How Hotel Points Work

We’ve written a few articles about the most common types of Points, let’s continue with hotel points, one of the 2 types of variable value points in the world of Travel Hacking.

You probably read our introduction to the types of Points.

Let’s just remind you of the 2 types of Points/Miles for free travel:

  • Fixed value points (so a flight / hotel costs a variable number of Points)
  • Variable value points (so a flight / hotel costs a fixed number of Points)

Variable value points are the most interesting and rewarding (and complex incidentally), and we’ve already deep-dived into how they work for airline programs specifically.

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: how Hotel Reward programs work in general. Then, as mentioned, we will have all the details specific to the Marriott program this week, because it is by far the most practical program for Canadians to get free hotel stays.

But let’s first look at the basics that applies to all hotel points programs.

Basic principles

I personally prioritize Hotel Points more than ever. Why? I always find good deals on plane tickets because I am flexible on my destination and dates (that’s the key to finding cheap flights)… most often by buying one of the great flight deals Flytrippers spots or simply by searching for cheap flights on my own and being flexible (we can never say it enough: if you want low airfares you need to prioritize low airfares, it’s really that simple).

I almost always pay half price for my flight tickets, so it isn’t as easy for me to justify using Miles or Points for flights. I get less value out of it.

Hotels, on the other hand, are rarely discounted (almost never in fact). So to me it is extremely interesting to get free rooms, especially since they are completely free (no taxes to pay, unlike Points for flights).

Before going into the details, it should be noted that just like flight points, hotel points are also constantly devalued, i.e. programs change their rules and conditions regularly. This is even much more frequent than for flights (because they change the number of points required for hotels every year).

How does it work?

I repeat, like with flights, the key to getting the most free travel with Points is to use them well (in the case of hotels, one of the keys is to know how much Points are worth and only use them when the cash price is higher than that value).

We’ve said it already, Hotel Points are variable in value, which means that the same 10,000 Points will sometimes give you a free night worth $150 in cash… or a night worth $300 in cash. It can really vary that much.

So, keep your Hotel Points for times when it is expensive in money or for great redemptions for hotels that don’t cost a lot of Points (hotels in countries where the cost of living is lower are usually great).

We stayed in a superb Marriott seafront resort on the island of Borneo, Malaysia this spring… for the same number of Points as a low-end highway-side limited-service hotel in the middle of nowhere in North America.

In Bali, our amazing hotel cost 6,000 Marriott Points per night, the lowest possible number of Points… and the hotel was brand new (it had just opened that very month). To put that into perspective, the Signup Bonus alone for the AMEX SPG card gave us 50,000 Points. Yes, that’s over 8 free nights in a brand new hotel in Bali.

I could go on and on. Same thing with our stay in Belgrade, at the amazing Metropol Palace (a five-star hotel that didn’t cost us a lot of Points).

In short, it is possible to easily get several free hotel nights per year when you maximize your Points.

Prices in Points

Hotel Points are quite simple: the different properties of a hotel chain all have a fixed price, a fixed number of Points.

Most of the time, they are classified by category. Hotels that are less prestigious, not as well-located or those in cheaper countries are in category 1… while the most luxurious are in category 8 for example.

Other chains are a bit more unpleasant: category classifications are no longer published, but the same category logic exists, it’s just more difficult to plan because they aren’t clearly marked.

A night in a hotel costs a fixed number of Points per category, regardless of the cash prize.

Marriott is fortunately part of the first type of program, with a published category list, we will talk about it again in that detailed article. An example of the second type is Hilton (which is less beneficial to Canadians anyway).

We will help you by sharing the best hotels in the world to maximize your Points and get the most free nights.

Attention: all Points Programs have a different value, so you should never only compare the price in number of Points, it literally doesn’t mean anything because the Points of the different hotel chains are like different foreign currencies: all Points have a different value.

Where to use Points

Of course, you can only use the Points of a hotel chain in one of their hotels. Fortunately, large chains usually have dozens of different banners and brands to meet a variety of needs.

This gives you many options to use your Points, although some chains have more locations than others.

Here are for example all the banners that belong to Marriott: Courtyard, Four Points, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, Aloft, Element, TownePlace, Delta, Gaylord, Moxy, AC Hotels, Protea, Design Hotels, Tribute Portfolio, Le Méridien, Renaissance, Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotels.

You can see that it still gives you quite a few options for a single chain and a single program (more than 6,000 hotels in Marriott’s case). Hilton has several brands too, as do IHG, Choice, Radisson, Best Western, Wyndham, Hyatt… in short, each program has many banners.

The last thing to understand about hotels is that there are different types in all chains:

  • Limited-service hotels: the most common with, as you may have guessed, fewer services. They are the cheapest.
  • Full-service hotels: we are talking about more upscale hotels with a full restaurant, often room service, a concierge, etc.
  • Luxury hotels: the next level, which offers the most refined and upscale experience.
  • Boutique-hotels: large chains now often have “soft” banners, i.e. for those who like local and unique hotels more, they have integrated them into their chain as a collection of independent boutique hotels.

The major problem

The big problem in Canada is that unlike Flight Points (which are easy to accumulate with credit cards), Hotel Points are more difficult to accumulate. We will talk more about this in the article on Marriott, because you’ve probably figured out by now that it is the only one that allows for earning lots of Points here.

For other programs, it is therefore very useful to be loyal to the same chain to accumulate Points when you pay in cash. Unlike with flights, you can actually earn free nights relatively quickly by staying in hotels. With flights, that’s no longer really the case unless you travel very frequently, everyone gets their airline miles with credit cards.

And above all, take advantage of the promotions that we will share with you on this blog, which make the accumulation much more interesting. For hotels, it can get very interesting sometimes.

For example, after just 5 paid nights (at very reasonable prices because when I pay for a hotel in cash, I take cheap ones), I managed to accumulate enough Points for 5 free nights at the Hilton in Bali thanks to great promotions.

Again, that’s because, in addition to credit cards, you can earn Points every time you stay in a hotel, so it’s not to be neglected, at least for those who travel a bit.

Summary

This is the introduction to Hotel Points. We’ll talk to you about the specific programs, but with this, you should have a good basic understanding of how it works. Do you have any questions? Ask them in the comments.

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about travelling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself, he aims to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveller, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to Travel Hacking... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 45/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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