HomeHotel LoyaltyHilton HonorsThe hotel points game is alive and well, you just have to...

The hotel points game is alive and well, you just have to play harder


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At the risk of sounding old, I’m going to say that the miles & points game was a lot easier 15 years ago. Back then, most travel loyalty programs still had fixed award charts, international flight upgrades weren’t rarer than unicorns, hotels didn’t (usually) play games with elite benefits, and ‘Bonvoy’ wasn’t a verb.

In the years since, we’ve seen both airline and hotel programs moving to more revenue-based models, and with this change came the worry that the days of booking good value award redemptions were rapidly on the way out.

Well, there’s good news on that front.

Yes, finding amazing or just good-value hotel awards is now harder than it was all those years ago, but even though three of the four major hotel programs now link the cost of an award night to the cash rate being charged (to varying degrees), and even though the fourth big program has devalued its award chart considerably since the sunshine-filled days well over a decade ago, good deals can still be found.

A quick bit of research

While I was stuck on a snow covered taxiway a few days ago, I decided to pass the time by looking to see what kinds of deals could still be found using the currencies issued by IHG, Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt, and while some currencies were a lot easier to use effectively than others (this is not news), my results (limited as they were) showed that we haven’t yet lost all the value out of the hotel points game.

We may have to work a little harder than in the past (this applies to some programs more than others), and the number of ‘amazing deals’ on offer may be noticeably much lower nowadays, but the game is still alive and well if you’re prepared to play harder.

Here are a few examples of what I mean (keep in mind that I was deliberately trying to find dates on which the value that each point offered was as high as possible so I’m not suggesting that these are ‘standard’ results).

IHG

Here’s an example where a property is charging $484/night before taxes …

a screenshot of a hotel

… which rises to over $604/night when taxes and fees are added in:

a screenshot of a phone

The same room can be booked (for the same night) with 75,000 IHG points + a rip-off amenity fee:

a screenshot of a hotel room

If we strip out the amenity fee from both rates, we are left with the choice of paying $562.44 or 75,000 points for the night and booking this as an award night would see us getting ~0.75 cents of value out of every point.

Spectacular? No. But that’s still pretty good for a currency that I value at just 0.4 cents/point, and which is frequently on sale for just 0.5 cents/point.

Hilton

The screenshot that you see below is the cost to stay at the Hilton London Park Lane on New Year’s eve 2024, and while at least two of the other Hilton properties in London want 200,000 – 450,000 points for a room on the same night, this property will let members use just 80,000 points to book a room costing $752. (including taxes).

a screenshot of a hotel room

This is a booking that would get a Hilton Honors member 0.94 cents of value out of every point used, and as this is a currency that’s frequently on sale for just 0.5 cents/point, that’s a pretty fantastic redemption.

Marriott

Here’s the West Hollywood EDITION charging $808 (including taxes and rip-off fee) for a single night in May …

a screenshot of a hotel room

… and here’s the same night on offer for 85,000 points + rip-off fee:

a screenshot of a hotel room

Adjusting for the rip off fee, the EDITION is giving Bonvoy members the option of paying 85,000 points to cover a cash rate of approximately $768, and a member choosing the points option would get ~0.9 cents/point in value.

Once again, this isn’t a spectacular return, but it’s a return that I found without much trouble and as most people who play this game seem to value Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents or under (I value them at 0.6 cents each), that’s  pretty good redemption.

With Marriott, things can sometimes look slight better on the wrong other coast.

Here’s the St. Regis New York charging $1,148 (including taxes and rip-off fee) or 108,000 points + rip-off fee for a single night in June (complete with butler service):

a screenshot of a hotel room

Adjusting for the rip-off fee, an award booking here would see a Bonvoy member using 108,000 points to cover a $1,098 cash rate which equates to ~1.02 cents/point in value.

Yes, I can remember the days when you could get double that value out of Marriott or Starwood points so I’m not suggesting that this is an incredible deal.

What I am suggesting, however, is that this is a good deal (Bonvoy sold points for under 0.85 cents last year) and one which shows that using Bonvoy points can still offer decent value despite all the devaluations the program has foisted on us over recent years.

Hyatt

At the time of writing, Hyatt is the outlier program out of the four programs mentioned in this article because it’s the only one that doesn’t tie the cash rate to the cost of an award while also making awards reasonably easy to find (at most properties).

Here, for example, is another New Year’s Eve booking where the cash rate is $995/night (including taxes and fees) …

a screenshot of a hotel purchase

… and where the award cost for the same room on the same night is 29,000 points:

a screenshot of a hotel room

That’s the equivalent of getting ~3.4 cents of value out of every point … and that’s pretty spectacular.

Here’s another example.

Here, the cash rate for another New Year’s Eve booking is $491…

… while the same room on the same night can be booked for just 23,000 points.

That’s the equivalent of getting ~2.1 cents of value out of every point and, while that’s not as amazing as my first example, that’s still pretty good for a currency that is often on sale for under 1.85 cents/point and which can be earned with remarkable ease through cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points (e.g. card_name, card_name, card_name, etc….).

Lastly, I couldn’t resist throwing in one of the more ridiculous deals that I saw*.

Here’s the Grand Hyatt Tokyo charging $1,630 for a standard room in April (no, I have no idea why it’s so expensive either):

a screenshot of a hotel

And here is a standard room with Club Access available for 33,000 points on the same night:

a screenshot of a hotel room

That’s a booking that would see a World of Hyatt member getting over 4.9 cents of value out of each point, and that’s before a true like-for-like comparison is made.

That calculation assumes that both bookings would be equal when, in fact, the points booking gives Club Access where the cash booking does not, and with the cash rate for the Club access room coming in at over $2,000, a like-for-like comparison actually shows a WoH member getting over 6.0 cents of value 🙂

*In fairness, this would only be a truly amazing deal if you really wanted to stay at this property as if you didn’t really care which Hyatt you stayed at in Tokyo, other cheaper options would be available.

Bottom line

What I’m not trying to do here is suggest that it’s still incredibly easy to get great value out of all the major hotel currencies, because that’s simply not true.

What I am trying to show, however, is that the hotel points game isn’t dead and that with a bit of application, flexibility and forward planning, good/very good deals can still be found.

The game lives on … for now.

For Your Consideration

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