In 2018, I booked 85 hotel nights across 10 hotel loyalty programs with only 2 non-chain nights. I regularly read leisure traveler arguments for hotels.com being a better rebate value at 10% of your average spend than hotel loyalty programs. Hotel loyalty programs bring my nightly room rate down to about $50 per night over the course of the year with 80 or so hotel nights.
The deconstruction of my 85 hotel nights in ten different loyalty program helps shed light on the redemption value of points I found in 2018 using hotel loyalty programs to earn points and redeem points for reward stays. Most of my hotel travel is unrelated to credit card acquisition and spend. In 2018, I redeemed one free night from a Hyatt Visa credit card and one free night from IHG Mastercard.
$1,383 spent for 19 paid nights = $72.79 per room night.
19 hotel nights were paid nights spending $1,383. Of these 19 paid nights, 3 nights were at Marriott hotels through auction wins where I paid $94 for $645.40 in room nights on my trip to Atlanta in fall 2018.
66 hotel nights were booked using hotel points with room rates of $11,683. Since some of these were Cash & Points rates with $654 cash copayment, my total cash spend was $2,037 for 66 nights booked.
My 2018 points purchases totaled around $1,500, with about $1,200 of that for 230,000 Choice Privileges points. I also purchased points in Hilton Honors ($300 for 54,000) and Wyndham ($13 for 1,000 points) purchases.
In all, I spent around $4,000 in 2018 for 85 hotel nights with room rates totaling around $13,500.
Below I outline by chain the hotels I stayed in 2018 for 83 nights using hotel loyalty programs.
Best Western Rewards = 13 Reward Nights = $2,819 room rates for 170,000 points
- BWR points redemption value = $16.58 per 1,000 points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 BWR Points Valuation = $7.00 per 1,000 points.
- Daily Getaways 2018 sold 50,000 BWR points for $275.00.
About 100,000 Best Western Rewards points in 2018 were earned from Diners Club points transfers at ratio of 1,250 DC points = 3,300 Best Western points.
High redemption value from Best Western Rewards is primarily due to fall 2017 and fall 2018 promotions for any hotel in North America at 10,000 points. I used these promotions for hotel stays in Key West, Florida in January 2018 and Disneyland in November 2018 during Thanksgiving holiday week. Best Western has the closest hotels to the Disneyland park entrance without staying at a Disney property.
Choice Privileges = 22 Reward Nights = $4,405 room rates for 230,000 points
- Choice Privileges points redemption value = $19.15 per 1,000 points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 Choice Privileges Points Valuation = $6.00 per 1,000 points.
- Daily Getaways 2018 purchases 223,000 points for $1,123.00 = $5.04 per 1,000 points.
Hilton Honors = 7 Paid Nights ($472) + 10 Reward Nights ($1,039) = $1,511 room rates using 69,000 points
- Hilton points redemption value = $1,039/69,000 = $15.05 per 1,000 points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 Hilton Honors Points Valuation = $6.00 per 1,000 points.
- Hilton Honors regularly offers promotions for 80% and 100% bonus points on points purchases.
- Loyalty Traveler – Hilton Honors points at $5 per 1,000 through May 28, 2019.
IHG Rewards Club = 5 Paid Nights ($452) + 1 Reward Nights (IHG Mastercard annual free night $453) = $905 room rates.
- My IHG points redemption value is undetermined for 2018.
- In general, I do not think IHG points are good value in most places, except for PointBreaks reward nights. I booked PointBreaks stays at InterContinental Kiev (3-night room rate $855 for 45,000 points), Holiday Inn Express Greenwich (2-night room rate $452.10 for 30,000 points), Holiday Inn Express London Hammersmith (2-night room rate $299 for 30,000 points) and InterContinental Bucharest (2-night room rate $631 for 30,000 points), but ended up canceling each of these stays. Redemption value for these 9 nights would have been $2,237 room rates for 135,000 points = $16.57 per 1,000 IHG points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 IHG Rewards Club Points Valuation = $5.00 per 1,000 points.
- I don’t buy IHG points since they are so easy to earn on hotel stays with lucrative promotions several times each year. I regularly earn 100,000 points per year through IHG promotions.
- My 2018 IHG points earning was lowered due to no hotel travel March to May 2018, followed by a bonehead booking mistake in July for two stays in Krakow, Poland that would have earned 26,500 additional points if I had used the mobile app to book these two hotel nights. I ended up earning only 5,000 bonus points for IHG Summer 2018 Accelerate promotion. In November 2018 I earned 44,000 points with 3 hotel nights on a road trip to Disneyland.
- Loyalty Traveler – Thanksgiving road trip earned 44,000 IHG points for $255
- Loyalty Traveler – IHG 80% bonus points reduces price to $5.56 per 1,000 points through May 1, 2019.
