The award traveler’s guide to Choice Privileges
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The Choice Privileges program is massively undervalued and underutilized by award travelers. The diversity in brands makes it easy to get a lot of value out of Choice Privileges promotions. On the upscale end, Choice has the Cambria Hotels and Ascend Hotel Collection brands. And, on the budget end, Choice has the Rodeway Inn and Econo Lodge brands.
Finding good value award night redemptions using Choice points is also relatively easy.
In short, Choice Privileges is one of my favorite programs due to the value I can get from my points. So, today I’ll guide you through how to best maximize the Choice Privileges program.
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Choice Privileges offers four elite status tiers. You’ll become a Member just for signing up for the program. Beyond that, there are three elevated Choice Privileges elite status tiers: Gold, Platinum and Diamond.
Choice Privileges Member
When you sign up for the Choice Privileges program, you’ll automatically get Member status, which provides the following benefits:
- Access to the exclusive Member rate.
- Receive Your Extras on stays that include a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night. Your Extras include bonus points, airline miles, Fuel Rewards or a choice of gift cards.
- Double Your Extras when staying at Cambria Hotels.
- When staying at Cambria Hotels, receive a $10 credit redeemable at the Cambria marketplace or for take-out or dining in the bar and restaurant.
On top of these benefits, Members earn 10 points per dollar spent. However, taxes, restaurant or other incidental charges usually won’t earn points. You also won’t earn points at WoodSpring Suites properties as well as properties in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and Japan.
TPG values Choice Privilege points at 0.6 cents each. So just by signing up for the Choice Privileges program, you’ll get a 6% return.
Choice Privileges Gold
You can normally earn Choice Privileges Gold status after completing 10 nights in a calendar year. However, in 2020 you can earn Gold status after just seven nights. Only reward nights and nights that earn points count toward elite status.
On top of the benefits available to Choice Privileges Members, Gold elites also get the following perks:
- 10% bonus points
- Up to 9 elite rollover nights per year
- Elite welcome gift at participating hotels
- Early check-in and late check-out, when available, at participating hotels
- Elite reserved parking, when available, at participating hotels
- Elite customer hotline
Due to the 10% bonus, Choice Privileges Gold elites earn 11 points per dollar spent (10 points + one bonus point) at participating properties. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means Gold elites get a 6.6% return on their spending.
How to get Choice Privileges Gold status with a credit card
The Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card comes with Choice Privileges Gold status as a card benefit. That’s pretty great considering the card has no annual fee. Currently, you can get a bonus of 32,000 Choice Privileges points (worth $192 according to TPG’s valuations) after you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days with the card.
Choice Privileges Platinum
You can normally earn Choice Privileges Platinum status after 20 nights in a calendar year. However, for 2020 the requirement has been reduced to just 15 nights.
If you earned Gold status in 2019, you should have been automatically upgraded to Platinum status for 2020, effective June 1. If you were upgraded to Platinum status, you can keep it through Dec 31, 2021. You just need to stay at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020.
On top of the benefits available to Choice Privileges Gold elites, Platinum elites also get the following perks:
- 25% elite point bonus
- Up to 19 elite rollover nights per year
- Ability to enroll in Avis Preferred Plus
Due to the 25% bonus, Choice Privileges Platinum elites earn 12.5 points per dollar spent (10 points + 2.5 bonus points) at participating properties. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means Platinum members get a 7.5% return on their spending.
Choice Privileges Diamond
You can normally earn Choice Privileges Diamond status after 40 nights in a calendar year. However, in 2020 you can achieve Diamond status after just 25 nights.
If you earned Platinum status in 2019, you should’ve been automatically upgraded to Diamond status for 2020. You can keep this status through Dec 31, 2021 if you stay at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020.
On top of the benefits available to Choice Privileges Platinum elites, Diamond elites also get the following perks:
- 60% elite point bonus
- Up to 39 elite rollover nights per year
With the 60% point bonus, Choice Privileges Diamond elites earn 16 points per dollar spent at participating properties. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means Diamond members get a 9.6% return on paid bookings.
