The Cheapest Way to Book Hyatt Club Rooms on Points

Hyatt Regency SF Club Lounge Spread

Hyatt Regency SF Club Lounge Spread

For those wondering what the makes them so great, Club Level Rooms have several advantages over standard rooms. Often, these rooms are on higher floors and offer better amenities. More importantly, they offer access to the hotel’s club lounge, where guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast, snacks/appetizers, drinks, and wifi throughout the day. This can be a great value if you can manage to get a club level room on points. So what is the best way to do it via manufactured spending?

In most cases, hotels will upgrade Diamond members at check-in free of charge. This is preferable to the other alternative – having to provide them with complimentary breakfast at the hotel restaurant. However, if you’re not a Diamond member and you want to ensure you get a Club Room, there are a few options:

1. Book with cash and upgrade with points. Sometimes you stumble upon a cheap standard rate, depending on the day of the week and other factors. It might make sense to use 3,000 points per night for a Club Room upgrade. Again, this depends on the rate you’re paying as well as the category hotel you’re booking – it may be more prudent to just book the Club Room on points entirely, but this will vary.

If you are considering a 3,000 point nightly upgrade, do take into consideration the nightly cash rate, how much manufactured spending is needed to off-set it, and compare that to the point redemption rate for a Club Room in that particular category.

2. Book a Club Room on cash. Sometimes (either online or at the time of check-in), you may be offered a Club Room upgrade for a heavily discounted rate. I’ve received offers as low as $40 extra per night. In these cases, it makes more sense to pay the cash rate with your Arrival Plus card and redeem a travel statement credit (since you are earning those at double the rate of other currencies) than to utilize a 3,000 point nightly upgrade. So long as the upgrade cost is under $66 (after tax), you are better off using Arrival Miles earned with the Arrival Plus card.

3. Redeem points for a Club Room. Club rooms can be booked for about 40% more points than a standard room. Club Room redemptions range from 7,000 – 39,000 points per night, depending on the hotel category. Sometimes, the difference between a suite and a club room is just 1,000 points – it goes without saying that in this scenario, booking a suite is a better value. In any case, you should always weigh the cost of a club room on points against the cash rate, factoring in the rate of point accumulation to decide which option is best.

Below, I’ve outlined the amount of manufactured spending required for each redemption type, as well as the amount of travel rewards you’d earn by putting the spend on the Arrival Plus card (factoring in the 10% rebate) instead of a co-branded or Ultimate Reward earning card. This part is important because if you’re able to find a paid club room rate at or below these rates, it’s better to charge the entire stay to your Arrival Plus card and redeem Arrival miles for it. The amount of manufactured spending required at those levels may be less for the Arrival card than the Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards (barring category bonuses).

Note: Scroll right to see calculations past Category 4

 
Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Category 4
Category 5
Category 6
Category 7
Club Room Point Redemption7,000 points12,000 points17,000 points21,000 points27,000 points33,000 points39,000 points
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card$7,000$12,000$17,000$21,000$27,000$33,000$39,000
Rewards earned by the Arrival Plus card for the same amount of spend$154$264$374$462$594$726$858
Upgrade3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink
Card
$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000

Someone asked me in an earlier post why I didn’t factor category bonuses into these calculations. All of the Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards offer category bonuses of 2-5 points per $1 spent. To keep things simple, I’m basing my calculations on earnings of 1 point per $1 and the assumption that these miles will be generated at non-bonus category merchants like Simon Malls and via American Express gift cards (breaking even on the Amex gift card purchases).

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

The Cheapest Way to Book Hyatt Suites on Points

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Suite

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Suite

A few weeks ago I concluded that the cheapest way to earn Hyatt stays via manufactured spending, is by combining Hyatt’s Points + Cash award option with miles earned from the Barclay Arrival Plus card. That post applied to standard hotel redemptions only. What about if you’re redeeming points for a suite?

