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When You Should (& Shouldn’t) Transfer Points to Book Hotels

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When it comes to using your credit card points and miles for travel, nothing is cut and dry. But one thing is certain: you can often get outsized value by transferring your travel card rewards to airlines to book flights.

But when it comes to transferring your points and miles to hotel rewards programs, you might want to think twice.

Flights and hotels can be expensive. That's why credit card points, airline miles, and hotel points are essential for booking cheap travel. While transferring your hard-earned points to hotels can help you save on an otherwise pricey stay, it's not always going to be the most valuable way to redeem them.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to booking hotels with points. So before you go down the one-way street of transferring your points, let's go through some scenarios when it makes sense to use your points – and those when you're better off saving them for something else.

See our master list of credit card transfer partners!

 

When You Should Transfer Your Points to Hotels

There are several cases where you can be confident that transferring your credit card points to book hotels is the right move. Let's take a look at a few situations where you're maximizing the value of your credit card rewards for the purpose of booking hotels.

 

Getting More Than One Cent Per Point

When you earn credit card points from banks like Chase, American Express, Capital One, Citi, and more, generally speaking, those points have a value of one cent per point if you redeem them for travel, cash back, or other rewards. That's more or less the baseline value of any travel rewards currency, regardless of the bank.

But the goal is to do better than that. Chase makes it easy as your points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeeming them for flights and hotels through Chase Travel℠ with the *chase sapphire preferred*  and 1.5 cents if you have the *chase sapphire reserve* .

But we can do even better. World of Hyatt points are undoubtedly the most valuable among the big hotel chains by far. With free night awards for as few as 3,500 points, the consistency of an award chart, and easy-to-earn points you can transfer from Chase and Bilt Rewards, it's easy to get extra value from transferring your Chase or Bilt points to Hyatt.

Let's look at an example. This summer, I'm staying a night at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach which, when you account for resort fees and taxes, would cost over $300 a night. Transferring Chase points to Hyatt, I can book this one-night stay for just 15,000 points.

 

Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach

 

Now, how do I determine if I made the right choice? If you multiply the cash rate of the same exact room (minus any additional resort fees) that is available to book with points by 100, then divide that by the number of points required to book that room for that same night.

In this case, the 1 King Bed with ADA Shower standard rate would run me exactly $349.16 if I booked using cash. If I account for the $37 resort fee, multiply my total by 100, and divide that by the 15,000 points required to book a free night, I'm getting over 2 cents per point.

Now, that's pretty good if I do say so myself!

 

Snag a Night at a Luxury Property

In 2023, our co-founder Nick used 40,000 Hyatt points per night to stay at the Park Hyatt KyotoThat may sound steep, but that's as good as it gets for a free night at one of the top-tier properties in Hyatt's portfolio. And since cash rates are routinely over $1,500 a night, it's an excellent way to use points.

 

park hyatt kyoto exterior

 

Do the math and you'll see that works out to 3.75 cents per point. Sure, 40,000 points is a lot for one night, and you'll need to rack up a good amount of Chase or Bilt points if you want to book more than one night at this property in Kyoto. But I would certainly rather spend 40,000 Hyatt points instead of $1,500 dollars per night at any hotel.

Another great example of this comes by way of the Hilton Honors program. The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is one of the best properties in Hilton's portfolio, and cash rates typically cost around $1,500 a night.

But oftentimes, you can find standard room award availability to book a stay for 120,000 Hilton Honors points per night. While that might sound steep, again, that's as good as it gets for many of Hilton's top properties.

Since American Express Membership Rewards is a transfer partner of Hilton Honors, it's possible to turn Amex points into Hilton points. Better yet, Amex points will transfer to Hilton at a ratio of 1:2. That means for every Amex point you transfer, you'll end up with two Hilton Honors points.

 

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal lobby

 

That means if you want to book a one-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, you would only need to transfer 60,000 Amex points to end up with the 120,000 Hilton points you need. Using our formula from above, if we take the $1,500 cash rate by 100 and then divide that number by the 60,000 Amex points you would have to transfer, you end up getting around 2.5 cents for each Amex point.

The math won't always work, but luxury hotels are an area where you can typically find outsized value for your credit card points – especially with hotel chains like Hilton and Hyatt.

