How Hotels Calculate Points Earned On Meetings
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TPG Contributor Max Bloom explains how planning meetings—even if you’re not a “meeting planner”—can earn you points and elite status at the major hotel chains. In this post, he explains how each chain calculates the number of points you earn by spending money on “meeting” expenses.
Meetings can be a great way to earn a lot of points at once, especially if you are earning them on the spending generated by a block of sleeping rooms. Again, sometimes all it takes to qualify as a meeting is reserving a room block that can be anything from a family group all staying together to a corporate retreat, so make sure you check out all your options, even if you’re just planning a getaway for you and a group of friends.
Just like earning through individual stays, the meeting programs of the big chains differ significantly in the number of points they award per dollar spent. Some award 1 point per 3 dollars, while others award 3 points per 1 dollar, while others still even award both hotel points AND airline miles with a partner. Here’s how it works.
Qualifying For Meeting Points
Points are officially only supposed to be awarded to planners of "qualifying" meetings. In my experience, though, this is a rule that is not often followed. However, it's always a good idea to confirm with your sales or catering contact at the hotel whether or not your meeting qualifies, and you'll be able to earn points on the meeting. You may even be able to talk them into it if they say no at first by explaining how much money you’ll be spending at the property, what facilities you’ll use, and, quite importantly, the number of room nights you’re booking. Hilton is the only chain that has a minimum-spend requirement, at $1000. For a meeting room-only event, this may be prohibitively high, but for a block of rooms it's pocket change.
The master account is more than just a bill for a block of sleeping rooms or meeting space. It is a bill for everything you spend money on in conjunction with your meeting or event. Most programs claim in their T&C that only "qualifying purchases" like sleeping rooms, event space, and catering are eligible for points. However, I have found that some catering and sales managers simply award the points based on the total bill, minus tax. That means you could get points on basically everything you put on the master account, including use of the business center, handling charges for shipping to and from the hotel, meals in the hotel restaurant, or incidental charges to rooms in a room block—though don’t tell your guests because then you might get stuck with enormous minibar charges!
Without A Master Account
But first a note on what to do if there is no master account. I reported in my first post that in order to earn points on a room block, the rooms typically all need to go on one big bill, called a "Master Account." I noted that Marriott was the only exception to this, allowing meeting planners to earn points even on rooms that individual guests paid for themselves. It turns out that Starwood has recently changed their "Preferred Planner" program to allow this as well, which is great news for meeting planners.
Points Awarded Per Dollar Spent By Chain
I've put together this table comparing the number of points earned per dollar spent per chain:
1 Point per $3
1 Point per $1
3 Points per $1
1 mile per $1
1 Point per $1
1 Mile per $1
3 Points per $1
Although Starwood has upped their game by allowing you to earn on rooms that are not master-billed, they seriously lag the group in only awarding 1 point per $3. Everyone else awards at least three times that many points.
Hilton and Marriott are unique in allowing you to earn miles with your airline of choice through meeting spend. Both chains are partnered with virtually every airline with which you might want to earn points. But while Marriott puts you in the unfortunate position of having to choose between points and miles, Hilton allows you to earn both just like their Double Dip rewards for individual stays. That said, the earning potential still pales in comparison to an individual stay, where you can earn 15 HHonors points per dollar if you choose to accrue "Points and Points."
Scoring The Most Points For Your Buck
Like deciding which chain to stay in on a given trip or which hotel-branded credit card to apply for, choosing a property that will give you the most points or value for your money is not necessarily as straightforward as picking the one that awards the most points per dollar. It's important to consider redemption levels and the difficulty of earning points in a particular chain's program.
For example, $20K in spend with Hyatt would net you almost enough points for a stay at any Park Hyatt property worldwide. Though you would earn a lot of frequent flier miles, the same amount at Hilton isn't even enough for one night at many Hampton Inns. That $20K in spend would also reduce to a mere 6667 Starwood points. However, you'd have to spend $2,222 on an individual Starwood stay as an elite member or $3,333 as a regular member to earn that many points, so it could still be a good choice even with its comparatively low point-to-dollar ratio.
A Possible Bonus
Let's look at a typical "meeting" for the average casual meeting planner. Say you are in charge of an event where you need to book 10 rooms for 3 nights, and each room costs $200 per night. You contract for a block of rooms, and the final bill comes to $6000 before tax. That $6000 would earn you 2K Starwood points, 6K Hyatt points, 18K Marriott points or frequent flyer miles in the airline program of your choice, 6K HHonors points PLUS 6K frequent flyer miles, or 18K Priority club points.
If you paid for the event with a hotel-branded credit card, however, you could earn 6K Starwood points, 24K Hyatt points, 36K-48K Marriott points depending on your card, 42K-60K Hilton Points depending on your card plus 6K frequent flier miles, or 48K Priority club points. So carrying a co-branded credit card such as the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex or the Hilton Surpass card could really up your points-earning potential.
Who Is The Best?
I think it's actually a close tie among all the programs. In combination with a branded credit card, Hyatt and Hilton take the cake. Without one, Marriott wins once again in terms of earning the most points fastest, but since their points are worth less for redemptions, it’s not a complete victory. Priority Club seems attractive at 3 points per dollar, but they are so strict about "qualifying" that you may not be able to actually earn those points. In the end, which program is "best" is really a matter of your personal needs and preferences, but the potential to earn a lot of points is definitely out there. Next time, I'll talk about all of the points you can't earn when I cover the dreaded (cue ominous music) point-earning caps!