Earning miles instead of hotel points for stays
Earning miles for hotel stays may be a good choice when seeking miles to top off an account for a frequent flier award. Picking up 2,000 miles that places you within reach of an airline award after four hotel stays may have more tangible and immediate value than hotel points.
Your hotel travel pattern will determine your best route to miles. Eight of the ten hotel chains surveyed for this article award miles based on a fixed rate per hotel stay. A frequent guest with numerous one-night stays can potentially earn far greater miles through hotel stays than using hotel points-to-miles exchange.
500 miles per stay is most common across industry, 250 miles at economy chains
Hotel loyalty programs offer 500 airline miles per hotel stay as the most common earning rate for airline partners. Best Western and Choice offer just 250 miles per hotel stay with most airlines.
A general rule for hotel programs is a member choosing to earn airline miles will not earn hotel points for the same stay. Choosing to earn miles for hotel stays also makes the member ineligible for most points-based loyalty promotions.
Check with your hotel program’s customer service for details on setting your account to earn miles and the impact of earning miles on other promotional offers.
Hilton HHonors lays claim to being the only program to regularly offer both points and miles for the same hotel stay, although Hyatt and Starwood have allowed promotional miles to be earned in addition to hotel points on several occasions in the past year. Hilton HHonors also distinguishes itself with the most airline partners of any hotel program at more than 50 airlines.
1 Program offers variable earning depending on hotel brand and/or elite level.
2 Carlson goldpoints plus: 500 miles per stay at Radisson and Park Plaza brands. 250 miles for Country Inn and Park Inn.
Keep in mind that goldpoints plus has a high points earning rate at 20 base points per $1 in hotel spend at a Radisson or 15 points per $1 for Country Inn and Park Inn. Promotional bonus points and elite bonuses may offer higher miles earning potential in a points-to-miles exchange rather than earning miles for hotel stays.
Example: Exchange points-to-miles with goldpoints plus at rate of 2,000 points = 250 miles; 50,000 points = 8,000 miles; 100,000 points = 18,000 miles.
Spend $400 on a Country Inn stay and you earn 6,000 points as a base member with no elite or promotional bonuses. The 6,000 points convert into 750 miles in a points-to-miles exchange and offers a better earning rate than 250 fixed miles for your hotel stay.
Goldpoints Plus bonuses can lead to high miles earning by collecting points and exchanging goldpoints into miles. The recent goldpoints plus quadruple points promotion on a four-night stay at a Radisson Hotel spending $800 as a top elite member with a 50% elite bonus earned 90 points per dollar. A member could earn 72,000 points on a single four-night hotel stay. Convert 72,000 points-to-miles and you earn 10,750 miles. That sure beats choosing fixed miles and earning just 500 miles per Radisson stay.
3 Choice Privileges – Airline partners earn 250 miles per stay. Southwest earns 0.5 credit per stay. Choice Privileges does not give points or miles for hotel stays in the following countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden.
4 Fairmont President’s Club – General members earn 500 miles per stay. Premier elite earn 750 miles per stay. Platinum elite earn 1,000 miles per stay.
5 Hilton HHonors – Most airlines earn 500 miles per stay. Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites only earn 20% miles with most airlines. Southwest earns 0.5 credit per stay with any Hilton brand. Aeroplan earns no miles for Homewood Suites.
6 Hyatt Gold Passport – Almost all airlines earn 500 miles per stay.
7 InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards – Airlines in the Americas (except Air Canada Aeroplan) earn 2 miles per US$1 for Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Hotel Indigo. Earn 1 mile per $1 for Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. Earn 500 miles per stay for InterContinental Hotels. Air Canada Aeroplan earns 500 miles per stay, regardless of brand.
8Marriott Rewards – Earn 2 miles per $1 at Marriott, Renaissance, J.W. Marriott, Autograph Collection, and Marriott Vacation Club International. All other brands: Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites, Marriott Executive Apartments earn 1 mile per $1.
The high exchange rate for Marriott points-to-miles transfers generally favors earning points for hotel stays and then transfer Marriott Rewards points-to-miles.
Assume $2,000 is spent over 5 stays and 13 nights. The hotel stays earn 20,000 points or 4,000 miles. You will actually earn 25% more miles by earning points and exchange 20,000 points into 5,000 airline miles through Marriott Rewards.
9Starwood SPG Most airlines exchange at rate of 1 point = 1 mile. Elite members earn 3 points per $1, thus 3 miles per $1 with most airlines. Members may choose to earn Direct Deposit Airline Miles. SPG points convert on 1:1 basis to airline miles automatically as earned . This is a better rate for earning miles than the exchange rate of 2 points = 1 mile for Continental Airlines and United Airlines.
Airline Direct Deposit earns 20,000 miles for 20,000 points with airline partners, including Continental and United, but points-to-miles exchange only earns 12,500 miles for airlines with a 2 points = 1 mile exchange rate.
Earning Starpoints rather than Airline Direct Deposit is a better miles earning method for most SPG airline partners with a 1 point = 1 mile exchange rate. The 25% miles bonus for 20,000 point transfers earns 25,000 miles with most airlines.
10Wyndham Rewards – Wyndham Hotels and Hawthorn Suites earn 500 miles per stay with most airlines. Other Wyndham brands earn 2 miles per US$1 with most airlines.
The Southwest Airlines Factor – All brands in all hotel chains partnering with Southwest earn 0.5 credit per stay. A free roundtrip flight on Southwest requires 16 credits. Best Western and Choice normally earn 250 miles per stay. This is just 1% of a 25,000 mile airline ticket. Hotels offering 500 miles per stay earn 2% of a domestic award. Southwest earns over 3% of the 16 credits needed for a free domestic ticket with every stay. Southwest is the safe play when staying outside your primary hotel loyalty programs or for hotel stays with low miles earning potential.
Hilton HHonors Factor
For example, ten 1-night stays at a Hilton Garden Inn earn 500 miles per hotel stay if HHonors account is set to earn Points & Fixed Miles. Spending $1,000 earns 10,000 HHonors points and 5,000 United Airlines miles (or miles from about 50 other airlines). You can change 10,000 HHonors points into another 1,000 miles for 6,000 miles total.
HHonors Points & Variable miles with $1,000 in hotel spend will earn 1,000 miles (1 mile per dollar) in this scenario and 10,000 HHonors points. Convert the 10,000 points into 1,000 miles and you earn only 2,000 miles compared to 6,000 miles with Points & Fixed Miles.
Change the stay pattern to one stay with $1,000 in hotel spend. Points and Variable Miles still earns 2,000 total miles, whereas Points and Fixed Miles will only earn 500 miles for the stay and 10,000 points for another 1,000 miles. Your choice is 1,500 miles earning Points & Fixed Miles or 2,000 miles choosing Points & Variable Miles.
Choose HHonors Points & Points and earn 15 points per dollar (15,000 points for $1,000 in hotel spend). HHonors points need to be transferred in 10,000 point increments so you will only be able to exchange 10,000 points for 1,000 United miles.
Related Loyalty Traveler posts:
Here is a link to my March 28 Loyalty traveler post comparing Points-to-Miles exchange rates across hotel programs. This earlier post may not be a precise exchange rate analysis, but the general picture is pretty clear for comparing the major programs for miles earning potential with airlines in the Americas.