 

Finding Off-Peak Points Redemptions

Sometimes, you'll be able to snag a good deal during off-peak seasons with certain hotel properties. With Hyatt, who implemented peak and off-peak award pricing a few years back, it's fairly easy to find decent properties for as low as 3,500 points per night during lower demand periods. Take for example my upcoming stay at the Hyatt Place Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

 

Hyatt Place Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

 

You don't need many points at all to book a free night at this property. It's even better when you consider that you're getting 4.65 cents per point in value. Not too shabby.

Marriott also introduced peak and off-peak award pricing a few years back, and award rates start at just 5,000 Bonvoy points per night at some properties in Las Vegas (LAS). For example, MGM's Excalibur is among the cheapest Las Vegas properties bookable with either Bonvoy points or cash. During off-peak summer months, it's not hard to string together a few nights for a cheap stay on the pricey Las Vegas Strip.

 

Excalibur Calendar

 

The unfortunate reality is that all these MGM properties have resort fees in the $40 to $50 per night range so even when you're using points for a free night, it'll still cost you real money.

Now, when it comes to other hotel chains like Hilton and IHG, I have less luck there as award rates for lower-tier properties can still be relatively high compared to the cash price. Regardless, if you know where to look, you can score cheap hotel stays during your travels. Just make sure you are always comparing award rates to the cash rates (including any potential resort fees).

 

When You're in a Pinch for Points

Late last year, I was in Honolulu with my fiancée where we were slated to depart at different times in the day. Because of my poor planning, I had to figure out what to do for the rest of that day as she flew out early in the morning while I had a night flight.

Instead of being stranded and left wandering the streets of Honolulu or having to wait at the airport without lounge access, I decided to look at my hotel options. I could ask for a day rate or transfer some Chase points over to Hyatt. Since I only had a few thousand points left, I was able to secure a Points and Cash booking for another night at the hotel I was staying at, Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach.

I transferred 6,000 points over to Hyatt and paid $114.0 to secure another night there, which was only slightly more expensive than opting for a day rate that wouldn't allow me to stay in the same room until my flight departure time.

 

Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach

 

With the property usually costing upwards of $300 per night, taxes and fees included, I was definitely devaluing my points just to have a place to stay for the rest of the day. But it ended up being worth it for the sake of comfort and working towards elite status as I booked an entire night despite not staying for the entire reservation.

When you are just a few thousand points short of being able to book an award, transferring credit card points into a hotel program can make sense – whether or not you are getting the best value.

 

Score an Additional Free Night on Points Bookings

Few things are better than using hotel points to book a stay for free. But at some hotel chains, it gets better: Stay long enough, and you can get a free night on award bookings.

With Marriott and Hilton, you'll get your fifth night free on award bookings. That means when you pay for four nights using points, you'll get an extra night at no extra cost. While there are no additional requirements with Marriott, you do need to hold some level of elite status with Hilton to use this benefit. But that's not as difficult as it may sound.

  • By holding the *Hilton Honors* you'll have Hilton Honors Silver status.
  • By holding the *Hilton Surpass*, you'll earn Hilton Honors Gold status.
  • By holding *amex platinum*, you will also have automatic Hilton Honors Gold status (you'll also earn Marriott Bonvoy Gold status).
  • By holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you'll earn Hilton's top-tier Diamond status. (The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer)

When booking a stay with IHG, you'll get a fourth night free on award bookings. That means you pay three award nights and you'll get your fourth night at no extra cost. But there is one requirement: You must hold the *ihg rewards club premier* or the no annual fee *ihg one rewards traveler* to get this benefit.

Most importantly, these aren't rebates – you get that free night upfront. So if you're booking a five-night stay at a property that typically costs 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, you'd pay just 200,000 points for the entire stay.

That additional free night can be an easy way to make the math work compared to the cash price.

Read more: These Hotel Chains Provide Additional Free Nights on Award Bookings

 

When You Shouldn't Transfer Your Points to Hotels

There are a few things to cover here, but it should be obvious. If you are significantly devaluing your points for a hotel stay – getting less than 1 cent per point –  you're probably better off looking for flights to redeem your points and booking your hotel stays with cash.

 

Not Planning Ahead

It takes a lot of foresight to plan your travels. We strongly believe in the Flight First Rule to help travelers save money.

However, one other thing to keep in mind is accommodations. Prioritizing one aspect of the trip while neglecting the other could be expensive. Here's why.

Let's say you wanted to go to Hawaii and got a good deal on a round-trip flight. You book the flight without looking at any hotels. After your flights are booked and it's too late to cancel without incurring a fee, you find out that many resorts in Hawaii could cost you an arm and a leg.

