Secret Perks When Using Hotel Reward Points

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We all know that the main reason to earn and use hotel reward points such as those from Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and more is to score (almost) free hotel rooms.  That’s the motivating factor and the reason I obsess about rewards credit cards, bonus promotions, online shopping portals, and more.  However, there are some “secret” perks that you may not know that make those (almost) free nights even more awesome.

Upgraded Rooms for “Free”:

Sometimes when you are using points you can score an even better than standard room without using any additional points and without having hotel elite status.  Sometimes those different room types or different bed configurations (two queens vs. one king) might be selling for more money, but they are the same number of points.  For example, I was looking at award nights using IHG Rewards points at a hotel in Seward, Alaska.  The points price at this hotel is 35,000 IHG points per night, which is pretty high for this type of hotel, but the selling rates during peak season can get pricey as well.


Holiday Inn Express Seward

Let’s say you wanted to stay at this hotel with your family of four and as a result wanted two queen beds instead of one king.  If you were paying with cash (on this particular date), it would cost you $22 more dollars per night for two queens as opposed to one king.  Also note that this particular hotel seems to have some rooms with pretty great views of the harbor, including some with patios.


Holiday Inn Express Seward Balcony

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going all the way to Alaska to not enjoy the scenery, so of course I would prefer a room with both a view and a patio.  If I were paying with cash the room with the view and patio and two queen beds would cost an extra $42 per night over the base room on our example date.  However, as you will notice in the screen shot below, if you are paying with IHG Rewards points all of the room types mentioned are the same price of 35,000 points per night.

IHG Points

You may have decided to play it conservatively on cash and not spend the extra for a view or balcony, but in this case on points you can pick those options without any additional cash or points outlay.  This is not a phenomenon that is limited to IHG Rewards, but you will find it happen from time to time at various hotels in an assortment of programs.  Here is one more example below from the Westin Snowmass in the Starwood Preferred Guest program.  On a popular ski day in January you will find that, not surprisingly, rooms with a view and rooms that have different bed configurations will price differently.

Aspen Snowmass Wesint

However, check out all the different room types you can get on this example date using the same 12,000 SPG points.

SPG rooms

Those were just two quick examples I came across, but sometimes you will find even more savings on more desirable room types by using points over paying extra cash per night.  Of course sometimes the hotel wants an additional amount of points (or a cash co-pay) for the more upgraded room types, and even that can be a good deal in some situations over paying just cash for the whole reservation.

Save on Taxes and Resort Fees When Staying on Points:

Another “secret” tip is that when you use hotel points for your reservation, you will almost always be exempt from paying the sometimes nasty hotel taxes, but you will also sometimes even avoid pesky mandatory resort fees!  This can easily save you anywhere from $20 – $50 per night over cash reservations.  Hyatt Gold Passport is particularly fantastic about not having you pay resort fees on award nights, which is super valuable for resorts such as Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (normally $35 per night), Grand Hyatt Kauai ($25 per night), and Hyatt Lost Pines ($26 per night).  You do have to pay resort fees at the partner MLife properties in Las Vegas. 

To put this into practice, here is a real example from the last weekend in June.  If you used 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui, you not only would obviously avoid the $288 per night advance purchase rate for the resort view king bed, but you would also avoid the $60 in resort fees for the two nights and the $77.30 in taxes.  That is $130.30 in additional and non-obvious savings over just the base rate for the room when you stay on points instead of cash.  If you were on a cash and points rate, you would still be subject to the resort fee and some taxes.


Enjoy Hyatt Regency Maui with no taxes or resort fees!

I have had to pay resort fees on awards with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, but I have never paid taxes on any award stay with any program when I am staying on just points.  Points and cash reservations do typically result in paying taxes, though less than a full cash reservation.

Getting somewhat better rooms types and potentially avoiding resort fees and taxes are two “secret” perks of hotel loyalty programs that can turn a good redemption value into a great redemption value when you stay on points instead of cash!

Have you take advantage of these or other “secret” perks when staying on hotel points?

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  1. That is one of the big things I love about Hyatt! We travel to Hawaii and have also stayed at other Hyatt’s with resort fees and it is no nice NOT to have to pay those extra fees!

    I know in Hawaii Hilton did not charge us resort fees on a rewards stay….

    And yes we experienced the fees with Starwood….so now we try to stay at other hotel chains to avoid that extra expense!! Nothing better than a FREE stay being free!!

  2. I’ve run into the opposite experience using hotel points. Many times they have availability of nicer rooms but won’t let you book using points. If you are lucky you can get the local property to upgrade you but they don’t have to and don’t typically recognize status when staying on points. Candlewood properties seem to be the worst. Many properties won’t let you book the bedroom suite type rooms using IHG points. Even if you call them they can’t. It leaves the burden to upgrade on the local property manager which is sad. I’ve also run into this with Intercontinental even with Ambassador status.

  3. With Hyatt resort fees, would you happen to know if this applies to free nights earned through promotions or cash and point nights?

