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There’s no denying you can’t get some excellent value out of hotel award nights — especially if you nab a room that usually goes for $700 a night. If you’re sitting on a huge stash of points, though, you might be wondering if there’s any other way to use your rewards. TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele gives you the lowdown below.
Hotel points can be surprisingly easy to come by, especially for business travelers who hold elite status and pay for stays with a hotel’s branded credit card. When it’s possible to rack up quite a few points per dollar, some frequent travelers look for ways to utilize their hotel rewards beyond the usual free nights and other property-related perks.
In today’s post, I’ll look at some of the major hotel programs and their options for redeeming points for non-hotel awards.
The HHonors program offers a variety of non-hotel rewards, including merchandise in its HHonors Shopping Mall and tickets to Seaworld and Universal Studios. It also partners with the Golden Moments program to offer a variety of experiences, such as exclusive dinners and Formula 1 driving courses.
HHonors points can also be transferred to a variety of airline partners (along with Amtrak), but typically at a ratio of just 10:1. Finally, Hilton also offers both fixed-price and auction awards for popular music, sports and cultural events.
You can earn Hilton HHonors points from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card and the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card, along with the Hilton HHonors Card and Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express. Hilton is also a transfer partner of the Citi ThankYou rewards program, at a 1:1.5 ratio.
Hyatt Gold Passport
Hyatt’s program only offers a handful of non-hotel awards, including redemptions at restaurants and spas that are inside its properties. Dining and spa award redemptions start at 2,000 points per $10 (0.5 cents per point) and top out at 60,000 points per $500 (0.83 cents per point). Car rental awards are available from Avis for 6,000 points per day for an intermediate-sized car.
In addition to earning them for stays at Hyatt properties, you can rack up Gold Passport points with the Hyatt Credit Card from Chase. Hyatt is also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Plus Business Card holders can move their points to their Gold Passport account, or one held by their spouse or domestic partner. TPG currently values Hyatt points at 1.8 cents each.
Points can also be transferred to 27 different airline partners, typically at a ratio of 5:2. However, converting 50,000 points results in a 5,000-point bonus, increasing the ratio to 2:1. Notably, transfers to Southwest Rapid Rewards count toward the airline’s Companion Pass.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program for InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and others. The most interesting and unique opportunities for redeeming points are available through the Rewards Concierge. With this service, you can work directly with a rewards specialist to redeem points for merchandise, sports and entertainment tickets or tours. For example, on my recent trip to Japan, I was able to work with the Rewards Concierge to redeem points for a sushi-making class in Tokyo and a tour of Kobe, including a sake brewery.
Other non-hotel reward options include:
- Auctions. IHG recently launched an auction site where you can use your Rewards Club points to bid on a variety of events and experiences. For more information about this program and other point and mile auctions, read my post on Evaluating IHG Rewards Club and Other Auction Programs.
- Gift cards: Valued at 0.2 – 0.26 cents per point.
- Rental cars: Approximately 0.3 cents per point.
- Shopping: This program offers a variety of merchandise, with a value of 0.25 – 0.33 cents per point.
- Airline miles: Points can be transferred to airline miles with 40 different carriers, but at a less than ideal rate of 10,000 points for 2,000 miles.
- Flights anywhere: You can book airline flights starting at 20,000 points each.
- Digital Rewards: Including downloadable music, games, software and eBooks
You can earn IHG Rewards Club points with the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card from Chase, which currently offers 60,000 bonus points after new cardholders spend $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. For more information, read my review of this card.
While not strictly a non-hotel redemption option, the brand’s Hotel + Air Travel Packages offer an often-valuable combination of airline miles and hotel award stays. For example, you can get seven nights at a category 1-5 hotel and earn 100,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points all for 250,000 Marriott Rewards points. Furthermore, these points are eligible for the Southwest Companion Pass. Points can also be used to book airfare and rental car rewards.
Starwood Preferred Guest
Starwood offers numerous non-hotel awards, including the ability to redeem Starpoints for flights starting at 10,000 points for a ticket costing $150 or less.
Other non-hotel redemption options include:
- Gift cards: You can redeem points for gift cards with Amazon and a dozen other retailers for just over one cent per point in value, depending on the amount chosen.
- Instant Awards: Available for hotel dining and spa services, but the price varies per property.
- Rental car awards: $50 rental car certificates are available for Avis and Sixt for 3,500 points each.
- Moments by SPG: Auctions where you can bid on music, sports and other entertainment events. See TPG’s post for more info.
- Audience Rewards: Allows you to redeem points for Broadway tickets.
In addition to paid stays at Starwood hotels, you can earn Starwood points by using the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. TPG currently values Starwood points at 2.5 cents apiece.
SPG is widely regarded for the ability to transfer points to miles with more than 29 different programs, typically at a 1:1 ratio. In addition, there’s a 5,000-point bonus when you transfer 20,000 points at a time. Transfers to Amtrak Guest Rewards are also available, but without the 5,000-point bonus.
Ever since Wyndham revamped its program to offer all award nights for just 15,000 points, many points and miles enthusiasts have taken a new interest in the brand and the Wyndham Rewards Visa from Barclaycard.
In addition to hotel award nights, there are a handful of other options for redeeming points:
- Gift cards: Offered for about 0.37 cents in value per point.
- Rental car certificates: For Avis and Budget are offered for about .37 cents per point.
- Merchandise awards: Available from several major retailers.
- Digital downloads: Including ebooks, audiobooks and music.
While the value and selection of options vary from program to program, there are definitely quite a few redemptions beyond the usual award nights. And with programs like IHG Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest that offer VIP access to events and exclusive experiences in addition to the standard gift cards and merchandise, you have the opportunity to put your points to use in a pretty cool way.
What’s your favorite way to use hotel points beyond booking award nights?
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
- Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
- Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
- Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms and Conditions apply.
- See Rates & Fees