Battle of the hotels: Points and Miles experts help you decide where to invest your loyalty

Feb 16, 2020

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TPG staff duked it out to find out which major hotel brand deserves your loyalty on the latest episode of “Talking Points.” You’ll gain insights from points and miles experts on how Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG compare to each other, as well as tips to help you decide which brand makes the most sense for you.

The episode breaks down earning and redeeming options, elite status benefits and co-branded cards. You’ll find out what to expect from each brand’s customer service and how to navigate the hotels’ on and off-peak pricing.

The four experts explain one pro and con to get the episode started.

“The reason why I like IHG is the promotions are really great.The rewards program, especially pairing it with the credit cards, you get great nights for cheap. The worst thing that would definitely be a lack of hotel benefits, like guaranteed late checkout, even as a top tier I don’t get that or breakfast at all hotel brands.” – JT Genter, TPG points and miles writer

“Hilton is probably my favorite because it has the most accessible elite status. So you get the most bang for your buck with your top tier status. I’d say probably the worst thing is how they tend to devalue their own points frequently and without notice.” – Carissa Rawson, TPG’s points and miles reporter

“It’s a clear win for Hyatt here — highest top-tier elite status is easily the most rewarding of all of them. They’re fantastic about offering consistent benefits across all their different hotels. Whether it’s confirmed suite upgrades, guaranteed late checkouts, breakfast everywhere, and none of the sort of exclusions that you get with some of the other chains. And, earning and burning points with Hyatt is super easy.” – Zach Griff, TPG’s travel analyst 

“Marriott has close to 7,000 properties around the world. They do have legit elite status benefits. I love my free breakfast is the selection I make as a platinum when I check in and yeah, they do have some properties that have gone up in points, but it typically isn’t a surprise, it just happens overnight. So I think y’all lost already.” – Summer Hull, TPG director of Family and Travel

Let us know who you agree with in the comments or tweet us @thepointsguy.

“Really when it comes down to hotel choices, there is no one right or wrong answer. It’s about the footprint, the elite perks and credit cards and where you want to redeem your miles,” says host Brian Kelly.

Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Marriott is the best

Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Hilton is the best

Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I stay most often with IHG 

Further reading: Battle of the Hotels: Why I think Hyatt is the best 

You can play this episode above, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Transcript:

Zach Griff:
What’s nice about Hyatt, is it’s kind of simple.

Carissa Rawson:
Hilton has everybody beat. All you need to do is own one credit card.

JT Genter:
Who here at the table has bought points and stayed at a hotel for $25 a night?

Summer Hull:
I may or may not have also been Bonvoyed [laughter].

Brian Kelly:
Welcome to Talking Points. I’m Brian Kelly. So, if you’re in the midst of planning your amazing 2020 vacation, you’re gonna to want to stay tuned today. Let’s get ready to rumble. I’m here to call a battle, TPG style. We’re debating four hotel chains, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG, brought to you by a few of our very own in-house points experts. They’re going to dive into some of the more technical aspects of each of these brands, like how you can earn and redeem with each hotel.

Brian Kelly:
The team also debates which chain offers the best elite-status benefits and who offers the best overall experience. If you’ve ever had questions, we’ve got the answers, so turn it up and get ready to take notes. It’s a battle royale of hotels and you don’t want to miss it. Coming up right after this message.

Brian Kelly:
Hey, it’s me again. Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, with a very important PSA. You need to get in the know with TPGs daily newsletter. It’s where you can get all the latest news in aviation, deal alerts, and the very best tips in the points and miles space. Subscribe to it right now and get it delivered for free, straight to your inbox every day. Text Talking Points to 33-777. That’s Talking Points to 33-777. See you in your inbox.

Brian Kelly:
All right. Without further ado, let’s get into it. Our hotel battle, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG, and here’s our moderator, Julian Kheel, TPG emeritus director of credit cards and points and miles. Take it away, Julian.

Julian Kheel:
Thank you, Brian. I’m Julian Kheel, the director of credit cards and points and miles at The Points Guy. I am excited today. I have four hotel experts with me and we are going to be doing the Battle of Hotels. Let’s start with Zach Griff, our travel analyst. Hello, Zach.

Zach Griff:
Hey, Julian. How’s it going?

