Jul302013

Redeeming Choice Privileges points and SPG award warning

In 1991 I got into the hotel loyalty game after redeeming my first free night at the Clarion San Francisco Airport. That hotel was replaced by Starwood Hotels Aloft San Francisco Airport in the past couple years.

The Clarion chain is still around. I stayed at Clarion Grand Junction, Colorado in May 2013 as my second qualifying stay for 8,000 Choice Privileges points. Choice Hotels are not a chain I frequent regularly, but sometimes this chain is the best option for places I go.

Comfort Inn Durango, Colorado $71 rate earned 710 base points. My rate for the Clarion Grand Junction was $98.59 and earned 986 base points.

986 + 710 = 1,696 base points. I have no elite status with Choice Privileges for elite bonus points. The two stays at Choice Hotels in May 2013 earned 8,000 points. The regularly recurring Choice Privileges promotion for 8,000 points after two hotel stays provided 6,304 bonus points for my second stay at the Clarion for 7,290 total points.

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Earn 8,000 points after two stays at Choice Hotels properties is a recurring Choice Privileges promotion. The current Choice Privileges 8,000 points offer runs through August 21, 2013.

Clarion Hotel Grand Junction is located directly off the Interstate 70 for an easy on-off when traveling the western region of Colorado. Heading east, the Rocky Mountain towns in the resort areas will likely be higher priced, although there are some good timeshare condo deals to be found in summer. Heading west, the next town is Green River, Utah, another 100 miles. I made stops in both these places on my two road trips to Denver the past three months.

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Clarion Grand Junction, Colorado is a 2013 Gold Award Winner from the Choice Hotels chain.

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The hotel had indoor and outdoor pools and a large recreation area within the hotel.

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Fussball tables, air hockey and pool table (out of view).

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Clarion Hotel reception desk lobby.

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One bedroom suites were available for about $20 more per night than the standard room.

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One bedroom suite at Clarion Grand Junction.

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Suite even came with double sinks.

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Standard room at Clarion has all the modern conveniences including an empty mini-refrigerator.

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Standard King room with desk, cushion chair, coffee maker.

Breakfast was included in the room rate at the Clarion.

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Clarion Inn Grand Junction, Colorado is currently 12,000 Choice Privileges points per award night.

Comfort Inn Green River

I needed a hotel stay on my recent July road trip from Denver to Monterey. Green River, Utah was a 340-mile drive from Denver and a good place to stop for the night along Interstate 70.

The hotel was $105 after tax for a paid night or 16,000 Choice Privileges points.

One thing to know about Choice Privileges points is they expire at the end of the year, the second calendar year they were earned.

In June 2011 I earned points I needed to use before they expire December 31, 2013. The expiration date of my points prompted me to spend 16,000 points for the free night, even though I think I could have found a better value somewhere else. Too many times I have waited for better value and ended up getting no value when free hotel nights and hotel points expired before I used them.

Getting a $105 free room with 16,000 points I earned on about $320 in room rates for the four Choice Hotels stays over the past two years is a good hotel value rebate.

The best aspect of redeeming Choice Privileges points.

My award reservation for Comfort Inn Green River, Utah had some favorable conditions associated with the points redemption.

  • 4pm day-of-arrival cancellation with no penalty.
  • Room hold guarantee until 7am the day following date of arrival.
  • No show and no cancellation results in loss of points for award night.

 

Choice Privileges hotel redemption vs. SPG hotel award redemption

The third bullet is an important aspect of booking hotel award nights with points.

Last year I booked a category 2 Starwood Hotel for a Friday night using 3,000 points for a weekend night.

And then I completely forgot about the booking and booked a different hotel for my trip where I actually stayed the night in a city 50 miles from the original Starwood Hotel I booked.

I did not realize I had a ‘no show stay’ at Starwood Hotels until I received a $135 charge on my credit card used to guarantee the room.

