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

Aug 19, 2012

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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”.
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