Julian Kheel:
Tell me, what chain are you covering today?

Zach Griff:
I’ll be covering my personal favorite, Hyatt.

Julian Kheel:
Hyatt, a very big point and miles favorite. Also with us, JT Genter, our senior points and miles writer. Hello, JT.

JT Genter:
Hey, Julian.

Julian Kheel:
Which brand are you talking about?

JT Genter:
I’ll be defending IHG, which is the hotel brand where I’ve spent the most nights this year, and in the last two and a half years since going nomadic.

Julian Kheel:
A serious IHG fan.

JT Genter:
Yes.

Julian Kheel:
All right, sounds good. We’ve got Carissa Rawson our points and miles reporter. Which brand are you talking about?

Carissa Rawson:
Today, I’m going to be covering Hilton, which is my personal favorite brand.

Julian Kheel:
Lots of Hilton fans out there.

Carissa Rawson:
Yeah, big fan.

Julian Kheel:
And then, finally, Summer Hull our director of travel here at TPG. Hi, Summer.

Summer Hull:
Howdy, Julian.

Julian Kheel:
Hi.

Summer Hull:
Yeah, so I am going to be defending Marriott Bonvoy. It is actually the program that I have had top-tier status with the longest now. It’s been a hot minute since I had Hyatt, so I have become a Marriott Girl, sort of.

Julian Kheel:
Yeah, and a lot of Marriott in the news in the last year. So let’s start right there. What would you say for each of you — and we’ll start with you, Summer — what is the one best thing and the one worst thing about Marriott? In one sentence for each.

Summer Hull:
The best thing about Marriott is St. Regis. Their high-end properties really are amazing, aspirational and something that makes points worth it for me. So on the flip side, I have had a lot of problems with the integration.

Summer Hull:
They are now a fully integrated program with Starwood, but there was some serious, serious rocky roads and lost points to get there. So, that’s been the worst part for me, the last couple of years.

Julian Kheel:
Yeah, there’s been a lot of complaints about it.

Summer Hull:
Yeah. It’s not just me.

Julian Kheel:
Yeah, we’ll get to that.

Summer Hull:
OK.

Julian Kheel:
JT, how about you for IHG? Best thing and worst thing about it.

JT Genter:
Yeah. The reason why I like IHG is the promotions are really great. The rewards program, especially pairing it with the credit cards, you get great nights for cheap. The worst thing that would definitely be a lack of hotel benefits, like guaranteed late checkout, even as a top-tier I don’t get that or breakfast at all hotel brands.

Julian Kheel:
And you’re a top tier-elite at a lot of hotel brands and we’ll get to that-

JT Genter:
I sure am, yeah.

Julian Kheel:
And we’ll get to that in just a little bit. Carissa, as far as Hilton, the best thing and worst thing?

Carissa Rawson:
I would say Hilton is probably my favorite because it has the most accessible elite status. So you get the most bang for your buck with your top-tier status. I’d say probably the worst thing is how they tend to devalue their own points frequently and without notice [laughter].

Julian Kheel:
That is a pretty big negative. Yeah, yeah. If you’re into the points and miles, but some people may just like Hilton’s, in general.

Carissa Rawson:
That’s true, yeah.

Julian Kheel:
And Zack, Hyatt, like I said before, a points and miles favorite, best and worst thing?

Zach Griff:
Thanks for letting me take this one home because it’s a clear win for Hyatt here. Hyatt’s top-tier elite status is easily the most rewarding of all of them. They’re fantastic about offering consistent benefits across all their different hotels, whether it’s confirmed suite upgrades, guaranteed late checkouts, breakfast everywhere, and none of the sort of like exclusions that you get with some of the other chains and earning and burning points with Hyatt is super easy.

Zach Griff:
Transferable currencies from Chase, and yeah, the only real issue is you can’t find a Hyatt everywhere. Hyatt’s portfolio is a little bit more limited than the other larger legacy chains. But Hyatt, if it’s in a place you’re traveling to, it’s often the best hotel to choose.

Julian Kheel:
But some people would argue that the key point of a hotel, what you need the most, is for them to be one there where you need it. And that is somewhere that Hyatt is seriously lacking.

