This post is dedicated to my sister who has recently joined the travel hacking family. As the Frugal Travel Guy talked about today, networking is one of the best things you can do in this game. And I’m so happy to have another family member joining this game. One thing that she said she wished she knew more about was how to earn and maximize use of hotel points. I do not profess to be an expert in this arena, but it did get me thinking.
I love the Starwood Amex credit card. I’m sure you’ve heard many travel blogger touting this card and there’s a reason why. You get a point for every dollar you spend. When you transfer 20,000 points to an airline program, you get an extra 5,000 points transfer, essentially making your earn rate 1.25 per dollar spent. But the feature I like best with Starwood points is the cash and points option for hotel redemption. For example, if you wanted to stay at one of their category 5 hotels, it would cost 12,000 – 16,000 points OR 4,800 points and $90. The cash and points option allows you to stretch your points further which is important for those of us who don’t have as many points.
You could also get one of the other hotel credit cards if you don’t want to stay at a Starwood hotel. The one that I like the most right now is the Chase Hyatt Visa. It comes with 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt (you get the first one after your first purchase and the second one after you spend $1,000 on the card within 3 months).
Another option is to get a non-hotel credit card that allows you to transfer points to hotel programs. There are many credit cards that fall into this category. My favorite all around use card that allows this is the Chase Sapphire Visa. It is now my go to card. However, there is a great offer out there for the Bank of American Virgin Atlantic American Express card. You get 20,000 miles after first purchase and another 25,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on the card within the first 3 months. (You can also get another 5,000 miles if you add 2 authorized users to the account.) Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 rate. So this deal will yield you nearly 100,000 Hilton points!
Now 100,000 points means very different things in different programs. So how do you know if 100,000 points is any good? My suggestion would be to check out the Million Mile Secrets web site. One of the top tabs on the site is called Miles & Points Resources. This gives you a drop down Airline Award Charts, Airline Frequent Flyer Program Sign-up, Hotel Reward Night Charts, and Hotel Reward Program Sign-up. It’s a quick and easy way to navigate to each program’s chart (so you don’t have to hunt and peck around each site). In Hilton’s case, 100,000 points will get you 4 nights at a category 3 hotel, about 3 nights at a category 4 – 5 hotel or 2 nights at a category 6 – 7 hotel (you could get quite a bit more at a category 1 – 2 hotel, but personally I wouldn’t stay at a category 1 – 2 hotel). Hilton also has a cash and money option, so you could stretch your points even further.