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TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen found himself in a difficult situation when a Hyatt Points + Cash award he meant to book mysteriously disappeared… after he’d transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book it. But as he discovered, Hyatt agents can sometimes open up award availability. As always, it never hurts to ask!
I’m traveling to a wedding in Asheville, North Carolina later this summer. When I began looking around for hotel rooms, I was shocked at how high the rates were in and around the city over the wedding weekend. I know it’s a popular destination in the South, and weekends are likely to be at higher occupancy, but rates at hotels downtown like the Hotel Indigo and the Aloft, as well as those closer to the Biltmore Estate, were running near $400, with no award availability in sight!
I decided that I’d probably end up staying at the Hyatt Place Asheville Downtown. It’s central; near one of the wedding venues; and just opened at the end of March. Rooms there were starting at about $234 for prepaid non-refundable rates, and $262 for normal rates that I could cancel if need be.
I began looking for rooms for my three-night stay about two months before the wedding, and kept up my search for a couple of weeks just to see if rates fluctuated. They didn’t. So I figured I would just end up booking the Hyatt Place about a month out.
An Award Appears, Then Disappears
When I checked the rates there on a recent Sunday morning, though, I clicked on the “Show Hyatt Gold Passport Points & Awards” box on the rates page, and lo and behold, both award nights and Points + Cash rates showed up!
Even better, the hotel is in Hyatt’s Category 1, meaning award nights are just 5,000 points per night, and Points + Cash nights were just 2,500 points plus $50. If I were to book the award nights, that would mean I would get a value of about 4.7 cents per point. The Points + Cash rates yielded an even better value: 7.4 cents per point. That’s a fantastic value for Hyatt points, and would mean I could use fewer of them and just pay a minor cash co-pay. (The hotel is actually moving up to Category 3 on August 1, so after that, it would have been 6,000 points + $75 per night.)
I had just 700 or so Hyatt points in my account at the time because of another recent redemption. So I logged into the Ultimate Rewards account associated with my Chase Sapphire Preferred and instantly transferred 7,000 points to my Hyatt Gold Passport account.
When I logged in to Hyatt, the points were already there. I entered my search criteria (city, dates, etc.) into the fields, and the results popped up. Except there were no award nights! No Points + Cash rates! What happened? Had someone booked the award in the minute it had taken me to make the transfer?
Calling Gold Passport
Not knowing what else to do, I called Gold Passport and got an agent on the line. I explained what had happened and he looked into my account. He could see that I’d just made the points transfer and that it was the exact amount I’d need to book the Points + Cash rates. He could not, however, see if a room at the property had just been booked as an award. But he said he trusted me that the rates had shown up.
He looked into availability for me and said that he could secure me a room the first night of my stay at the standard award rate of 5,000 points, and then I could remain in the same room on a paid rate for the following two nights.
I thanked him, but said that didn’t really help me since I’d already transferred the points and couldn’t get them back, and that I was looking to save some money on the entire stay, not just a single night. I asked if there was anything else he could do, or if his supervisor could. I want to stress how polite the agent was and that I was prepared for him to say no and not to get too upset about it since it wasn’t a huge amount of points. But instead, he asked me to hold and he’d see if there was something he could do.
It took him about four or five minutes, but when he came back on the line he explained what he’d been doing.
How The Agent Got My Award
He had called the hotel directly, explained what had happened with my points and asked if they could release a room for a Points + Cash rate for the dates of my stay. They had agreed. All he needed to know was whether I was okay with a King Bed City View room and to take down my credit card details so he could guarantee the cash portion of the award.
After he took my details, he put me on another brief hold just so he could get confirmation from his supervisor on the award, and then before we hung up, I checked my Hyatt account and found the stay listed. All told, the call took about 15 minutes, and saved me about $600!
What I Learned
I came away from the experience with a few key lessons. First, as we always say at TPG, it never hurts to ask. Before this, I didn’t know agents could call properties directly and ask them to release certain room inventory, but it appears they can. In my case, only 7,000 points were at stake, so it could have been much worse. But in situations where this happens to you and there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of points on the line, knowing that Hyatt Gold Passport agents can do something like this can be a game changer.
Second, as with all points and miles matters, the agent you get can make a huge difference to the outcome. Someone well-versed in a loyalty program and willing to put in a little effort can move mountains for you. As we also always say at TPG, asking nicely can also go a long way toward getting someone to help you.
Third, I should have at least taken a screenshot of the Points + Cash rate I’d found with a date/time listed. Granted, the agent believed me and could see my points transfer transaction, so he gave me the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t think it would have hurt to have had proof that the rate existed.
Finally, I want to stress that I wasn’t trying to game the system here. I had found the rate and tried to book it immediately only to have it disappear like “phantom space.” I was sincere in my attempt and not trying to book an impossible or non-existent award here.
I will admit that Hyatt has not been my main hotel chain for the past couple of years. But I’ve had some fantastic customer experiences with them lately, both in this instance and another where I had to cancel a prepaid stay a few days before a trip because of an emergency. Though it didn’t have to, Hyatt refunded my non-refundable booking as a goodwill gesture. That customer service and the excellent value of both award nights and Points + Cash awards has me considering shifting even more of my business to the hotel chain.
Featured image courtesy of the Hyatt Place Asheville Downtown.
Has anything similar ever happened to you? How did you resolve it?
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