Zach Griff:
For sure and Hyatt’s doing its due diligence there and they’ve had some recent acquisitions, some other hotel chains, so hopefully they will continue on that.

Julian Kheel:
They’re making a lot of partnerships, too.

Zach Griff:
Yeah, yeah. Partnerships, small luxury hotels, taking over Two Roads Hospitality. So they have integrated more properties into their portfolio. But yes, agreed.

Summer Hull:
Are y’all crazy? So I have heard Hyatt, yeah, they’re nice, but you probably won’t have one where you are. And I’ve heard IHG, you don’t really get anything for being an elite. And I’ve heard Hilton, yeah, your points may be worth nothing tomorrow. And yet, here y’all sit defending these as the best loyalty programs. It’s really quite entertaining.

Julian Kheel:
Marriott does have the most hotels.

Summer Hull:
So yeah, Marriott has like close to 7,000 properties around the world. They do have legit elite-status benefits. I love my free breakfast is the selection I make as a Platinum when I check in, and yeah, they do have some properties have gone up in points, but it typically isn’t a surprise that just happens overnight. So, I think y’all lost already. We can wrap it up now.

Carissa Rawson:
I think Marriott also has its own hashtag, Bonvoyed.

Summer Hull:
It does.

Carissa Rawson:
So-

Julian Kheel:
What is that? So, for people who may not know, what is that?

Carissa Rawson:
So, Bonvoyed is the term that people use when they get unexpectedly screwed over by Marriott. Due to-

Summer Hull:
I may or may not have also been Bonvoyed.

Carissa Rawson:
Yes. I also was Bonvoyed. So that’s why-

Julian Kheel:
Nobody really ever gets “Hiltoned” or-

Carissa Rawson:
No, no, no. Or IHG-ed-

Summer Hull:
But maybe that’s because, like how far do you have to fall when you’re already starting with not much? Like with Marriott, you go in with high expectations. So you know you can get knocked down a little bit and you still come out ahead. I have been Bonvoyed and yet, I have also been St. Regis-ed. So-

Julian Kheel:
Is it even fair though, at this point, to say with Marriott, that you are going in with high expectations when it comes to customer service?

Summer Hull:
So I really, I have had real problems where I have had hours and hours on the phone. I’ve written stories about these on The Points Guy, real frustration, legit. But I will say most of those are now in the rear view mirror. I’m not going to say it’s not still happening to someone, but a lot of the problems were centered around reservations made before the two programs merged and we’re pretty much past the date or are past the date now where that’s even possible.

Summer Hull:
So I’m not saying you can’t still have problems with Marriott, but I can say that I’m not really having those anymore. And I had some big ones. If I was still going through that day after day with Marriott, I would have said sayonara, but I’m not. And, so instead, I’m just living it up, you know, at the Westin Snowmass and skiing out for 35,000 points a night.

Julian Kheel:
What about that?

Zach Griff:
Yeah well, the only issue though, is right, you have 7,000 hotels and you talk about you haven’t been Bonvoyed nearly as frequently as maybe you were back in the day when the merger was happening, but how do hotels, how consistent are hotels in delivering your elite benefits? Right?

Summer Hull:
Well, if I want a suite upgrade that might be a problem. But in fairness, I wasn’t getting the day-of complimentary suite [up]grades frequently with Hyatt either.

Zach Griff:
Right. But I also have four certificates that I can use to confirm upgrades for-

Julian Kheel:
And up to seven nights each.

Zach Griff:
Exactly. And we’re talking about standard suites at top-tier properties, Park Hyatts. We can go on to battle who has the most luxury hotels, but I’m going to be staying in a suite and, most likely, as a Platinum, you probably aren’t.

Summer Hull:
Well you’re right. However, I travel with two kids, so there’s four of us in a room. A suite actually isn’t useful anymore. It was. There was a period of time where suites were the end-all [and] be-all to me. And that is when I was a Hyatt Globalist or Diamond at the time.

Summer Hull:
But now — suites have one bed and then some, like, crummy sofa pullout. So if you need a suite, maybe Hyatt is a good thing to focus on for that period of time in your life. But I’m at a time I need two beds in a room and so a suite upgrade for me is useless most of the time. I’d rather have an awesome hotel exactly where I want it to be than a few hundred more square feet, most of the time.