Hyatt has a few options if you’re looking to book a suite on points:

1. Redeem points for a suite. Suites can be booked for roughly 50% more points than a standard room. For example, a suite at a Category 1 Hyatt hotel requires 8,000 points per night (3,000 more than a standard room), while a Category 7 hotel like the Park Hyatt Sydney requires 48,000 points per night (18,000 more points than a standard room).

2. Book with cash and upgrade with points. Sometimes cash rates are cheap during low season, on certain days of the week, or during a special promotion. The advantage of these lower rates is that they make it reasonable to redeem 6,000 points per night for a suite upgrade if you’re redeeming them at a Category 2 hotel or higher. Hyatt used to require just 6,000 points per 4-night stay, but those days are long gone.

There are some rate restrictions around this option. Upgrading a resort stay requires that you book a certain rate and room types, which may make this option less desirable due to the higher cash rates that must be booked. At non-resort properties, you must book a minimum of the Hyatt Daily Rate in order to qualify for a point upgrade.

3. Book with cash and upgrade with a Diamond suite upgrade. Similar to the above scenario, if you’re a Hyatt Diamond member, you can use one of your four annual Diamond Suite upgrades to bump your paid stay to a suite for up to 7 nights. There are properties where Diamond suite upgrades cannot be applied, including the Park Hyatt Sydney, Park Hyatt Maldives, Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek, to name a few.

4. Book with Points + Cash and upgrade with a Diamond suite upgrade. The advantage of Hyatt’s Point + Cash redemption is that these stays count towards elite status and can be upgraded with a Diamond suite upgrade, which isn’t the case for awards booked fully on points.

So which of these options requires the least amount of manufactured spending? I broke it down in the table below. Keep in mind that the calculations involving Arrival Miles factor in the 10% point discount cardholders get on travel redemptions.

Note: Scroll right to see calculations past Category 4

 
Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Category 4
Category 5
Category 6
Category 7
Suite Redemption8,000 points13,000 points20,000 points24,000 points32,000 points40,000 points48,000 points
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card$8,000$13,000$20,000$24,000$32,000$40,000$48,000
Points + Cash with a Diamond suite upgrade2,500 + $504,000 + $556,000 + $757,500 + $10010,000 + $12512,500 + $15015,000 + $300
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink
Card + Statement Credits
$2,500
+ $5,000


Total: $7,500
$4,000
+ $5,500


Total: $9,500
$6,000
+ $7,500


Total: $13,500
$7,500
+$10,000


Total: $17,500
$10,000
+$12,500


Total: $22,500
$12,500
+$15,000


Total: $27,500
$15,000
+$30,000


Total: $45,000
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card + Arrival Plus Card$2,500
+ $2,250 Arrival Miles


Total: $4,750
$4,000
+ $2,475 Arrival Miles


Total: $6,275
$6,000
+ $3,375 Arrival Miles


Total: $9,375
$7,500
+ $4,500 Arrival Miles


Total: $10,500
$10,000
+ $5,625 Arrival Miles


Total: $15,625
$12,500
+ $6,750 Arrival Miles


Total: $19,250
$15,000 +13,500
Arrival Miles


Total: $28,500

If you’re a Hyatt Diamond member, Hyatt’s Points + Cash option using the Arrival Plus card wins out. You will have to forego one of your four annual Diamond suite night upgrades, but that is what they’re for.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a paid stay vs. Points + Cash. Do the math on how many Arrival Miles or Ultimate Rewards you’ll need to off-set the cash rate and compare that with the Points + Cash manufactured spending rate listed above. Category bonuses may also factor into which option is cheaper, but I’ve done the above calculation based on American Express gift card purchases earned at either a profit or enough cash back from a portal to off-set the fees. If you’re going to factor in category bonuses, you’ll also need to account for card fees, at which point the chart above will change depending on the type of gift cards you’re churning.

