What Miles & Points are Worth: Hotel Points

Introduction
Credit Card Points
Airline Miles
Hotel Points


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.


Amazing value for just 22,000 points

Best credit card(s) for earning Hyatt Gold Passport points: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Visa Card, which offers double points on dining and travel and a 7% annual points dividend, 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 Visa 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.


Marriott’s new award chart

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.

Priority Club Rewards — 0.5 cents/point (previously 0.6 cents/point)

Priority Club 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.


Priority Club’s new category based redemption chart

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 Priority Club Rewards points: Priority Club Rewards Visa Card, which offers 5x points per dollar spent at Priority Club 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.

Conclusion

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!

(In the interest of full disclosure, some of the above links earn me a referral bonus, and all are for the best available offers for each card — thanks for your support!)

Comments

  1. Jeremy says

    agreed with Corey but I might bump the value of Club Carlson up to .5 cents a point as you mentioned with the 2 for 1 factor and the fact that you’re saying 50K points are worth $200. Try paying that little at any nice hotel in the major European cities they have properties. I’d agree though their lack of many great properties in the US hurts the value but still think .4 cents is a bit low.

  2. PointsObsession says

    No question that the devaluations have to be noticed by Hiton and Marriott. I have shifted my spending to Carlson and Starwood now if I could just use up all these Hilton points by the end ofthe month!

  3. says

    I would bump up Club Carlson to 0.6 cents a point. For credit card holders who can manage to book for 2 night stays, it’s essentially double that, as you mentioned. The disadvantage to CC is that they don’t seem to be in that many locations outside of Europe, so I suppose like many things in the miles and points world, YMMV.

  4. Steve S says

    A very upsetting aspect of Club Carlson is that they have one decent hotel in NYC and I have NEVER seen it available on points! What gives?

  5. ScottL says

    Club Carlson is at least 0.5. I stayed 2 nights in a nice 4 star in Amsterdam for 50K points. Thats a $250 value I’d say, not $200.

  6. leon says

    I had a room on points but with club calron at the Martinique. But with the BRG that hi time square had today for memorial weekend making my stay free might cancel the points night during the same time.

  7. Ken Y. says

    Having stayed at the Radisson Martinque on Broadway and 32nd once and lived blocks from it, I would NOT call it a “decent” hotel, just barely acceptable.

  8. puck says

    Are Hilton’s AXON awards definitely going away? About 2 weeks ago I made an AXON booking at Conrad HKG and asked the rep and he said it was still undecided.

  9. puck says

    Another reason to keep SPG’s valuation the same is that even though cash and points rates have gone up, there is now more availability at more hotels and on more nights.

  10. lucky says

    @ puck — They’re not going away, per se, but are just being capped at category seven properties. As of now I haven’t heard of any plans to increase the categories for AXON awards, though if it happens I’d reconsider my valuation.

  11. LK says

    I’ve gotten incredible value out of Club Carlson. Their European hotels are decent, and the 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 weekend deals for Gold members and the 9,000-point redemptions and last-night-free for cardholders makes it my favorite program now that all the others have devalued.

  12. Ric garrido says

    Is there any methodology to creating these valuations?

    I don’t necessarily dispute the values, although they are far lower than i would expect to get for my hotel point redemptions.

    Simply stating points are worth a certain value without any explaining any method for determining those values is weak and unverfiable from an economics or analytical point of view.

  13. lucky says

    @ romsdeals — While cash back cards are looking more and more tempting, keep in mind that with most co-branded loyalty program cards you can earn multiple points per dollar spent, so that puts the rewards in most purchase categories well above 2%.

  14. lucky says

    @ Ric garrido — I explain the extent of my methodology in the introduction post, as it’s intended just to be my valuations of these currencies. I don’t think there’s a non-subjective way to value them, given that everyone uses their points differently.

    The idea with these posts is to simply give an idea of what I value my points at, and how that changes over time. I could provide some made up analysis about why they’re worth “X” amount, but I think you’ll find that people can reasonably value their points anywhere from a fraction of a cent to a dozen cents a piece, depending on how they redeem them.

  15. RJ Brown says

    Hilton is not as bad as it seems as they still have 5 points per dollar for gas and groceries………..but the Chase Preferred card with office supply gas cards and 5 to 1 makes Hyatt the winner hands down……….if only they were more places…….

  16. UAPhil says

    Lucky, is the Citi Hhonors Reserve card churnable like other Citi cards (to get the “2 weekend night” certificates more than once)? If so, what churning strategy would you recommend?