Julian Kheel:
Speaking of upgrades, one of the things about Hilton Diamond status that a lot of people complain about is that you don’t get confirmed upgrades. It’s at the discretion of each individual property, correct?

Carissa Rawson:
That’s correct. I will say even though I don’t have confirmed suite upgrades, I have stayed a large number of nights in Hilton properties across the world and I’ve gotten upgraded on suites on awards days, on paid days, and basically it’s just the U.S. I think where you’re kind of shafted in terms of the suite upgrades, but everywhere else in the rest of the world, you’re getting in.

Julian Kheel:
But do you think that Hilton is at a slight disadvantage because of that? Because of these other chains that maybe do confirm suite upgrades?

Carissa Rawson:
I think it just depends on what your priorities are. And in the same way that Summer says, I’d rather have a reliable, quality hotel all across the world and maybe I’ll have a suite upgrade, maybe I won’t, but I at least know that I’m going to have key benefits available to me at a high-quality level.

Julian Kheel:
And on the flip side, as far as earning top-tier status, it’s probably easiest with Hilton.

Carissa Rawson:
I’m just going to go ahead and just throw out that Hilton Aspire card because everyone else, you guys have no game. In terms of like barrier to entry to top-tier Diamond status or top-tier elite status, Hilton has everybody beat. All you need to do is own one credit card.

Summer Hull:
Right. So with Hilton you don’t have to choose to focus all your stays on Hilton. You can just have a card and keep it in your pocket when you need it. And the Aspire is a tremendous card, but even if you just have the Platinum or one of the less expensive Hilton cards, that’s all we had. We have Hilton Gold status, went to Bora Bora, got free breakfast for all of us every single day, which was like almost $200 in value.

Julian Kheel:
And just with Gold.

Summer Hull:
Just with Gold status-matched. Although I could’ve just done it from my Platinum card, as well. So I think Carissa’s right. There’s definitely the lowest barrier to entry with Hilton, but you don’t actually have to make it your program if you don’t want to. With Marriott, you’re going to have to make it your program to get those elite benefits that you want.

JT Genter:
Well and same with IHG. IHG has a credit card that’ll get you mid-tier status, which comes with a lot of perks. I almost prefer that the top-tier status isn’t given away on a credit card. I do have the Hilton Aspire, so I’m a Hilton Diamond and I’ve gotten plenty of benefits, but it feels almost like cheating, it’s not really earning- [laughter]

Carissa Rawson:
I think that’s the point of points and miles, is that it feels like cheating.

Summer Hull:
JT, do you now have a problem with cheating your way to the top? [laughter]

Carissa Rawson:
[crosstalk 00:11:38] status-match [inaudible 00:11:41].

Julian Kheel:
I once brought my brother to one of the conferences that we sometimes have about points and miles and he sat and listen to the whole thing. And at the end I said, “What do you think?” He says, “Sounds like you guys are a bunch of scammers.” And I said, “Yeah, he got it.” So yeah, but when it comes the IHG though, a lot of people are not that familiar with the program and especially the promotions that you mentioned.

JT Genter:
Right. Yeah. So who here at the table has bought points and stayed at a hotel for $25 a night?

Carissa Rawson:
Me.

JT Genter:
Yeah.

Summer Hull:
Well, I bought the points, but remember I’m at the St. Regis, so it’s more. Kidding, kidding.

JT Genter:
It’s a bit more, but I mean that’s part of why I have so many nights at IHG is there’s great promotions. Point break isn’t nearly as great as it used to be, where there’d be 200 hotels or discounts to just 5k points a night. But there’s still plenty of hotels that are 10K points a night or 15K points a night and TPG valuations are 0.5 cents each.

JT Genter:
And you can oftentimes buy it for 0.5 cents each. So, I mean we’ve stayed at incredible InterContinental resorts for $62 a night of bought points by combining that buy-points promotion with the fourth-night-free benefit and the credit card. And that’s hard to beat.

Julian Kheel:
But those hotels that are on the promotion, often, they’re not the most desirable properties, correct?

JT Genter:
Well usually, but there’s some that have just opened and I’ve gotten incredible — it was a Hotel Indigo that just opened in Austin and they were struggling to fill rooms so it was right in downtown Austin. It’s 10K points a night. There’re some that are very desirable, but people haven’t found them yet.

