To continue on with my last post about how we were able to obtain flights for our round-the-world trip, I wanted to have a post regarding how we were paying for our hotels with points. As you probably know, hotel and accommodation costs can quickly add up to the point where the trip becomes too expensive to even consider … that is if you don’t use points to fund your trip.
I know this isn’t a subject that most blogs talk about but I think it’s equally as important as the flights because I distinctly remember seeing $299 return flights from Calgary to San Francisco and thinking, that’s amazing! I can totally afford that. Then when I started looking for places to stay, that initial cost quickly escalated to the point where the trip was unattainable.
The Best Points to Have
I’ll first start off by saying that there are miles and points out there that are more powerful than the rest. For me that’s SPG and Marriott points. If you didn’t know, Marriott purchased SPG and they are in the midst of merging the two programs. While that is happening, you have the unique opportunity to use both programs because you can transfer points between the two instantly.
Why is this important you ask?
It’s because with the transfer ration of 1 SPG to 3 Marriott points, you now have the unique opportunity to stay in very high end hotels in the Marriott brand for much less than you would normally pay for an equivalent hotel on the SPG side. Let me give you an example.
You can stay at the JW Marriott in Hong Kong, an incredible world renowned hotel, for 45,000 Marriott points which translates into 15,000 SPG points (remember 1 SPG point is worth 3 Marriott). The JW Marriott is the top tier of hotel in the Marriott brand (outside of the Ritz). Now compare that to the top tier SPG hotels which can go for up to 35,000 SPG points a night! So for the equivalent top tiered Marriott hotel, you would pay less than half of what it would cost to stay at an SPG top-tired hotel!
Of course there are going to be exceptions but the general rule of thumb is to use Marriott points for high end hotel stays and SPG for lower end stays. SPG and Marriott have similar offers in the mid-tier so you have a choice there.
Marriott points also offer the unique arbitrage opportunity of turning the points into miles and hotel stays with their Travel Packages. I have gone whole-hog on this opportunity with the purchase of 7 Travel Packages in the last year.
If you want to very quickly accumulate SPG points, you can do so with an increased sign-up bonus through American Express. Normally you would get 20,000 SPG points with the American Express SPG Personal and SPG Business card but now until October 18th, 2017, they have bumped the bonus to 25,000 SPG!
If you got both cards (Personal and Business), you would have 50,000 SPG or 150,000 Marriott points for an combined annual fee of $270. Is it worth it? well, you could stay at the JW Marriott Hong Kong for 4 nights and still have points left over. This stay alone would save you $1,750 … so yes. It is.
Now I don’t like pushing credit cards on people so what I like to do is point you to my reviews of the cards so you can decide for yourself if it’s going to work for you. Read up on my reviews below:
- American Express SPG Personal – 25,000 SPG Points after $1,500 spend – $120 Annual Fee
- American Express SPG Business – 25,000 SPG Points after $1,500 spend – $150 Annual Fee
For the majority of our vacation, I used Marriott or SPG points to book hotels but also used some PetroPoints that I had from years and years of accumulation.
Below is a breakdown of the points used, taxes paid (out of pocket costs) and the retail cost if we were to have paid for the hotels.
You may notice that the Cost in Points column doesn’t add up correctly and that’s because I reduced the PetroPoints count by a factor of 10 to better align it with the other points. I know it’s not a perfect representation on the cost in points but what I am more personally interested in is the value of the hotels if we were to pay for the room out of our own pocket.
By using point, we were able to save $11,665 over the course of 28 nights. That works out to about $415 per night saved!
If you look at the value of the flights and the value of the hotels, the cost of the trip if we were to pay out of pocket, would be almost $143,000 for the three of us! Using points, we will pay just under $2,700 in taxes and fees. To me that’s incredible value!
If we look at pure cash outlay vs value, we are paying about 1.9% of the value with the rest of it being picked up by the points that were earned and accumulated.
I get a lot of joy in redeeming points for extreme value and want to throw down the gauntlet to you.
I want you to beat me at my own game! I know you might think that it’s too much to learn or too hard but it’s not. Take the first step by reading through my guides! It’s all right there for the taking!
Remember, it takes a bit of know-how but if you read the guides and have a network of friends doing the same thing, you can bridge that gap very quickly.
If you are in the Calgary area or willing to travel, I would suggest you attend the PointsU Conference on November 3-4th, where we will be talking a lot about redemptions like these, but more importantly, it will give you a target rich environment to start building that network.
You can use promo code “PointsNerd” for $20 off admission to the conference! Hope to see you there!