Don’t transfer points: It may be better to book an all-inclusive resort through your credit card portal

Dec 30, 2019

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Sept. 9, 2019.

Here at TPG, we’re all about maximizing your rewards, which is why we do everything from providing monthly valuations for points to writing guides showing you how to stretch your points. Quite often, we suggest using transferable points to get outsized value on your redemptions — but sometimes that doesn’t make sense.

I experienced this scenario earlier this year, when I was tasked with booking my family of four (adults) into an all-inclusive resort for Memorial Day weekend. I’m not overly familiar with booking all-inclusive resorts with points, but I do know that many of the large hotel chains operate them. Puerto Vallarta, where we were heading, is full of such resorts.

My family and I on vacation in Mexico. Photo by Carissa Rawson
My family and me on vacation in Mexico. (Photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy)

As it was four adults traveling together, we needed two rooms because I’m nearly 30 and I’m not sleeping in a bed with my brother. My parents were footing the bill using their rewards points stash and it was up to me to find the best way to spend them. So where could we stay?

Booking a Hilton all-inclusive resort

The pool at the Hilton Puerto Vallarta. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

As a Diamond Hilton elite member (courtesy of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express), my first thought was to check out the Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort. However, when I looked, this was the award pricing:

A nightly rate of 57,000 points per room in October.

Since the resort is already all-inclusive, being a Diamond member unfortunately doesn’t mean much. After all, who needs lounge access when poolside drinks are included? Additionally, my parents didn’t have points in their Hilton account and would have needed to transfer 114,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for two nights in two rooms. This is because Membership Rewards transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio.

The cash rate for the same stay was just $538 per room, meaning I’d be getting 0.47 cents per point from Hilton ($538/114,000 Hilton points) — well below TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point. And it was an especially bad deal for Amex Membership Rewards, which are valued at 2 cents per point — this redemption would have gotten 0.94 cents per Membership Rewards point ($538/57,000 Amex MR points).

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Booking a Hyatt all-inclusive resort

The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Another option was the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. As an all-inclusive resort, the nightly rate was 20,000 Hyatt points for two adults:

No king bed rooms were available either, meaning my parents would be stuck sleeping separately.

I’m a Hyatt Explorist elite (thanks to my M life Gold status) so we’d hopefully be upgraded to the Club Tower, which offers premium spirits and other amenities. However, we would have needed to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to cover the cost of the hotel. Ultimate Rewards transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, which is generally considered pretty good, but in this case we would be out of pocket 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

The cash rate for this stay was $528 per room using a Hyatt member rate (non-members would be charged an astronomical $732 per night). The redemption value for this proposition is slightly better than with Hilton, at 1.3 cents per point ($528/40,000 points), but TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents each, so we’re still falling short.

Booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Though it’s easy to overlook booking hotels directly on a bank travel portal, in this case, it made a ton of sense. If you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder, your points are worth a flat 1.5 cents each when booking a hotel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Check out these prices:

These are just a few examples of all-inclusive hotels available on Chase’s portal.

The Barceló Puerto Vallarta, which is one of a chain of high-end hotels headquartered in Spain, instantly caught my eye. I’ve stayed in one of their properties previously and had a phenomenal time, so I knew my family was in for a treat.

At this rate, we would pay 38,252 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for two rooms for two nights. This is less than half the cost of the Hyatt at an equally nice (if not nicer) hotel.

Booking through the Citi ThankYou Rewards travel portal

Though Citi has been busy removing perks from its premium travel card, the Citi Prestige® Card, you can continue to redeem your points on Citi’s travel portal for a flat 1 cent each. Though that’s not a great rate, the ThankYou portal has one thing going for it — you can use your points in conjunction with the Prestige’s fourth-night-free benefit to essentially get a 25% discount on a four-night stay. Keep in mind, however, that Citi has recently limited this benefit to use just twice a year, so make sure it’s worth your while.

And if you have the Citi Premier® Card, you can redeem your Citi ThankYou points for 1.25 cents each, even on hotels (until April 10, 2021 and then it decreases to 1 cent per point).

There are quite a few options on Citi’s website, but this is both the cheapest and most highly-rated all-inclusive I could find:

I unfortunately don’t have enough points to show you what it’ll look like when you redeem points for the above hotel, even with the fourth night free. However, here is what it looks like on a (much) cheaper hotel:

In the case of the Vamar Vallarta, with the fourth night free, we’d end up paying right around 35,000 points for each room, for a total of 69,054 Citi ThankYou points for two rooms for four nights (if we’d been staying for four nights). While this isn’t as phenomenal a redemption as booking through the Chase portal, it is a good option if you have ThankYou points to spare, especially because Citi doesn’t have any hotel transfer partners.

Bottom line

We spend a lot of time talking about transfer partners and maximizing your rewards, but sometimes your best option is to keep it simple. Check your travel portals to see if there’s something better, especially in the case of boutique hotels where status doesn’t matter. In our case, my family was able to enjoy a long weekend in Mexico for half the cost of other hotels, ultimately meaning we had more to spend for the good stuff, like jet skiing, fishing and spa days, all without breaking the (points) bank.

Featured photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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