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I made a post about which credit cards to use for hotel stays back in March, and I included what I value the major hotel points currencies at. That being said, I didn’t explain the reasoning behind my valuations, so hopefully this helps in that regard. After careful consideration I’ve also rethought some of my valuations based on comments left by readers, as I’ll explain below.
To provide a really rough explanation of my thought process, my points valuation is somewhat based on the assumption that one values a free night at a top hotel around $300-350. Ultimately I’m all about the “aspirational” award, so I think one important aspect in valuing points is comparing how many points are needed for a redemption at a top hotel. The “base” value of $300 goes up for me when hotels honor elite benefits on award stays (free breakfast, internet, room upgrades, etc.), count them towards elite status, etc., which can add a lot of value to a stay.
With that in mind, here we go:
Hilton HHonors — 0.8 cents/point
While Hilton does have some pretty decent properties, they also have among the highest award costs. Their category 7 hotels are 50,000 points per night, so at 0.8 cents per point I’m valuing those at $320 per night. I think that’s a fair valuation for hotels like the Conrad Hong Kong, Conrad Maldives, etc. Best of all Hilton not only honors all elite benefits on award stays, but also offers points and stay credits.
But the real value in Hilton’s award chart comes with their AXON awards, which offer points discounts on longer stays at category 5-7 properties, for those with the Hilton American Express credit card. For example, four nights at a category 7 hotel would usually cost 200,000 points, though through the AXON award chart would only cost 145,000 points, which basically means you’re getting the fourth night free and then some. You can read more about AXON awards in this FlyerTalk post.
So I do think Hilton points are a valuable points currency, it’s just that they don’t have quite as many aspirational properties as some other chains, and their redemption costs are definitely on the high end.
Best credit card(s) for earning Hilton HHonors points: Hilton Surpass American Express Card, which offers nine points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, six points per dollar spent at gas stations and drugstores, and three points per dollar spent on everything else
Hyatt Gold Passport — 1.6 cents/point
On one hand I’m very tempted to value Hyatt points at more than 1.6 cents per point, though I do think this is the fairest valuation. Hyatt’s award costs are much lower than Hilton’s, though you also earn substantially fewer points for stays and through their credit card.
Their top hotels are 22,000 points per night, so at a valuation of 1.6 cents per point, that’s basically valuing a night at one of their top properties at $352. It’s worth noting that Hyatt also honors all elite benefits on award stays, so you get free internet, breakfast, room upgrades, etc., as a Diamond member on an award stay.
The thing that really makes Gold Passport such an amazing loyalty program is the ability to redeem points at Park Hyatt hotels. They’re among my favorite hotels of any chain, so being able to turn my points into stays at amazing hotels like the Park Hyatt Dubai, Park Hyatt Melbourne, Park Hyatt Seoul, Park Hyatt Shanghai, Park Hyatt Tokyo, is a large part of what makes the program so great.
But another great thing about Hyatt is the ability to redeem points for suites at a reasonable cost. While there’s a three night minimum for suite redemptions, Hyatt only charges a 50% points premium for a suite over a standard room. That’s a spectacular value, especially since some of these suites retail for $1,500+ per night.
While I do wish Hyatt would have cash & points like Starwood, they also have some very reasonable mid-tier redemptions. For example, the Grand Hyatt Santiago, which I’ll be staying at in a couple of months, is only a category two hotel, making it 8,000 points per night. Given that revenue rates are consistently $300+ including tax, that’s an amazing value as well.
Best credit card(s) for earning Hyatt Gold Passport points: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers two points per dollar spent on travel and dining and the Chase Hyatt Visa Card, which offers three points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties
Marriott Rewards — 1.0 cent/point
Yes, I admit it. In my previous post I undervalued Marriott points. I said they were worth 0.8 cents each, though I think they’re worth at least 1.0 cent each, potentially more depending on your travel patterns.
I go through phases with liking hotel programs, and over the years I’ve at one point or another loved Hilton, Hyatt, Priority Club, and Starwood. I’ve never loved Marriott even a little bit, given their stingy elite program and high redemption levels.
Marriott charges 40,000 points per night for redemptions at their highest tier hotels (category 8).
That alone makes me think my previous valuation of 0.8 cents per point was pretty fair. That being said, I failed to consider Marriott’s flight and hotel packages, which really are very tempting.
Basically you can redeem points for a combination of miles and free nights with several options, including the following:
Those are miles that can be transferred to Delta, United, and US Airways, among other programs. In my previous installment I valued United MileagePlus miles at 1.8 cents each. So assuming a Marriott point is worth 1.0 cent and a United mile is worth 1.8 cents, the 120,000 United miles you get are worth 216,000 Marriott Rewards points. That means you’re basically “paying” 54,000 points for seven free nights at a category 5 resort, which is less than 8,000 points per night (compared to the usual cost of 25,000 points). Now, the major frustration for me is that I don’t really want to spend seven nights at one hotel, so I do wish they had shorter packages. But still, given the value, it’s tough to beat, even if you were only going to spend a few days at a hotel.
