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Stacking perks in New York City: Why spending over $400 for a hotel was a better deal than using points

April 14, 2022
6 min read
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There's nothing quite like a free hotel stay on points — except when using points isn't actually the best deal.

Points are made to be used, but not every redemption opportunity is created equal. Sometimes, the overall return you'd get from redeeming points isn't great, so it makes more sense to save them for another day and use cash instead. This is especially true when you factor in valuable perks and benefits that you may gain or lose, depending on whether you pay with cash or points.

When I was planning a recent trip to New York City, for example, I quickly realized that the 95,000 Hilton Honors points I'd need to cover my stay in a standard room at the Conrad New York Midtown would not net me the best overall value, especially since I needed extra space to accommodate myself, my kids and my mom.

A suite at the Conrad New York Midtown. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Instead, I determined that The Platinum Card® from American Express — and its $200 annual hotel statement credit on prepaid stays booked through Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection — would get me a much better deal in the long run, so I kept my points and decided to pay with cash. Enrollment is required. Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.

Here's why using cash was the way to go — and what I gained by paying out of pocket instead of with points.

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My suite cost $200 less

Since my mom was coming on the trip with us, we really needed either two rooms or a true suite.

While we can all stay in a standard hotel room, the lack of elbow room (especially in the Big Apple, a city known for tighter hotel rooms than many other cities) was something I'd rather avoid. So, once I decided the Conrad New York Midtown was the place we should stay for the first night, I set my eyes on one of the property's many suites with a living room and a pullout couch.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Thankfully, the hotel can be booked through the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program, meaning I could use the annual $200 credit that comes with my Amex Platinum to partially cover the stay.

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Although the night I booked came in around $600 (about $200 more per night than the lowest rate you'll find at this hotel for standard rooms), the $200 statement credit on my credit card made it so I paid a little over $400. Despite being a bit pricey, the total wasn't bad considering I would've otherwise had to reserve two rooms elsewhere or shell out a ton of points for one smaller room. But the statement credit was just the start.

I received about $200 in free food and drinks

Because I booked through the Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts program, I not only was entitled to enjoy complimentary full breakfast for two every day, but I also a received one-time $100 property credit to use for room service, the on-site restaurant or items in our suite's minibar (or overnight parking).

Had I booked with Hilton Honors points, I would've only been eligible for a smaller daily food and beverage credit of $50 as a Hilton Honors member with at least Gold elite status. That wouldn't have even covered breakfast.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The morning menu is expensive here, with an American breakfast costing $45 and pancakes ringing in at $22 (before taxes and fees). Tack on coffee, orange juice and any other extras, and breakfast will add up fast. Luckily, we had that complimentary breakfast for two thanks to the Amex FHR booking and the $100 on-property credit to cover the rest.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

So, rather than worry about the high bill (or skip room service altogether), I was able to treat my mom and kids and savor the moment.

Because we still had credits left over after breakfast, we were even able to enjoy another thing I'd usually skip: the in-suite minibar.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The price-conscious mom in me would normally never spend $9 on a couple of sodas. However, I was perfectly fine with taking some easily accessible Cokes this time around since we had a credit to use.

We were guaranteed late checkout

By using cash instead of points, I secured us one other highly coveted perk: a guaranteed late checkout time of 4 p.m. We used this benefit to the fullest since we were moving to another hotel a few blocks away that wouldn't let us check in until about that time.

Rather than rush to get out of our suite and lug our items around town (or leave them with the front desk), we were able instead to head to nearby Central Park to play, ride the carousel and grab slices of pizza to enjoy back in the room when the kids needed a break from the chilly weather.

Playing in Central Park. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Not having to be out of the room and on our own by 11 a.m. had real value on this trip, as it gave me more time to enjoy the city with my family.

Bottom line

Even though I had the 95,000 points needed to reserve a room for free at the Conrad New York Midtown, paying with cash was the better way to go this time.

By using my Amex Platinum to book a suite, I received about $400 in savings and perks, plus extra time with the room. The cherry on top of the deal, though, was the 11,000 Hilton Honors points (worth about $66, according to TPG's latest valuations) I earned by booking through Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts.

Featured image by Conrad New York Midtown (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
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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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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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

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best luxury travel rewards card
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

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees