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Which Hotel points program should I invest in? (Infrequent traveler)

Which Hotel points program should I invest in? (Infrequent traveler)

Old Sep 12, 19, 7:34 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2019
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Question Which Hotel points program should I invest in? (Infrequent traveler)

Hi everyone. I'm fairly new to credit card rewards. I currently have one reward-earning card (Chase Ink Cash), and only have 3 cards overall. In addition to collecting UR points, I think investing in a hotel program couldn't hurt. The problem is that currently, I don't travel much at all, and I don't travel for work, unfortunately. So my best chance for racking up hotel points would be through SUBs. But which program should I focus my energy on? (I’m not including Hyatt because I figure UR points are a good use that.) My goal is to gather points for the occasional “aspirational trip”, where I can get good value through the use of points.

Here's what I've gathered so far (and please let me know if my evaluation is wrong):

Hilton
-- I won't travel enough to earn Status through stays at any hotel chain. It seems the only status worth anything that is obtainable through a credit card is Hilton.
-- Free breakfasts, late checkout, 5th night free is nice.
-- Room upgrades seem unlikely?
-- “Once in a lifetime” SUBs limit ability to earn points though.

Marriott
--No shot at meaningful status, no room upgrades.
-- I can earn points by applying for cards more than once.
--Versatile points, 5th night free, anniversary night all nice.

IHG
-- Points might be further devalued soon with dynamic pricing.
-- IHG Platinum Elite seems fine on paper, but from what I hear, room upgrades don't get you much in terms of quality. (Is Intercontinental Ambassador worth anything?)
-- 4th night free! And anniversary night.

Any recommendations on which direction I should go? Or are there factors that I haven't taken into account yet?
Ben Slowen is offline  
Old Sep 13, 19, 10:23 am
  #2  
 
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Just one perspective, but I think you need to clarify what is your primary objective. You indicate "gather points for the occasional “aspirational trip”" above. If that is accurate and you won't be actually staying at hotels a lot as you build up your points, things like status, upgrades and free breakfast should be low on your consideration check list and you would be more focused on which CC SUB and on-going points earnings are worth the most.

I also wouldn't throw Hyatt out of the equation unless you have a huge amount of UR points you are willing to allocate to your aspirational trip as those can get very pricey point-wise, particularly if you are looking to stay in a premium room.

You can check out The Points Guy's latest valuation for hotel points and then do the math on what the SUB and on-going earnings are worth, recognizing that the latter gets complicated depending on where you spend (dining, gas, etc.) that have different multipliers across cards.

PS nice summary of the programs!
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Old Sep 13, 19, 10:25 am
  #3  
 
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Maybe you should consider a program like Hotels.com stay 10 get credit for the average rate of those 10. I use it for stays outside of programs I am elite in. These stays do not earn status or points at the hotels you book though so be aware. Cap 1 has a bonus situation with Hotels.com in you want additional earnings.
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Old Sep 13, 19, 7:27 pm
  #4  
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Originally Posted by bosman View Post
Just one perspective, but I think you need to clarify what is your primary objective. You indicate "gather points for the occasional “aspirational trip”" above. If that is accurate and you won't be actually staying at hotels a lot as you build up your points, things like status, upgrades and free breakfast should be low on your consideration check list and you would be more focused on which CC SUB and on-going points earnings are worth the most.

I also wouldn't throw Hyatt out of the equation unless you have a huge amount of UR points you are willing to allocate to your aspirational trip as those can get very pricey point-wise, particularly if you are looking to stay in a premium room.

You can check out The Points Guy's latest valuation for hotel points and then do the math on what the SUB and on-going earnings are worth, recognizing that the latter gets complicated depending on where you spend (dining, gas, etc.) that have different multipliers across cards.

PS nice summary of the programs!
Thank you for the response. You're probably right in that status and things like free breakfast wouldn't matter so much if I am not frequently staying in hotels. One thing that I thought WOULD be a benefit would be finding my way to getting a room upgrade. For example, I hear constantly about trips to the Maldives or Bora Bora. They sound wonderful, but in order to get one of those overwater rooms, you're either spending a fortune, or using more points than someone like me could possibly accrue. So the thinking was perhaps being eligible for a room upgrade would allow me to experience that (though who knows how likely a room upgrade like that is to happen). This is why I was considering Hilton (despite the once-in-a-lifetime limitations) since status with the cards makes you eligible for an upgrade, or InterContinental Ambassador. Please tell me if my thinking is incorrect here.

As for Hyatt, I currently have the Ink Cash card, and intend to add the Ink Preferred. With my business, I am able to collect a decent number of UR points per year. So I figured Hyatt would be a good transfer option for UR points. Unfortunately, Hyatt doesn't have the greatest reach, so I thought going for a hotel chain that had more hotels would give me more options.
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Old Sep 13, 19, 7:31 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by Yoshi212 View Post
Maybe you should consider a program like Hotels.com stay 10 get credit for the average rate of those 10. I use it for stays outside of programs I am elite in. These stays do not earn status or points at the hotels you book though so be aware. Cap 1 has a bonus situation with Hotels.com in you want additional earnings.
Thank you for the suggestion. I have to look more into Hotels.com. I had always been under the impression that they catered to the less expensive hotels, rather than the resort-type locations that I would try to build towards. If I'm wrong, that's great!