For those who do not have Diamond status, the only option is to either book a suite on points alone or book with cash and use 6,000 points per night for an upgrade. There are a few factors to consider here. Upgrading a cash stay with 6,000 points per night won’t make sense if the cash rate is low. Always take into account how much manufactured spending you’ll have to do for an outright point redemption for a suite vs. a cash stay with a 6,000 point nightly upgrade. That’s when the above chart will hopefully come in handy as a reference.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

American Express Travel 72-Hour Labor Day Sale

American Express 72-Hour Labor Day Sale

American Express Travel is running a 72-hour sale, offering discounts of 20-40% on hotels. Most notably on the list are the Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas, which have been discounted to as low as $132 per night. I checked the Wynn calendar and it appears the savings listed by American Express are accurate. However, there is a catch: You need to book a certain number of nights to get the discounted rate.

For example, between September 23-26, the Wynn Deluxe Resort room goes for $189 per night, while American Express Travel is offering the same room for $132 per night if you book at least two nights. Of course, most people aren’t going to Vegas for a single night, so this works out to be a pretty good deal.

You can use your Membership Rewards points to pay for these hotel stays, though based on limited searches, I’ve found it’s better to charge these stays to your Arrival Plus card. That’s based on the rate of accumulating both currencies as well as redemption value. 

It’s also worth noting that M-life resorts like the Luxor (which partners with Hyatt’s Gold Passport program) could present a good mattress running opportunity, with the recent targeted Hyatt promotion as well as Hyatt counting partner stays towards elite status. There’s no telling whether these third party bookings will count as eligible nights towards status, but if you’re heading to Vegas anyway and looking for cheap hotels, you may get the added bonus of elite night credits. 

If you’re looking to travel elsewhere, there is a search function that allows you to look for deals outside of the “featured” list. I’ve found some of the best deals are in Vegas and San Diego. A search for cities including San Francisco and New York turned up nothing but a few low rate guarantees. 

Bookings must be made by 11:50 PM (ET) on August 28. Discounts are good for travel between September 2 – 30, 2014. While it would have been nice to get last minute Labor Day discounts, these deals could still be a money saver for those who are planning to travel after Labor Day.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

Discounts Available to Amex Bluebird Cardholders

Amex Bluebird Deals

Amex Bluebird Deals

American Express is pretty good about offering cardholders discounts and freebies, and now they’ve extended some of those perks to Bluebird cardholders. I got an email from Bluebird, offering me 10% off La Quinta hotel stays and 15% off at Denny’s if I charge those expenses to my Bluebird card. 

They must be really sick of travel hackers like us using their bill pay feature, but trying to reel me in with discounts at La Quinta and Denny’s? I’ve walked into a Denny’s restaurant exactly twice in my life and walked straight back out because of the stench. Not to be a snob or anything – I eat at fast food restaurants that are far more terrible than Denny’s, but at least I have the barrier of the drive through to shield me from the ugliness.

The La Quinta deal is good for travel through October 31, 2014. Bookings must be made using promo code AMX10 and charged to your Bluebird card.  The 15% discount at Denny’s requires a coupon, which the email I received links to. I’m assuming this is a targeted email so if you want to take advantage of it, check your email for a message from Bluebird. The Denny’s coupon is good through September 30, 2014.

If American Express wants us to start using our Bluebird cards regularly, they need to step up their game. They’ve probably done their research and decided La Quinta and Denny’s cater to the same demographic as Walmart does. That certainly makes sense. However, those same people are probably regularly using their Bluebird cards. So really, it’s us, the travel hackers, they should be wooing with discounts and promotions.

Plus, a 10% discount at La Quinta is nothing you can’t scrounge up through an online shopping mall and I’m sure there are better discounts for Denny’s in my local Clip ‘N Save. Hopefully this is just the first in a long line of promotions offered to Bluebird cardholders. Personally, I’d love to see some kind of discount on Walmart purchases, for obvious reasons.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

5 Things That Drive Me Nuts About Manufactured Spending

Visa-and-Mastercard-Gift-Cards-e1403388809892

As much fun as I have with this hobby, it’s pretty time consuming and at times patience-testing. I’m currently in the midst of meeting $82,00 in spending requirements, so my frustration is at an all time high. From buying gift cards to unloading, reloading, and depositing funds, it gets exhausting fast. And sometimes I wonder if my time isn’t better spent doing something else. Existential crisis aside, here are five things that I absolutely despise about manufactured spending:

1.Earning points. I’m not a heavy card churner and with the exception of a few mega sign-up bonus offers, I earn most of my miles from manufactured spending. In other words, I work hard for my miles and that takes time and patience. Though it’s worthwhile when I do redeem miles (and save cash on travel), it’s practically a full time job.

