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How to Maximize Your Hotel Points When Booking a Suite

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 7/29/2020 Eric Rosen
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Due to continuing travel restrictions and border closures related to COVID-19, many travelers have had to cancel big trips for the foreseeable future, including putting off airline and hotel awards. But if you have been hoarding hotel points for a much-needed vacation, you can still find ways to redeem them for memorable stays closer to home, and in some cases, for truly lavish suites. Using your hotel points for suites instead of standard rooms can save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars while improving the quality of your stay and the amenities you can enjoy during it. Getting a suite might also be a good way to pack your entire family into a single accommodation so you can avoid other folks more easily while social distancing measures are in place. Here’s how you can redeem your hotel points for suites at some of the major chains, and the things you should think about when doing so.

Things to consider

Whether you will be able to redeem hotel points for suites versus normal rooms depends entirely on the specific loyalty program you are working with. Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott all make it relatively easy to redeem points outright for upgraded rooms and suites, while some of the other large hotel programs, like IHG Rewards Club, do not.

Before redeeming your points for a suite, compare the tally you need to do so versus booking a regular room. Some programs require exorbitant numbers of points for suites that are only negligibly better or larger than a regular room. If you have elite status with a hotel program, which is included automatically as a benefit of certain hotel credit cards, you might want to redeem your points for a normal room and bank on your chances of an elite upgrade at or before check-in. High-level elites also sometimes receive a certain number of confirmable suite upgrades to use each year, which you can apply to paid or award stays, depending on the program. So before you cash in those hard-earned points, double check your loyalty account and the perks to which you might be entitled.

Some of the major hotel loyalty programs are transfer partners of credit card points programs. For instance, Chase Ultimate Rewards, which you can earn with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred, transfer to World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, and IHG Rewards Club.

Learn more about signing up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card here.

Learn more about signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card here.

American Express Membership Rewards, which you can earn with cards like the Platinum Card from American Express and the AmEx Gold Card, transfer to Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy. So if you check award availability and find you do not have enough points in your hotel membership account to book the suite you want, you might have other types of points that you can transfer in to top up your balance. Just keep in mind that these transfers are usually irreversible. So once you make the move, those credit card points become hotel points for good.

Also of note: If you are looking to reserve several rooms for a family or group traveling together, using points to book rooms or suites on a single reservation will not guarantee that your accommodations are adjoining. If this is important to you, call the property ahead of time to try to make these arrangements as most hotels will attempt to be helpful. At the very least, you might be able to select your specific rooms or suites at check-in via the hotel program’s app and choose accommodations that are right next to each other.

With all that in mind, here are some straightforward strategies for booking upgraded rooms or suites using hotel points.

Hilton Honors: Price it out every time

Hilton Honors is the loyalty program of 18 brands, including its namesake, Hilton, as well as luxury labels like Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Hotels & Resorts, all the way to budget accommodations like DoubleTree and Homewood Suites. Hilton Honors no longer has an award chart with set point values for free nights. Rather, prices depend on the individual property and the specific night. To search, just head to Hilton.com, enter the destination or the specific hotel you are interested in, your dates, and then under “Special Rates,” make sure to check the box for “Use Points.” That should pull up your results including both paid and points rates.

To see how this all works, let’s take an example. The landmark Palmer House in Chicago has award nights ranging from 47,000 to 60,000 points each in September. You can actually use points to pay for all or part of a stay. Let’s say you only had 47,000 points to cover two nights. You could redeem your points for one of the nights and pay cash for the other. This generally does not tend to be a great deal, though, so avoid it if possible.

To stick with the same example, in September when rooms start at 47,000 points or $152 per night, you could instead redeem 82,000 to 84,000 points for a suite costing $283 to $292 per night (depending on the specific room type). So you would need to redeem nearly double the points for a room that also costs nearly double in dollars. If you are swimming in Hilton Honors points, having the option to offload a few extra thousand of them for a much larger room might be just the upgrade you need to make your trip that much better.

However, beware huge upsells in terms of the points pricing. For example: A standard room at the historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, which is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, costs 95,000 points per night in September, or $239. Suites range all the way up to a jaw-dropping 455,000 points per night, or $879. You’re getting a comparable value for your points across the spectrum, but that value is rather low, so just be aware of your choices.

