Over the years, I’ve developed my hotel booking strategy to never “pay” for a hotel. I put “pay” in quotation marks because there is opportunity costs of using a 2% cashback card instead of points. There might also be some minimal costs associated with manufactured spending.
My hotel booking strategy is quite simple and is based on collecting Ultimate Rewards points, SPG points, and Barclaycard points. I try to keep it simple between 3 programs so it is easy to collect points, track points, and redeem points. Of course it always depends on the situation, but in general I follow these guidelines. My hotel booking strategy involves comparing these three options:
- Use Hyatt/Ultimate Rewards points for a Hyatt hotel. This is my go to program because Ultimate Rewards points are the easiest to obtain with Chase Ink Bold 5X/Chase Freedom 5X. I tend to either stay at category 3 or 4 hotels (12K-15K per night) or go all out at 22K if its a high-end property like Paris Hyatt Vendome or Grand Hyatt Kauai.
- Use SPG points for a hotel if it is good value. I think transferring SPG points to AA miles is good value, but sometimes it makes sense to use SPG points for hotels. I am eyeing a trip to Sheraton Kona (10K SPG per night) or Sheraton Miyako Tokyo (10K). I think the sweet spot to SPG hotels are the category 3 and 4 hotels.
- Hilton – I’m only considering this option for the Citi Hilton Reserve Card. I haven’t applied for the card yet, but I would use the two free weekend nights at an aspirational property such as Hilton Moorea or Conrad Tokyo. Other than that, I do not collect Hilton points ever since the March devaluation.
- If none of these options work, I’ll go with a third party hotel by searching Kayak.com. I often don’t need anything fancy and can find $100ish hotels. I’ll then use my Barclaycard Arrival points to get the hotel for free. For a $100 hotel, it would only cost $5,000 in spend on my Barclaycard Arrival. That’s why I use the card often on non-category bonus expenses and manufactured spending.
I usually compare all three of those options and take in consideration location, cost efficiency, and perks of the hotel. Sometimes third party hotels provide better amenities than Hyatt or SPG hotels even when you have mid-tier status! I only have Hyatt Platinum and SPG Gold at the moment, which only provide internet and late checkout. Booking at a third party hotel sometimes includes free breakfast at a reasonable rate! There’s no formula to the madness, just depends on the situation.
My Hotel Booking Strategy Example
I will be staying in Tokyo for two nights sometime next year. My time is limited and will be visiting friends most of the time. Therefore, I need to be in a good location, easily accessible to the JR station. I used my method above:
- Hyatt – Looked into aspirational properties such as Park Hyatt Tokyo, but sold out for one of the days. I would have to switch hotels, which would be troublesome. Also the Park Hyatt Tokyo is completely far from the main city and not conveniently located. You would have to take the hotel shuttle to get to Shinjuku station. The Hyatt Regency Tokyo was 12,000 points, but its location was similar to Park Hyatt.
- SPG – Considered Sheraton Miyako Tokyo for 10,000 SPG per night. I value SPG at about 2.2 cents per night so paying $220 for a hotel not very close to the JR station is not a great deal.
- Hilton – Considered using 2 free nights at Conrad Tokyo, but location is not very central.
- Third-party hotel – Found a rate for about $125 per night at Shinjuku Hotel, 3 minutes walk from Shinjuku station. The hotel offers free internet, is clean, and is in a great location. I will book this hotel and use 25,000 Barclaycard points to stay here.
In my situation above, it was all about the location. The hotel I chose had a great location and was cost efficient as well. I also sill not be spending much time at the hotel at all I used my Barclaycard points that I’ve been building up from manufactured spending and non-category bonus expenses.
My hotel booking strategy might not work for everyone, but hopefully it gives you a guideline on how to efficiently get good value from your hotels. It’s not always about getting the best value per point or stay at the most aspirational property. Sometimes you need to pay for convenience to avoid extra commuting time when you are at your destination for so few days. However, I will still try to stay at some aspiriational properties if it makes sense.
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