2. Cashing out gift cards. It’s such a rush ordering $5,000 worth of gift cards and getting an email from American Express confirming the order hasn’t been cancelled like you expected. When they arrive, you are faced with the task of unloading them without appearing like a criminal. A bit of friendly small talk usually does the trick, but sometimes cashing out gift cards is a sigh-inducing experience. While this was fun in the Vanilla Reload days, the process of cashing out $40,000 in gift cards every month has become more of a chore since.

3. Going to Walmart. Going to target to unload American Express gift cards via the American Express for Target card is fun. I pick up a drink from the in-house Starbucks, stock up on essentials, stroll the aisles of the home goods department – it’s as close to a spa day as manufactured spending gets. Walmart is the exact opposite in every way. It’s like they put up as many road blocks as possible to keep you out of the store. And when you muster up the will to jump through all the hurdles (having to park your car on the dark side of the moon, bypassing all the annoying solicitors), you are rewarded for your efforts with a broken Bluebird kiosk and having to spend 20 minutes in line to unload one Visa gift card. 

4. The time commitment. Unloading anything over $10,000 per month in gift cards becomes a part time job. It makes sense in some cases, when you’re raking in 4% cash back or more. But sometimes you end up spending several days trying to unload your cards when the kiosk is broken, the lines are just moving too slow, and you have that other thing called a life that demands your attention. This really makes you question whether you’re using your time wisely, until you become desperate and decide to use Google Wallet as an unloading tool.

5. Finding Award Space. After you manage to do all of the above without pulling your hair out, you are rewarded with enough miles to book that trip you’ve been saving up for. Ever since my summer 2012 booking fiasco, my anxiety level goes through the roof any time I have to pick up the phone and call American Airlines to book an award. I tend to travel during peak times and not being able to go where you want, when you want after having saved up miles to do so, is a major hassle. Outsourcing the task to an award booking service just makes me feel like a failure, so I suck it up and do it myself.

So why put up with all of this? This is why. I’d rather chase points and miles for a better travel experience, than deprive myself year-round to save up enough cash for an inferior experience. Ultimately this list of complaints is minor compared to the rewards and any real problems that plague our everyday lives, but we all have to vent sometimes, right? What is it about manufactured spending that drives you up a wall?

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaser, Facebook, or Instagram

Hotel Boasting the World’s Largest Suite to Join SPG Luxury Collection

Grand Hills Hotel and Spa Royal Residence

Grand Hills Hotel and Spa Royal Residence

Which city do you think boasts the world’s largest hotel suite? Dubai? Vegas? According to the Guinness Book of World Records that honor goes to the Grand Hills Hotel and Spa in Broumana, Lebanon. Broumana is about 30 minutes outside of the country’s capital, Beirut.The hotel boasts the largest hotel suite at 44,500 square feet – in it’s own right, the size of a small hotel. The Royal Residence takes up six floors and has not one, but two private pools, two saunas, a turkish bath, a gym, private gardens, and enough space to accommodate the entire native population of the UAE.

With all this grandiosity, you’d expect a hefty price tag. However, compared to presidential suites half it’s size, the Royal Residence at the Grand Hills Hotel is relatively cheap at $7,905 per night. I use that term loosely, of course, because obviously it’s an astronomic markup over what the average person would spend on hotel accommodations, but considering presidential suites in Vegas go for $20,000-$40,000 per night, this is kind of a bargain. 

