Leveraging Points and Elite Status For a Family Weekend Trip

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This summer our travels have taken us to Kauai, Mexico, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and more.  However, until August came along we had done a pretty poor job at experiencing some of the great offerings that are closer to home, so we dubbed August our “stay-cation” month.  The first short weekend getaway we planned for our stay-cation was to one of our very favorite resorts, Hyatt Lost Pines.  We have been there many times before, but hadn’t been in almost a year so we were ready to enjoy their recent renovation and consistently enjoyable pools, activities, and more.  I’ll post more about our stay soon, but in this post I want to point out how we leveraged elite status and hotel points to both save money and increase the quality of our short getaway.

Awesome lazy river close to home = great stay-cation

Awesome lazy river close to home = great stay-cation

I think sometimes it is helpful when you stop talking in the abstract, and look at the impact points and status had on an actual trip, so here is what this actual trip looked like in terms of saving money and leveraging elite status.

Use hotel points during peak periods when rates are high:

Those newer to points sometimes have a hard time figuring out when to use points and when to save them.  We often use points to stay at properties during peak seasons when the rates are highest.  At this family friendly resort, rates are highest when the kid’s are out of school and families want to play.  This will apply to spring break, school holidays, New Year’s Eve, and weekends in the summer.  While I have scored rates at this property as low as about $130 per night, this particular Saturday in August the rates were over $400 per night + taxes/fees.  That meant that using 18,000 Hyatt points was a no-brainer.  I was getting well over 2 cents per Hyatt point and avoiding having to pay the $25 per day resort fee and taxes.  Those fees can really add up on more expensive stays, so this was a huge savings.  Be aware that while Hyatt does not charge resort fees on award stays, this does not apply to all chains (or to Mlife hotels in Vegas when on Hyatt points). 

Amount saved: $450 on the room

Use fixed value points or cash when rates are lower:

However, on the Sunday night that we stayed the equation changed.  The rates had dropped to about $180 for the night, so using 18,000 Hyatt points no longer made sense.  We would only be getting about 1 cent per point return for our Hyatt points, which is not good for us.  If we had wanted to use points that night it would have made more sense to use fixed value points like those from the Barclay’s Arrival card as they are always worth 1 cent each toward travel, as opposed to a Hyatt point that can be worth more when used strategically.

The exception to this would have been if we were using a unique benefit like the Club Carlson Visa second award night free benefit.  Then the calculation changes since you are getting two points nights for the price of one.  If that had been available with Hyatt (can you even imagine?!) I would have stayed on points both nights.

Elite status saves you real money on food and drinks:

We earned our Hyatt Diamond status via 25 stays in a calendar year, but there are plenty of hotel status levels you can get without a ton of stays, or simply by having a co-branded credit card.  In our case, our Hyatt Diamond status got us into the Regency Club.  This meant we could eat breakfast there each morning, which conservatively saved at least $20 – $25 per morning for our family.  We were also able to stock up on drinks and snacks in the club.  Beer and wine was available in the club for less than 1/2 the price of anywhere else on the resort, so all-in we saved at least about $100 on the weekend by using the club.  If we turned their evening snacks into dinner, we could have saved even more.

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Our check-in amenity we selected was a bottle of wine and some crackers with cheese.  The wine sold for about $35 at the resort, and the cheese crackers I imagine were at least $15.  That meant that we got about $50 value from our check-in amenity since we probably would have had a snack and some drinks that first evening anyway.

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Amount saved: $150 on food and drinks

Use points or status for suites:

On the night that we were staying on dollars, we were able to book the lowest cost room and then use a Diamond confirmed suite upgrade to move into a true one-bedroom suite.  This gave us (and the dog) so much more room to spread out.  You don’t even have to have Diamond status to get the confirmed upgrades, you can get two simply by having Hyatt Platinum status when you get the Hyatt Credit Card.

If you don’t have any upgrade certificates, you can also confirm to a suite by using additional points.  This is often a much more economical route than shelling out the cash since suites can sometimes be quite expensive, but always do the math to see which is the better option in your situation.

