Press releases for Priority Club’s Hotels Anywhere online booking option hit the trade magazines yesterday. My initial title for this piece was “Priority Club’s Hotels Anywhere Offer is a Point Waster,” but after an analysis I had to change my opinion. There are some deals in this new program, in spite of, or perhaps due to the fact that there does not seem to be a direct correlation between a hotel’s room rate and the cost for a free night in Priority Club Rewards points. Hotels Anywhere link.
I looked into this points spending option to figure out how this is new or different or better than the existing option of the prepaid card program called Any Hotel, Anywhere?
The difference between the programs is this new Priority Club offer allows a member to instantly book a competitor’s hotel using Priority Club points, however, the selection of hotels available is limited to those found on the ezRez booking site. A “Hotels Anywhere” search for hotels in my home area of Monterey returned just four hotels. There are about 200 hotels on the Monterey Peninsula within ten miles of my home in one of California’s major tourist destinations.
The Any Hotel, Anywhere prepaid card program offers a fixed exchange rate based on the card denomination and allows the Priority Club member to exchange points for cash cards good at any hotel that takes American Express.
Any Hotel, Anywhere prepaid American Express cards come in five denominations for US members.
- $100 = 29,000 points (1,000 points = $3.45 cash)
- $125 = 34,000 points (1,000 points = $3.67 cash)
- $150 = 39,000 points (1,000 points = $3.85 cash)
- $200 = 49,000 points (1,000 points = $4.08 cash)
- $250 = 59,000 points (1,000 points = $4.24 cash)
Your points are worth 22.9% more cash when redeeming 59,000 points for a $250 card compared to 29,000 points for a $100 card.
Update May 21: Reader Udi points out in the comments what is perhaps the greatest advantage of prepaid cards over the Hotels Anywhere online booking with points — you can earn loyalty credit with SPG, Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt when booking rooms and paying for the room using Priority Club Any Hotel, Anywhere cards. You may find better exchange rates for your Priority Club points with online booking, however, online bookings will not be eligible for loyalty credit with the competitor loyalty programs.
The primary drawbacks to the Any Hotel, Anywhere cards are the fine print terms:
- Any Hotel, Anywhere card takes two to four weeks for delivery.
- These cards are not credit cards and can’t be used to hold hotel rooms.
- The card expires one year from date of issue.
Hotels Anywhere offers free nights for booking online instantly
The new Hotels Anywhere Priority Club feature is an online program allowing instant redemption of Priority Club points for hotel rooms. You need at least 20,000 points to be able to book a room. Most hotels offer a Points + Cash option at 20,000 points + cash. The Points + Cash option offers the better value for some hotels as shown in the rate analysis table below.
As previously stated, I found no direct correlation between the cost of a hotel room and the points needed for a free night. 47,000 points will buy a free night at the trendy Clift Hotel in San Francisco and save you $295. The Omni San Francisco is a hotel in the same competitive upper upscale market segment of San Francisco and this hotel will require 81,000 points to save $288.
The Hyatt Regency San Francisco cost 54,000 points for a free night compared to 58,000 points for the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. The Grand Hyatt room rate is almost $150 less than the Hyatt Regency for the night I checked.
Points redemption for Hotels Anywhere covers hotel room rate and hotel tax. An analysis of San Francisco hotels shows there are some good values available with Hotels Anywhere, but finding them takes some research.
When I checked Monterey/Carmel for hotels the Hotels Anywhere site only returned four hotels. The date of May 28, 2010 is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and a major tourist holiday for the Monterey Peninsula. One night at the Embassy Suites is more than the cost of two nights at the The Clement InterContinental Monterey. Even more perplexing is the higher priced cost in points at 74,000 for one night at a budget motel when the Embassy Suites is a far nicer upper upscale hotel.
The Priority Club Hotels Anywhere program seems to have several price anomalies at this time. The algorithm used to determine Priority Club points needed for a free night is a mystery to me. The current state of the program offers some good redemption values. Find one in your favor like the Marriott San Francisco Airport or Clift Hotel in San Francisco and this can be a great way to check out upscale hotels at a bargain or use your Priority Club points to book the hotel where you need to be rather than the neighborhood IHG property.