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Tuesday Travel Top 10: The Best Hotel Point Redemption Methods

May 15, 2012
11 min read
Tuesday Travel Top 10: The Best Hotel Point Redemption Methods
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Hotel points can be some of the most valuable currency in the travel industry, and many of the major chains enhance their points’ value even further with deep discounts on everything from extended-stay rates to single-property specials to the ability to redeem hybrid points-cash awards. Here’s a list of some of the best hotel point redemptions.

1. Starwood Cash & Points: This has to be one of the best hotel redemption values out there, especially if you’re a little short on points but have some extra cash sitting around, and because you can use this option at over 1,000 Starwood properties all over the world. Even though you are spending some money, you’re generally still getting a ton of value out of your points. You can find all the category breakdowns here, but in general you save yourself a big chunk of points in lieu of paying a small cash copay. So for a category 4 free night, instead of paying 10,000 points you can use 4,000 points and $60 - essentially "buying" those 6,000 points needed for a mere $60, or 1 cent a point which is ridiculously cheap for Starwood points. As an added benefit, Cash & Points stays also count towards elite qualification.

SPG's Cash & Points option is one of the best ways to get value from your Starwood points.

2. Priority Club PointsBreaks: This is a rotating list of Priority Club properties (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, etc.) with a special redemption rate of just 5,000 points for a free night. The list changes just about every two months, and you can find the current one here. This promotion isn’t just limited to Holiday Inns and Candlewood Suites. Not that there’s anything wrong with those—but the real value comes when you use just 5,000 Priority Club points to book rooms at properties like the Crowne Plaza Jakarta, the Crowne Plaza Eilat, or the Hotel Indigo Chicago-Vernon Hills, a free night at all of which will normally cost you between 25,000 and 35,000 points. Obviously you need to have the luck of the draw to be staying in one of the properties on the PointsBreaks list since they can be rather far-flung (like my recent PointBreaks stay at the Intercontinental Phnom Penh), but if you do, this is one of the best values out there.

You could save up to 30,000 Priority Club points if you stayed at Point Breaks property.

3. Hilton GLON/VIP Awards: These are discounted redemption rates given to Hilton HHonors elite members (Silver, Gold and Diamond) for stays of four nights or longer at Category 3 or higher hotels. The discounts are as follows:

-Four-night stay: 15% off standard reward rate

-Five-night stay: 20% off standard reward rate

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-Six-night stay or longer: 25% off standard reward rate

So say you were staying at a Category 7 hotel like the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the island of Hawaii for seven nights. Instead of redeeming at the normal rate of 50,000 points for a grand total of 350,000 HHonors points, you’d get a 25% discount and only have to redeem 262,500 points total (37,500 a night).

Hilton HHonors elite members get significant discounts on extended award stays at properties like the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii.

4. Hyatt Top-Tier Redemptions: Hyatt has one of the most generous redemption schedules, with its top-tier Category 6 hotels requiring just 22,000 points for a standard room and 33,000 points for a suite. That means, a room at the Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow right off Red Square, where rooms were going for $540 a night this month, or the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York (rooms start at $450 this month) would both cost you just 22,000 points. That means you’d be getting between 2-3 cents per point. Even better, Hyatt is a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase Ultimate rewards, so if you got the 50,000-point sign-up bonus for the Ink Bold, you’d have enough for two free nights at a top property already.

Why spend $540 on a room at the Park Hyatt Moscow when you only need 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points to stay at the brand's top-tier properties?

5. Fifth Night Free: This is a great option at Marriott and Starwood that basically equates to a 20% discount on your points when using them for redemptions of five nights. For every four nights you redeem points, you get an additional fifth free night at no additional cost. This is only good on free-night points redemptions (so no cash & points options). For Marriott, if you used this on a PointSavers redemption, you’d be saving 5,000 points each night plus a whole night’s redemption, so you could really be reaping a huge discount. Starwood’s fifth-night-free redemption is good at Category 3-7 properties. Hilton also offers this discount from time to time at various hotels in its portfolio, and there is a list of participating properties that changes, so you should check it here before booking.

When you redeem points for 4 free nights at Marriott and Starwood, you get the 5th night free--a 20% discount.

6. Marriott Flight and Hotel Packages: These are packaged deals where you redeem Marriott Points in exchange for a 7 night stay and a specified amount of airline miles transferred to your frequent flyer account, as well as a 25% Hertz rental discount. All the redemption rates can be found here. The amount of miles you get depends on the airline that you want to transfer Marriott Rewards points to, but for our example below, they include miles transferred to most of the legacy airlines including Delta, United, Alaska Airlines, and U.S. Airways.