Marriott Rewards = 4 Paid Nights ($253) + 1 Reward Night ($327 free night) = $1,131 room rates.
- Marriott is the most complex of my hotel program deals to deconstruct since I never redeemed points for reward stays.
- A fall 2017 promotion offered one free night at a category 5 hotel after two stays. My two stays were Moxy London Stratford ($71) at Christmas break and AC Marriott Bella Sky in Copenhagen ($159) during the first week of January 2018. I booked a prepaid nonrefundable rate with breakfast at AC Bella Sky. We arrived at the hotel from Prague at 9am and the receptionist gave us breakfast buffet vouchers for that morning and the next day. Plus, we earned a free night valid for six months. We redeemed the free night at the Marriott Rewards category 5 Marriott Sopot Resort & Spa in Poland when room rates were $327. Kelley said the Marriott Sopot beach resort was her favorite hotel of 2018.
- Essentially, I earned 25,000 points for $230 in spend. $327/25,000 points = $13.08 per 1,000 points redemption value.
- The Points Guy April 2019 Marriott Rewards Points Valuation = $8.00 per 1,000 points.
- The other three nights with Marriott were from the Omaha Marriott Business Council auction in late 2017 where I had winning bids for JW Marriott Atlanta (2 nights $71), Marriott Emory University Atlanta (1 night $23), Marriott Heidelberg (2 nights $56) and Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort, Australia (4 nights $104). Australia and Germany did not work out in my travel plans. Too bad those $560 tickets to Australia so common this summer were not around last summer. Missing out on those high value hotel stays made me reluctant to bid in 2018’s auction.
- Loyalty Traveler – 2018 Marriott Omaha Business Council online auction good deals (Sep 13, 2018).
Nordic Choice Club = 1 reward night = $306 room rate = 10,000 points
- Nordic Choice Club = 1 award night. This stay was a fluke of good fortune. I redeemed hundreds of thousands of Choice Privileges points over the past 5 years staying at Nordic Choice Hotels in Norway and Sweden. Several of the hotels in Norway had never seen a Choice Privileges reward rate code on their computer system and ended up charging me for the room night. I would also give each Nordic Choice Hotel I stayed at my Nordic Choice Club account number in case I spent any money at the hotel. Choice Privileges points only redeemed for Nordic Choice Hotels and cannot be earned. Over the years, I somehow picked up 10,000 points in two different Nordic Choice Club accounts without ever spending any money at the Nordic Choice Hotels I stayed at using Choice Privileges reward nights. Unsolicited, an employee who read my blog, noticed I had two different Nordic Choice Club account numbers and offered to merge my accounts. I ended up with 10,000 points in one account and redeemed those points for a free night at Comfort Hotel Vesterbro Copenahgen last summer when the room rate was $306 USD.
Radisson Rewards = 7 reward nights = $1,229 room rates = 123,000 points
- Radisson Rewards points redemption value = $1,229/123,000 = $9.99 per 1,000 points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 Radisson Rewards Points Valuation = $4.00 per 1,000 points.
- Radisson Rewards regularly offers promotions 75%bonus points on points purchases and offered 100% in fall 2018.
- Loyalty Traveler – Radisson Rewards $3.50/1,000 points offers good hotel discounts (Nov 27, 2018).
- Radisson Rewards sold a majority stake to HNA Tourism Group, a Chinese conglomerate in 2016 and changes over the past couple years have greatly reduced the value of points and loyalty promotions in the program. Over the years I have managed weeks of award nights in London burning Club Carlson points. 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 weekend rates in Europe allowed me to earn hundreds of thousands of points and free nights in the past few years. When the hotel category changes were announced in early 2018 I focused on burning points in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. We stayed in Lithuania 6 nights, but canceled our Latvia and Estonia hotel stays. I kind of regret missing the good value we would have found there. Park Inn Kaunas and Radisson Blu Klaipeda increased category in 2018 and 2019 with Park Inn Kaunas increasing from category 1 at 9,000 points to category 3 at 28,000 points. Radisson Blu Klaipeda increased from category 2 at 15,000 points to category 4 at 38,000 points in past 14 months.
Starwood Preferred Guest = 1 Cash & Points reward night = $214 = 5,000 point + $75
- Starwood Preferred Guest points redemption value = $214-$75 = $139/5,000 = $27.80 per 1,000 points.
- I held SPG Platinum elite for about a decade. Around 2014 I mostly dropped the program when I consistently found better value for my hotel spend in other loyalty programs.
