ($7.27/1,000 points).
Marriott Rewards is a program that isn’t well integrated with PointHub.com yet. Several searches returned only one Marriott brand hotel or no Marriott choices for cities where there are several Marriott brand hotels. I couldn’t pull up sufficient results to determine the PointHub.com value for Marriott Rewards points except to determine the value is at least $10 per 1,000 points and less than $11 per 1,000 points.
PointHub.com recommended paying $399 for Ritz Carlton Los Angeles rather than 40,000 points. That is certainly more cash than I would consider spending if I had 40,000 Marriott Rewards points to use instead. For a date when the rate is $429 or 40,000 points the recommendation is points. PointHub.com value for Marriott Rewards points is at least $10 but less than $11 per 1,000 points.
Initial Thoughts on PointHub.com
I’ll definitely keep on eye on PointHub.com for its Cash vs. Points comparison and recommendations. All my complaints are primarily incomplete information for hotel loyalty programs like the lack of Marriott Rewards Cash vs. Points displays for several cities I checked. I also disagree with some of the value recommendations for cash where I would equally consider using my loyalty points instead of cash. This site is still a work in progress to fulfill its potential for assisting loyalty travelers.
That being said, the real value I personally see for searching hotels through PointHub.com is when I see a “Recommendation” for using points on PointHub.com, then I know I have found a good value hotel for an award night. Every hotel where PointHub.com recommended using points rather than cash is a recommendation where I saw equally good points redemption value.
The decision between points vs. cash is more difficult when factoring the value of points a loyalty member will earn for a paid stay compared to the redemption of points.
Just remember that hotel loyalty promotions make all the difference in the value decision between redeeming points and spending cash.