When I reached out to the hotel to get more details about the suite, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that while the hotel is closed for renovations until May 2015, it would be rebranded as a Starwood Luxury Collection property. No word yet on which category it will be or whether the Royal Residence will still be available or, more prudently, turned into a separate wing of the hotel. My guess is they won’t want to give up their claim to the world’s biggest hotel suite, and the Royal Residence will return bigger and glitzier than ever.

In the never ending pissing contest that is the points and miles world, if you wanted to stay at this hotel to make everyone jealous, there are a few ways to get around the huge price tag:

  1. Split the $7,905 bill 100 ways, bringing everyone’s share of the bill down to a reasonable $79.50. Turn your stay into a trial run as a hotel manager. With the suite occupying it’s own separate building roughly 1/3 the size of the resort, it’s not such a stretch. Run a few ads on Airbnb and you’ve got yourself an eclectic group of roommates.
  2. Charge the stay to you Barclay Arrival card. You only need 790,500 miles per night. Plus, you’ll get 10% of those miles back (79,050). Can you say bargain?
  3. Take one floor and sublet the remaining 5 to a Saudi royal who will consider the $6,587.50 price tag akin to raiding the $1 bin at Target. 

Aside from the suite, the hotel itself looks like a very relaxing place to stay. Now that the property will be joining SPG’s Luxury Collection, I look forward to the day when someone posts a review on Flyertalk about the world’s largest hotel suite.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

5 Cheap Ways to Complete the Hyatt Diamond Challenge

Hyatt Regency Sacramento check-in

Hyatt Regency Sacramento check-in

After a slew of recent Hyatt-recentric posts, I realized I’ve failed to cover the most fundamental of all Hyatt posts: How to complete the Hyatt Diamond Challenge cheap. Hyatt Diamond is the highest status level within the Gold Passport program. Typically, members are required to complete 25 stays/50 nights to achieve Diamond status. With the Hyatt Diamond challenge, members can earn status after just 12 nights. 

The 60 day Hyatt Diamond Challenge is one of the greatest travel hacks out there. It’s an easy way to upgrade your travel and save money with perks like complimentary breakfast, club lounge access, wifi, room upgrades, bonus points and more. In addition, members will get 1,000 bonus points for their first 6 nights, which is a nice bonus.

It’s easy to get and a great starting point for status matching to other programs. The preferred way to get matched to Hyatt Diamond is by picking up a Cit Hilton HHonors Reserve card, which comes with Gold status. Then simply send an email to goldpassport@hyatt.com with a screenshot displaying your Hilton Gold status and you’ll get confirmation via email about your Diamond challenge start/end date. While most other programs require you to complete a top-tier status challenge before getting access to the perks reserved for elites, those participating in a Hyatt Diamond challenge get those perks during the challenge. 

If you find during those 60 days that you’d like to keep your newfound status beyond the trial date, all it takes is 12 nights to cement your status through February of the following year. Whether you decide to mattress run your way through 12 stays or you’ve arranged the challenge so that it lines up with actual travel plans, there are always ways you can reduce your cost. Here are 5 ways you can complete the Hyatt Diamond trial cheaply:

1. Search for Cheap Hotels. This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re looking to pay out of pocket for a mattress mattress run, search beyond local hotels. I’ve had tremendous luck getting hotels from a variety of chains (Hyatt, IHG, Club Carlson) to check me in and out of a hotel remotely. The hotel gets the revenue without the guest they have to take care of, extend benefits to, and clean up after. 

With location hurdles out of the way, the first step is to find a cheap hotel, taking into accounts that markets like Orlando, Dallas, and Norfolk (VA) are some of the cheapest. It’s also a good idea to check Hyatt’s Category 1 hotel list for cheap properties. 

2. My Elite Rate. When searching for hotels, make sure you are logged into your account as a Diamond member to ensure that the My Elite Rate appears. This can save you an extra 20% on your stay, if you’re paying with cash. 

Once you’ve done your due diligence to find a cheap hotel, simply call the front desk, explain that you’re looking to meet elite night requirements, and ask if they’ll check you in and out virtually. I haven’t been turned down by a single hotel so far. 