- Another circumstance of chance with SPG in June 2018 is we had a flight from Gdansk to Krakow, Poland on LOT Polish the day we checked out of Sheraton Sopot. After 8 hours at the airport waiting for our 3 hour delayed flight, it was cancelled. At 2am in the morning we were headed back to Sheraton Sopot, which happened to be the hotel contracted with LOT Polish. Even better than our Cash & Points night, our airline paid night included breakfast and a meal voucher and taxi transportation to and from Gdansk Airport. We arrived in Krakow 22 hours after our original scheduled time. In September we received $580 in compensation for our $112 ticket price. I also lost $56 for the 10,000 Hilton points I had redeemed for Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport on the night we stayed at Sheraton Sopot.
World of Hyatt = 2 reward nights = $500 rates = Hyatt Visa night + 15,000 points
- A two night stay at Hyatt Regency Amsterdam was paid using the Hyatt Visa annual free night and a second night booked as a category 4 standard reward for 15,000 points. We were given a room upgrade, access to the lounge and complimentary breakfast both mornings for about a $500 value stay.
- World of Hyatt points redemption value = $250 = $250/15,000 = $16.67 per 1,000 points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 Radisson Rewards Points Valuation = $17.00 per 1,000 points.
- Daily Getaways has sold Hyatt points for about $10 to $11 per 1,000 points each year since at least 2011. This sale is in such high demand that only a small fraction of people who try to buy points each year are successful in reaching a landing page in the first few seconds of the sale to actually make a purchase. Hyatt periodically has promotional sales dropping the purchase price to about $17.50-$18 per 1,000 points.
- Like the former SPG, Hyatt is a program I held Diamond elite membership in for several years, but dropped the program when I found promotions too focused on staying a large number of nights. My travels focused on Scandinavia, UK, and Central Europe the past few years have been places where Hyatt properties are not present or outrageously expensive. I have slowly been redeeming my points mostly at category 1 airport hotels for 5,000 points per night over the past few years.
Wyndham Rewards = 1 paid night ($97) + 7 reward nights ($1,358) for 45,000 points = $1,455 room rates
- Wyndham Rewards points redemption value = $1,358/45,000 = $30.17 per 1,000 points.
- The Points Guy April 2019 Wyndham Rewards Points Valuation = $11.00 per 1,000 points.
- Wyndham Rewards lost most of its value for me when they changed GoFast reward rates in early 2018 from a fixed amount to 65% of the Best Flexible Rate. The outsized value in Wyndham Rewards are hotels where higher category rooms, even suites at some properties, are available at standard rates. The 2018 change meant the GoFree reward rate for an Executive Panoramic room at Ramada Apollo Amsterdam increased from 3,000 points + a fixed amount of 65.50 EUR (about $80) per night in early 2018 to about $180 copay at New Year’s 2019 when I redeemed the remainder of my Wyndham Rewards points for 3 standard reward nights. This hotel loyalty program provided some great hotel reward value for my travel between 2015 and 2018, but I am basically done with the program now.
- Daily Getaways sold Wyndham Rewards points at rate of $175 for 15,000 points in 2018.
Conclusion – In 2018 Hotel Loyalty Programs provided great value for my travel needs
In conclusion, I place very little value in the generic points value some bloggers like The Points Guy give loyalty points. I see that as only a benchmark to exceed.
What matters to me is potential value of hotel points. I look at the cost to acquire points through hotel stays and purchases and the redemption value I can get from those points at specific hotels in places I plan to travel. Different hotel loyalty programs have different points values depending on the destination and dates traveling.
While many travelers swear by Airbnb and hotels.com or the benefits of holding high elite status in major chain hotel loyalty programs, I have developed into a traveler who looks at my lodging choices in each destination and picks what works out to be the best combination of hotels for me to earn and use points.
Over the years I still find hotel loyalty programs provide the best value for my travels. In all fairness to the independent lodging traveler, there are probably better properties everywhere I go. But overall, I don’t see how I can get lower cost rooms than I manage through hotel loyalty programs. My focus is more on the destination and the hotel is simply a means to stay comfortably in the place where I plan to visit.
Another factor important to me is I simply do not want to spend hours and hours seeking out the most incredible deal available in a city like Amsterdam or Prague where there are hundreds or even thousands of lodging choices. I find narrowing my focus to hotel loyalty program options provides a good filter to focus my attention. And only if I do not find a hotel loyalty program deal for my destination, then I look at independent hotels and book that option when I think it is a better value.
That only happened two nights in 2018 for lodging I needed in Cluj-Napoca, Romania ($51 for a decent city center apartment) and Reykjavik, Iceland ($58 for a city center bijou bare minimalist room with a bed).
As long as I find hotel loyalty programs allow me to stay inexpensively, then I will focus on earning and burning hotel points when I travel. Overall, I spent less than $4,000 in 2018 for 85 hotel nights. Those are the kinds of hotel deals that make me a loyalty traveler.