The packages are:

-7 nights at a Category 1-5 and 50,000 airline miles: 200,000 Marriott Points

-7 nights at a Category 6 and 50,000 airline miles: 230,000 Marriott Points

-7 nights at a Category 7 and 50,000 airline miles: 260,000 Marriott Points

-7 nights at a Category 8 and 50,000 airline miles: 290,000 Marriott Points

For example, the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is a category 7 requiring 35,000 Marriott points a night. Normally it would be 210,000 points for a 7 night stay (since you can redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free so you’d only be redeeming points for 6 nights). With these packages, you use the extra 50,000 Marriott points to get 50,000 airline miles—enough for two roundtrip domestic coach saver awards tickets with many frequent flyer programs. Again, depending on the airline the amount of miles change so make sure you can find award tickets you need before transferring to the airline. SPG has a similar Nights & Flights option, but it is only available for Categories 3-4 properties.

Put a whole vacation on your points (including airfare) with Marriott's Flight + Hotel packages.

7. Priority Club Cash & Points: This is unlike the Starwood option in that Priority Club will allow you to buy the extra points needed to get to an award redemption level for just 0.7 cents apiece (as opposed to the normal 1.15-1.35 cents up to a limit of 50,000 points that they normally sell these points for). However, per Priority Club’s Terms and Conditions, you can redeem for a free night using your existing points and 5,000 points purchased for $40 (0.8 cents each) up to total the required points; or using your existing points and 10,000 points purchased for $70 (0.7 cents each) to total the required points. You basically end up buying these points as part of the reservation process. Just note that if you ever need to cancel your reservation, you won’t get your money back, but you will get those extra points you bought refunded to your Priority Club account. However, if you are looking to boost your Priority Club account, this can be a good thing. So essentially you can buy 50,000 points for $350, which is enough points to redeem for an award at properties like the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand where rooms can go for over $600 a night, or even the Intercontinental Bora Bora, where rooms go for over $1,000 a night. That would also mean if you got in on a PointBreaks property (#2 above), you’d basically be paying $35 for a free night. Now that’s real value.

Get 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to one of its 30 airline partners.

8. Starwood’s 25% Airline Miles Bonus: This isn’t a hotel redemption per se, but it is a way to redeem your hotel points in a lucrative way if you need airline miles. While Starwood may not have the best overall earning ratio of the hotel chains, I do think they have the best co-branded credit card, the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex, which allows you to earn 1 SPG point for every $1 you spend, and these are some of the most valuable points out there, but also because you can transfer these points to over 30 airline partners—including American, Alaska and US Airways, none of which is a partner of Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards—and for every transfer of 20,000 miles you get a 25% bonus of 5,000 more miles. In effect, you could get from North America to South America (say, Buenos Aires) or to Asia (Hong Kong, for instance) in Business Class by transferring 80,000 points to American, getting 100,000 miles with your bonus, and then redeeming those miles on AA’s partners, LAN or Cathay Pacific.

Using Hilton's Point Stretcher, you can stay at a hotel like the Hilton Queenstown for 5,000 points off the regular redemption rate.

9. Hilton HHonors Point Stretcher: Point Stretcher awards can be redeemed for free nights at up to 40% off the normal point redemption rates. For example, instead of spending 40,000 at a Category 6 hotel like the Beverly Hilton, you’d only spend 35,000 points. Unfortunately a quick check of the Point Stretcher page says there are no current Point Stretcher Rewards hotels (come on, Hilton!), but in the past, some interesting options have included the Hilton Queenstown in New Zealand, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya, and the Conrad Koh Samui in Thailand.

Marriott's PointSavers mean you save on redemptions by a whole category at select properties.

10. Marriott PointSaver Awards: These are redemptions of up to 33% off regular award rates (this is at the Category 3 level where you can get a rate of 10,000 points on a redemption that is usually 15,000 points)—they are basically a discount down to the next lowest hotel category reward redemption level. The current list includes properties like the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes (Category 5, normally 25,000 points, 20,000 with PointSavers), the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville (Category 7 normally 35,000 points, 30,000 with PointSavers) and the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa in Costa Rica (Category 6 normally 30,000 points, 25,000 with PointSavers). The savings isn’t astounding, but every point counts, and this is a way to make them count even more.