3. Weekend Stays. Weekend stays (especially Sundays) are typically when hotels offer the cheapest rates - the exception being, of course, resorts. Even if you’re staying on a Points + Cash award, a weekend stay can make your mattress run cheaper in the long run. Why? Because if you choose a property that closes it’s lounge on weekends, you earn another 2,500 points per stay. If you can manage this for all 12 nights, you’re looking at off-setting the 30,000 points mentioned above altogether, brining your total out of pocket cost down to $0 if you factor in manufactured spending from the Arrival Plus card (see #2).

4. Get up to 10% Cash Back. A somewhat odd perk of the SPG Business card is 5% cash back at Hyatt hotels through the OPEN savings program. This is a good way to go if you’re booking your stay on cash only. Stack this with a shopping portal and you can get up to 10% cash back in total. As of this writing, the highest cash back amount on Hyatt stays is 3% offered by TopCashBack (referral link). It’s worth noting that My Elite rates do not qualify for cash back.

5. Points + Cash. Completing 12 nights on paid mattress runs can get expensive. Even if you score a low rate of $100 per night, that’s $1,200 of hard earned cash blown on hotels you never stayed at.  A better alternative is Hyatt’s Points + Cash option. As I pointed out in a previous post, it’s the cheapest way to earn Hyatt stays via manufactured spending. Translation: It will cost you less overall. Pick a Category 1 Hyatt hotel for all 12 nights and you’re looking at a total of 30,000 Gold Passport points and $600 cash (Category 1 Points + Cash awards cost 2,500 points + $50 cash). Charge those stays on your Barclay Arrival Plus card and you can off-set the cash portion with 54,000 Arrival Miles/$27,000 in manufactured spending.  

That’s the Diamond Challenge in a nutshell. What makes it great is that it’s attainable and as the points above demonstrate, you can do it with very little to no out of pocket costs. 

Do you have any tips for completing the Hyatt Diamond challenge on a budget? Please share in the comment section.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

Best Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel Redemptions: Category 3

Within Starwood’s Category 3, several Luxury Collection properties start showing up. Oddly enough, many of them aren’t in the best shape and don’t measure up with lower-end brands like Four Points and Sheraton. However, there is still a great deal of value to be had in this category, with hotels and resorts requiring just 7,000 points per night. Redeem a hotel in this category as part of a Nights & Flights award and the rate on a 5-night stay decreases to just 2,000 points per night. Here are the best Category 3 Starwood Preferred Guest redemption options:

NORTH AMERICA

US

Aloft Orlando Downtown (Orlando, FL)

Aloft Orlando Downtown, Aloft Room

Aloft Orlando Downtown, Aloft Room

Distinctions: N/A

Accommodations: Standard Aloft Rooms are 374 sqft, with floor-to-ceiling windows to let in natural light and accentuate the modern decor. There’s also an ergonomic chair accompanying the desk – you’ll appreciate these if you’ve ever sat on those orange foam swivel chairs most office buildings are stocked with. All guests get complimentary wifi, local calls, bottled water, and coffee/tea provisions. Aloft rooms have views of either the city of lake.

Location: While the Aloft Orlando is in the midst of several corporate offices, it’s also within walking distance of the Amway Center, where you can take in an Orlando Magic game. Several performing arts centers, museums and shopping centers are also nearby. The hotel is also located within 20 miles of Seaworld, Universal Studios, and Disney World.

Honorable mention: Aloft Miami Doral (Doral, FL)

Canada

The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa (Victoria, BC)

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Distinctions: Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014

Accommodations: At the standard level, guests can book a 450 sqft Fairways Building Traditional room, which sits right on the first hole of the championship golf course and offers views of the surrounding mountains or village, which guests can enjoy from the private balcony.. The room also features a kitchenette, while the bathroom has a deep soaker tub.  comes equipped with a kitchenette. It’s worth noting all rooms at this property are smoke free, which shouldn’t be surprising for a resort.