If you turn to points and miles to help take the sting out of a pricey hotel stay, the issue you may encouter is availability. I had some spare Delta SkyMiles I was ready to redeem for a trip to HawaiiI. I had also enough Hyatt points to book a stay at the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach in Honolulu but could not find any award availability – rooms I could actually book with those points – for my preferred dates.

 

Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach Unavailable

 

You shouldn't transfer your points without confirming the hotel you want is available to book with points for all the dates you want. These points transfers are a one-way street: Once you send them to a hotel program, you can't get them back.

Before officially booking my flight, I scoured for any available rooms at any of the properties in Honolulu that I could actually book with points, and settled on the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach. I then proceeded to book my flight and hotel with full confidence that I would have a cheap place to stay after booking my cheap flight.

 

Not Shopping Around First

If you're like me, there are those hotel chains that you naturally gravitate towards, whether that be because you have elite status or just find comfort in a certain standard of properties offered by the brand. But you would be remiss if you did not shop around hotel rewards programs before transferring your valuable credit card points.

Hyatt is indisputably the program I find the most value in because of the low redemptions at certain destinations and my familiarity with the standard of properties. Not to mention, the predictability of Hyatt having an award chart.

When I'm booking at trip, my first stop when searching for hotels is always Hyatt. But I've never really felt compelled to book a stay using Hyatt points in Japan since the award rates are rather high for a night and it's hard to book several consecutive nights at the lowest rate I could find – 12,000 Hyatt points.

 

Hyatt Tokyo Properties

 

Look a little further beyond Hyatt, you'll find that Choice Hotels, a transfer partner of Citi, Capital One, Amex, and soon, Wells Fargo, can be a decent choice for this particular destination with rates starting at 8,000 points per night.

 

Choice Hotels Tokyo options

 

If you have the *Citi Premier*, your Citi ThankYou points transfer at a 1:2 ratio, doubling your earnings. Making Choice Hotels a truly cheap redemption for Citi customers.

In short, be open to booking with other loyalty programs as they may be exactly what you need for a given trip. For instance, you'd be paying at least double or triple the amount of points when booking at a Hilton or Marriott property in Japan. The same goes for staying in Hawaii.

A little-known way to get a book a vacation home property with points is by transferring your Citi or Capital One points to Wyndham. While it's not typically my first choice for booking accomodations, you can book a property in the U.S. through Vacasa Vacation Rentals for 15,000 Wyndham points per room, per property if the average daily rate is under $250. Reservations with an average daily rate over $250 but under $500 are bookable for 30,000 points.

For instance, this rental in Kona, Hawaii would run you 15,000 Wyndham points since the daily rate per room at the property is under $250.

 

Vacasa Vacation Rentals

 

It's a great middle ground between expensive resort properties and Airbnbs where you rack up charges in taxes and fees that you are typically able to avoid when booking with Vacasa.

You're able to book over the phone by calling 800-441-1034 after settling on a specific property during your search on vacasa.com that meets the above criteria for the rate you wish to pay using Wyndham points.

 

Poor Redemption Value

Just because you can redeem your points for free or cheap hotel stays doesn't mean you should. It's easy to increase the value of your travel rewards through booking flights. Although, that is not always the case for hotel bookings.

For example, booking a night at one of my favorite properties, the Hilton Sydney, would run you 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night. If you happen to have a Hilton free night award or have spare Hilton points earned from any of the American Express co-branded cards, booking a night or two at this property might make sense.

 

Hilton Sydney

 

But what if you don't have enough Hilton points to book? Should you transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points instead? Even though they transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton Honors, this is not a worthwhile redemption.

 

Amex Hilton transfer partner

 

A typical night at this property could run you anywhere from $200 to $300 on average. To book a free night with points, you'd need to transfer at least 35,000 Amex points. That's about 0.57 per point. Not a great redemption.

Instead, you could put those Amex points towards getting to Europe in a lie-flat, business class seat. By comparison, you can fly Iberia business class for as low as 34,000 miles each way! 

 

iberia business class seat

 

Being able to book what's typically a few thousand dollars for a one-way fare, there's likely not a better use of your Amex points. Book airfare or a hotel? You do the math, first.

 

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, accommodations are important but so is getting the best value out of your points for your hotel bookings. Don't devalue your points and deprive yourself of a good deal. Be sure to make note of the dos and don'ts of transferring your points to hotel reward programs.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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