The default position of Starwood Preferred Guest is to charge the guest the hotel room rate and return the points back to the account. In my case, the rate charged for the room exceeded the value of 3,000 points.

SPG charges $105 for 3,000 points and periodic sales reduce the cost to buy 3,000 points to $84. My preference would have been to lose 3,000 Starpoints rather than pay $135.

SPG allows a guest who has been charged for a no show award the opportunity to forfeit the award points rather than pay the room rate charge, but this requires a special request within 60 days of the charged award night.

3.2.g. If an SPG Member fails to cancel a guaranteed SPG Award reservation within the permitted cancellation time, the SPG Participating Hotel will charge the applicable cancellation fee to the credit card provided by the SPG Member at the time the reservation was made and the Starpoints that had been redeemed will be redeposited into the SPG Member’s account. For Free Night Awards only, an SPG Member may request a refund of the cancellation fees charged by forfeiting the Starpoints that he/she had redeemed for the SPG Award by emailing his/her request to chargechange@starwoodhotels.com no later than 60 days after the reservation arrival date, provided that the SPG Member has adequate Starpoints in his/her account.

SPG T&C

The 60-days after arrival had already passed by the time I learned about my no show for the Starwood Hotel in early 2012.

 

Comfort Inn Green River, Utah

Travelers on the road between California and Denver will likely find themselves stopping in Richfield or Green River, Utah, Fruita or Grand Junction, Colorado. These are the only towns for lodging on more than 200 miles of Interstate 70.

Comfort Inn Green River was a decent property to stay the night. On a 2011 road trip I stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn Express Green River and that is also a good property for this small town.

Looks like I failed to take any photos of the standard room at Comfort Inn. The hotel had Direct TV with many channels, an indoor swimming pool, and complimentary hot noodle soup and chili in the lobby when we arrived around 7pm.

The only complaint I had about the hotel is our room door did not close properly without a little firm assistance to get the lock to latch. I called it the body-slam-against-the-door room.

Green River is about 50 miles northwest of Moab, Utah and a less expensive place to spend the night before heading into the area of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks between Green River and Moab.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. With the Chase Amtrak card, I can transfer UR points to Choice at a 1:3 ratio. Do you think this is worthwhile? That is, is the Chase Amtrak worth obtaining and is that a good value for their hotels?

  2. @Steven – Sorry. I really don’t think much about credit cards. I would have to do an analysis to intelligently answer the question.

    Basic answer is many Choice Hotels in nicer areas are 20,000 to 28,000 points. What are your other options for points? And how much are Choice points saving in hotel expense?

    8,000 points have the potential to save $200 or more in select high priced hotels on special award rates in Europe.

  3. You forgot the town of Salina whch is just before Richfield. It’s where US 50 and I-70 split. There are a few hotels there…mostly low budget ones like econolodge and super8.

  4. @Steven – Amtrak has restrictions on re-transferring out points that you transfer in from another partner. Make sure you would qualify for that before you transfer.

    I believe the Chase Amtrak is a no annual fee card, so you could always get it if you are going to use Amtrak anyway. Look for the best offer on Flyertalk before you get it because offers vary widely.

    Look at Choice hotels you might redeem points at and see what value you would get from those points. I’ve seen redemptions under $.005 per point and redemptions over $.01 per point, so it can vary widely. Compare that to the other redemptions for which you would use UR points. I tend to get between $.015 and $.03 for United redemptions, so that works better for me. Southwest gives about $.018/point, so that is probably the minimum you should shoot for.

    @Ric – something to remember with Choice points is that if all else fails, you can convert them to airline miles in December of the year they would expire – assuming you have enough. Not the best deal, but still something.

  5. @Charles – thanks for the response to the reader’s question. I am writing an article and too focused on that yesterday to dive into Amtrak. Amtrak is such a small travel component in my life. Now if they would just build that high speed rail connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles, then I might take more of an interest in Amtrak.

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