What Should I Do with Rewards from a Program I Don’t Use?
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TPG reader Josh sent me a message on Facebook to ask about using points earned from work travel:
“I have about 40-45 Best Western stays each year for work, but I don’t stay there on my own. Should I credit those points to my Southwest Airlines account, or will I lose points from each stay if I do so?”
Business travel can offer great opportunities to rack up points and miles, but as an employee you don’t always get your choice of airline or hotel. However, even if you’re stuck with a program you don’t use, you may be able to bank or transfer those rewards elsewhere.
Best Western allows you to earn miles with a number of airline programs in lieu of its own rewards. The best option is Southwest Airlines, which offers 600 points per stay, while most other carriers (like United and American) offer just 250 miles per stay. However, you’ll likely be sacrificing some value this way, depending on how much you spend on your average visit.
I list Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1.3 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations. I don’t list Best Western Rewards, but you’ll usually get around 0.5 to 0.8 cents per point when redeeming for hotel rooms — let’s say 0.65 cents for the sake of simplicity. Best Western awards 10 points per dollar, and with 30 nights per year you’ll earn Diamond status and a 30% bonus. That means if your average stay costs more than about $92, then you’ll come out ahead by earning rewards with Best Western instead of Southwest (at least on a purely mathematical basis). Conversely, if you tend to have a lot of inexpensive stays, you can actually come out ahead by earning with Southwest.
Keep in mind that Best Western also lets you transfer points to airline partners. For example, 5,000 Best Western Rewards will get you 1,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards. That means if your stay costs more than about $192 and you’d prefer Southwest points, you’re better off earning with Best Western Rewards and then transferring (instead of earning with Southwest to begin with).
Overall, you’re likely to lose some value by earning with an airline partner or transferring points. However, if Best Western Rewards aren’t useful to you, then their objective value doesn’t mean much. It’s better to earn at least some points you’ll use rather than a bunch of points that will go to waste.
That said, if your employer is really inflexible about allowing you to stay with another hotel, I think it’s worth taking a second look at the Best Western Rewards program. The chain doesn’t have many aspirational properties, and the redemption process is a bit funky, but there’s decent value to be found. With more than 4,000 properties worldwide, you’ll at least have options in most popular destinations.
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