Generating miles and points at low cost takes time and organization, and most people have neither the time nor ability to juggle tens of credit cards. Unfortunately, a lot of travel hacking is targeted at the minority who can, leaving behind those who are just looking to save money on their twice-a-year family vacations.
So, what about those casual travelers? Can you still use miles and points to your advantage? Or more generally, when your points balances are limited, can you still save money without compromising on comfort?
Over the next week, I’ll be releasing a series of posts looking at each of the major hotel chains and how their rewards structure puts a cap on how much you should pay for a night at their properties. The programs are:
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- IHG Rewards Club
- Hilton HHonors
- Marriott Rewards
- Starwood Preferred Guest
- [Bonus] Choice Privileges
Hyatt hotels are the subject of today’s post. I’ll first note that this will only work when there is award availability for a hotel. Why? The hack that we’re going rely on is the fact that most loyalty programs allow you to purchase their rewards points at some (typically overpriced) cost. Although it’s usually not advisable to purchase these points in bulk (except at a major discount), in some instances we can use bulk points purchasing to our advantage. Here’s how.
The Nuts and Bolts
Hyatt Gold Passport divides Hyatt properties into seven categories roughly corresponding to the quality/level of luxury and amenities that the hotels offer. They then offer you the ability to redeem your Hyatt points for stays at nightly rates corresponding to the category of the property.
Their award chart looks like this:
Most people don’t have Hyatt points, and even if they do, they’re unlikely to have that many, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of the loyalty program. As I mentioned before, Hyatt offers you the ability to purchase points from them (in increments of 1,000 points). You can purchase up to 55,000 points a year (there are ways around this, the simplest of which involves enlisting family and friends) at a rate of $24/1,000 points, or more simply, 2.4 cents per point.
Why is this useful? When looking at a stay, it places a maximum value on how much you should pay for a single night — that is, 2.4 cents times the number of points the hotel requires. Just purchase the number of points you need and redeem them for an award stay, and you’re good to go. Here are the costs based on the Hyatt award chart:
Hyatt also offers the ability to pay a reduced number of points for a stay and substituting a cash co-pay for the remaining portion. The required co-pay, like the number of points, is fixed based on the category of the hotel. The chart looks like this:
Although points and cash doesn’t necessarily offer the best value for cases where you have an unlimited supply of points (as explained in a previous post), in this case it offers tremendous value. Calculating the maximum costs using points and cash, we get:
Not only is it cheaper, but points and cash allows you to stretch out your annual purchasing limit twice as far!
Great in theory, how about in the wild?
Here’s an example at the lower end of the award chart. When looking for hotels in the Phoenix area, we see the following Hyatt Place priced at $161/night (taxes add another ~$20):
Clicking through, we see it has (tax-free) award availability at 5,000 points per night. Consulting our tables above, we see the hotel can be ‘bought’ with all points for $120 or $110 using points and cash, a savings of nearly 40%!
The math works similarly as we get toward the higher end of the award chart. Let’s take the Park Hyatt Sydney, which would be $720 for room if you paid cash:
But would be only $660 if you purchased the points needed for a point and cash redemption and paid the cash co-pay:
Obviously, this hack requires some flexibility to maximize (since the hotel has to have standard award availability), and it’s not going to be cheaper in all cases, but it’s a fairly simple way to save some money that doesn’t require much forethought. Hope it’s useful!