Redemption of the Week: A Honeymoon Hotel Stay in Maui
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For the next Award Redemption of the Week, I want to share a story from TPG reader Nathaniel, who transferred Ultimate Rewards points to book a hotel stay:
My fiancée and I are getting married in December, and this past February we began to plan our honeymoon. I researched flights and found round-trip airfare from New Orleans to Maui (MSY to OGG) on American Airlines for $404 per ticket in January, 2019. It wasn't hard for me to convince my fiancée that we should go for it!
We felt like we got a steal on plane tickets, but we knew that two weeks of accommodations in Hawaii could get expensive. That prompted me to research travel credit cards that we could potentially use toward a hotel stay in Maui. We decided the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card was the best fit for us, as you can get great value by transferring points to various hotel programs. I got the card with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, plus an additional 5,000 bonus points for adding my fiancée as an authorized user (authorized user bonus no longer available). By using the card for everyday spending the last few months, we worked our way up to 75,000 points.
I recently transferred those 75,000 points to World of Hyatt and booked our first three nights at the luxurious Andaz Maui. The room would have cost $504 per night plus a $45 daily resort fee if I had paid cash. Instead I'm paying 25,000 points per night and the resort fee is waived since I'm using points. We decided to go the Airbnb route for the rest of our time there; I'll earn 2 points per dollar for using my Sapphire Preferred card, and I booked our stay through DeltaAirbnb.com, so I'm set to also receive 1 SkyMile per dollar spent.
We are super excited about our honeymoon and feel like we got great value by transferring the Ultimate Rewards Points to World of Hyatt. This will allow us to relax at the Andaz Maui for our first three days and save over $1,500 in doing so.
This being an award redemption story, it's natural to look at the value Nathaniel and his fiancée got from their points. Their stay would have cost roughly $1,650, so their 75,000 points gave them a return of 2.2 cents apiece. That's a little above average based on TPG's valuations, though I suspect Nathaniel's total only reflects the room rate; accounting for the several hundred dollars in taxes they'd also have to pay boosts their return a bit. Given that they planned to redeem for a hotel stay in Maui, I think they did about as well as could reasonably be expected with Ultimate Rewards. But that raises the question: Was Ultimate Rewards their best option?
To answer that, we need to look beyond redemption value and examine the overall return they got on their spending. To earn 75,000 points on the Sapphire Preferred card, Nathaniel and his fiancée had to spend at least $10,000 — that's if every purchase they made was in a 2x bonus category. Assuming their three nights at the Andaz Maui would have cost $1,850 after tax, they got a return of 18.5% on that spending.
Suppose instead they had each applied for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card with the 100,000-point sign-up bonus that was available earlier this year. The current offer is 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. After meeting the respective spending requirements, they would have each had at least 110,000 Marriott Rewards points. Marriott lets you transfer up to 50,000 points annually to another member (for a $10 transaction fee), so they could have pooled 160,000 points in one account — enough to book five nights (with the fifth night free) at the Wailea Beach Resort next door or one of Marriott's other Maui properties. The remaining 60,000 points in the other account would have been enough to book a sixth night and still have 20,000 points leftover for future use.
The Wailea Beach Resort and Andaz Maui are priced comparably, so earning and redeeming Marriott points for six nights instead of Ultimate Rewards points for three nights would have roughly doubled the return on Nathaniel's spending. That doesn't account for the two $95 annual fees on their cards, the $35 per night they'd pay in resort fees (since Marriott doesn't waive them on awards), or the impact of submitting a second credit application. On the other hand, it doesn't account for the value they'd get from the leftover points, so a return of $3,300 or 33% seems like a reasonable, conservative estimate.
Nathaniel and his fiancée may have had other reasons to want the Sapphire Preferred card or concerns about a second application being denied, or simply had their hearts set on the Andaz. You should evaluate awards in the context of your own needs and interests, and not purely on the basis of redemption value or return on spending. Still, their example shows how important it is to weigh your options in terms of both earning and redeeming. Given the amount they spent and their ability to maximize rewards as a team, they may have left some value on the table.
In appreciation for sharing his story, we're sending Nathaniel a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and we’d like to do the same for you. Please send your own award redemption stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about the booking process and what you learned from it, and put “Award Redemption Story” in the subject line. As always, we'd also love to hear your success and mistake stories. If your submission gets published, we’ll send you a gift to spark your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui