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While airline miles have maintained their value pretty well the past year, hotel points have taken a real beating in the first quarter of this year. If you’re not aware of all the devaluations that have been going on I suggest reading this post, where I provide a summary and explanation of what’s going on.
With that in mind, here are my valuations:
Club Carlson — 0.4 cents/point (not previously rated)
Club Carlson has really made a splash the past couple of years given the number of promotions they’ve run and their awesome new co-branded credit card. They have six hotel categories ranging between 9,000 and 50,000 points per night.
They have some really nice category six properties, especially in Europe, where you can get quite a bit of value out of your points. Probably not aspirational, per se, though if you can get nice accommodations in Stockholm in the peak of summer, I’d say that’s pretty tough to beat.
So while I value Club Carlson points at 0.4 cents each, you can get a lot more value out of them if you have their co-branded credit card. If you have that card the last night of a two or more night award stay is free. So that’s basically a “buy one get one free” if you’re only staying for two nights, which can nearly double the value of your points. I can totally understand why some people are obsessed with Club Carlson points.
Best credit card(s) for earning Club Carlson points: Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card, which offers 10x points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties, 5x points per dollar spent on everything else, 40,000 bonus points upon account anniversary, and a free night when you redeem for two or more award nights.
Hilton HHonors — 0.4 cents/point (previously 0.8 cents/point)
Hilton, Hilton, Hilton. I can’t stop shaking my head at you guys. If they had any shame they’d feel like this dog:
For the past year or so I’ve been a huge promoter of Hilton, because they had some real high value awards. For example, by booking an AXON award you could spend four nights at any category seven property for 145,000 points. That was an incredible value, and basically made their top properties ~36,000 points per night. Of course all good things have to come to an end, given how easy it was to rack up Hilton points. As of March 28, 2013, Hilton will be in an almost unprecedented manner devaluing their award chart, to the point that I’d argue the value of their points drops by about 50%. You can read all about their recent changes here, which include the introduction of three new hotel categories and seasonal pricing.
The end effect is that some properties like the Conrad Koh Samui are going from 50,000 points per night to 95,000 points per night. So previously you could book an AXON award for four nights for 145,000 points, while now you’re paying 380,000 points for the same stay. Now, you do get the fifth night free under the new program, but you’re still going from paying 145,000 points for four nights to paying 380,000 points for five nights.
The thing is that at low and mid-tier properties the prices aren’t going up by all that much, though my original valuation of 0.8 cents per point was based on redeeming at aspirational properties. Frankly the number of Hilton properties I was truly excited about redeeming points at was quite limited (like the Conrads in Hong Kong, Koh Samui, the Maldives, and Tokyo), and those have all hugely gone up in price.
The above pricing does reflect the devaluation, so if you have any Hilton points hopefully you can burn them before March 28 so you can still get a decent value out of them.
Best credit card(s) for earning Hilton HHonors points: Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express, which offers 12x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 6x points per dollar spent at gas stations and on groceries, and three points per dollar spent on everything else. Also the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, which offers 10x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties, 5x points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases, and 3x points per dollar spent on everything else. Also comes with Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card.
Hyatt Gold Passport — 1.6 cents/point (previously 1.6 cents/point)
Huge kudos to Hyatt. While I’ve given them some flak for their lack of lucrative promotions, I’ve come to appreciate it, actually. They’re trying to run a sustainable loyalty program with stable pricing. And for that matter they’re the only program that didn’t in any form devalue their program this past year. Their annual hotel category adjustments had more properties going down in price than up in price. Their only potentially negative change was that they eliminated Passport Escapes packages, but the reason was simply because it wasn’t utilized enough.
Their top end properties continue to be among the best points redemption value in the hotel industry. For just 22,000 points per night you can stay at the Park Hyatts in Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, or the Maldives, for example. Compared to the redemption costs at other chains for high end properties, this is amazing.
Best credit card(s) for earning Hyatt Gold Passport points: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers double points on dining and travel, the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, which offer 5x points on office supply stores, cable, TV, phone, and internet, and 2x points on gas and hotels, and the Chase Freedom® Card, which offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories. Also Chase Hyatt Visa Card for 3x points on Hyatt spend and annual free night certificate valid at category 1-4 properties.
Marriott Rewards — 0.8 cent/point (previously 1.0 cents/point)
My valuation of Marriott points factors in the changes happening to their program on May 16, 2013, whereby they’re adding a ninth category to their award chart and adjusting the categories of many of their hotels. Roughly 1% of their properties are going down in price, while roughly 36% of properties are going up in price.
Fortunately only about a dozen properties belong in the new category nine, which isn’t horrible. So I’d say after Hilton they had the second biggest devaluation of the year, probably similar in scope to Starwood (though with Starwood you can still transfer points to airline miles at the same ratio, so I can’t really lower their value).
Best credit card(s) for earning Marriott Rewards points:Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, which offers 5x points per dollar spent at Marriott properties, 2x points per dollar spent on dining, rental cars, and airlines, and 1x point per dollar spent on everything else. Also offers free anniversary night annually valid at category 1-5 properties.
IHG Rewards Club — 0.5 cents/point (previously 0.6 cents/point)
IHG made a pretty radical change to their program earlier in the year whereby they switched from award pricing based on the brand to a nine category award chart based on the cost of hotels. For the average consumer the end effect isn’t huge, actually, because the top category hotels remain the same price.
It’s the ones in the middle that have changed. For example, the Holiday Inn Express New York Times Square and Holiday Inn Express Selma used to be in the same pricing group since they’re both Holiday Inn Express branded. Under the new reward pricing the former is 35,000 points per night, while the latter is 10,000 points per night. So when award pricing reflects the normal cost of a stay it’s definitely more “fair,” though as a consumer you’re no longer able to “beat” the system in the same way.
Best credit card(s) for earning IHG Rewards Club points: IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which offers 5x points per dollar spent at IHG properties, 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and at restaurants, and 1x point per dollar spent on everything else.
Starwood Preferred Guest — 2.2 cents/point (previously 2.2 cents/point)
As I discussed in the section on the value of credit card points, this has been a rough year for Starwood. Earlier in the month the value of Starpoints for hotel redemptions dropped given that Starwood devalued cash & points by about 20-25%, which was the best use of Starpoints for hotel redemptions prior to this. Furthermore, 150 more Starwood properties went up in price than down in price with the recent category shifts, and when you only have a bit over 1,000 properties, that’s a pretty substantial number of properties going up in price.
So at this point when it comes to redeeming Starpoints for hotel stays I’d probably drop their value down to below two cents each. But the thing is that you can still convert Starpoints into airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. That means you can convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 American miles. At a valuation of 2.2 cents per Starpoint, that means you’re valuing an American mile at 1.76 cents per mile, which is pretty close to my previous valuation of 1.8 cents per American mile.
So while Starpoints have gone down in value, I oddly can’t really quantify it.
Best credit card(s) for earning Starwood points: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express OPEN, which offer 2x points per dollar spent at Starwood properties and 1x Starwood point per dollar spent on everything else.
As you can see above, this hasn’t been a good year so far for hotels. I’m sure award prices will stabilize for a couple of years before we see another major devaluation, though these changes have been rough. I’d be curious to hear how you guys value hotel points, and if it differs from mine valuations!