  17. Tom says

    You seldom stayed in Marriott. You do not redeem Marriott point in larger amount. As a lifetime platinum Marriott, diamond hyatt, platinum SPG, I want to share my view with you. Yes, Marriott devalued their award chart. The biggest hit is category 4. For points, it is 5000 points change and almost 10% devaluation. The reason people fee bad is the category 4 certificate. Marriott has stay two get one category 4 cerificate promotion almost all the year. The change made the value of this certificate down a lot. But for the point, there is only at most 10% devaluation. I stay in five-star hotel almost 250 nights a year. Marriott is one of the most generous program if you are a big spender. You can get 15 points per dollar, compare to hyatt 6.5 points per dollar. In my opinion, hyatt and Marriott are absolutely top two programs. SPG is ridiculous bad for big spender. You like their point plus cash option. Because I never stay in low category hotels, I never Use point to redeem their hotel only miles. Have you ever redeem your points for their higher category room? If you value their point value above 2 cents, you will find it is almost always more economical for paid night than point night. If you ever redeem points in Marriott, you will find it is easy to find award availability. And even you value Marriott points 1.25, you always can find good redemption value. And you can buy Marriott gift cards at least 15% discount. I value Marriott points at 1.2 even there is devaluation this year.

  18. Tom says

    I know my view is subjective. I always redeem Marriott travel package and I need 7-night stay in Marriott. Most people don’t. I agree with your point that it is always subjective. But if you have Marriott credit card to buy their gift card through 5% cash back portal in their annual 10 points per dollar promotion. And you manage two Marriott accounts with different addresses. One is for short stay for category 4 certificates and the other for longer stay for points. And you know how to take advantage of their platinum challenge. And you can have enough points for marriott travel package. You will find Marriott is the best program for frequent traveler. Believe me. I am in miles and point world for more than 12 years.

  19. Alan says

    Hi Lucky, would it still be reasonable to put $40,000 spending on the Citi HH Reserve card to have the diamond status? Or to just put the spending on AMEX SPG/Chase Sapphire Preferred to earns the regular points? (I have top tier with Hyatt and SPG already.)

  20. Marshall says

    Lucky:

    What about Choice hotels? Great redemption rates in Europe. For example, 10,000 Choice points gets a night in E300 per night hotel, 3.9cpm.

  21. Ric Garrido says

    Thanks fpr mentioning the introduction piece. I see you provide your rationale there.

    A point I’d add is there is a specific difference in hotel points and airline miles that makes it far more difficult to place a fixed value on hotel points compared to airline miles.

    I can be United Mileage Plus Mr. Nobody elite status and redeem my 150,000 miles for the same First Class seat as Ms. Uber-eite road warrior UGS. We get the same type of first class seat, same meals, same access to the First Class lounge at the airport.

    Ms. Hotel Loyalty Nobody redeems 15,000 SPG points and $275 for a Starwood Category 7 Cash & Points award. The room purchased with those points is likely to be a far lower category hotel room than Mr. super-platinum with a personal concierge receives for the same award type.

    Airlines have basically one kind of seat in a Business or First cabin for a particular aircraft and a First Class award redeems for a first class seat like any other first class seat on that specific plane.

    Two people redeeming hotel awards for a room on the same night can be booked in any of perhaps ten or more room categories at an upper-upscale or premium hotel.

    One hotel loyalty member may get a fancy suite with the grandest view, lounge access, late checkout and free breakfast with a points award.

    Another hotel loyalty member may get a ground floor standard room looking out onto a parking lot at the same hotel on the same night for the same number of points.

    Elite status makes a huge difference in the value of hotel points.

  22. AdamH says

    @Ric Really good point. Especially with Hyatt or SPG Diamond/Plat. It’s fun to read Lucky’s reviews of a top place but if I spend the same number of points as him I am not going to get the huge suite I am going to get some lowly garden view, no free breakfast and expensive wifi. I think this is why I have never gotten very into hotel points, I just don’t have the stays at any one place to make it worthwhile.

  23. says

    AdamH, You can always use pts to book a suite or upgrade to OceanView at chains like Starwood. Yes status matters when you want to get a room at the cheapest possible but most chains will allow extra pts to get you a better room.

  24. christo says

    @ Tom. We believe you should be our next blogger.
    Start writing how we should manage these two accounts. Seems like you have a lot of valuable information.

  25. lucky says

    @ UAPhil — It’s still a relatively new card, so unfortunately I haven’t heard of any accounts of this yet. Sorry!

