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TPG Twitter follower Redcat has an upcoming wedding to pay for and is wondering what credit card to put the hotel expenses on. Here was his question:
What this really gets down to is, what credit card is best for maximizing spend at IHG hotels (though bear with me because we’ll expand the question in a moment). The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2.14x points per $1 on travel purchases including hotel purchases. So $15,000 in spending will yield 32,100 Ultimate Rewards points. Those alone are worth $401 in travel if you just use them as pay with points through the Ultimate Rewards portal on travel. But they are potentially worth more if you can leverage them with Ultimate Rewards’ 10 travel transfer partners including Hyatt – where 30,000 points is enough for an award night in a top-tier property like the Park Hyatt Sydney or the Park Hyatt Vendome Paris where rooms can go for upwards of $800 a night – as well as United or Southwest (where your points will be worth $458 in airfare).
On the other hand, hotel co-branded credit cards like the Starwood Amex or the Marriott Premier Visa also offer bonus points on spending at their hotels. If you used the IHG Visa, you earn 5x points per $1 at IHG hotels, so based on your spending, you’d earn 75,000 IHG points. That’s enough for 1 night at a top-tier property like the Intercontinentals in Paris or Sydney, which average room rates of about $400 and to have 25,000 points leftover, or three nights in mid-tier property like the Holiday Inn Sydney Airport, where room rates are about $150 per night.
So you’re potentially breaking even with whichever card you choose, but personally I’d rather have Ultimate Rewards points since they’re so much more versatile than IHG points thanks to their transferability to 10 travel partners (one of which is IHG if you do end up deciding you want to use your points there anyway). If you absolutely know you’ll be using the points you accrue on an IHG award stay, then sure, go ahead and rack up the 75,000 points on the IHG Visa, but if you want to keep your options open, I would choose the Sapphire Preferred.
You could also opt for the straight-up fixed-rate return of the Barclaycard Arrival, where you earn 2x miles per $1 on purchases including hotel stays/expenses and then can redeem your miles at 1 cent per point toward travel purchases and get a 10% mileage refund. So your return on spending is 2.2% – and on $15,000 that would equal $330 to put toward future travel expenses including airfare and hotel, but also other usually non-covered kinds of things like award ticket fees, rail passes, rental cars and more.
But that’s only part of the equation. Remember that you can earn bonus points and benefits by planning meetings at the major hotel chains, and weddings count, so this is a good opportunity to rack up bonus points as well. So for instance, with IHG, even if you decide to go with the Sapphire Preferred, by qualifying as a meeting planner in advance of your event, you can earn 3x points per $1 you spend on your event, so you’ll still get 45,000 points on your $15,000 spend.
Other hotel chains also offer these kinds of bonus points:
Hilton: 1 point per $1 and 1 mile per $1
Hyatt: 1 point per $1
Marriott: 3 points per $1 or 1 mile per $1
Starwood: 1 points per $1
Not only that, but you can earn elite status on meetings by buying out blocks of rooms and/or spending a certain amount on events. With IHG, it’s generally 10 rooms on any one night and one catering event – which a wedding would count for, as would something like a rehearsal dinner.
Some hotels will also offer you a flat points bonus for booking through their hotel, like 50,000-100,000 points – so it’s always worth asking, and educating yourself by looking into the policy of the chain you’re thinking about booking because they might be running specials.
For instance, Starwood is currently offering event planners triple points when they plan 3 catering events between now and the end of the year. Per the terms, you can earn triple Starpoints when you book three or more qualifying catering events at any of over 1,100 participating Starwood hotels and resorts worldwide — up to 60,000 Starpoints per event. Events may be booked at one or more hotels by September 30, 2014, for arrival by December 31, 2014. So if you have a welcome reception or rehearsal dinner, a wedding reception and a farewell brunch, you’ve hit your three-event mark and here come the triple points.
In short, you have a lot of options when it comes to spending on a big event like a wedding at a hotel – which is a good thing. It means there are more points-earning opportunities than ever, and it’s a great way to rack up bonus points through spending and through meetings incentives that the major chains have.
If you have experience planning events including weddings at hotels and earning bonus points on them, please share your tips and stories below.