Zach Griff:
You know for all you guys, you’re talking about these credit cards and the ability to use your points and it’s kind of cheap. Let’s face it, the easiest points to earn, if you have a Chase card or any transferable Chase Sapphire preferred or Chase Sapphire reserve-

Zach Griff:
I mean your points transfer 1:1 to Hyatt instantly and I mean, yeah, I don’t buy points because I have a bunch of transferable credit card points that I earn on my Chase cards and the ability to actually get my points instantly from Chase anytime that there’s award availability is incredible.

Zach Griff:
You cannot to transfer Amex points to hotels nearly as efficiently as you can Chase to Hyatt, and the Hyatt award chart, at the moment, maxes out at around 30,000 points per night for Category 7. There is this kind of Category 8 for some of their newer partnership hotels. But to transfer 30,000 Chase points for a night at a Park Hyatt in the Caribbean is incredible.

Carissa Rawson:
Can you clarify what you mean by “at the moment?”

Zach Griff:
Yeah, for sure. So, starting in March 2020, Hyatt will be introducing off-peak and peak pricing. That’s something that Marriott’s done for about a year-ish now. And obviously Hilton doesn’t have award charts, so I don’t know how many points a Hilton would be — ever. And so what Hyatt’s doing is kind of what the other big boys are doing.

Zach Griff:
They are introducing this chart and award nights are going to vary based on the seasonality of the date. But what’s awesome is that it’s Hyatt who’s setting those award rates. So the peak and off-peak dates are determined by the corporate headquarters, not by hotels themselves. Hotels will go rogue as we’ve seen with Marriott, the Bonvoy, the whole merger hotels can kind of do what they want. But Hyatt’s going to try to stop that by having the corporate headquarters determine those dates.

Zach Griff:
And they’re set once a year. So Hyatt will say, “Hey, this is how we predict our seasonality to be. Peak dates will be Christmas, New Year’s, spring break and stuff. And that doesn’t change. So with Marriott, I make my reservation now for six months from now and I check every two weeks to see what happens. Because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s more dynamic.

Julian Kheel:
Marriott’s peak and off-peak system is difficult to navigate because it changes constantly, as Zach mentions.

Summer Hull:
Well, I don’t know about constantly.

Zach Griff:
Yeah. Constantly.

Summer Hull:
No, no, no. I think they said monthly.

Julian Kheel:
Well we’ll say regularly, how about that?

Summer Hull:
But, I’ll tell you. So, yes, I don’t like peak and off-peak pricing and I would ding Marriott for that, were it not for the fact that essentially all programs are doing it or are about to do it. So, it’s not really a unique negative.

JT Genter:
Excuse me. IHG does not have peak and off-peak pricing.

Summer Hull:
Uh-huh [affirmative]. I think they are moving toward dynamic though, aren’t they? We’ve heard some things that it is in the works?

JT Genter:
Yeah, there’s been rumors, but nothing’s come out yet. So you can still redeem 70K points for the InterContinental Times Square for New Year’s Eve. Buy points $350 a night for Times Square, New Year’s Eve.

Summer Hull:
But I don’t want to buy points. I want to just like earn them from my cards and use them at the fancy places. So I’ll say with peak and off-peak with Marriott, I wish they didn’t have it. I liked it when they didn’t, but I have found some surprisingly good deals on some off-peak dates.

Summer Hull:
For example, we’re hosting our in-laws for Christmas and we live in the middle of nowhere Texas, but the Marriott there is off-peak around Christmas and so it costs even fewer points than I expected. So I don’t like that. But sometimes you do come out on the upside.

Zach Griff:
And I’m sure we’ll see the same with Hyatt when they transition to the peak and off-peak pricing later this year.

Summer Hull:
But we’re still guessing.

Zach Griff:
And I’m still guessing every time I make a Marriott reservation because if it’s at a standard or a peak price, chances are something’s going to change before my check-in date.

Summer Hull:
So maybe it’ll go down and you get some points back and you’re a winner?

Zach Griff:
And it has, but too often it goes up.

Summer Hull:
And it has, there you go.

