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I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last week or so reading different information on several of this fall’s major hotel promotions. Having just returned home a couple of hours ago from a fantastic weekend at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort on a booking we made using points, I am very interested in maximizing my family’s points earnings this fall by taking advantage of various hotel point promotions. The three chains I have read the most about are: Hyatt, Starwood, and InterContinental Hotels Group (Holiday Inn). I am most familiar with the Hyatt and Starwood programs, but wanted to check out IHG’s promo just in case I was missing out on any major points haul.
While each chain has their own unique fall promotion going on, the reactions to all three promotions seems to be very similar. In my very unscientific analysis of the reactions, it seems that roughly 50% of people that cared enough to voice their opinion are somewhere between disappointed and very disappointed in the promotion as it isn’t as lucrative as last year’s, 25% are relatively happy with the promotion and/or are just glad to have something over nothing, 20% think it would be okay if it would apply to their stays (which for a variety of reasons it doesn’t), and 5% are unilaterally taking their business elsewhere because they are that disappointed in the promo being offered. For whatever reason, it seems that the extremely lucrative promotions that had popped up periodically over the last few years are currently in hibernation. What we are left with is, in my opinion, far better than nothing, but certainly somewhat disappointing if you had your hopes set on something like the Hyatt Faster Free Nights/The Big Welcome/Big Welcome Back promo that ran off and on for the revious several years. If you aren’t familiar with that mother-of-all Hyatt promos, you earned one free night to use anywhere in the world after every two stays. Sigh………
Okay, back to the present. I’ll share with you a summary of what each of these hotels are offering this fall, along with a brief analysis of which promos may be best in certain scenarios. I know that everyone’s situation is unique, but for the purposes of comparison, for each promo I will compare two different scenarios: Traveler A has a light travel schedule that includes a one night stay on 9/21, a two night stay October 28-30, and a three night stay on November 6-9 (for a total of 6 nights away) from now until the end of the year. Traveler B has a relatively heavy travel schedule that includes a four night stay on Sept 18-22, a three night stay Oct 3-6, a one night stay Oct 22, a three night stay Oct 31-Nov 3, a five night stay Nov 6-11, a four night stay Nov 28-Dec 2, and five night stay Dec 11- Dec 16 for a total of 25 nights from now until the end of the year. The average cost per night for both will be $200. For simplicity’s sake I will calculate points assuming each traveler has no elite status or credit card benefits at the hotels.
Earn triple SPG points for stays that include either a Thursday or Sunday night stay, and double points for all other stays. The promo runs from September 6 – December 18. So, that means that the base earnings would be 6 points per eligible dollar for 3x stays and 4 points per eligible dollar for 2x stays. Bonus points for being an elite Gold or Platinum member, or having a SPG Amex would be in addition to those base earnings. If you are staying on a Triple-Up stay, are an elite member, and are using a SPG Amex, you could earn 9 points per dollar. In that case, a $200 stay turns into at least 1800 SPG points (actually slightly more since you earn 2 points per dollar on taxes and other usually ineligible charges by using your SPG Amex).
The biggest downside to this promotion seems to be the incredibly lengthy list of non-participating Starwood hotels. You really do need to double-check that list if you want to see whether or not a hotel will actually be participating in this promo. For this promo,
Traveler A 800 + 1600 + 3600 = 6000 SPG points.
Traveler B 4800 + 2400 + 800 + 2400 +6000 + 4800 + 6000 = 27,200 SPG points.
I’ll come back at the end of the post to talk a little bit about what those points actually mean.
Lucky for all of us, this one is pretty easy to calculate. Stay three nights from September 15 – November 15 and earn 5,000 bonus points. This is on top of the 5 base points per dollar you earn for eligible Hyatt stays. The maximum number of bonus points you can earn from this promo is 30,000 points. This promo period is about a month shorter than the others, so the last two stays for Traveler B are outside of this promo period and don’t count toward the bonus points. For me, that is the biggest downfall of this promo….it is relatively short. However, since my nights are often at very cheap rates, I prefer promos like this that give the same number of bonus points regardless of the cost of the stay.
Traveler A earns 1000 + 2000 + 3000 base points plus 10,000 bonus points = 16,000 points.
Travel B earns 4000 + 3000 + 1000 + 3000 + 5000 + 4000 + 5000 base points plus 25,000 bonus points = 50,000 points.
Again, I’ll come back to what those point totals actually mean in a minute.
I thought that the Starwood promo’s math got a little confusing; this one absolutely wins the award for most confusing promo to track. You earn more bonus points, the more different IHG brands you stay at during the promo period (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental, Stay Bridge Suites, etc…) If you only stay at one brand during the promo period, you earn 500 bonus points for every night, two brands earns you 1,000 bonus points, three earns you 1,500 bonus points per night, and 4 brands earns you 2,000 bonus points per night. This promo has the longest running time frame from September 15 – December 31st. You earn 500 points per night as you go, and the additional bonus points are awarded after the promotion ends. This is because it is unknown how many brands you will stay at during the promotional period until it ends. To me, this is the biggest draw-back of this promo. Large delay in receiving most of the bonus points, and you have to be able to stay at many different brands to make the most of the promo.
To make things even more complicated, the different IHG brands earn base points at different rates.
We will assume that the one night stay that Travel A and B both have is at at InterContinental hotel that earns 2,000 points per stay. The rest are at hotels within the brand that earn a base rate of 10 points per dollar. Traveler A stays at 3 different brands for his 3 stays and Travel B stays at 4 different brands over the course of his stays.
Traveler A 2,000 + 4,000 + 6,000 base points + 9,000 bonus points = 21,000 points
Traveler B 8,000 + 6,000 + 2,000 + 6,000 +10,000 + 8,000 + 10,000 base points + 50,000 bonus points = 100,000 points
The easy thing to do would be to just look at the points totals for Traveler A and B in each program to see which earns you the most points.
If you take that method of evaluation, clearly IHG has the best promo for both the light and heavy traveler from now until the end of the year. However, if you have been around points programs for any length of time you know that a point in one program isn’t always worth the same as a point in a different program. I value SPG points over Hyatt, and Hyatt over IHG. This is based on how many points it takes to redeem nights at hotels I actually want to go to. However, my valuation isn’t the same as everyone else’s. You need to spend some time with the redemption charts in each program to see what value the points have to you. In reality, elite benefits and other bonuses that may be running simultaneously will also come into play for many people with these promos, so you have to take that into consideration as well.
My travel patterns between now and the end of the year fall somewhere between Traveler A and B. I mentioned that I usually travel on low rates, so even though I love SPG points, that promo is probably not the best of the three for my needs. While I have had some great success redeeming points at IHG properties in the past on PointBreaks for only 5,000 points, I don’t tend to enjoy those properties as much as Hyatt or SPG properties. I’m also not overly thrilled at the idea of having to stay at several different IHG brands. So, I will be focusing the majority of my fall stays at Hyatt properties, when possible. Once their promo ends on November 15, I will switch to focusing on triple SPG points. I do have a couple IHG stays already planned, so I will register for their promo as well….just in case. That is actually good advice for anyone, go ahead and register for these promos even if you aren’t sure you will use them. Better safe than sorry.
Whew, glad that 6th grade math exercise is over. Are your calculations way different than mine and I have flunked 6th grade math completely (I really did double check!)? What do you think of these three promos? Is there a completely different promo this fall that you are most interested in? Which one will work best for your family?