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Hotel points help me beat price gouging at major events

Sept. 14, 2021
7 min read
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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.

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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.

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)


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

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023