Julian Kheel:
All right. All right folks, we’re going to take a quick break and then we will be back with the continuation of the Battle of the Hotels here on Talking Points.

Brian Kelly:
That’s right, Julian … TPG staffers will be back to duke it out right after this.

Brian Kelly:
We’re back and boy are things getting heated and we haven’t even heard about cobranded cards yet. I’m going to throw it back to Julian right now. Take it away.

Julian Kheel:
Welcome back to the Battle of the Hotels here on Talking Points. I’m Julian Kheel, director of credit cards and points and miles here at TPG. With me today. Zach Griff defending Hyatt; JT Genter defending IHG; Carissa Rawson with Hilton, and Summer Hull with Marriott.

Julian Kheel:
Let’s talk a little bit about the cobranded credit cards with these four brands. Carissa, we talked a little bit about the Aspire card and that it comes automatically with Hilton’s highest-level status. It also, if you’re into Hilton points, comes with some terrific earning rates, right?

Carissa Rawson:
Yeah. It’s got some really, really excellent, I think, unparalleled benefits compared to any of the other large hotel chains. On the Hilton Aspire, you get an automatic 14x points per dollar, but that doesn’t also take into account the fact that you are a Diamond status. So you’re actually-

Julian Kheel:
14 points per dollar at Hilton properties?

Carissa Rawson:
At Hilton properties specifically. That’s correct, but as a Hilton Diamond, you’re also getting 20 points per dollar, so every dollar you spend with your Aspire card at a Hilton property, you’re earning 34 points per dollar, which is just incredible.

Julian Kheel:
In addition to airline credits, resort credits?

Carissa Rawson:
I could go on for days about all the benefits that the Hilton Aspire card will give you: $250 on incidental airline fees, $250 resort credit at Hilton properties, things like that. It’s unparalleled.

Julian Kheel:
Marriott has a similar premium credit card. The Marriott Brilliant card.

Summer Hull:
It does.

Julian Kheel:
It’s good. I would argue it’s not quite as good when it comes to the credits and such.

Summer Hull:
I think that’s fair. I think one of the huge values though from this card is the 50K-award night you’re going to get each year because the properties you can book within the Marriott system for 50K points are pretty impressive, and so that alone is a chunk of the value for me. But I would agree it’s not exactly the same type of card as the Aspire.

Julian Kheel:
The Hyatt doesn’t have a premium card. I would argue they should, but they did revamp their base card just within the last year or so.

Zach Griff:
So what’s nice about Hyatt is it’s kind of simple. You’ve got one card, you’ve got the World of Hyatt credit card, so kind of mid-tier card has a $95 annual fee. It has got a little bit of a quirkiness to it in that the first thing is you can earn elite status just by having the card.

Zach Griff:
It’s not as easy as the Hilton Aspire card. So you don’t just hold the card and get top-tier elite status. If you hold the card, you get the lowest level of elite status, Discoverist. But you can spend your way pretty easily to Globalist to top-tier Hyatt status.

Summer Hull:
Pretty easily? Isn’t it like six figures you have to charge per year to do that?

Zach Griff:
So I’m thinking of a situation where you have a small business or you’re putting, renovating a house or something or have some over the course of a year, a hundred-ish thousand dollars of credit card expenses. You will earn two elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend. And, you know, that sounds like a lot, but think about someone who spends 40 nights at a hotel and needs 20 extra or 15 extra to augment and to supplement on that and get top-tier elite status.

Summer Hull:
So Zach, let me tell you about Marriott.

Zach Griff:
Talk to me.

Summer Hull:
With Marriott, You’ve got to have 50 nights to hit Platinum, which they do have some higher tiers, but you get most of it at Platinum. And so-

Zach Griff:
I would argue you get more at Titanium though.

Summer Hull:
Oh, OK.

Zach Griff:
Which is 75 [nights].

Summer Hull:
But we’re going to go with the real world, where not everyone has six figures of things. So to get Platinum you need 50 nights a year (award nights count) and having pretty much any of the main Marriott cards, you’re going to get 15 elite-nights credit just by having the card. A lot of those cards are under $100 or around $100 a year, so that leaves just 35 and then they’ll have double-stay promos.