Looking into the Capital One suggestion you made, the Venture card looks like a great compliment to Hotels.com. But we don't know if this partnership is going to be renewed next year, right? Maybe I'll hold off a couple of months and see how things shake out.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 8:43 am
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by Yoshi212 View Post
Maybe you should consider a program like Hotels.com stay 10 get credit for the average rate of those 10. I use it for stays outside of programs I am elite in. These stays do not earn status or points at the hotels you book though so be aware. Cap 1 has a bonus situation with Hotels.com in you want additional earnings.
Agree with this. For an infrequent traveler, hotels.com and/or benefits achieved through CC spend are the best options.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 9:58 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Ben Slowen View Post
One thing that I thought WOULD be a benefit would be finding my way to getting a room upgrade. For example, I hear constantly about trips to the Maldives or Bora Bora. They sound wonderful, but in order to get one of those overwater rooms, you're either spending a fortune, or using more points than someone like me could possibly accrue. So the thinking was perhaps being eligible for a room upgrade would allow me to experience that (though who knows how likely a room upgrade like that is to happen). This is why I was considering Hilton (despite the once-in-a-lifetime limitations) since status with the cards makes you eligible for an upgrade, or InterContinental Ambassador. Please tell me if my thinking is incorrect here.
You're incorrect, in that status only qualifies you for an upgrade. It does not guarantee you an upgrade, and it doesn't even make an upgrade likely, it just makes an upgrade possible. Look at it as entering you into a lottery; it may be a free lottery, but it's still a lottery. In fact, if you are staying for several days in a sold our property, the upgrade most likely goes to someone else staying one night (because only for one night is the upgraded room available), and you get no upgrade.

The only thing you can count on is if Hilton lets you use points to upgrade, but that usually requires a ridiculous amount of points, such as 60000 points for a standard room, or 187742 points for an upgraded room. And that's for one night, so how will one or even two sign-up bonuses (SUBs) help you with that?

So you need to research the hotels in an "aspirational" area well, to find out if it's possible to get the rooms you want, or only possible to get some room, with hotel points (with or without status).

And you have to understand another thing: If a hotel program gives status to you just for having a credit card, it's likely overloaded with people who have status, so you may actually fewer upgrades than if your earn status "the hard way" at hotel program which doesn't give status away easily.

And yet another thing: If 2 or different levels of status "qualify" you for upgrades, it's often only the people with the very highest status who will get upgrades in nearly-booked-up hotels. If you just have mid-level status, you are only more likely to get upgrades when the hotel is lightly booked.

Next, don't assume that every hotel chain is everywhere. For example, in Scandinavia outside the big city capitals, the only hotel chains (with a presence in North America) are Choice, Best Western, and Radisson, and those weren't even on your list! So if you want to see the beautiful fjords in western Norway, you need Choice or Best Western points (Radisson works in fewer locations there, but might work depending on exactly where you're going). And that's just one example, there are lots of other places in the world where only or two (out of a dozen) hotel programs work.

So don't assume you can choose the card first and choose the destination later. Although it's not kept up to date as much as would be nice, start with www.awardmapper.com to see which hotel programs are in which locations (though don't believe the points redemption values without double-checking). Note that Radisson Rewards is shown under their old name, Club Carlson, there.

Last edited by sdsearch; Sep 15, 19 at 7:28 pm Reason: formatting correction
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Old Sep 14, 19, 11:26 pm
  #8  
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To be blunt, there is zero chance a freebie status level will get you a week long upgrade in Bora Bora. Forget upgrades.
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Old Sep 30, 19, 6:44 am
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by Yoshi212 View Post
Maybe you should consider a program like Hotels.com stay 10 get credit for the average rate of those 10. I use it for stays outside of programs I am elite in. These stays do not earn status or points at the hotels you book though so be aware. Cap 1 has a bonus situation with Hotels.com in you want additional earnings.
I definitely recommend hotels.com for infrequent travelers.

I've got a friend how is now quite tied up with Hilton. He likes the free upgrades, water, breakfast, wifi etc, but as I see it, he's stuck with a very small choice of properties in every location (or no choice), paying whatever the hilton.com rate is. I, on the otherhand, can choose whatever hotel I want on hotels.com, choose the location, choose the star rating, choose the room quality etc. I can buy my own $1 bottle of water, and find a rate that includes breakfast. By signing up with a chain, you are seriously limiting your options, just for the sake of an elusive upgrade and basic perks that you would find anyone in a lot of hotels.

Unless you are travelling a lot to somewhere you know has your preferred chain, and are 100% happy with the hotels and the perks, then stay away.
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Old Oct 2, 19, 12:06 am
  #10  
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IIRC Hilton upgrades, at least at the Gold level, are based on availability, not guaranteed. In most USA hotels, you'd be lucky to get 1 pm.
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Old Oct 3, 19, 9:09 am
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Originally Posted by Yoshi212 View Post
Maybe you should consider a program like Hotels.com stay 10 get credit for the average rate of those 10. I use it for stays outside of programs I am elite in. These stays do not earn status or points at the hotels you book though so be aware. Cap 1 has a bonus situation with Hotels.com in you want additional earnings.
I also use hotels.com because of their rewards. However, after shopping around I find often compared to other OTAs their rates are higher (if you add in their taxes/fees it is a few dollars), and in terms of the redemption you also should know it is somewhat limited (not all hotels are applicable).
If you were into miles I don't know if rocketmiles might be a better thing, cause airline miles are usually worth more.
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