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Is it Crazy To Collect Hotel Points Through Everyday Spending?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a  post on  family lodging options in London that you can get via hotel points. I got an interesting comment  from my reader Leticia, which I wanted to highlight.

Those sound like good deals for families, however, it’s hard for me to imagine how to accumulate so many points to cover stays for many days. I love airbnb, prices are much lower and you can count on people to be more flexible to take kids. I have been a host for over 3 years and it has been a great experience. I have also used it twice when traveling.”

I am so glad she decided to comment on that post! My blog’s mission is to make miles and points hobby more accessible to regular family in America. I strive to set realistic and achievable goals for my readers.

I am a Cheap White Momma and will try to convert everyone to my way of thinking, so beware. BTW the “white” part is  irrelevant and just a play on the name of my reader Cheap Black Dad. The motto of my site is NOT “Miles and points for an average (white) family.”

heartImage courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, obtained with permission

I bet CheapBlackDad will approve of how non-racist I am! 😉  Anyway, in that post, I mentioned that Club Carlson properties in London go for 62,500 points per night and represent  a very good value. At first glance, this statement may seem like an oxymoron. Well, it is and it isn’t.  Let me explain. First, when I said it was a good deal, I assumed that your redemption will come from the sign-up bonus.

Currently, when you apply for US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card, you will get 85,000 points upon approval and spending $2,500 in 3 months. When you redeem your points for 2 nights, your second night will be free. An update: This benefit will no longer be available after May 31st, 2015. So, if both spouses got this card, you can have a 4-night stay in London just from your sign-up bonuses.  The properties I mentioned  are located in a central part of London, and for 62,500 points, you get a studio with a microwave. The room fits 4, as long as your kids are under 12.

Opportunity Cost

Here is when it would not be such a good deal:  If you stay for only 1 night;  you are staying for 4 nights, but only have one US Bank Club Carlson Visa; your kids are older than 12. The idea is to maximize the “second night free” benefit and fit everyone in one room.

Here are some other reasons it would not be such a hot deal for you:  There are many properties in the U.S. that go for only 15,000 points per night, including some in Orlando. So, for 62,500 points, you can potentially get 8 nights, as long as you maximize the “second night free” benefit. IMO burning points for London Club Carlson properties makes a lot of sense, since it’s  a very expensive city.

To Spend or Not to Spend?

But what if you already have US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa but have used up your points from the sign-up bonus? Is it worth it to collect them through your everyday spending? It just might be. Let’s take the London property I mentioned. It would only require $12,500 in spending to get 62,500 points (you get 5 points per dollar on all spending). If you measure it against a 2% cash back card, you would be giving up $250.

So, you could get 2 nights in a central hotel in London for $125 per night. The rack rate for this hotel is 217 pounds per night (about $320). So, basically, you would be getting a deeply discounted price. No, it’s not free (it never is), but it’s a decent deal in my opinion. Of course, you may decide that AirBnB or VRBO are a better fit for your family. There is no right or wrong way to do this hobby.

If you are looking to redeem for a property that goes for 15,000 points, you would only need to spend $3,000 to get 2 “free” nights. That’s an equivalent of $60 through a 2% card. Thirty dollars for a hotel room (tax included) is a fantastic deal. If you like to go on road trips and prefer to stay 2 nights at any given place, this is a great choice for you. There are many Country Inn  and Suites properties all over the US, and most include a hot breakfast.

Any Other Cards to Consider?

The only other hotel card that could make sense for everyday spending is Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass (pays no commission). It’s one of my top picks for hotel bonuses and currently comes with 80,000 points sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in 3 months. You have to apply by February 28th. This is actually a decent bonus, especially  if you plan on staying in category 1 or 2 Hilton properties (costing 5,000 and 10,000 points respectively).

Since you get every 5th night redemption free, you could stretch these points to get two 5-night vacations or one long 10-night getaway. Check out this Hampton Inn Cornelia, which is located at the foothills of Georgia mountains, and less than 2 hours away from Smoky Mountains National park. It costs  10,000 points per night, can fit 5 people (2 adults+3 kids)  and includes free hot breakfast.

You may consider using this card past the sign-up bonus for some of your everyday purchases if you are a fan of the Hilton brand and spend a lot on groceries, gas and restaurants. That’s because you can get 6 HHonors points per dollar in those categories.

Naturally, if you get 3% or 5% cash back through another card, you would probably want to stick with that. Otherwise, Amex card may be a winner for you. As long as you plan to redeem for category 1 or 2, value proposition is very strong. But let’s take category 3, which goes for 20,000 points per night. You would  need to spend $3,333 on bonus categories to get your “free” night.

If you used a 2% cash back card, you would get $67. That’s not a bad price for a Hilton property. If you collect points for a category 2 hotel, you would be giving up only $33.50 in rewards. See this map on Travel is Free that will show you all category 1 and 2 Hilton brand hotels. The card comes with a $75 annual fee, but you get complimentary Gold status, which means free breakfast in most Hilton properties. You will most likely make up for this fee through various Amex promotions.