Location: The Westin Bear Mountain is a great place to redeem your Starpoints if you’re looking for a relaxing resort experience or a family vacation with a bit of the outdoors. You’ll likely need a car if you want to venture outside of the resort, where you’ll find several national parks, a movie theatre, shopping, a casino, and the harbor – all within 10 miles of the resort.

Honorable mention: N/A

Continue reading

5 of My Biggest Hotel Pet Peeves

Sheraton Mission Valley hotel lobby

Sheraton Mission Valley hotel lobby

I’m all about making the destination a priority on my trips, taking in the culture, and making the most of my time there. However, I do love a good hotel, even if I don’t spend all of my time there. I think there’s something very comforting in knowing you’ve got a gorgeous, clean room to return to after a day of sight seeing. While hotels can provide comfort, convenience, and safety in a strange city, there are a few superficial things that bug me about them. Here are five of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to hotels:

1. Revolving doors.  They may look high tech and eliminate the need for a doorman (or do they?), but they’re annoying and impractical for many reasons. It’s like somebody thought, “Let’s reinvent the wheel and make it square.” It looks cool but makes a simple thing more complicated, thus defeating the purpose it was created for. People get stuck walking through them all the time and sometimes you have to wait longer than it would take you to walk through a regular door until another slot opens up for you to jump in.

And did I mention getting through one with multiple bags is a pain in the a**? How about we make walking into a building simple again and everyone just learn to open their own doors.

2. Trash can with no plastic bag. I can’t get myself to throw an empty frappuccino cup into the trash (never mind that there’s often no recycling bin). Even if cleaning it isn’t my responsibility, I don’t like the idea of dumping my trash in a bin that doesn’t have a plastic bag. Plus, it makes me think of the germs that must be present because other people’s trash has been in the same been. It may be the hotel being environmentally friendly, but in that case, have a communal trash can down the hall that everyone can use. Maybe I’m being neurotic, but it’s the small things that annoy me.

3. Not enough power outlets. I recently stayed in a Balcony Suite at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, which didn’t have a single working power outlet in the living room. There were two coffee machines, yet no place to plug them in. Even the bedroom had just two outlets tucked away in a far-off corner with no place for an appliance, let alone your cell phone. This tends to be the case with older hotels or ones that aren’t targeted towards business travelers. Splurge on an extra outlet or rearrange the furniture.

4. Slow in-room wifi. Maybe this is meant to drive people out of their rooms and into the lobby, where they’ll hopefully spend money at the restaurant or bar. If you’re going to offer in-room wifi, make it faster than the wifi in the lobby, especially if I’m being charged for it. Also, don’t give me two or more wifi speeds to choose from. Average out the price and charge everyone the same thing for the highest speed.

5. Monotony. While consistency is a key part of the chain hotel business model, it would be nice if hotels switched it up a bit in terms of decor. I think Club Carlson does a nice job at this. This is especially annoying when the hotel’s decor is mundane to begin with. There’s something depressing about walking into a hotel room in a different country and feeling like you’re at a hotel in the suburbs of your hometown.

Also, I don’t want to eat the same dishes everywhere I go. Switch it up and offer regional specialties at your on-site restaurants. Even breakfast seems mundane when the restaurant menus look identical.

These are just a few of my pet peeves. Popcorn ceilings, badly done renovations (which are particularly noticeable in the bathroom for some reason), stained carpets, and dusty furniture are a few others that I personally think are better suited to prisons than places where people pay to sleep.

Rant over. What are some of your hotel pet peeves?

