(Video) Sunday Reader Question: Airlines Miles vs. Hotel Point Value

by on August 19, 2012 · 9 comments

in Hotel Industry, Polls, Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG reader Jeremy asks:

“In general, is it more valuable to accumulate hotel points or airline miles (assuming you’re maximizing each)? In other words, if you had to pick only one bucket, which would be worth more to your budget?”

The easy answer would be to collect Starwood Preferred Guest points, which can be redeemed at great values on hotels and be transferred to over 30 different airline partners at pretty good ratios. It’s like have your points and miles too. However, I think the real question is, “what is more valuable: redeeming airline miles for flights or hotels points for hotels?”

It really depends on your situation, but I would personally choose airline miles, because I highly value being able to fly business and first class internationally and those tickets are usually astronomically priced. So the bottom line is that I wouldn’t get to fly unbelievable first class flights like my recent Lufthansa and Cathay experiences if it weren’t for miles. An incredible first class flight experience gives me more joy than a gorgeous hotel suite (though I shudder at the thought of only being able to have one or the other!).

Don’t get me wrong, hotel redemptions can be extremely valuable. Being able to use hotel points for hotels that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford is a great part of the miles and points game and can be the difference between being able to travel or not – especially if you have a family and need multiple rooms. However, if I were faced with having to pay for hotels vs. flights, I would choose hotels because there are a lot of different ways to get lodging cheaply (home exchange/rental, Priceline, friends, etc. vs. getting a comfortable flight cheaply. For me, the difference between a decent hotel and a luxury hotel is less valuable than spending 10 hours in coach (misery) vs. 10 hours in first class (bliss). Sidenote: A big part of my inability to enjoy economy longhaul is that fact that I’m 6’7″ and airline seats were not made for “passengers of height”.

If you could only redeem your miles/points for flights OR hotels- which would you choose?

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  • BobChi

    For Jeremy, the answer depends on lots of personal questions and preferences. For me, as a person who loves to travel the world, but whose job involves only very occasional travel (maybe once a year), the main way I get any award currency is by credit card signups and other bonus offers, so I’m looking to maximize that, and what type to get depends on the offers out there. Since my award currency is limited, I don’t choose to operate on the assumption there will always be plenty available to me, and for award redemptions I stick to economy class flights and midrange hotels.

    To me it is easier to find an acceptable but inexpensive hotel just about wherever I go than it is to find an airfare bargain to lots of places, and particularly if I’m looking for stopovers and 23-hour layovers. So to me the airline mileage is substantially more important, because it replaces more costly expenses than hotel points do. Thepointsguy does a lot of aspirational travel – and good for him – but (I assume) he also accumulates and spends millions of points a year. I have to watch what I do more closely. Depends on your situation, as he says in the video.

  • davep

    I am the opposite. I would prefer to travel business or first, but since I am almost always traveling with a wife and kid and our trips are dictated by my son’s school schedule, I very seldom can find business award tickets that I have enough points for, especially as we need three. I can put up with coach (especially as I am 5′ 7″, my son is 10 and we take an entire group of three seats) and then use points for a nice one bedroom hotel or condo. Actually, most trips I can get coach seats with miles as well as using points for hotels. Best of both worlds in my book. All depends on personal preferences and how many points you can earn.

  • TripReportDb

    I agree. When I travel I spend so little time in my hotel that it just doesn’t really matter all that much where I’m staying. I’d much rather focus my efforts on acquiring airline miles – as flying international first or business class is an experience all to itself!

  • Amzalag

    Damn! Your 6’7 – I’m never making another mean comment in this blog:) jk I love the blog and read it every day

  • Nick Aster

    I agree with this. I actually avoid the hotels if I can help it. If it’s truly free, great. Otherwise you can find be happy on a friend’s couch or AirBnb.

  • Asdfasdfa

    I think the best points are the ones not chosen

  • No2rain

    The real answer is BOTH – as in Hhonors.

    I love the upgrade to business and will really be sad when the points run out. However, having just spent 12 days on the CONRAD RANGALI ISLAND (Maldives) using points !! then the value of hotel points really comes to the fore. I spent approx 400,000 Hhonors points for 12 nights where the rack rate was $1800 per night. Now that is value for your points!

    I am flying to South Africa via the UK and then returning via Hong Kong for 150,000 miles in business beds. Again, thats real value!

    So I try to maximize points for flying and hotels.

  • Subnubs

    “Passengers of height” is a great way of saying it! I’m a Diamond Medallion who flies 250K annually and I agree 100% with your view that air miles far outweigh hotel points in terms of usable travel perks. I transfer more miles to family and friends than I use for myself and prefer bringing people to visit my home in Cologne, Germany. Hotel points don’t allow you to do that…

  • Aaron

    Based on a recent experience I’m going to go with hotel points.

    Earlier this year I used 70,000 Starpoints to book a return flight Nagoya (Japan) – Bangkok – Sydney – Bangkok – Nagoya. The fees, taxes and fuel surcharges added up to over 600 bucks! That’s half of what the fare normally is! I would have preferred to spend another 600 bucks and earn miles instead of depleting my account.

    Then again it may be a better deal to use them for an upgrade instead of free flights….

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