Which bookings are eligible to earn points?
You usually won’t earn Choice Privileges points unless you book directly with a brand. Specifically, the Choice Privileges rules and regulations state that you can only earn points on stays booked through:
- The toll-free express reservation line
- Your travel agent
- The Choice Hotels website or mobile app
- Directly with the hotel.
Most stays booked through these methods are eligible to earn Choice Privileges points. However, the following types of stays aren’t eligible:
- Rooms booked using an ineligible rate plan
- Rooms rates below $40 per night
- Certain hotel initiated promotions
- Reward night stays
- Complimentary rooms
- Points plus cash reservations
- Rooms paid for as part of a convention or meeting
- Rooms booked through a travel agent or third party online retailer including online travel agencies, wholesale packages, group tours
- Stays booked using the employee discount or the friends, family and associate discount.
Additionally, note that rooms booked through third party online retailers are not eligible for points or elite night credit.
How to earn Choice points
As with most hotel loyalty programs, there are many ways to earn Choice Privileges points. For example, you can earn points through Choice Privileges partners. And, if you tend to use more Choice points than you can organically earn, you may want to buy extra Choice points if there’s a good promotion going on. However, most travelers earn the majority of their points by staying at Choice properties.
Here’s a quick overview of some popular ways to earn Choice Privileges points.
You’ll earn 10 points per dollar at participating Choice hotels when paying qualifying rates. In most parts of the world, you’ll only earn points on room rates. So, anything you pay on taxes, restaurants or other incidental charges generally won’t earn points.
In the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan), you earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible charges including accommodation, tax, restaurant, bar charges, laundry and phone calls.
You’ll also earn 10%-60% bonus points based on your Choice Privileges status tier.
And Choice Privileges periodically offers promotions that can allow you to earn even more points on hotel stays. Currently, you can earn at least 8,000 points after every two stays.
Credit card spending
If you frequently stay at Choice Hotels properties, you may want to get the Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card. That’s because this card earns 15 Choice points per dollar spent at eligible Choice Hotels, which equates to a 9% return based on TPG’s valuations.
Assuming you want to book directly to earn Choice points, a 9% return is better than you’ll get with other popular hotel credit cards. Even the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points for a 6% return. And, the Citi Prestige® Card earns 3x Citi ThankYou points for a 5.1% return.
The Choice Visa also earns 5x points (3% return) when you purchase Choice Privileges points or Choice Hotels gift cards as well as 2x points (1.2% return) on everything else. You’ll also get automatic Gold elite status just for being a cardholder. And, best of all, the card has no annual fee.
Transfer points from other programs
You can also stock up on Choice Privileges points by transferring rewards from other programs. For example, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Choice Privileges points in increments of 1,000 points. Membership Rewards points transfer to Choice points at a 1:1 ratio and the transfer usually occurs instantly.
Another option is to convert Amtrak Guest Rewards into Choice Privileges points. You’ll get 15,000 Choice Privilege points for every 5,000 Amtrak points transferred.
Buy Choice points
Buying Choice points is another way to boost your Choice Privileges balance. However, the cost per point varies depending on how many points you purchase as well as whether there is a discount offer.
Currently, there is a 25% discount offer when you purchase 10,000 points or more. So, you can currently purchase Choice points for between 0.74 and 1.21 cents per point.
Based on Choice’s rules and regulations, you can generally purchase up to 50,000 points per transaction and up to 120,000 points per calendar year. However, some promotions may allow you to purchase more points per transaction or calendar year. For example, during the current discount promo, you can purchase up to 180,000 Choice points.
Earn with the Choice Privileges Mall
If you’re looking to snag a few extra Choice Privileges points, you may want to start checking the Choice Privileges Mall before making online purchases. The Choice Privileges Mall is an online shopping portal that provides Choice points when you make a purchase at a participating merchant.
Earn with partners
First off, you can get up to 30% off and up to 2,000 Choice points when you rent with Avis or Budget. Specifically, through Sept. 15, 2020 you can earn 1,000 Choice Privileges points for renting a car.