You may also check out this post on Running With Miles. It mentions that you can upgrade your existing Amex card to Surpass, and get 50,000 Hilton points. I checked and my husband’s Delta card was eligible. Usually, there is no credit pull. It’s a good option for those who already got the sign-up  bonus on this card in the past.

Any Caveats?

Absolutely. The category of your desired property can change without notice. That’s why it’s crucial to have several hotels in mind when actively collecting hotel points through your everyday spending. Don’t fall in love with a specific property because it may not be available on points for the dates you need. Be flexible and have a Plan B.

Bottom Line

 Hotel points redemptions have their pluses and minuses. For many families, vacation rentals are a better fit, but not always. Additionally, if you can get your hotel points via sign-up bonuses, you can preserve your limited savings. In turn, you can splurge on tours or eating out. You don’t always have to be a cheap momma or dad (color of the skin is irrelevant).

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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9 thoughts on “Is it Crazy To Collect Hotel Points Through Everyday Spending?

  1. I like to go the AirBnb/condo route sometimes too. When we bring the kids to Florida, for example, it makes more sense for us to rent an oceanfront condo from a kitchen. I need a fridge and washer and dryer to vacation with my kids!

    • @Holly Renting condos makes perfect sense for family vacation, no question about it. Washer and dryer are an amazing thing to have. We like to mix it up. It depends on how long we are staying and how many points I have.

  2. I may have to copyright/trademark the Cheap [ethnicity] [person] moniker.

    Spending on Hotel co-branded cards is just plane (har har, get it? plane?) not rewarding for me, so I tend to focus on airline cards. Here’s why I’ll never use a hotel card for day to day spend:

    1. The biggest financial hurdle for great trips is always the plane tickets. I’d rather every dollar be going to points for a plane ticket.
    2. Hotel rooms don’t really fit the way we travel. I need space, and a kitchen. Like Holly, when you travel with a kid or two you are definitely in need of a kitchen and some space. Hotel rooms are great for when it’s the wife and me. We’ve done some nice resort style hotels, but it’s always been shorter stays for just the wife and me and from a sign up bonus vs. slogging it out every day with that card.
    3. There are so many options for lodging, Priceline if you just want a cheap place to sleep, and airbnb, vrbo, etc if you want a nicer space with a kitchen, and time shares for those of us who have one for longer stays. There aren’t as many options for crossing an ocean. You gotta fly, and you gotta pay a ton to get on the other side of that body of water, country, or region, unless you pay with points.
    4. I am not impressing anybody with that HHonors card. Seriously, you think Dan @ Points with a crew would be impressed if I pulled out a HHonors card? Though, I hear the Ritz Carlton card is awesome. Course, I still plan on just using those points for the Southwest Companion Pass. See, it’s always about the airlines.

    I end up settling for subsidizing a few nights vs. expecting to get an entire hotel stay for free.

    • @ Cheapblackdad You should totally trademark Cheap (ethnicity) (person) moniker! 🙂
      I tend to agree with all the points you’ve made. I think for family, it’s best to focus on airline miles (via flexible points) or cash back when it comes to everyday spending. However, once again, it’s not “one size fits all” kind of thing. For example, some of my readers may only want to do road trips during summer. In that case, you are stuck with hotels.

      That’s why I tried to measure against a 2% card for comparison. And if you only plan to stay in London for two nights, vacation rental may not be the way to go. Most require at least 3 nights. In fact, in few years I hope to stay in London for couple of days. We will most likely try to use hotel currency. Not to mention, there is an advantage of flexibility: You can cancel a day ahead and get your points back.

      Also, for me personally, collecting any points through everyday spending is not ideal. I only focus on sign-up bonuses. You can’t beat ROI when going that route. But, of course, it’s not for everyone, and I’m very careful not to suggest that all families should follow my lead. Basically, I try to present various options and hope it helps someone decide which rewards they should or shouldn’t collect. The goal is to pay as little out-of-pocket as possible, and there are different paths to get you there.

  3. Here I am again. This miles and points games is fascinating. It’s interesting to see how each deal has a different value for each different family. I was telling my husband about this discussion and he said that he could see how once you start accumulating airline miles you may find yourself out of money to pay for hotels for all of those trips that you can make for free. We’re not there yet, unfortunately 😉

    Leticia

    • @ Leticia I was hoping you would read this post! This hobby is a world of its own, for sure. It’s a lot of fun to leverage points to have almost free trips. It can become an all-consuming task, though. I find myself thinking about miles and points for a good part of the day, which is unhealthy. Of course, blogging about it doesn’t help either. It’s like alcoholic hanging out at the bar all the time! 🙂 So I recommend you keep it in perspective and don’t get carried away.
      As far as miles vs. hotel points, you are absolutely correct. I think a good balance is essential. I try to focus on both aspects. Once I have a lot of miles, I switch to hotel points and vice versa.

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