This is Part 5 of the Travel Hacking Series, so may be a bit confusing if you are not familiar with the points game. If you are still paying for flights and hotels, you may want to start with Travel Hacking: Is it Right for You?, or read on for inspiration. While I take advantage of award nights and status through a variety of hotel cards (Marriott, SPG, Hyatt, Hilton, and IHG), this post focuses on optimizing point usage with hotel bookings. Read on to find out how to use half the points of booking through a hotel portal.
Lets take a look at a reservation I just made to highlight the massive benefit of booking hotels with Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Travel Portal.
Scenario: I'm attending a conference at the JW Marriott in Austin. I love JW properties, and prefer to stay at the hotel where the conference is hosted, so needed to book 3 nights at the JW Marriott Austin.
marriott portal booking
I checked my heavily depleted point balance on the Marriott portal and found I only had ~50k points and one free stay at a category 5 (or below) property. The JW is 40k Marriott points per night and is a category 8 property, so I only have enough points for 1 night. Marriott does allows you to book with a point deficit and earn or transfer the remainder of the required points prior to your stay (or pay the difference). Hotel points are best used for hotel stays (besides Starwood Starpoints), so starting at the hotel portal is a good practice. I don't imagine I'll earn 70k Marriott points in time to make up the difference but I could book one night or transfer Chase, SPG (1:3 conversion), or AMEX (via SPG) points to make up the difference. Let's check other options first.
American Express portal booking
The same booking through the American Express portal is 45.6k Membership Reward points per night. I've never found good value in using AMEX points (via their portal) for hotels, but still typically check. In this scenario, I could transfer AMEX points to SPG and then to Marriott (no direct transfer between AMEX and Marriott) and save ~17k points over booking through AMEX. Sorry if confusing, just providing options as often you must use a variety of points to book stays and flights.
Chase portal booking
Now for the punchline...the best point value for hotel bookings, time and again, is through the Chase Travel Portal (located by selecting Ultimate Rewards when logged into your Chase account).
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve you get a 50% point bonus when booking through the portal. You get a 25% point bonus with the Sapphire Preferred. Another reason why the Reserve is a better option than the Preferred for most people.
Marriott Portal: 120k points
AMEX Portal: 137k points
Chase Portal: 51k points
It pays to shop around! If I had transferred Chase points to Marriott to book the stay, I would have used 60% more points. I can stay a week, instead of 3 day, for the same number of points if I book through Chase. This is such a great value, I will save my Marriott points for another day and book all 3 nights through Chase.
considerations when booking through chase portal
- If you have free nights or hotel points available, consider that your first option.
- You will not earn hotel points or "stay / night" credit with hotel chains. Keep this in mind if you are trying to maintain status or go up a level.
- You may need to contact the hotel after booking and provide your award / loyalty # so they honor your status (or do it at check-in). This is much easier with Marriott as they are a Chase partner; SPG is an AMEX partner so I've encountered difficulties at their properties in having status honored.
- This is a good opportunity to try unique properties not affiliated with a hotel chain.
- Chase often has sales on properties at a great value, and required points tend to fluctuate, so keep your eyes open if you have time.
- These booking may not be refundable so read the fine print or make sure your plans are firm!
If you have any tricks-of-the-trade or experiences in booking hotels with points, please share in the comments below. If you have other questions on using points please feel free to send me an email. You can help replenish my points by using my referral links for recommended cards, or just take a look and see your options!
Related Post: Using Points: Flight Bookings