Everything You Don’t Know About Choice Hotels, Including Aspirational Partnerships

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Choice Privileges Deep Dive – Reliable Value and Unique Opportunities

I love mid- and lower-tier lodging.  Some of that is nostalgia; I vividly remember family road trips and how my parents would jump from one motel to the other at night checking for vacancies.  If there was a pool, I had hit the jackpot.  Another reason are the often-overlooked, solid values at these lodging tiers.  Choice Hotels, along with Wyndham, Best Western, and many Radisson properties (particularly Country Inn & Suites) give us plenty to choose from in this tier.  Today, let’s take a Choice Privileges deep dive and see what we discover!

Choice Hotels Lineup

Choice Hotels is comprised of the following property lines:

  • Econo Lodge
  • Rodeway Inn
  • Suburban Extended Stay Hotels
  • Woodspring Suites
  • MainStay Suites
  • Quality Inn
  • Clarion/Clarion Pointe
  • Comfort Inn/Comfort Suites
  • Sleep Inn
  • Cambria Hotels
  • Ascend Hotel Collection

Choice Privileges members can earn and redeem points at all of the above properties.  Notably, members can also redeem at Preferred Hotels and Resorts properties.

Choice Privileges Deep Dive
Now is a great time to apply for the Choice Privileges Visa Signature card!

Earning Choice Points

Credit Card

Like many other hotel programs, individuals can earn substantial points with the chain’s credit card.  Currently, Barclays is offering an elevated 50k point welcome offer on the Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card.  This is a significantly higher welcome offer than the normal 32k point welcome offer.  Here are the card specifics:

  • Welcome Offer: Earn 50k Choice points after spending $1k within the first 90 days of cardmembership.
  • Earn an additional 5 points per dollar on spend at Choice Hotels.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on all other spending.
  • After $10k spend in the previous year, earn 8k points as a cardmember anniversary bonus.
  • Gold status in the Choice Privileges rewards program.
  • No annual fee.

Choice Hotels Stays

Choice Privileges members earn 10 base points per dollar spent at Choice hotels.  Elite members at the Gold, Platinum, and Diamond levels earn 10%, 25%, and 60% more points respectively.

Choice Privileges Deep Dive
Beyond hotel stays and credit card spend, exchanging Amtrak points is the most lucrative option for amassing Choice points.

Other Earning Opportunities

Choice points can also be accrued via the following:

  • Rental car partners: Earn up to 2k points per rental currently.
  • Cruises:  Earn up to 5 points per dollar spent (Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess).
  • Exchange Points:  The best exchange I’ve seen is 1 Amtrak point for 3 Choice points, but this requires Amtrak elite status or holding an Amtrak credit card.

Redeeming Choice Points

Naturally, the best use of Choice points are reward stays at their properties.  Unfortunately, rewards rates are constantly subject to change.  There is seemingly no reliable award chart for stays.  The fine print on the Choice website (notably) states the following:

Like other programs, Choice leaves the heavy lifting for determining redemption amounts to customers.  Also, a huge wrinkle in the program is that an individual cannot book award stays far in advance.  Reward nights can only be booked up to 100 days in advance, and this limitation may be reason enough for many travelers to ignore this program.  Also, Choice points expire after 18 months of inactivity.

Choice Privileges Deep Dive
Choice Privilege elite status benefits chart.

Choice Privileges Deep Dive – Elite Status

The Choice Privileges program involves the following levels and required nights per calendar year:

  • Member:  No requirement
  • Gold:  7 nights
  • Platinum:  15 nights
  • Diamond:  25 nights

From my perspective, the most prominent benefit of the elite program is the elevated points earning on paid stays.  Gold status earns 10%, Platinum status earns 25%, and Diamond earns 60% more base points.  Beyond that, the enhanced value of elite benefits is negligible.  I’ve included the elite benefits chart above, but access a more robust view here.  In my situation, I would never bother trying to reach any elite status via normal stays – since I primarily use award nights, my stays wouldn’t count, anyway.  However, you can request a status match via a fairly simple process here.  I have never done this with Choice, but I plan to do so once travel gets back closer to normal.

