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I’m a fan of investing in travel experiences and over the years I have found that Hyatt and their loyalty program often strike the right balance of value and luxury at a reasonable points price for my family. That’s why I have been quite interested when they have been talking about how you will be able to use your Hyatt points for experiences beyond just the traditional hotel award stay. We got a peek at what this might look like via with the AFAR immersive experience in Japan. While it was pricey at 200,000 Hyatt points for single occupancy and 300,000 for double occupancy, it was still a cool offering with a good return for the points as it includes many hotel nights, some meals, tours, and more.
If you are really interested in that experience, also check out this MileagePlus Exclusive Auction as it includes more time in Japan and United Polaris round-trip flights for two, in addition to most of the offerings in the Hyatt package. That auction ends in just under a week and is currently at 250,000 United miles for two people.
While I didn’t jump on the Japan AFAR Hyatt experience, I thought it was a good sign of things to come as using points for experiences can be a really fantastic opportunity, especially when they help you secure opportunities you can’t normally secure with cash. Today we learn more about the opportunities to use Hyatt points for experiences as they have announced a partnership with IfOnly where you can earn or redeem Hyatt points for one-of-a-kind experiences through January 31, 2018.
If you pay the posted cash rate for these experiences you earn 3 Hyatt points per dollar spent or you can save your cash and instead redeem Hyatt points for things like “a private helicopter tour of Chicago, paired with dinner at an iconic Italian Restaurant; an afternoon with a zookeeper for behind-the-scenes access at the San Francisco Zoo; or backstage passes to the Broadway play Kinky Boots to meet the star of the show, in New York City.”
That all sounds great on the surface, but if I’m being honest, I’m not sure if this first pass at using Hyatt points for experiences is totally on the money. In looking at the experiences, I found things like a 30-second video message from football great Joe Montana for 500,000 Hyatt points. Nothing against Joe Montana, but 500,000 Hyatt points can get you over a month at the Andaz Costa Rica, so I’m not sure that is the appropriate price point for a 30-second personalized video. Furthermore, even if you agree with the 1/2 a million Hyatt points valuation, the cash price for that video is “just” $4,000 which means that the Hyatt points are only getting you 8/10th of a cent in value each, which is well below what I think Hyatt points are worth by at least half. This 8/10ths of a cent valuation carries over into the other offerings as well.
One of the least expensive experiences I found available today was a $300 tour for two at self-professed Mad Hatter, Nick Fouquet’s, private workshop in Venice, California. This 30-minute tour can be had for $300 or 38,000 Hyatt points, though at that price point you only get a tour from an associate. If you actually want the Mad Hatter himself, it will cost $1,300 or 163,000 Hyatt points. On the top end of the price scale, there is a balloon ride over the summit of Mt. Everest available for $4,800,000 or 600,000,000 Hyatt points.
I’m really not trying to pick on Hyatt here as I truly love their program and many of their properties, but as someone who has used points for travel experiences in the past and very well may well do so in the future, I would love to see most of the offerings in the pricing neighborhood of what a hotel night or two might cost, with a few higher-end or more involved options that potentially run into the six figures of points such as the AFAR Japan opportunity. I would also rather see fewer choices that are more curated to what guests may want rather than hundreds of opportunities that most people won’t have the time to fully evaluate. I would also like to see my Hyatt points worth more than 8/10ths of a cent each towards experiences.
I think that the SPG Moments program is an example of an experiences program that balances most of that pretty well with some options in the 10,000 – 20,000 points range, with a few that go higher. Most of their offerings are experiences that are in the interest and price-range of most travelers such as red carpet events, sporting events, culinary experiences and tours, and behind-the-scenes access to concerts and more rather than 500,000 point video clips and hat tours provided by associates.
While the first pass at using Hyatt points for experiences doesn’t strike the right chord with me personally, I trust that as Hyatt gets its feet wet in this arena, that things will only get better with time. However, if you do spend 600 million Hyatt points to go on a hot air balloon tour over the summit of Mt. Everest, please be sure to tag me in your Instagram photos as I’d love to see them.
Did you spot any opportunities to use Hyatt points via ifOnly that look like a good fit for your family?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.