Best credit card(s) for earning Marriott Rewards points: Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, which offers five points per dollar spent at Marriott properties, two points per dollar spent on dining, rental cars, and airlines, and one point per dollar spent on everything else
IHG Rewards Club — 0.6 cents/point
Up until a few weeks ago it was possible to purchase IHG points for 0.6 cents each. Basically they had a cash & points option whereby you could discount the cost of an award stay by paying $60 in place of 10,000 points. If you later canceled the award reservation they would refund you the 10,000 points in place of the $60.
So previously I couldn’t really value IHG points at more than 0.6 cents each, given that an unlimited number could be purchased at that price. That being said, just a few weeks ago the cost of purchasing points using this method was raised to 0.7 cents each, so that option isn’t there anymore.
In theory I’d actually lower my valuation of IHG points given that they devalued their award chart in January, though I don’t think it’s fair to value IHG points at less than 0.6 cents each. Redemptions at their high end hotels are 50,000 points per night, so at a valuation of 0.6 cents per point you’re looking at $300 per night. There are lots of great values at mid-range properties as well.
My biggest gripe with IHG is that they don’t honor elite benefits on award stays. It’s very frustrating to get accustomed to the fantastic Royal Ambassador benefits offered on revenue stays, only to redeem your hard earned points and be put in a standard room with no benefits.
Best credit card(s) for earning IHG Rewards Club points: IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which offers five points per dollar spent at IHG properties, two points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and at restaurants, and one point per dollar spent on everything else
Starwood Preferred Guest — 2.2 cents/point
Let me for a moment play devil’s advocate and downplay the value of SPG points. The reason I’m doing this is because everyone knows SPG points are the most valuable points currency out there, though I think a lot of people overvalue them.
It’s rather convenient that Starwood comes last alphabetically, since you can see a few themes from above. As I said from the very beginning, my basis of valuation in part is that I value a free night at a high end hotel at roughly $300-350. Here’s Starwood’s free night award chart:
The problem, as I’m sure you can tell, is that my valuation is completely out of whack for high end properties. Starwood’s category 7 properties start at 30,000 points per night, so at 2.2 cents per point you’re valuing those free nights at $660, just about double of what we’re valuing free nights at high end hotels with the other chains. Even when you go to category six hotels, at a valuation of 2.2 cents per point you’re still valuing a free night there at $440+. Neither of those valuations are fair, when I’m valuing a free night at the Park Hyatt Sydney and Park Hyatt Paris at ~$350.
One of the greatest values with Starwood is their Cash & Points program, whereby you can redeem part cash and part points for a hotel stay to get a great deal. The bad news is that unlike the option to redeem just points, Cash & Points is capacity controlled. But even that often isn’t a good deal. They don’t offer Cash & Points for category 7 hotels, and for a category 6 hotel you’re paying $150 plus 8,000 points, which I’m valuing at $176, for a total of $327. That’s for a capacity controlled free night and it’s not even their highest category, while that’s the equivalent cash value you’d pay in other chains for a free night at a top hotel without capacity controls.
All that being said, let me clarify I’m not bashing SPG points. They’re the most valuable points currency out there. I just don’t agree with the crowd that values them at 4+ cents per point.
The good news with SPG is that there’s quite a bit of value to be had at mid-range properties, especially category 3-5 hotels either on award stays or Cash & Points stays. There are plenty of hotels that are $300 per night but only cost 12,000 points per night, which is a great deal. But remember to factor in the points you’re not earning by booking an award stay, which can really add up, especially if you’re an elite member and Starwood is running a promotion. On the plus side, Starwood honors all elite benefits on award stays, and as of a few months ago even offers stay credit on award stays.
So I do think SPG points are very valuable for hotel stays, though I’ll say that I don’t fall into the crowd that values them at 4+ cents per point. Value them at 2.5 cents each? I can see that. 2.8 cents? Fine, I’m with you. 3.0 cents? You’re pushing your luck. 3.5+? You, me, parking lot after school. 😉
But my real basis for deriving the value of SPG points is in the ability to easily transfer them to airline miles. Points can be transferred 1:1 to several programs, and for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus. I valued American miles at 1.8 cents each, so when you factor in the 25% bonus you get for the transfer, that puts the value of SPG points at ~2.2 cents each.
So what it comes down to with Starwood is that I think most people can easily redeem in the 2.5 cent per point range, but when factoring in the points they’re missing out on by booking an award, it’s closer to the 2.2 cent per point range. And for higher end properties that has to be based on the price you’d otherwise be willing to pay, and not the retail price, in my opinion.
Best credit card(s) for earning SPG points: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offer two points per dollar spent at SPG properties and one SPG point per dollar spent on everything else
Anyway, hopefully you guys found this series of posts helpful. As I’ve said from the very beginning the above are my valuations of points, and I’m not for a second claiming they’re correct. I think reasonable people can easily disagree about the value of points +/-50% based on their financial situation and vacation style, though hopefully if nothing else it’s a decent summary for those of you that are new to the hobby.
If you have any questions, agree, or disagree, let me know in the comments section!