The last 4 weeks have been crazy with Intercontinental, Starwood, Hilton, Marriott (notable exception of the major chains is Hyatt so far) changing their award charts for the worse. Here are my reflections on my hotel strategy in 2013 so far.
I did like the Megabonus promotion and had 6 stays last year yielding me 3 free nights which I used in the Courtyard by Marriott Seoul, which a beautiful hotel. Other good uses included the Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel and the Marriott Petra. The Marriott Petra sells for $200+ usually and seems to stay in in Category 4 – the other two will move up to category 5.
Accumulating Marriott points through stays is not a useful value proposition given the (freshly increased) award charts.
I do like Marriott's BRG and you will occasionally find me in a Marriott but only because I could not find a better offer and Marriott just has an incredible coverage and consistency.
I do not like the increases in the C+P rates. I'm pretty ok with the recent category changes though. That's what you'll expect
Starwood is the only program I have qualified through stays and nights last year and I'm planning to do so this year again. It's usually my go-to choice for hotels because of their rather consistent elite treatment and a good BRG. I love Cash+Point rates which are available often enough when booking ahead, which I usually do. Most Starwood hotels have all the luxury I need but are priced competitively enough. I found the incredibly high rates for aspirational awards not much of an issue so far (but not exactly encouraging either).
I accumulate most Starwood Points through BRGs – I do not have the credit card anymore.
I became a Hyatt Diamond last year through a status match and I think Hyatt really excels at customer service and elite treatment. This is until you get your items stolen from your hotel room! There is still no positive resolution for my case which I find ridiculous.
So far they have not devalued anything this year. Category 7 6 hotels are a good deal though you can do a lot with 22k airline miles instead of a one night stay.
Hyatt's BRG program is hit or miss (more about that later). I have a number of award redemptions coming up this year but won't have Diamonds status anymore.
Hyatt makes a lot of sense if you travel domestically to places with reasonably priced Hyatts (Texas for example!). Internationally the cash rates for Hyatt are just a bit beyond what I'm ready to pay $300-$400.
So far I earned most points through stays but that will change this year.
The promotions in 2011/2012 were fantastic, no doubt. But the goodwill is starting to fade away. Generally the Radisson hotels in Hamburg and Reykjavik I have been to haven't blown me away. The hotels in the US (mostly in the Bay Area, for mattress runs) were pretty bad.
Their BRG has become dysfunctional and Gold status never really got me anything besides free Wi-Fi, so this one will expire as well.
I don't see myself earning too many Club Carlson points this year.
I'm trying to find a way to become Royal Ambassador this year. I generally like the hotels (well not the IC Frankfurt, but the IC Boston very much) and love their BRG program.
Stays and bonuses are the way to accumulate points at IHG. Plus the credit card still gives you 80,000 points with the first purchase!
I had planned to to accumulate 1 million points this year at Hilton. Look – we are spending >$10k on grocery items every month (you guessed it, the twins have a healthy appetite!). It seems I'll need a new strategy now. This also made me Hilton Diamond with the AMEX Surpass card.
I haven't stayed at too many Hilton hotels so far. This will change soon as I'm trying to burn my points before the deadline.
The 50k cap on Hilton was a sweet spot and the program introduced so many new earning bonuses lately – something had to give. I just wasn't prepared for such 'shock and awe'.
Yes I have 4 nights from the Chase credit card sign-up to be used in 2013. I'm eying the Fairmont Monaco currently but I do not have any ideas for the other 2 nights. It's not easy to find a Fairmont hotel that fits my travel plans.
For all it's faults IHG and Starwood offer the best value for me and will see me checking in the most in 2013.
I really like Hyatt but my stay patterns just don't match well with their footprint/rate distribution.
I will try some other chains as well and of course hunt down good value opportunities for you.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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