Hotel points help me beat price gouging at major events
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.
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.
Now really take note of the following screenshots. Here was the room rate one night before the Indy 500 weekend.
And here was the room rate the very next night during the Indy 500 weekend.
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.
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:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card - Free night award with Marriott every year after your account anniversary, worth up to 35,000 points.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card - Free night certificate at a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel each cardmember anniversary, worth up to 15,000 points.
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card - One reward night certificate valid at IHG hotels after your account anniversary, worth up to 40,000 points.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card - Free night award with Marriott every year after your card renewal month, worth up to 85,000 points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card - Free night award with Marriott every year after your card renewal month, worth up to 35,000 points.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card - One weekend night at almost any Hilton property worldwide after opening your account and on your cardmember anniversary each year.
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.
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.