If you rent for four days or longer, you can earn an additional 1,000 Choice points. It’s worth noting that only select rental locations are participating. To get the discount and be eligible for the points, you must use the offer codes below and provide your Choice Privileges number when you book:
- Avis: Use Avis Worldwide Discount number O418908 and coupon number MUHA009
- Budget: Use Budget Customer Discount number T134904 and coupon number MUHZ003
Golf fanatics can also earn Choice points through the Golf by Choice program. When you sign-in and book tee times or purchase golf equipment or apparel, you can snag discounts and earn Choice points. Elite members earn bonus points on every golf purchase. Specifically, Gold elites get a 10% bonus, Platinum elites get a 15% bonus and Diamond elites get a 20% bonus.
And, through a partnership with Vinesse Wines, you can earn 1,000 Choice Privileges points on your first wine shipment. And, you can earn 7x Choice points on subsequent shipments. Based on TPG’s valuations, 1,000 Choice points are worth $6. And, earning 7x Choice points provides a 4.2% return.
Finally, you can earn points for cruising with more than 30 different cruise lines, through Choice Privileges’ partnership with Cruse411. You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent.
Refer a friend
You can earn 500 Choice Privileges points when you refer a friend to the Choice Privileges program. Specifically, both you and your friend will earn 500 points after they join the program and complete their first points-eligible stay. And, there’s no cap on the number of friends you can refer.
Through the Planner Rewards program, you can earn Choice Privileges points when you host an event. To qualify, your event must be held at a participating hotel and include at least 10 guest rooms on a single night as well as a meeting room. You can see the list of participating hotels at www.ChoiceHotels.com/Planner.
You’ll earn four points per dollar spent on eligible charges, including hotel rooms, food and beverage provided by the property and meeting rooms and equipment. However, you won’t earn points on taxes and any other fees, incidental charges, gratuities and related charges). To ensure you earn points as a meeting planner, it’s best to get a written meeting contract with the hotel that specifies that you’ll earn points through the Planner Rewards program.
How to redeem Choice points
Now that you know how to earn Choice Privileges points, let’s consider the different ways you can redeem your points.
Redeem for a free night
Choice Hotels properties aren’t aligned into categories. And, there’s no set award chart. But, you can find the current and upcoming redemption rates on each property’s webpage.
Generally, a reward night will cost between 6,000 to 35,000 points. Based on TPG’s valuations, 6,000 points are worth $36 and 35,000 points are worth $210. It’s relatively easy to get better than TPG’s valuations from your points when redeeming at both ends of the award spectrum.
However, there are some exceptions. Specifically, rewards top out at 75,000 in the Asia Pacific region. And, you’ll usually need to spend between 30,000 and 95,000 Choice points per night at AMResorts all-inclusive resorts. You usually won’t get great value for your points when redeeming at these high point costs.
Finally, the award night booking window is relatively short. Specifically, you can only reserve a room using points within 100 days of your stay. In particular, your check-out date must be within 100 days.
And, since you can book premium rooms at some properties using the same number of points as standard rooms, you’ll want to snag these soon after the booking window opens. Likewise, if you’re looking to book a unit at a Bluegreen Vacations property using Choice points, it’s best to do so when the booking window opens.
Redeem for a free night using Points Plus Cash
If you’re looking to conserve points, booking a Points Plus Cash rate may seem appealing. But, you won’t earn points on these bookings. Points Plus Cash bookings also don’t qualify for bonus points offered through Choice Hotels promotions.
To see if you can book a particular property using Points Plus Cash, simply search for a reward night. Then, check whether there is a Points Plus Cash booking option listed to the right of the reward night option.
You’re effectively purchasing points through the points plus cash option. So, in the case shown above, you’re buying 14,000 points for $112. This means you’re purchasing Choice points for 0.8 cents per point. However, TPG’s valuations peg the value of Choice points at 0.6 cents each.
If you cancel a Points Plus Cash booking, you’ll be refunded entirely in points. So, you can essentially use Points Plus Cash bookings to purchase Choice points. Just be aware that you can’t purchase more than 250,000 points in a calendar year through Points Plus Cash bookings.