Unique Opportunities

Preferred Hotels and Resorts

The Choice Privileges program provides access to Preferred Hotels and Resorts properties. You can view the list of participating properties here, but members must call 888-770-6800 to book these award stays.  Award nights at these properties range from 25k to 55k points per night.  I enjoy the mix of boutique, modest, and high-end properties.  While redemption rates highly vary, it’s great to have the option to book such aspirational properties and locations with points.  Here are a few Preferred properties that caught my eye:

Ascend Hotel Collection

Another unique redemption opportunity is booking Choice’s Ascend Hotel Collection properties online.  Again, hotel award rates vary widely but are much easier to gauge with Choice’s online booking capability.  Each property has unique character – here are a few examples:

Choice Hotels – My Overall Take and Preferences

First Off…

I’m a big fan of the Choice Hotels family of brands, and their program does provide solid value.  Particularly, I enjoy the consistency of quality and service from Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites properties.  Importantly, they seemingly have locations everywhere.  I easily find award nights at the 8k-12k level for these properties, and usually get a value in the 0.6-0.8 cent per point range.  You can also get similar or better value internationally.  While one can do better or worse in terms of value, I’m more focused on my goals than outsized valuations.  We haven’t stayed at Ascend properties often, but I like the option of using points there or at the Preferred locations.

I don’t rack up lots of Choice points since I don’t usually pay for hotel rooms, but leisure and business travelers with moderate to frequent paid stays can easily drive up their points balances.  Also, Choice has been known to be very generous with promos; they have often offered 8k bonus points for just two stays.

Choice Privileges Deep Dive
Comfort Suites – my favorite all-around redemption with Choice points.

What About the Credit Card?

Would I apply for the Choice Privileges Visa?  Yes, and I have!  I held the card years ago.  Would I put spend on the card?  Yes; I would particularly focus on reaching exactly $10k spend per cardmember year to obtain the 8k anniversary bonus points.  This would reflect earning 2.8x points on all spend.  That’s not bad for a no annual fee hotel card!  Putting more than $10k on the card is a highly personal decision based on one’s specific travel and redemption goals.

Redemptions

When planning for and making redemptions, compare the cash versus points rates.  You may find that you get better value using cash back rewards for Choice hotels rather than points for a given situation.  Ultimately, though, don’t let your Choice points (or other rewards currencies, for that matter) sit in your account indefinitely without a plan.

Finally, as with any mid- and lower-tier hotel stay, do plenty of research on the property in advance.  Quality of certain hotel lines can vary widely, and you do not want to be disappointed.  On the flip side, your research can unearth some true hidden gems on the lower end.

Choice Privileges Deep Dive – Conclusion

Bring up Choice Hotels with anyone, and you will definitely get plenty of “meh” responses.  Some of you might roll their eyes at this Choice Privileges deep dive.  All of that is fine.  The points and miles masses ignoring a seemingly bland hotel chain can lead to more opportunity for me.  Regardless, there will routinely be a spot in my travel itineraries for a Choice Hotel stay.  Are you a fan of Choice Hotels?  What are your favorite properties and redemptions?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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11 COMMENTS

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11 COMMENTS

  1. The new CITI transfer opportunity with Choice Privileges points at a 1/2 ratio has brought new interest to this often overlooked brand. Personally, I love Choice Nordic Hotels. The redemption rates are fantastic and usually include a full hot breakfast and even dinner! 10,000 points per night for the Sign Hotel and in the middle of Stockholm is just one great example. I was there for a week in one room with two guests for 70,000 points. They have a huge buffet breakfast with an omelette station included. All free with the reservation!

  2. Ascend Glenwood Springs, Colorado for 16,000 point in low season for 3 king beds, 2 BD, full kitchen keeps me coming back.

  3. I don’t often stay at Choice properties, but my daughter and I stayed at the Comfort Suites in Kanab, UT this past May as a home base to explore Zion National Park. The property seems very new and we were thrilled with our suite which included two queen beds, a living area, fridge, and microwave. The pool with waterfall and hot tub were great as well. The town had much to offer for our two night stay. Highly recommended.

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for the summary of your experience. This is an example of a great opportunity that many could overlook.

  4. I don’t think Montage Kapalua Bay Maui can be booked with choice points. Only a small set of preferred hotels can be booked by points.

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