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Amount saved: $200 on suite upgrade

Free or reduced resort fees with status:

In addition to having the resort fee totally waived the night we used points, it is also reduced by $5 for Diamond members even on paid stays at this particular resort.  That happens sometimes with other Hyatt resorts, as well as with some other chains.  That is not a huge savings, but every little helps.

Amount saved: $5 on resort fee

Earn more points with elite status:

Elite status almost always means that you are earning more points for your stay.  Again, this is not specific to Hyatt and applies to some status levels even if you got them via a credit card.  In my particular case, Hyatt Diamond status gave me a 30% bonus on all points earned for the weekend.  How much this amounts to will vary based on how much you spend at the resort, but a 30% bonus with points valued at a conservative 1.5 cents each means that for every eligible $100 you charge, you are earning an extra 150 points.  If I didn’t want a food/drink amenity I would have been able to select 1,000 bonus points at check-in.

Wrap-up:

There is a very valid argument that you should only calculate what points/status save you based on what you would have spent without them.  I don’t disagree with that, so it is possible that we didn’t really save over $800 on that weekend, but we certainly saved some of that.  I don’t know exactly what we would and would not have spent money on, though I doubt we would have spent all $800 as that is a pretty substantial amount!  There is also a less tangible reality that, even if some of this weren’t costs that were avoided, it all added together to make a more enjoyable experience than if we didn’t have status and points to give us things like suites, snacks, wine, et cetera.

What are some ways that your family uses elite status or points to save money and increase fun?

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  1. I’m thinking in this case that the only part that isn’t “real money” saved is the $200 on the suite, since you probably wouldn’t have spent that. But you might have spent whatever the Hyatt Daily Rate + points was to upgrade. Maybe you would’ve spent a little less on food, but probably not. And you would’ve have spent $450 on the room. But probably would’ve spent $200 if that was the rate. So, I think you probably saved easily $400-$500 in real money plus the intangible factor of having a better vacation, and also being able to do it at this time of year rather than a less desirable day.
    I’m looking at flights for a weekend trip using Avios, and there are several times available. They all cost the same amount of points, but the most convenient time is about twice as expensive. That’s the one we will book on points. If we were spending money, we’d buy the cheapest one. So, in real money the Avios saved us the value of the cheapest ticket, plus the intangible bonus of getting the better flight time. That intangible factor is what I love about miles and points.

  2. Gosh, I’m practically salivating at the thought of getting a Hyatt Visa, what with all the good things you and others say about the chain. The fact that they don’t charge a resort fee on award stays is fantastic! I’m thinking of exchanging my Marriott card for the Hyatt in November when the annual fee becomes due. The only thing holding me back is that my husband works for Marriott, and we get hotel stays for as low as $39/night but still get 5x points with the card. We have a stay in Oakland, CA
    coming up at $59/night. I use the benefit several times a year. Any thoughts on what I should do? Math is not my forte LOL.

  3. @MP, I looked at the Hyatt website (https://www.certificates.hyatt.com/ParticipationLocations.aspx) for the Hyatt Stay Certificates and the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa qualifies for an “Elite” certificate, which is Elite ($260.00) – HSELN1 (http://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/2013/06/06/how-to-obtain-and-use-hyatt-stay-certificates/).
    .
    I have never used one of those certificates, but do you think it would have been a good deal for your weekend trip?

  4. Hyatt allows a diamond guest to bring up to 3 additional persons to access club lounge. Did you have more than 4 people in your party? Did they enforce this policy?

    Hilton, Marriott and Starwood officially only allow 1 additional guest into the lounge. Did you ever encounter problem bringing your entire family into the lounge?

  5. Not sure if you’re aware of it, but Costco members can save 10% off Hyatt stays and I’ve used the discount to book many times. Just enter “Costco” as your discount code when making the reservation online. The discount rate code is 66267.

