This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
This summer our travels have taken us to Kauai, Mexico, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and more. However, until August came along we had done a pretty poor job at experiencing some of the great offerings that are closer to home, so we dubbed August our “stay-cation” month. The first short weekend getaway we planned for our stay-cation was to one of our very favorite resorts, Hyatt Lost Pines. We have been there many times before, but hadn’t been in almost a year so we were ready to enjoy their recent renovation and consistently enjoyable pools, activities, and more. I’ll post more about our stay soon, but in this post I want to point out how we leveraged elite status and hotel points to both save money and increase the quality of our short getaway.
I think sometimes it is helpful when you stop talking in the abstract, and look at the impact points and status had on an actual trip, so here is what this actual trip looked like in terms of saving money and leveraging elite status.
Use hotel points during peak periods when rates are high:
Those newer to points sometimes have a hard time figuring out when to use points and when to save them. We often use points to stay at properties during peak seasons when the rates are highest. At this family friendly resort, rates are highest when the kid’s are out of school and families want to play. This will apply to spring break, school holidays, New Year’s Eve, and weekends in the summer. While I have scored rates at this property as low as about $130 per night, this particular Saturday in August the rates were over $400 per night + taxes/fees. That meant that using 18,000 Hyatt points was a no-brainer. I was getting well over 2 cents per Hyatt point and avoiding having to pay the $25 per day resort fee and taxes. Those fees can really add up on more expensive stays, so this was a huge savings. Be aware that while Hyatt does not charge resort fees on award stays, this does not apply to all chains (or to Mlife hotels in Vegas when on Hyatt points).
Amount saved: $450 on the room
Use fixed value points or cash when rates are lower:
However, on the Sunday night that we stayed the equation changed. The rates had dropped to about $180 for the night, so using 18,000 Hyatt points no longer made sense. We would only be getting about 1 cent per point return for our Hyatt points, which is not good for us. If we had wanted to use points that night it would have made more sense to use fixed value points like those from the Barclay’s Arrival card as they are always worth 1 cent each toward travel, as opposed to a Hyatt point that can be worth more when used strategically.
The exception to this would have been if we were using a unique benefit like the Club Carlson Visa second award night free benefit. Then the calculation changes since you are getting two points nights for the price of one. If that had been available with Hyatt (can you even imagine?!) I would have stayed on points both nights.
Elite status saves you real money on food and drinks:
We earned our Hyatt Diamond status via 25 stays in a calendar year, but there are plenty of hotel status levels you can get without a ton of stays, or simply by having a co-branded credit card. In our case, our Hyatt Diamond status got us into the Regency Club. This meant we could eat breakfast there each morning, which conservatively saved at least $20 – $25 per morning for our family. We were also able to stock up on drinks and snacks in the club. Beer and wine was available in the club for less than 1/2 the price of anywhere else on the resort, so all-in we saved at least about $100 on the weekend by using the club. If we turned their evening snacks into dinner, we could have saved even more.
Our check-in amenity we selected was a bottle of wine and some crackers with cheese. The wine sold for about $35 at the resort, and the cheese crackers I imagine were at least $15. That meant that we got about $50 value from our check-in amenity since we probably would have had a snack and some drinks that first evening anyway.
Amount saved: $150 on food and drinks
Use points or status for suites:
On the night that we were staying on dollars, we were able to book the lowest cost room and then use a Diamond confirmed suite upgrade to move into a true one-bedroom suite. This gave us (and the dog) so much more room to spread out. You don’t even have to have Diamond status to get the confirmed upgrades, you can get two simply by having Hyatt Platinum status when you get the Hyatt Credit Card.
If you don’t have any upgrade certificates, you can also confirm to a suite by using additional points. This is often a much more economical route than shelling out the cash since suites can sometimes be quite expensive, but always do the math to see which is the better option in your situation.
Amount saved: $200 on suite upgrade
Free or reduced resort fees with status:
In addition to having the resort fee totally waived the night we used points, it is also reduced by $5 for Diamond members even on paid stays at this particular resort. That happens sometimes with other Hyatt resorts, as well as with some other chains. That is not a huge savings, but every little helps.
Amount saved: $5 on resort fee
Earn more points with elite status:
Elite status almost always means that you are earning more points for your stay. Again, this is not specific to Hyatt and applies to some status levels even if you got them via a credit card. In my particular case, Hyatt Diamond status gave me a 30% bonus on all points earned for the weekend. How much this amounts to will vary based on how much you spend at the resort, but a 30% bonus with points valued at a conservative 1.5 cents each means that for every eligible $100 you charge, you are earning an extra 150 points. If I didn’t want a food/drink amenity I would have been able to select 1,000 bonus points at check-in.
There is a very valid argument that you should only calculate what points/status save you based on what you would have spent without them. I don’t disagree with that, so it is possible that we didn’t really save over $800 on that weekend, but we certainly saved some of that. I don’t know exactly what we would and would not have spent money on, though I doubt we would have spent all $800 as that is a pretty substantial amount! There is also a less tangible reality that, even if some of this weren’t costs that were avoided, it all added together to make a more enjoyable experience than if we didn’t have status and points to give us things like suites, snacks, wine, et cetera.
What are some ways that your family uses elite status or points to save money and increase fun?