  26. lucky says

    @ Alan — That’s a great question, as I’m asking myself exactly the same question. On $40K spend you’re earning three points per dollar with Hilton, which I value at a 1.2% “return,” while with the Starwood AmEx you’re getting a 2.2% “return” by my valuation.

    So that’s a 1% spread on $40,000 of spend, or $400. That’s not factoring in the free night you get for spending $10,000 on the card, which I’d value at maybe $250. So is it worth essentially “paying” $150 for Hilton Diamond status? I’d say so.

  27. Robert Hanson says

    Agree with the prior posts on this. I don’t want to spend MORE points to get the same room the SPG and Hyatt elites get for fewer points. Especially since those points are far harder to get then say HH points.

    While most of my Marriott stays don’t even have suites, I do always get the best room, highest floor they have, just with my silver status from the cc.

    PC has upgraded me on an award stay from a regular room to a suite with no extra charge, points or cash, just for being Gold. And I’m only Gold from having the cc, which for $49 a year gets me an award room anywhere, good for a whole year. Gotta love that card. :D

    With simply a Hilton cc, I’m Gold, which gets me free breakfast, free internet, upgraded room. Usually not executive floor, but at least not ground floor “closet” room. :D Went to check in at Hilton Paris La Defense on an award stay last September, and room was not ready yet. They gave us each a coupon for a free drink in the bar while we waited, then came by after only 12 minutes to tell us the room was ready for us whenever we finshed our drinks. Treatment like that for just being cc/gold, along with churnable ccs, means I’m not giving up on HHonors anytime soon.

    Sadest news of all is that most of the level 4 rooms I am used to getting with the stay 2 get 1 free certificate are now level 5-6, and no longer available with that cert. Hopefully they will raise the cert to 1-5 next offer? Big loss for me if they dont> :(

  28. iahphx says

    Your devaluation analysis of the HHonors is simply wrong. It is correct regarding HHonors MOST EXPENSIVE PROPERTIES. But most non-bloggers aren’t redeeming in the Maldives. And most redemptions aren’t for 4-night stays. In the USA, I see run-of-the-mill properties dropping in price from 25,000 miles to 10,000 miles. Sure, more are going up than down, but the carnage isn’t that great. Personally, I’d peg the effective HHonors devaluation at about 20%.

  29. Tom says

    Add some fact about Marriott: 60% of my stay in Marriott upgraded to junior suite. Hyatt gives me 4 upgrade certificates every year and their suite is much better than Marriott. Average number i stay in hyatt Suite is 22 nights every year, but for Marriott, the average number of suite night is 60 nights. Marriott do not promise you suite night but they always deliver the better result. The quality of Marriott is always consistent. And even in Marriott category 4 hotels, they have some gems like Beijing JW Marriott and Kuala Lumpur JW Marriott.

  30. Tom says

    For SPG, you got 10 suite night after 50 nights per year. It is ridiculous. Bloggers are not really business traveller. They just want to use all kinds of ways to meet elite status. So they like SPG because they count award nights. That is not real traveller. I appreciate you write your experience on airline first class, which is helpful for me to choose airline. But sometimes your view for hotel is really bias. Like you like intercontinental of Bali, I follow your advice and stay there once. It is really not a good experience although I got RA from my friend. If you ever stay in four season ubud, bulgary Bali or Alila Bali, you will not recommend intercontinental.

  31. lucky says

    @ iahphx — I think I explained that pretty clearly when I talked about Hilton:
    “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.”

    Like I said in the intro post everyone is looking for different things with their points. My goal is to maximize them best I can, and there’s no doubt for someone most interested in aspirational travel, these changes represent a huge hit.

    But I totally agree if you’re redeeming for low to mid-tier hotels the devaluation isn’t horrible.

  32. lucky says

    @ Tom — Well sure the InterContinental is on a different level than the Four Seasons or Bulgari, but they’re exponentially more expensive as well. I think that kind of goes without saying, no? My goal is to find the best products out there that can be booked using miles and points.

  33. Chris says

    Did you ignore the free night benefit on award stays for Club Carlson credit card holders when determining the value of Club Carlson points? If you had used the value of AXON awards to make your valuation of Hilton points, then it seems like you should also factor the Club Carlson credit card benefits into the value of Club Carlson points.

  34. lucky says

    @ Chris — I think I stated that pretty clearly in my post:
    “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.”

  35. Ed says

    i cant help but read Tom’s posts with a Italian or an Arab accent…. im so wrong… and guilty

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