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

Earn Up to 50,000 Bonus Points with the Latest Hyatt Gold Passport Promotion

View from the Hyatt Carmel Highlands

View from the Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Hyatt has been running these targeted promotions every quarter and while they have been nothing to get excited about so far, the latest promotion is fairly generous. Between September 1 through November 30, 2014 members can earn up to 50,000 bonus points by completing 20 nights. The tiered bonuses are as follows:

  • Stay 5 nights, earn 5,000 points 
  • Stay 10 nights, earn 10,000 points = 15,000 points total
  • Stay 15 nights, earn 15,000 points = 30,000 points total
  • Stay 20 nights, earn 20,000 points = 50,000 points total

This is much better than the last targeted promotion, which was capped at 5,000 points after 5 eligible nights. Members who complete 20 nights during the current promotion will effectively earn 2,500 bonus points per night. This is in addition to a variety of bonuses members earn from their spend with the program, via their credit cards, and as elite members. Keep in mind that nights at M life resorts do not qualify for this promotion, eliminating a potentially cheap mattress running option. The terms of this promotion don’t exclude Points + Cash stays, so those may be eligible for the promotion. 

Now for the important question: Is this promotion mattress run worthy? I will break down two of the cheapest and most lucrative scenarios, then conclude whether mattress running makes financial sense.

Scenario 1: Hyatt Diamond Challenge 

The ideal scenario for this kind of promotion would involve the Hyatt Diamond Challenge – assuming this promotion isn’t targeted towards top-tier elites. With a Hyatt Diamond Challenge, members would need to complete 12 nights within 60 days. During this period, members would earn 1,000 bonus points on the first 6 nights and be eligible for 30% bonus points, a 1,000 point Diamond welcome amenity, and another 2500 points if these stays are on a weekend and the lounge is closed. 

  • 12,000 points earned on 20 nights at a rate of 5 points per $1, assuming an average rate of $120 per night.
  • 3,600 bonus points earned as part of the 30% Diamond bonus.
  • At least 4,800 points when these stays are charged to a flexible rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
  • 6,000 bonus points from the Hyatt Diamond Challenge bonus for the first 6 nights
  • 20,000 bonus points for choosing the Hyatt Diamond amenity at check-in (assuming you complete the challenge based on stays, rather than nights)
  • 50,000 bonus points if you can manage weekend stays at hotels where the club lounge is closed.
  • 50,000 bonus points from the promotion

Altogether, you can generate around 146,400 Hyatt Gold Passport points for $2,400. Point valuations are irrelevant to me, as I like to earn them for next to nothing and redeem them whenever they save me cash. With 146,400 points you can redeem 4 nights at a top-tier hotel like the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. Even if the hotel regularly goes for $1,000+ per night and you’re spending $600 on mattress runs for a “free” night there, it’s not worth it. If you think of it as 29 nights at a Category 1 hotel, you would still need to get at least $82 of value out of each night in order to justify the $2,400 cost involved in earning those points. Regardless of whether you would off-set the cost by charging your stays to the Arrival Plus card, you’re still giving up $2,400 in travel cash to earn 146,400 points.

Scenario 2: Hyatt Diamond Challenge on Points + Cash

Completing both the Hyatt Diamond Challenge and this bonus points promotion on Hyatt’s Points + Cash rate will be a slightly cheaper alternative. Completing 20 nights at a Category 1 hotel would cost a total of 100,000 Gold Passport points and $1,000. If those 100,000 Gold Passport points were transferred from your Ultimate Rewards account, we can conservatively value them at $1,000 (since that is the rate at which you can redeem them for a statement credit). This option would be cheaper by $400 and in addition to completing the Diamond Challenge, you would come away with around 46,400 points. Are 46,000 points worth $1,000+? If you’re one of those people who values Hyatt Gold Passport points at 1.6 cents or more, the cost of accumulating these points is well over 2 cents per point, so definitely not worth it.

As you can imagine, if this promotion isn’t mattress run worthy when stacked with the Hyatt Diamond Challenge, it certainly won’t give you much value if you’re a regular member or even an elite with top-tier status. Take the Diamond Challenge bonus out of it and it doesn’t make sense to pursue the bonus alone.

Now if you really are participating in a Diamond Challenge during that period or have upcoming Hyatt stays anyway, then these tiered bonuses are just that – a nice added benefit of being loyal to Hyatt. Other than that, don’t go blowing through your Arrival miles or travel budget for a few bonus points.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram