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The “Devil” Cards’ Advocate: Choice Privileges Visa Signature

The long awaited sequel is here, amigos! To my new readers, “Devil” Cards’ Advocate title is a shameless rip-off on popular series in Travel Codex, formerly known as Hack My Trip. Confused?

Over a year ago, I  managed to write exactly one post which is now completely irrelevant. Amtrak is no longer a Chase transfer partner and Avios program killed 4,500-mile redemption in the US.

Back to my topic. I love getting comments from readers that challenge me and make me re-think my analysis. I got one such comment on my Monday’s post:

choice card

This is an interesting comment for several reasons. First, it looks like Barclays is starting to crack down on churners who only want to get sign-up bonuses, and the bank doesn’t  pull your credit in the process. Second, of course, is the mention of Choice credit card.

It’s funny because I originally planned to add it to my lineup of worthy Barclaycard bonuses, but ultimately, decided to leave it out. Nope, nothing to do with commission because three out of five offers on that list pay me zero. There were several reasons for Oscar snub (color of the card ain’t one of them):

1) Daily Getaways just had a sale on Choice packages where you could buy points for around 0.4 cents a piece. By that logic, 32,000 points could be acquired for around $120. In fact, I even mentioned Choice  card when doing an overview of this particular deal and said that buying points was the way to go rather than using hard pull on your credit.

2) Even though many Choice properties cost only 8,000 points, you may not want to vacation in them. Read my posts here and here I absolutely don’t mind staying in basic hotels, and have done it many times. Under the right circumstances, those can be a perfect fit. But here is the thing. The last two Choice hotels I stayed at had this distinct smell. It can only be described as “dog pee+sweat+air freshener.”

I’m not a spoiled princess and don’t mind a little dirt here and there, but smell is my kryptonite. And super cheap properties usually smell funky, unless they have been recently remodeled. Also, showers normally  look a bit gross, another pet peeve of mine.

I’m definitely not a fancy  gal, but I do have certain standards. I cracked up when I saw a comment from a reader recently. He said that when he thinks of a certain well-known blogger (no names), he pictures him in an airport lounge petting a big white fluffy cat and eating caviar with a giant spoon. I don’t think anyone will ever say that about me!

Honestly, Holiday Inn and Radisson brands usually get a  bad rap in our hobby, but I find them to be perfectly suitable for family vacations. Econo Lodge? Not so much.

3) I like to plan way ahead and Choice booking window is only 50 days (a perk of being a cardholder, otherwise it’s 30 days). Huh? What’s up with that?

4) Choice has a  nasty habit of raising rates without notice. It happened to me before. SEVERAL TIMES. Also, you can only redeem points for your immediate family members. They wouldn’t make an exception even under tragic circumstances

I see bias (in me)

All of this is to say: I really don’t like Choice. In fact, you can say I hate their guts! And therein lies a problem. I’m biased because the truth is, there is plenty of potential value to be had for some families. No, if you want to vacation at a beachfront property, this isn’t the card for you. For example, this Quality Inn in Clearwater beach will run you 25,000 points per night. It’s a  rather basic hotel, and you won’t be able to get even two nights here with your credit card sign-up bonus.

So here is another bias of mine. Many times I measure the sign-up bonus by how many nights we can get at a beachfront Florida property. Usually, I aim for at least two. But not everyone cares about the beach. Some families like road trips or staying in motels near National parks. This is where Choice brand is at its strongest.

If we disregard the promotion and just focus on the sign-bonus, you’ll have enough for 4 nights  at a property that costs 8,000 points per night. Assuming the hotel room would otherwise cost a moderate $75 (tax included), that would make the offer worth at least $300. Plus, I’m sure not all of them are dumpy (another bias of mine).

It’s true, buying via Daily Getaways would have been a much better deal, but  the promo is over now. Plus, the packages sold out within minutes and they won’t be coming back for at least a year. So, yeah, if you want Choice points now, your best bet will be getting their co-branded credit card.

Additionally, if you are going to Europe, there are fantastic values to be had. Check out this hotel in Rome that runs at 12,000 points or this one in Bergen, Norway, costs the same amount. Both are great deals on points and include hot breakfast. You would only need to charge $2,000 on your new card, and you’d have enough for 3 nights at either property. I would say the value here is closer to $450.

And there are  many more good deals. I recommend you search Hotel Hustle and Award Mapper to get an idea on various places. But do keep in mind: by the time you get the sign-up bonus, the property may no longer be available or it might go up in price.

Cash+points angle

Recently, I got an interesting email from one of my readers:

“I bought 68K CPP via USTA Daily Deals the other week and just booked a night at the Cocoa Beach property.  What I noticed is that using the Points Plus Cash option (10K points = $75 co-pay) was effectively a point purchase at 0.75cpp, similar but slightly higher than buying IHG points at 0.70cpp.

While not an amazing discount, stays booked purely with points purchased this way are still significant.  At the 75 day booking window (status matched to CP Platinum via IHG Platinum) availability appears to be decent although nothing like SPG.”

So, this is another way to stretch your points, which could come in handy during high season. So yes, for some families, this is a worthy offer indeed. Here is a non-affiliate link

Choice or Wyndham credit card?

Honestly, comparing the two is similar to comparing apples to oranges. It really depends on where you are going, how far in advance you like to book etc. For me personally, Wyndham offer is far superior. In spite of $69 annual fee, you get 3 nights at ANY Wyndham property. It can be Chicago, New York City or Florida beach during Spring Break (which is how I used the bonus). Or  it can be a  basic motel.

Obviously, you will do much better if you stick to nice properties. That said, Wyndham program has “Go fast” rates. In exchange for using 3,000 points per night (see my post for a good example), you can get a significant discount on  many properties. This would be ideal for budget motels and will let you stretch your bonus. Unfortunately, this option isn’t always available, something you should take into consideration.

Bottom line

Bloggers are biased, and that includes yours truly. And no, I’m not just talking about affiliate vs. non-affiliate offers. We are much more likely to write about places and credit cards that align with our own personal preferences. Is it wrong? Well, no, it’s human nature.

For some, it’s about finding affordable (points-wise) beachfront accommodations that don’t smell like dog pee. For others, it’s  about drinking champagne for breakfast and eating caviar with a giant spoon, figuratively speaking.

Readers, which type are you?

caviar

 

Image courtesy of BrandonSigma at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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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10 thoughts on “The “Devil” Cards’ Advocate: Choice Privileges Visa Signature

  1. Choice can work. My wife and I have a 6 am flight to a surprise destination this Friday, at an airport 2.5 hours from our house. So I used Choice points from a time share tour to book a free night at a hotel that also has free parking. So cost for parking + cost for hotel before stay = 0$.

    There’s a ton of value in using technique like the above to shave off a lot of the costs that can crop up around trips.

    Now if only I could use Choice points for car rentals.

    • @Cheapblackdad Oh sure! There is a lot of value in Choice program. It all depends on how cheaply you can acquire their currency. My argument is (was?) that Choice sign-up bonus is weak sauce. But looks like I just proved myself wrong with this post. If leveraged correctly, Choice points can be awesome, especially overseas. I’ve stayed in their hotels many times.
      My observation is that most of the decent properties in US cost between 16,000 and 25,000 points per night. By that logic, the credit card isn’t compelling enough. However, there are exceptions, and I always argue against making sweeping generalizations. I think one needs to always do research and check Trip Advisor. Not all hotels in the same chain are created equal.

  2. I aim for “affordable luxury”. I would describe that as a clean, comfortable (especially the bedding!), well-maintained hotel with good amenities/location and (ideally) with some space/luxurious touches. In customer-service speak, I am pleased when I am unexpectedly delighted . This can happen in many ways, from a quality room or upgrade, the hotel anticipating my needs, little touches like fogless mirrors or heated bathroom floors or local welcome amenity, staff remembering my name throughout the stay, great concierge assistance, etc. My idea of “budget” hotel is a Hampton Inn or Fairfield Inn – and trust me, I’ve stayed in plenty of those properties and generally liked them for a basic room – but if I dip below that standard baseline then I am usually not satisfied, I’ve stayed in some nice Clarions and Wyndham Gardens, but typically only book those chains when there is no better alternative (I’m not interested in their loyalty programs and I think there is not good consistency of standards within their brands). If I can get the champagne/caviar within budget, so be it. One time I stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Santiago, Chile for 2 nights under a fantastic $160/night corp rate. It was worth every penny and delivered on the luxurious expectations, making a great finale to the end of a cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile.

    • @Erik So basically, you are admitting to being THAT guy who is petting the fluffy white cat and eating caviar with a giant spoon? ?
      I’m joking, of course. Honestly, I feel very similarly. I absolutely love affordable luxury, and getting a steal on a nice property makes me downright giddy! If money wasn’t an issue, I would be splurging all the time. Bedding is very important. My pet peeve with cheap properties is inferior mattresses. It’s not always the case, of course. But in general, you have to be willing to compromise. And while on vacation, I like to relax and not worry about stuff.
      I actually really enjoyed Wyndham Garden Clearwater property. It’s funny because my expectations were very low, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely not a luxurious property, and there were a few issues. Comforters were gold, tacky kind, something you would find in Dollar General. But those are minor things to me because overall, the property delivered exactly what I was hoping it would. But I get what you are saying about Wyndham program. Based on reviews, the quality is very inconsistent. I think the credit card can be lucrative for some, but it’s not a good fit for every family. I believe people should be happy while on vacation, and I’m certain Wyndham Garden isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Still beats Econo Lodge, though!

  3. I have considered choice but cannot quite see the value in it overall. Around me the properties are mostly below par too. As in way below par.

    Now Wyndham on the other hand is a good program. I managed to get in during the 15000 points per year deal they had so I get a free stay every year any any property. That makes the card well worth keeping. I have only stayed at a couple locations so far and they were OK, but not great. I will keep the card and save the points and just read reviews and really watch my properties with them more than others as there are plenty of these I will NEVER stay at.

    I’m fine with a nice Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express – While I like high end properties like anyone would I prefer to get as many stays with my point as possible so mid range is the best bang for my buck (or point). Room needs to be clean and for us, most important after that, is noise. Put me on the top floor so I do not hear activity in the hall, or over my head. Some may not care but it drives us nuts.

    I’m easy to please and a super happy friendly person, so if you manage to actually make me unhappy or upset you have really done something special!

    • @Ryan Thanks for stopping by! I think most of my readers are super happy and friendly, just the way I like it. I think our travel styles are very similar. I’m also fine with Holiday Inn and similar properties, especially when we get upgraded to a suite.
      I got my Wyndham card with the same annual renewal offer as you: 15,000 points. I wonder if they will follow through or just give 6,000 points. It will be interesting. You probably have seen my post on some beachfront hotels in Florida //milesforfamily.com/2016/03/22/how-large-families-can-leverage-hotel-points-for-a-beachfront-vacation-in-florida/ If not, you might want to check it out.

      Wyndham Garden Clearwater is a very good deal on points. I haven’t stayed there, but Wyndham in Deerfield Beach gets great reviews. Those are your best bets for the points. Also, check out Wyndham Grand resort in Puerto Rico. Of course, places in New York, Chicago and other large cities are also good to consider.

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