Summer Hull:
I’ve been targeted for those at least once or twice the last several years. So when you’re picking up two nights at a time and award nights count, 35 is a really reasonable number that I’d argue is much more within range than charging six figures on your card to get top-tier status in the year.

Zach Griff:
That’s totally true. And that calculation, first off that the tiered status is probably between Platinum and World of Hyatt Globalists aren’t necessarily equal. Marriott Platinum is definitely not nearly as rewarding as Globalist, but let’s just take it, you know, just easy calculation here.

Zach Griff:
Assuming Globalist, Platinum are the same, you’re spending 30 nights at a hotel and with Hyatt you need an additional, depending if you’re requalifying, you’ll only need an additional 25 nights that you need to charge your way to. You divide 25 and two that’s like 12 and a half. Let’s go with 12 so then you’re needing $60,000 in credit card spend over the course of a year to supplement and get you to that Globalist-tier status.

Julian Kheel:
There’s more flexibility. It’s not all or nothing.

Zach Griff:
Exactly.

Julian Kheel:
Right.

Summer Hull:
That’s still sounds like a lot and I’d rather put my earnings or my expenditures on a card that’s going to be more rewarding and flexible than lock it all into one hotel program.

Julian Kheel:
Fair enough.

Zach Griff:
Fair enough.

Julian Kheel:
Well, let’s talk for a second about the IHG premiere, which I know, JT, is literally one of your favorite cards, probably your favorite hotel card.

JT Genter:
It is my favorite hotel card. The Aspire is pretty close, but it’s incredible to be able to pay just $89 a year, get Platinum status, which comes with a number of benefits. You get at least 25x points when you stay at IHG hotels and charge it to the card, 10 on the card and then 10 base at IHG plus since you’ll have Platinum status, you’ll five more and you get a free anniversary night each year, which is capped.

Julian Kheel:
It used to be unlimited but they-

JT Genter:
It used to be unlimited-

Julian Kheel:
But they did recently cap it, right?

JT Genter:
That’s right, and while it’s capped at 40,000 points per night, that’s a hotel that we would value at $200 — TPG evaluations — and it is just $89 a year. It’s a card that I can easily defend.

Julian Kheel:
And your favorite benefit, probably the fourth-night free [perk]. Right?

JT Genter:
Exactly.

Julian Kheel:
Talk about that for a second.

JT Genter:
Yeah. I should have actually added up how many fourth-night frees I’ve done this year but it is a lot. I spent many nights for free thanks to this card.

Julian Kheel:
Fourth night on any award redemption, correct?

JT Genter:
Any award redemption, including point-break hotels or promotions. It’s incredible. You can save tons of points on that.

Julian Kheel:
I want to talk for a second about what we each see coming in 2020 on the hotel front. And I actually want to start with IHG, because I recently did an IHG rewards stay in Frankfurt at a points-break hotel. One of the 15,000 ones, and I had never seen this before, but maybe you have.

Julian Kheel:
The room I was assigned was specifically marked literally on the door, IHG Rewards Club room, meaning that they had put aside about half a dozen rooms in the hotel specifically for award redemptions. And when I walked in, it was one of the nicer rooms in the hotel and I thought-

JT Genter:
Interesting.

Julian Kheel:
Right? I had never seen that before. And the reason I’m bringing up is I feel that as hotels are competing as it is getting tougher to compete when it comes to loyalty programs, because there have been a lot of the devaluations, that sort of individual attention, that sort of rewarding of loyalty I think is going to become more of a factor. It a simple touch like that. Why give the free redemption the worst room when you’re rewarding your most loyal customer?

JT Genter:
And unfortunately I’ve had that with IHG in Bora Bora, definitely got, seemingly the worst room, which is still an overwater villa. So it’s hard to complain about. But yeah, I haven’t seen that. I spent about 90 nights so far at IHG. Probably more than half of those are award nights and I haven’t seen that yet, but-

Julian Kheel:
What’s your plan in 2020 for IHG? Are you going to probably do another 90 nights do you think?

JT Genter:
Probably, yeah. I’ve been Aspire elite, this is my second year. I’ll probably qualify again next year. I’ll be rolling over some nights thanks to surpassing the 75 that’s needed. I’ll start next year with a few in the bank.

