Hotel points help me beat price gouging at major events

Sep 14, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Sporting events, conventions, ski season, concerts, holidays.

There are endless reasons why hotels will jack up their room rates throughout the year. Demand breeds price gouging and there is nothing you can do about it.

Just kidding, there’s plenty you can do about it. All you need is a hotel credit card or two. The rewards I’ve earned from my World of Hyatt Credit Card and my Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card have saved me a whole lot of money throughout the years at major events.

New to The Points Guy? Want to learn more about credit card points and miles? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

I’ll explain what makes hotel credit cards special and recount my two favorite times I beat price gouging. You can use your points in this same strategic manner for whatever megapopular event you’re planning to attend in the future.

In This Post

Saving over $1,000 at the Indy 500 with Marriott

Most hotel chains charge a flat number of points at each property. You can determine how many points you’ll pay by figuring out which hotel “category” they’re in. The higher the category, the higher the reward price.

For example, here’s a look at the Marriott award chart.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

These price ranges stay the same no matter what the hotel’s cash price is for that particular night. Whether the hotel costs $150 or $1,500, your points will stay in these predetermined ranges. That’s the key to beating price gouging.

A couple of years ago, I booked a Category 4 hotel, the Delta Hotels Indianapolis East. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this hotel. It’s not a wish list destination. It’s fair but not five-star worthy — it’s not even that expensive, with an average nightly rate of around $140. By all accounts, this hotel doesn’t seem like a great value for 25,000 points.

But once a year, this hotel is wildly popular for a few nights when the Indianapolis 500 is in town over Memorial Day weekend.

My family and I volunteer at the Indy 500 almost every year (even though I don’t get the sport’s allure), so we always stay at a nearby hotel the night before. As expected, this Category 4 hotel costs between 20,000 and 30,000 Marriott points per night. I took a screenshot of my reservation below.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

Now really take note of the following screenshots. Here was the room rate one night before the Indy 500 weekend.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

And here was the room rate the very next night during the Indy 500 weekend.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

That’s nearly 10x the normal room rate. We’re talking about the same exact room type but a vastly different price tag. Marriott points saved me over $1,000 on this hotel stay.

Related: How to redeem points with the Marriott Bonvoy program

Saving $1,000 during the Great American Eclipse

Similar to Marriott, Hyatt’s award chart charges a flat points price for each hotel category. As long as there are available rooms, you’ll beat price gouging.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt)

I’d heard stories of men dropping to their knees in tearful wonderment at the sight of a solar eclipse. So when I heard that the solar eclipse in August 2017 would be casting its shadow a few states away from my house, I decided to make a trip.

I flew to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch the event on the coast. Hotels were packed well before my trip, but I found a room available at the Hyatt House Charleston/Historic District. Rooms were selling for over $500 per night, up from an average of $200. The hotel was available for just 12,000 Hyatt points per night, however (now 15,000 points).

I booked two nights for 24,000 Hyatt points and saved $1,000 to see one of the most anticipated phenomenons in recent memory.

Related: The 50 most in-demand World of Hyatt hotels for point redemptions

The immense power of hotel credit cards

Hotel points can be a potent antidote for price gouging. But even if you don’t generate a lot of points from spending on your hotel credit cards, you can still often beat the surcharges simply by keeping the cards open. That’s because most hotel credit cards come with annual free night certificates. For example:

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

As you can see, these cards offer some form of annual night certificate just for keeping the card. Additional hotel cards offer an annual night after meeting a spending requirement. Read our post on the best hotel credit cards to see what each card offers.

Both of the hotels I booked above can be reserved with a hotel credit card free night award. Most of these annual certificates won’t put you in a five-star hotel, but they can save you many hundreds of dollars if you know how to use them. This perk alone is worth paying your hotel card’s annual fee year after year.

Bottom line

It’s maddening that hotels can get away with such outrageous upcharges. If ever you think you can’t afford to travel to an event, remember the value of hotel points and hotel credit card free night certificates. They’re game-changers.

Featured photo by Michael Allen Siebold/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.