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Move over, bland chains: Hotels are finally figuring out that we want unique places to stay

Sept. 23, 2019
7 min read
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Quick, think of a big-box hotel. What are you picturing? Is it a huge hotel devoid of personality with copious amounts of rooms? Or an aspirational mega-resort that's nearly impossible to book with points?

Yeah, me too. And apparently everyone else as well, because hotel chains have slowly been putting forth efforts over the past decade to acquire or otherwise partner with independent hotels and boutique brands with a little something extra to offer.

The Carpe Diem in Santorini, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

This is why we've seen Hyatt partner with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Hilton launch its Tapestry Collection, Marriott continue to build its portfolio of Autograph and Design hotels, and most recently, IHG's exclusive partnership with Mr & Mrs Smith, a luxury brand focused on high-end boutique hotels.

North Island hotel in the Seychelles, where royals Will and Kate spent their honeymoon. (Photo courtesy of Mr & Mrs Smith)

This is excellent news for us in the points and miles business, as our ability to reach ever more exclusive hotels is expanding. It's especially good for those who prefer more unusual or stylish accommodations instead of cookie-cutter properties.

Marriott Bonvoy boutique brands

Marriott's independent and boutique brands include Design Hotels, Tribute Portfolio and Autograph Collection Hotels.

For instance, Marriott's collection of hotels in Rome features a number of boutique properties, like Palazzo Naiadi, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection. I stayed at this hotel a couple of years ago with my mom and had a phenomenal time.

The Palazzo Naiadi, Rome. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

As a Category 7, the Palazzo Naiadi will run you 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night, or just 50,000 if you're traveling during off-peak days.

There are tons of ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points, including an offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, which will get you 75,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.

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World of Hyatt boutique brands

If you're a Hyatt loyalist, you're probably slavering to see Hyatt expanding its Small Luxury Hotels of the World partnership with the recent integration of 43 more SLH hotels into its offerings. These include such specialties as the Sailrock Resort, the first points-redeemable hotel in the Turks and Caicos.

The pool and terrace at Sailrock Resort. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Along with the SLH integration comes Hyatt's acquisition of Two Roads Hospitality, the group that manages Destination Hotels, Thompson Hotels, Alila and Joie de Vivre Hotels and Resorts. These brands join Hyatt's own Unbound Collection, which launched in 2016.

While the newest hotels have necessitated the invention of an entirely new category, running 40,000 points a night, it's easy to earn Hyatt points because Hyatt is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Fortunately, there are tons of points on the table right now with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card welcome offers, as well as World of Hyatt's own cobranded credit card:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card - Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • World of Hyatt Credit Card - Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x bonus points total spent on purchases that normally earn 1x point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening

Related: Your guide to maximizing redemptions with Hyatt

Hilton Honors boutique brands

Hilton, too, is jumping into the boutique hotel industry, though it's lagging behind fellow competitors with just two brands featuring independent hotels — Tapestry Collection and Curio Collection. That doesn't mean it's out of the ballgame — check out The Graham Washington D.C., an absolutely gorgeous Tapestry Collection hotel located in prestigious Georgetown.

The bar at the Graham Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)

You can redeem Hilton points here at a rate of 80,000 points per night, which isn't cheap. Considering the cost of staying in downtown Washington D.C., however, you're doing fairly well. Earning Hilton points is also absurdly easy. American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio. You should also consider the portfolio of cobranded Hilton credit cards:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — Earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card — Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points plus a free night reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card — Free night reward offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points plus a free night reward after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card — Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.

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

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Hilton Honors

Bottom line

The more partnerships the big hotel chains make, the better it is for travelers. While many of us enjoy finding low (points) cost hotels, the ability to pay for one-of-a-kind properties around the world with points is an incredible amount of added value. Coupled with hotel chains' push into the super high-end hotel market, we're gaining new options every day.

Featured image by The Cotton House Hotel, Barcelona. Image courtesy of Marriott.
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.