World of Hyatt: Great point values

Although smaller than some of the other global hotel chains, Hyatt still encompasses some fantastic brands such as Park Hyatt, Miraval, Thompson Hotels, and Alila, in addition to business-oriented imprints like Hyatt Place and some independent affiliates including Small Luxury Hotels. Hyatt’s loyalty program makes it very easy to redeem points for both standard rooms and upgraded options, including suites. To search for awards, just go to Hyatt.com and enter your destination and dates, making sure to check the “Use Points” box, too. Your results should pull up availability for both standard rooms and suites.

Unlike Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt has an award chart with set values for hotels in eight different categories. The program will introduce peak and off-peak pricing next year, making things more complicated. But for now, standard rooms range from 5,000 to 40,000 points per night while upgraded rooms and suites range from 7,000 to 60,000 points apiece, depending on the category of the hotel. Under certain circumstances, you can also book a room at a paid rate and then use points to upgrade: 3,000 per night for a club room, 6,000 for a suite, and 9,000 for a premium suite, though you will have to call Hyatt to book these directly.

Adding an extra level of flexibility, World of Hyatt will also let you redeem both points and cash to upgrade from a regular room to a suite. For example, at a high-end Category 7 hotel, such as the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa, suites cost either 48,000 points per night, or 24,000 points plus a cash co-pay that is usually around 50 to 70 percent of the standard paid rate for the chosen room type. If that sounds complicated, let’s take an example to see how this works.

In September, the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek has standard rooms starting at 30,000 points or $269 per night. A Park Fireside Suite, which is a roomy 600 square feet and has its own fireplace, costs 48,000 points or $419 per night. Paying with a mix of cash and points, you’d be spending 24,000 points plus $210 per night—basically half the points plus half the paid rate. Hyatt also offers some premium suites at even higher prices. At the same hotel, a fabulous 1,100-square-foot Highlands Suite costs 60,000 points or $569 per night. Your value per point is just about the same no matter which room or suite you redeem them for. Your choice will just depend on the amenities and space you prefer. Also note that different rules and rates apply to Miraval properties and Hyatt’s all-inclusive brands, Ziva and Zilara.

Marriott Bonvoy: Weigh your options

Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty program of the world’s largest hotel group, with 7,000 properties comprising 30 brands like St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton at the high end, and Courtyard and Four Points on the more affordable side. Bonvoy splits the difference between Hilton and Hyatt with a redemption scheme that is mostly fixed, but with peak and off-peak pricing that can vary by the day. Regular room rates range from 5,000 points per night up to 100,000 depending on the category of hotel and the season. However, when you search Marriott.com, you can see which premium rooms and suites are available for points redemptions as well, with pricing that can be extremely variable and hard to predict.

The stately Ritz-Carlton, Half-Moon Bay on the rugged California coast has rooms starting at $784 or 60,000 points per night in September. You could instead opt for a one-bedroom suite for either 130,000 points or $1,070 per night. So you’d be redeeming over double the points, but only getting a suite that cost 50 percent more than a standard room. You could also mix and match with a points and cash rate where you redeem the points for a standard room night (60,000) plus a cash co-pay of $350 per night—just a little over the paid price difference in the accommodations, which is probably a better deal.

To see how much the rates for upgraded rooms and suites can vary, and why it’s important to do your math, let’s say you had a hankering for barbecue and wanted to head to Austin instead. In September, the Renaissance Austin Hotel has rooms starting at $261 per night, or 30,000 points. But you could also opt for an Executive Suite for $302 or 49,000 points, a Luxury Suite for 51,000 points or $306, or a Signature Suite, also for $306 or 51,000 points. If you just reserved a regular room, you would get a value of around 0.87 cents per point in value. With the suites, your per-point value drops to just 0.6 cents per point—not nearly as good.

The bottom line

With any hotel points program, it pays to price out regular rooms versus suites, both in terms of cash payments and points redemptions. Some hotels charge a steep points premium for upgraded rooms and suites, while others can be a phenomenal deal. Before you commit to a reservation, crunch the numbers, check your account balances, and make sure you are getting a good value from the points you hope to redeem.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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