Julian Kheel:
Are you concerned about dynamic pricing?

JT Genter:
Yes, I am. I mean I feel like it’s gonna come eventually and I’m hoping that it won’t. As Summer points out, the off-peak pricing can be great because you can get great value if you’re flexible and you’re traveling those off-peak times. I like the IHG simplicity if you know exactly how much you’re going to pay for a hotel.

Julian Kheel:
Carissa, Hilton in 2020 what do you think? Do you think there’s any changes on the horizon? What’s your plans?

Carissa Rawson:
I actually do know that Hilton is launching more luxury properties, that it’s been on their radar and they’re making a hard push to — so it can kind of be on the likes of say the St. Regis or a Park Hyatt. So I’m really looking forward to that. As long as I’m a Hilton Diamond Elite, which I will be forever with the Aspire card and with no stays at all, I’m going to be staying at Hilton. They give me the most for what I’m willing to put in.

Julian Kheel:
And Hilton to some degrees started the dynamic pricing trend way back when. When they got rid of their charts. And even before that, when they started doing ranges for their top-tier properties.

Carissa Rawson:
Yes and no. I mean Hilton technically doesn’t have an award chart, but it has some actual 14 categories ranging in 5,000 points to 95,000 points a night with one single exception. So for standard room rewards, that’s really what you’re looking at. If you’re going to go to premium rewards, I suggest you look elsewhere. But for the most part you can look at a Hilton property and pay a specific amount even though it’s not a published award chart.

Julian Kheel:
When it comes to Hyatt, we already know of one major change that we talked about in 2020 what else do you see coming down the pike here?

Zach Griff:
Yeah, I think that this peak, off-peak pricing is probably Hyatt’s biggest change certainly from the earning and in this case burning side of the equation. I’d love to see Hyatt acquire some more properties. It’s certainly also been a big play for them in the last year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more acquisitions there.

Julian Kheel:
Do you think we’ll see more hotels creep into that Category 8?

Zach Griff:
That’s a great question. Hyatt’s been pretty good about keeping their properties in Category 7 and I’m hopeful that they’ll stay there for next year.

Julian Kheel:
And when it comes to Marriott in 2020 Summer, you’ll be staying at the St. Regis again, I assume?

Summer Hull:
Let’s hope. I think 2020 is going to be smooth sailing for Marriott. I think the last couple of years have been marked with a lot of change and some waves, but I think 2020 is going to be a relatively stable year for them. I’m excited that they’re getting more into the all-inclusive market, which can be fun for an easy vacation. So I think 2020 is looking good for Marriott.

Julian Kheel:
All right, we’re going to have to leave it there for today. Thank you Zach, JT, Carissa and Summer for joining us here for today’s Battle of the Hotel’s on Talking Points. I’m Julian Kheel. Let’s go back to Brian for a little wrap-up.

Brian Kelly:
Thanks Julian. So who’s the winner? You decide. Let us know on Twitter @thepointsguy and make sure to check out the pointsguy.com for more details on your favorite hotels. Well, my two cents, to be honest, each has their own ups and downs. I was Starwood loyal, RIP, and thus Marriott. So I’m pretty happy as a Marriott Titanium Ambassador.

Brian Kelly:
I’m also a Hilton Diamond from my Centurion card and boy did they treat me well at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives. I really like Waldorf Astoria hotel. So I’m kind of just sleeping around these days even though I am getting married. I mean sleeping around in hotels. You get what I mean, in any case. But, you know, IHG has some value, the hotels are not for me personally. Elite status-wise, I think Hyatt probably has the best elite-status perks with full benefit and upgrades.

Brian Kelly:
But really when it comes down to hotel choices, there is no one right or wrong answer. It’s about the footprint, the elite perks and credit cards and where you want to redeem your miles. So, to each their own. And that’s it for the Battle of the Hotels.

Brian Kelly:
Thanks for listening and to Zack Griff, Carissa Rawson, Summer Hull, and JT Genter for duking it out and to our trustee moderator, Julian Kheel. Thanks to my podcast team, Margaret Kelley and Caroline Schagrin and to Christie Matsui for keeping me in check. I’m Brian Kelly. Safe travels, everyone, and sleep tight, whatever hotel you stay in.

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