Secret Perks When Using Hotel Reward Points

May 29, 2014

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We all know that the main reason to earn and use hotel reward points such as those from Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and more is to score (almost) free hotel rooms.  That’s the motivating factor and the reason I obsess about rewards credit cards, bonus promotions, online shopping portals, and more.  However, there are some “secret” perks that you may not know that make those (almost) free nights even more awesome.

Upgraded Rooms for “Free”:

Sometimes when you are using points you can score an even better than standard room without using any additional points and without having hotel elite status.  Sometimes those different room types or different bed configurations (two queens vs. one king) might be selling for more money, but they are the same number of points.  For example, I was looking at award nights using IHG Rewards points at a hotel in Seward, Alaska.  The points price at this hotel is 35,000 IHG points per night, which is pretty high for this type of hotel, but the selling rates during peak season can get pricey as well.

Holiday Inn Express Seward

Let’s say you wanted to stay at this hotel with your family of four and as a result wanted two queen beds instead of one king.  If you were paying with cash (on this particular date), it would cost you $22 more dollars per night for two queens as opposed to one king.  Also note that this particular hotel seems to have some rooms with pretty great views of the harbor, including some with patios.

Holiday Inn Express Seward Balcony

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going all the way to Alaska to not enjoy the scenery, so of course I would prefer a room with both a view and a patio.  If I were paying with cash the room with the view and patio and two queen beds would cost an extra $42 per night over the base room on our example date.  However, as you will notice in the screen shot below, if you are paying with IHG Rewards points all of the room types mentioned are the same price of 35,000 points per night.

IHG Points

You may have decided to play it conservatively on cash and not spend the extra for a view or balcony, but in this case on points you can pick those options without any additional cash or points outlay.  This is not a phenomenon that is limited to IHG Rewards, but you will find it happen from time to time at various hotels in an assortment of programs.  Here is one more example below from the Westin Snowmass in the Starwood Preferred Guest program.  On a popular ski day in January you will find that, not surprisingly, rooms with a view and rooms that have different bed configurations will price differently.

Aspen Snowmass Wesint

However, check out all the different room types you can get on this example date using the same 12,000 SPG points.

SPG rooms

Those were just two quick examples I came across, but sometimes you will find even more savings on more desirable room types by using points over paying extra cash per night.  Of course sometimes the hotel wants an additional amount of points (or a cash co-pay) for the more upgraded room types, and even that can be a good deal in some situations over paying just cash for the whole reservation.

Save on Taxes and Resort Fees When Staying on Points:

Another “secret” tip is that when you use hotel points for your reservation, you will almost always be exempt from paying the sometimes nasty hotel taxes, but you will also sometimes even avoid pesky mandatory resort fees!  This can easily save you anywhere from $20 – $50 per night over cash reservations.  Hyatt Gold Passport is particularly fantastic about not having you pay resort fees on award nights, which is super valuable for resorts such as Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (normally $35 per night), Grand Hyatt Kauai ($25 per night), and Hyatt Lost Pines ($26 per night).  You do have to pay resort fees at the partner MLife properties in Las Vegas. 

To put this into practice, here is a real example from the last weekend in June.  If you used 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui, you not only would obviously avoid the $288 per night advance purchase rate for the resort view king bed, but you would also avoid the $60 in resort fees for the two nights and the $77.30 in taxes.  That is $130.30 in additional and non-obvious savings over just the base rate for the room when you stay on points instead of cash.  If you were on a cash and points rate, you would still be subject to the resort fee and some taxes.

Enjoy Hyatt Regency Maui with no taxes or resort fees!

I have had to pay resort fees on awards with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, but I have never paid taxes on any award stay with any program when I am staying on just points.  Points and cash reservations do typically result in paying taxes, though less than a full cash reservation.

Getting somewhat better rooms types and potentially avoiding resort fees and taxes are two “secret” perks of hotel loyalty programs that can turn a good redemption value into a great redemption value when you stay on points instead of cash!

Have you take advantage of these or other “secret” perks when staying on hotel points?

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