Beginners Guide To Miles and Points: Hotels Matter Too

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Beginners Guide To Miles & Points
What’s The Point?
How Loyalty Programs Work
Credit Cards and Credit Scores
Types of Miles & Points
Identifying Your Travel Goals
How Alliances Work
Credit Card Strategy For Beginners
Earning Miles & Points
Hotels Matter Too
What’s Next?

Airfare is a major piece of the puzzle, but it’s also important to consider how hotels might fit into your travel scenario as well.

In the intro example, the first couple economized on living arrangements by renting a flat, but it’s also possible to include accommodations as part of your points-earning strategy.

It’ll take a little more spend, or a little more time, or another credit card application, but not only is it possible, it’s actually very practical to stay in luxury hotels for less than you would pay out of pocket for more “economical” accommodations.

As with the airline relationships we discussed earlier, many hotels are branded separately but part of a larger family, so you can stay domestically at a Hilton Garden Inn and cash those free nights in at a Waldorf Astoria or Conrad internationally.

Loyalty ProgramAffiliated Brands
Club CarlsonQuorvus Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn & Suites
Hilton HHonorsHilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, Hilton Grand Vacations
Hyatt Gold PassportAndaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Zilara/Ziva, Hyatt Residence Club
IHG RewardsIntercontinental, Hualuxe, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Even Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resort, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites
Marriott RewardsJW Marriott, Edition, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott, Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inns & Suites, Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club
Starwood Preferred GuestLe Meridien, aLoft, Four Points, Westin, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Sheraton, St. Regis, Element

Why Be Loyal To A Chain

One of the major benefits to sticking with a chain hotel is that they have loyalty programs! Sure, there are often better prices or experiences at boutique hotels in a given city, but I tend to think across the board the benefits of sticking to a chain hotel can add up quite quickly.

If you have elite status with a hotel (from staying a particular number of nights per year) you are often eligible for extra benefits like suite upgrades or complimentary breakfast.

Complimentary breakfast at the Conrad Hong Kong

Even if you don’t have top tier status with a hotel, you can still benefit from perks like free internet, bonus points, or even just a better room due to being a member of the hotels’ loyalty program.

Even Without Loyalty

On top of that, several hotel chains offer some downright ridiculous perks just for carrying their credit card. For the most part I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot on these cards – but the benefits of having the card more than justify the annual fee in most cases.

Loyalty ProgramCo-Branded Credit CardCredit Card Perks
Club CarlsonClub Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card
10x points per dollar spent at Club Carlson properties, 5x points per dollar spent on everything else; 40,000 bonus points upon account anniversary; free night when you redeem for two or more award nights; Club Carlson Gold status for as long as you have the card and 15 nights towards Concierge status if you already have Gold status.
Hilton HHonorsCiti® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

Hilton HHonors Card from American Express
Citi Reserve: 10x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 5x points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases; 3x points per dollar spent on everything else; Hilton Gold status for as long as you have the card, which gets you free internet and breakfast/lounge access; free weekend night certificate after spending $10,000 in a calendar year; Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Hilton Amex: 6x points per dollar spent at Hilton properties; 3x points per dollar spent on everything else; Hilton Silver status for as long as you have the card, access to Hilton’s AXON awards, whereby you can redeem 145,000 points for four nights at any category seven Hilton property.
Hyatt Gold PassportThe Hyatt Credit CardAnnual free night certificate valid at category 1-4 Hyatt properties; Hyatt Platinum membership for as long as you have the card, which offers free internet and other benefits; 3x points on Hyatt spend, 2x points on dining, airline, and car rental purchases; two stay credits and five night credits towards status after spending $20,000 on the card annually; another three stay credits and five night credits after spending $40,000 on the card annually.
IHG RewardsIHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card5x points per dollar spent at IHG properties; 2x points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and at restaurants; IHG Platinum status for as long as you have the card; annual free night certificate valid at all IHG properties.
Marriott RewardsMarriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card5x points per dollar spent at Marriott, 2x points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals, and dining; annual free night at any category 1-5 property; 15 night credits towards status annually upon account anniversary; additional one night credit towards status for every $3,000 spent.
Starwood Preferred GuestStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express
Two stay credits and five night credits towards elite status with Starwood annually per card (you can get both cards for four stay credits and 10 night credits towards elite status annually); Starwood Gold status after spending $30,000 on the card annually. Terms and Conditions apply

Best of all, these card perks are on top of great bonuses that you can receive just for signing up for the card and meeting the minimum spend.

Just a few strategic credit card applications could easily result in enough free nights to spend a week abroad in four and five star hotels!

Given all the choices, I think a hotel program should absolutely be part of everyone’s miles and points strategy. Combined with the right mileage program, that dream vacation starts to be much more approachable.

Next: What’s Next?

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  1. @ Lucky

    Can you help me with links to solid, up-to-date reviews of the various hotel programs? Considering I am going to earn hotel points not by card spending but by actually staying in the properties of the various chains. I know the basic rule is to choose a brand which has properties in my locations but this leaves still quite a few options open. Many thanks!

  2. I am registered with all programs (except for Starwood Preferred Guest) but I typically book my hotel stays through I understand that I might be loosing on some of the perks but I think that program gives me free nights (or drastically reduced nights) a lot quicker than any of the hotel specific loyalty programs. At I receive a free night after 10 nights booked, where as I think these loyalty programs will require you to stay typically a lot more nights to receive a free stay.
    And the biggest advantage being that I can choose from hotels of all the listed chains and not being tied to just a small percentage of the available hotels.

  3. Hi Ben, Hope you travels are all well. In regards to ALL hotel chains in NYC, which one will I get the most stay with the least amount of hotel points. Times square/manhattan area is my goal in mid october. thanks so much ! Susan

  4. As somebody who has done all of this nonsense, I’m here to tell you that the basic supposition of this entire article is pure nonsense.

    Finding availability anymore is so much of a chore as to make it counterproductive. And especially in the area of “traveling abroad” many accommodations can be had directly for much less of a hassle than it is trying to find availability through these programs in places you’d like to go.

    In other words, the chains have begun a slow and deliberate process just like the airlines of completely eroding any major benefit from strict loyalty. In today’s game you’re so much better served playing the field.

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