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

Apr 14, 2022

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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.

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 photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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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.

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