It’s possible to write and talk a lot about the best hotel programs. However, the true value of a program might not be all the best values for each point, rather in how often you find that program to be the best option for your needs.
In 2012 and 2013, I’ve redeemed over 30 nights worth of free hotels.
#1 Most Frequently Used Hotel Program: Starwood Starpoints
The sweet spot for Starwood hotels are stays of either one night or five nights.
The reason is because Starwood typically has the least number of points required for a single night as compared to other hotel programs.
[Some of the rates below are no longer eligible as the cash and points rates have changed or the hotel categories have changed.]
- We’ve used points to stay in Sydney, Australia. (5 nights for 28,000 points)
- We’ve used points to stay four nights in Kuala Lumpur. (6,400 points + $160)
- Buenos Aires at 7,000 points per night for two nights.
- Miami Aloft for 3,000 weekend points per night.
- Aloft Washington at 3,000 points for a weekend night.
- Aloft Denver for 4,000 points per night.
#2 Most Frequently Used Hotel Program: Club Carlson
The sweet spot for Club Carlson hotels are two night stays.
Since my wife has the Club Carlson Visa, we get a free night for every night we book using points.
We’ve used these points in:
- Tulsa, OK
- Billings, MT
- Seattle, Washington
If we have a two night stay and there is a Club Carlson location, I can almost guarantee those are the points we’ll use.
#3 Tie Priority Club Hotels, Hilton, and Hyatt
Each of the points with these programs were used when they offered the best value for a specific destination.
For Hilton, it was in Hawaii. For Priority Club, it was in Hong Kong. For Hyatt, it was in Bali.
This year I bought Choice Hotel points as part of the Daily Get Away sale. My parents are going to Europe next month, so I offered them the chance to use my points. They are getting hotels in Rome that cost over $200 USD for $42 worth of points. If you’re heading to Europe, I’d give some serious consideration to Choice hotels.
Hotel Point Collecting Lessons:
- You should focus your points earning with your most used brand. In this case, we use Starwood hotels a lot. That’s why we’re going to be getting my wife the Starwood credit card while there is a 30,000 point sign up bonus (instead of the regular 25,000 point sign up bonus). That’s also why my Starwood card is the first to come out of my wallet when I’m spending money at a place that accepts American Express.
- Do research for vacation destinations a year in advance, if possible. Whenever we know we’re going to visit a specific location, I always try and see what hotels are available in that place. That way I can be sure to develop a good strategy for getting the most use out of our points. While you might rarely use a hotel brand, if they have the best offering for your destination, it would be wise to rack up points with that program.
- Diversity without immediate plans. If I’m applying for credit cards and there’s a good hotel credit card offer, I’ll sign up even without immediate plans. If you travel enough, there will come a time and a place where those miles will save you from spending some serious cash.