  4. Kelly, totally agree!
    Dan, I wouldn’t expect access to suites on a standard points rate, but you are right that often the local property can do even more for you than the website. IHG is bad about status on points reservations, but other chains (like Hyatt as an example) are very good.
    Brent, waived resort fees does not apply to cash and points reservations and I don’t know for sure about free nights via promos since I haven’t had one in a while. I’m sure you wouldn’t have taxes in that case at the very least though.

  5. SPG Platinum members are eligible for suite upgrades on points, and can even apply their Suite Night Award certificates for award stays.

    Also, agreed that Hyatt properties tend to be fairly generous for Diamond members on award stays. We were upgraded to a suite at Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, Park Hyatt Tokyo, and to the presidential suite at Park Hyatt Mendoza.

  6. I think the examples above are exceptions…most properties don’t have multiple room types to choose from, but IHG and Hilton are your best bets.

    For SPG, it is worth checking by Chat or phone to see what room types are available for additional points, such as 1500 or 2500 SPG points per night. I’ve seen junior suites available at only 2500 more pts per night.

    Another possible “secret” benefit is getting the rollaway bed fee waived, but this will depend on the hotel.

  7. Just keep in mind that SPG and most other resorts do have some leeway about waiving or reducing the resort fees. I don’t suggest making stuff up, which is clearly wrong, but if you’re staying at a property and something does go awfully wrong either with the service, the quality of the room or something else like it happened during our stay at the Westin Ka’anapali in Maui, don’t be afraid of asking the hotel or the manager to waive all or part of the resort fee. And if nothing else, you could simply ask them to if you feel it’s too excessive. You’d be surprise how many managers oblige and waive or reduce the fee as a goodwill gesture if they like you.

  8. I can add some perspective on how Marriott works with points reservations, upgrades and resort fees. We just finished a points reservation at the Kauai Marriott resort. We booked a garden view room on points (ocean view rooms cost more points wise) but a simple email to the hotel with a nicely worded request resulted in a fabulous upgrade to a deluxe ocean view. Obviously YMMV depending on the specific resort and their capacity, etc. I also was giving the option of the resort fee. We opted to pay it because it covered things we wanted (Parking, Internet, etc) that was cheaper under the resort fee vs paying separately.

  9. Chrissy, same thing happened to us this past Memorial weekend at the Westin Kierland Villas in Scottsdale. We were celebrating my birthday, so while only standard villas were available on points, premium villas were available for upgrade for around $50-$100 per night depending on who you asked at the hotel. So I contacted the hotel’s GM directly after I looked up his info, and just like you, a nicely worded email and letting him know we were celebrating a birthday got us a great premium villa upgrade for free, plus a box of chocolates and a handwritten birthday note from the staff. My motto always is, ask and you shall receive. Nothing wrong with asking, from free upgrades, to late check out, or anything else you might need. Worst that can happen is they say no.

  10. Chrissy/FreeTravelGuys,

    How can you find out the GM info, such as e-mail and direct phone number? Thanks.

    • yyyccclll, google is your friend there. I also use linked in or just contact the hotel directly and ask. Sometimes it is also listed on the hotel website.

  11. How far in advance should you email the GM with requests? I would like to try this for an upcoming anniversary trip!

  12. Absolutely try Google as MP has suggested. In my case I came up with nothing so I tweeted the hotel and asked for the information. Within a day or 2 they emailed me and asked how they could help! 🙂 I agree with FreeTravelGuys, it never hurts to ask! 🙂

    Amanda, I asked about a month in advance. Good luck!

    • Chrissy/Amanda, yes Twitter is also super awesome for connecting with the hotel! I think a month is good for many things. If you have specific room requests I would say the sooner the better.

  13. My most recent booking at the Conrad New York had premium rooms for LESS than regular rooms. I would have missed it if I hadn’t scrolled through all the options.

  14. Hi, I typically use Marriott points, as this is where my work has availability. I just got the Hyatt credit and rewards card and started looking for those hotels to earn points as well. Would you say given the deals through Hyatt and omitted the resort fees I should consider buying points to complete a personal vacation stay?


    • Brianne, the price to buy Hyatt points if often higher than I would want to pay. I would rather get them other ways, such as from Ultimate Rewards, but in some limited situations in might make sense.

  15. I usually figure that, when I book a revenue rate, the taxes I pay and the value of the points I earn roughly offset each other. (Obviously not true at some of the resorts mentioned above, but roughly true for most non-resort hotels.)

    Last year I was surprised to find a Hilton Garden Inn room with whirlpool bath in Minneapolis for the basic points rate (even though it cost more with cash). Another very nice points upgrade!!

  16. My family is has several point nights booked at the HI in Seward this summer. The rooms with balconies were not showing available for all the nights but a quick call to the hotel and a conversation with a very helpful manager proved benificial! Hope you enjoy your stay!

  17. It looks like Hilton doesn’t charge the resort fees on rooms booked with cash/points. If you look under the rate details for both a cash/points booking and a standard award booking it is not listed. However, when looking a rate details for cash rate it is clearly stated that there is a $25 per night resort fee (Grand Wailea)

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