Buy a gift card
You can also redeem your Choice Privileges points for gift cards. Although digital gift cards are currently unavailable, you can redeem for physical gift cards. For most types of gift cards, there are $50 and $100 options, with the $100 option costing double the $50 option.
Most $50 gift cards cost 16,000 points, so you’ll only get a value of 0.31 cents per point. However, you can get a slightly better value when you redeem for a Choice Hotels gift card. Specifically, a $50 Choice Hotels gift card costs 14,000 points, which means you’d get 0.36 cents per point. But, you can usually get better value by redeeming your Choice points for a reward night directly.
Finally, note that you can only redeem points for one gift card every 48 hours.
Donate your points
There are currently seven options if you want to donate your Choice Privileges points:
- American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, Hotels for Heros, International Franchising Association Franchising Gives Back Program and Operation Homefront: $5 donation for 1,000 points, $10 donation for 2,000 points, $15 donation for 3,000 points, $20 donation for 4,000 points and $25 donation for 5,000 points (0.5 cents per point)
- Polaris Project: $10 donation for 1,000 points, $20 donation for 2,000 points, $30 donation for 3,000 points, $40 donation for 4,000 points and $50 donation for 5,000 points (1 cent per point)
- Stay Home, Send Beds: 32,000 points for one hospital bed donation to alleviate COVID-19 resource needs
As you can see, donating your points provides a decent redemption value. If you choose the Polaris Project, which works to prevent and combat human trafficking, you’ll get a redemption value of 1 cent per point. As with gift cards, you can only redeem for one donation every 48 hours.
Redeem Choice Privilege points for magazines
You can redeem your Choice Privileges points for a subscription to 30 different magazines. Subscriptions range from 600 points for 24 issues of Parents to 3,000 points for 15 issues of Wine Spectator. If you subscribe to any of the available magazines, this could be a reasonable use of your points.
Exchange your points for miles
You can also exchange your Choice Privileges points for airline miles with 11 airlines and Amtrak. Specifically, here are the exchange partners and rates:
|Partner||Exchange rate||Value of points traded based on TPG’s valuations||Value of miles received based on TPG’s valuations|
|Aeromexico Club Premier*||5,000 points for 1,000 Club Premier miles||$30||n/a|
|Aeroplan*||5,000 points for 1,000 Aeroplan miles||$30||$15|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||20,000 points for 140 Air New Zealand Airpoints||$120||n/a|
|Alaska MileagePlan*||5,000 points for 1,000 Alaska Airline miles||$30||$18|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||5,000 points for 1,000 AAdvantage miles||$30||$14|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards*||32,000 points for 5,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points||$192||$125|
|Czech Airlines OK Plus||5,000 points for 1,000 OK PLUS miles||$30||n/a|
|Qantas FrequentFlyer*||20,000 points for 8,000 FrequentFlyer points||$120||n/a|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards*||6,000 points for 1,800 Rapid Reward Points||$36||$27|
|Spirit||5,000 points for 1,000 Spirit miles||$30||$4|
|United MileagePlus*||5,000 points for 2,000 MileagePlus miles||$30||$26|
|Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer||20,000 points for 8,000 frequent flyer points||$120||n/a|
*Can be exchanged online using the Choice Privileges Rewards Exchange program
As you can see in the table, about half of these exchanges can be completed online using the Rewards Exchange program. For online exchanges, miles will generally post within 48 hours. But, in some cases it may take up to seven days.
However, you’ll need to call Choice Privileges Customer Service for the other exchanges. And, these telephone exchanges may take up to six weeks to post.
Redeem Choice Points for golf gear
Through the Golf by Choice program, you can redeem Choice Privileges points for golf equipment and apparel. For example, you could get a Callaway Epic Flash Driver for $530 or 176,663 points. But, you’ll only get a value of about 0.3 cents per point when you redeem.
Redeem Choice Points for a cruise credit
Finally, you can also redeem your Choice Privileges points for a cruise credit, which can be used across 20 cruise lines.