  6. Hi MP, how dis you get Hyatt diamond cost effectively? 25 stays is quite the cash layout if can’t expense for business travel.

  7. Jamie, I think you are likely in the right range. We would have picked that weekend regardless, even though it was pricey, as that is when our friends could go as well and it is always so much better with friends…especially when the little ones can play with each other! I’ve done then exact same thing you describe – taking the better timed and pricier flight when paying with points. 😉
    Peggy, well my inclination is to say have the Marriott card and the Hyatt card so you don’t have to choose. I think they both sound valuable in your case – at least for the first year, then see how much you are using it.
    Grant, my issue with that is you are spending $260 (assuming there was availability for the cert) and you still aren’t earning credit toward elite status. That won’t matter at all for some, but if I am spending that much cash for a night I want it to count in more ways than one. Very good reminder about the certs though!
    ABC, math is always important. 😉
    Al, I have never had an issue bringing my crew into the lounge, but my crew is typically my family who is staying with me so I don’t exceed the “rules”.
    FTG, thanks!
    Levy Flight, I’m just on the road that much. I did have to do a handful of “mattress runs” to get to 25, but I think that number was less than 5. I can’t say it is cost effective, but if you are already on the road enough to get to close to 20 then it can make sense to do some mattress runs to get the rest of the way there at inexpensive properties. I’m off the pace a bit for this year at 10 paid stays currently.

  8. I already requalified this year as a Diamond, but for those who haven’t, you can’t beat mattress running in Vegas right now….you get M-Life bennies and if you aren’t gambling, the points you receive will always cancel out the mid-week rates…

  9. Hyatt website lists Suite Upgrade for up to 4 nights[3] for 6,000 points but the fine print says [3]Award applies to two-bedroom suites at Hyatt House properties. This is confusing. Is the Suite Upgrade award for Hyatt House stays only, or is it also good at PH/GH/HR?

    • Neil, it is confusing, but that clause is trying to say that at Hyatt House it gets you a two bedroom…but it typically doesn’t get you a two beddroom anywhere else. 😉

  10. You aren’t really saving this money since you aren’t able to get the cash equivalent. This is one of the biggest tricks these chain hotels use to make it seem like you are getting a deal. If the hotel lists a $10 bottle of wine at $1,000 and then says you can have it for $400, are you really saving $600? You also have to keep in mind that chain hotels are massively overpriced to begin with.

    • Cogswell, of course. But we are captive to paying their prices if we want to be there, and we do want to be there. So in effect we are saving what would have been spent.

  11. But if you wouldn’t have paid $200 cash for the upgrade or $15 for crackers, then you didn’t save it!

    I think the word ‘captive’ which you used is spot on 🙂

    • Cogswell, yes if you wouldn’t have spent it then you didn’t exactly save it, but it still enhances the experience. I think some of the examples in this post were true savings, and some were simply enhancements, but it is hard for me to say which is which. I don’t think I would have spent $200 on the upgrade, but if someone offered it to me for $100 I probably would have, so hard to say.

    • Matt, I guess it just depends on your definition. My definition is enjoying locations close to home. In other words, if I can drive there and back in a day (though I obviously didn’t), then it meets the criteria.

  12. I recently got a penny per point out of HHonors staying in a downtown property during a very busy weekend for that town. There definitely are deals to be had. I love me some HHonors.

  13. Thanks for demonstrating the value of Hyatt stay certificates, but wanted to alert fellow readers to a potentially alarming change. While attempting to use one-night stay certificates I had purchased, I was unable to secure availability at a wide range of properties that previously offered rooms for certificate redemption. I proceeded to review the participating property list, which has changed drastically for the EAME region (only 44 locations remain on list). Most notable properties in the UK, France, and elsewhere in Europe (Grand Hyatt Cannes, Park Hyatt Paris, Hyatt Regency London, etc) are either no longer participating or only available at the Ultimate level. Does anyone have any additional information regarding this unfortunate change? It is very disappointing to note the lack of any advance notice or warning from Hyatt.

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