Specifically, you can redeem 85,000 points for a $250 cruise credit. This provides a redemption value of 0.29 cents per point. Or, you can redeem 160,000 points for a $500 cruise credit, which provides a redemption value of 0.31 cents per point. Both of these redemption rates are well under TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents.
Award booking process
To book a Choice Privileges reward night stay, go to Choice’s website and log-in to your account. Then, enter your destination, dates, number of rooms and number of guests. Finally, before clicking “Find Hotels,” click on the drop-down for “Special rate” and select “Reward Points.”
Once you click on “Find Hotels,” you’ll get a list of results. You can filter these results by amenities, distance from your destination, brands, price range and guest ratings. You can also sort the results by relevance, points, distance or rating.
If you want to compare hotel locations on a map, you can choose to view by split-screen. This shows you both the hotel information and a map.
Click “Check availability” for a property to see the available room types. Generally, you’ll see a selection of base-type rooms. You can compare the cost of each room type across various rates at this point.
In some cases, you may also see some premium room types bookable for the same points cost. So, it’s worth scrolling down to consider all of the available room types. In the case below, you can book a deluxe city view king for the same points cost as a deluxe king. But, if you paid cash for the three-night stay, you’d need to pay $705 all-in for the deluxe city view king versus $563 for the deluxe king.
If you click “Book room” you’ll be taken to a final page before confirming your booking. On this page, you’ll see useful information including the cancellation policy and any additional fees you’ll need to pay onsite. To make your reservation, click “Make a reservation.”
Maximizing Choice Privileges
As you’ll see in this section, there are several ways to maximize the Choice Privileges program.
The Choice Privileges program frequently offers promotions. One recurring promotion allows you to earn at least 8,000 points after every two stays. Based on TPG’s valuations, 8,000 Choice points are worth $48.
This promotion usually requires that you have a nightly rate of at least $40. But, you can maximize this promotion if you stay in one night increments at inexpensive properties with a nightly rate of $40 or more. And, this promotion usually doesn’t cap how many times you can earn the bonus. So, promotions like this can be a great way to boost your points balance.
And, Choice Privileges is also currently offering a promotion for stays at AMResorts all-inclusive properties. Specifically, you can earn 25,000 points when you book by September 30 and stay by November 15, 2020. Based on TPG’s valuations, 25,000 points are worth $150.
Sweet spot redemptions
There are ample opportunities to get outsized value from Choice Privileges points. This is especially true in Europe and Japan. In these regions, you can often get well-located properties for 12,000 points or less per night. And, last summer I was able to stay at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic for just 8,000 points per night.
But, Choice points can also provide great value in the United States. For example, a few weeks ago I stayed at The Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park near Rocky Mountain National Park for just 12,000 points per night. And, last winter I stayed at the Comfort Inn near Vail Beaver Creek for 20,000 points per night during Martin Luther King weekend. I’ve also been able to find properties bookable for as little as 6,500 points per night in Brooklyn, New York.
Lowest price guarantee
Like many hotel loyalty programs, Choice Privileges offers a best rate guarantee. This lowest price guarantee applies when you book directly with Choice and then find a lower publicly available price. But, you must complete the claim form within 24 hours of making your booking.
And, there are a number of restrictions and exclusions. For example, you must book at least 48 hours before 6 p.m. on your check-in date. And, the lowest price guarantee doesn’t apply to reservations made at WoodSpring Suites, Vacation Rentals by Choice, all-inclusive Ascend Hotel Collection properties or to properties in Las Vegas that include a casino. So, check out the terms and conditions before making your claim to avoid disappointment.
Within 48 hours of your claim, a Choice Hotels representative will contact you. If your claim is successful, Choice will honor the lower rate for your whole stay. Plus, if you’re a U.S. or Canada resident, you’ll receive a $50 reward card after your stay. Or, if you’re an international resident, you’ll receive the first night free instead.
Get top-tier Choice Diamond status
U.S., Canadian and European Choice Privileges members who have elite status with another hotel loyalty program can get top-tier Diamond status after one qualifying stay at a Cambria Hotel. To request Diamond status, you should email Status_Match@choicehotels.com with the following information:
- Your Choice Privileges number
- Proof of elite status with another major hotel loyalty program
- A copy/photo of your membership card showing its expiration date or a copy/screenshot of a current account statement showing your elite membership
- A copy/screenshot of your Cambria folio/receipt
You can expect a response in seven to nine business days. If your request is approved, you’ll gain Diamond Elite status for the rest of the current year if your Cambria stay or your request was between January and June. But, you’ll get Diamond Elite status through the end of next year if your Cambria stay and request are both between July and December.
However, if you received a status match in a previous calendar year, you’re not eligible. And, some Cambria stays won’t be eligible. For example, reward night stays, stays booked through a travel agent or third party online retailer and stays booked for less than $40 per night aren’t eligible.
Utilize the Your Extras program
Choice Privileges’ Your Extras is a program that provides something extra on select Choice Hotels stays. To earn a Your Extras benefit, your stay must include a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night. And, you must be staying on a points-eligible rate.
Finally, you must opt into this program and select which Extra you want to receive prior to check-in. However, the types of Your Extras benefits available vary depending on location and your residency.
Frequently asked questions
How much are Choice Privileges points worth?
Choice Privileges points are worth 0.6 cents each based on TPG’s valuations. This valuation considers both the price at which TPG would buy Choice Privileges points as well as the redemption value he can usually get when redeeming them.
How many Choice Privileges points do you need for a free night?
A Choice Privileges reward night costs between 6,000 to 35,000 points in most parts of the world. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means you can get a reward night for points that are worth between $36 and $210. However, in the Asia Pacific region, reward nights top out at 75,000 points. But, 75,000 points is still only worth $450 based on TPG’s valuations.
However, if you want to book an AMResorts all-inclusive resort using Choice points, you’ll usually need to spend between 30,000 and 95,000 Choice points per night. Based on TPG’s valuations, these points are worth between $180 and $570 per night.
How do I check my Choice Privileges points?
To see how many Choice Privileges points you have, log-in to your online Choice Privileges account. Then, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Next to your current status level, you’ll see your points balance.
What are the Choice Privileges hotels?
Choice Privileges has 12 brands and more than 7,000 hotel locations worldwide. The brands include:
- Comfort Hotels
- Cambria Hotels
- Ascend Hotel Collection
- Quality Inn
- Sleep Inn
- Clarion Pointe
- MainStay Suites
- WoodSpring Suites
- Suburban Extended Stay Hotel
- Econo Lodge
- Rodeway Inn
Most of the Choice Privileges brands are straightforward. But, the Ascend Hotel Collection includes unique properties that may be historic, boutique or resorts. In my experience, many Ascend Hotel Collection properties display few Choice Privileges markings or literature. In fact, on a few stays I’ve only seen a small Ascend Hotels Collection plaque in the lobby.
Do Choice Privileges points expire?
Normally, Choice Privileges points expire if you don’t earn, redeem or purchase Choice points for 18 consecutive calendar months. However, Choice Privileges has paused points expiration until December 31, 2020.
What is the best Choice Privileges brand?
Overall, the highest quality Choice Privileges brand is Cambria Hotels. Cambria Hotels aim to be modern, approachable and stylish while fitting the needs of business travelers and the wants of leisure travelers. However, I’ve also found some Ascend Hotel Collection properties that are high quality.
The Choice Privileges program provides a solid value proposition. This is especially true if you take advantage of the frequent promotions and work to maximize your redemptions. Specifically, there are opportunities at both the low end and high end of the reward night spectrum where you can get ample value.
However, the Choice Privileges elite status levels provide significantly less benefits than other hotel loyalty programs. Specifically, even top-tier elites aren’t provided complimentary breakfast. Likewise, top-tier elites aren’t guaranteed upgrades and late checkout. So, if you’re looking for solid elite benefits you may want to consider a different program.
Featured image of Bluegreen Vacations Fountains, part of the Ascend Hotel Collection, by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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