Enjoying My Stay – Why I Choose Hotel Points Over Airline Miles
I’ve previously explained why cash back is my favorite rewards currency. Whether I get it directly from a cash back card, bank bonuses, or redeeming bank points, it’s the universal reward that I can apply to go anywhere or enable anything. I hear a crowd out there saying/yelling, “Great, we get it!” So I want to throw this stuff out of today’s article. Beyond cash back/bank points, would I rather earn hotel points or airline miles? I choose hotel points over airline miles every time. Why? Let’s jump in!
#1. Bang for my Rewards Buck
While comparing free rooms and free flights can be a slippery slope, I do know one thing for sure. I spend more time in hotels than on airplanes. But in doing so, am I using more of my rewards to cover this “free” experience? In my experience, no. While hotel points currencies vary widely, I only pursue hotel card welcome offers that enable at least three free nights or so. With a bit more elbow grease, it’s more nights than that. Airline card offers, while generous, usually end up providing me two or three free round trip flights. Yes, savvy sweet spot hunters probably obtain more out of those miles than I do.
Beyond welcome offers, my spend on hotel cards rewards free nights at lower amounts compared to free flights with airline miles cards. For instance, $4k on a no-fee Hilton Amex card at grocery stores often enables a free night at Hilton Garden Inns, my favorite hotel line. That same spend, even on a 2x airline mile card like the AA MileUp, would provide a Web Special award/free one-way, best case. I’m not particularly close to the standard saver 12.5k one-way award level with this same spend.
Time is increasingly more important to me with every passing day. I like that I can quickly, easily, and consistently find a hotel award at the base award rate. To do so for a free flight often requires hours of searching, fine print reading, and gasp, maybe a phone call. And unlike some circumstances with airlines, obtaining the best hotel award rate doesn’t require a certain elite status level. Admittedly, I’m also not looking to become an expert in all of the varied mileage programs, memorizing their charts or sweet spots. For my situation, doing so to save a few thousand miles isn’t worth the ROI for the time asset I would give up.
Yes, airlines have been recently perceived as improving their cancellation policies. No, those policies don’t always uniformly apply to award tickets. Meanwhile, many hotel awards can be cancelled without any penalties the day before the stay. Yes, some chains are getting more stringent, but even a rate that isn’t cancellable within one or two weeks of the stay is still remarkably flexible in comparison to airline policies, in my opinion. Taking into account availability and flexibility, I feel that hotel points are much easier to use than airline miles.
#4. Similarities and Differences
I love Southwest, and I will never fly Allegiant. Beyond that, I’m lukewarm on all other domestic carriers. They’re pretty much all the same to me. I’m fine with flying economy within the States; domestic first class is an oxymoron, in my opinion. I set a low bar for domestic air travel – it’s just a means to get me somewhere quickly. Anything beyond that is a pleasant surprise. I don’t think I’m alone here. Consequently, I have no significant loyalty to any airline, and even less interest in domestic airline elite status. My airline miles are decentralized across the domestic carriers, and I’m not overly wed to earning certain miles over others.
Conversely, I appreciate the differentiation of hotel lines and brands. I know that I’ll love my full, cooked-to-order breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn; the reliable, multifunctional room size at a Hyatt Place; the dated, but comfy charm of many Country Inns. I can tweak up the points redemption for stays at nicer properties, or I can go for a very cheap award stay during a bare-bones overnight stop at a Days Inn.
#5. Our Current Travel Style
For the last few years, we’ve focused on domestic travel. Therefore, the outsized value of international airline awards isn’t a player for us. Huge accrual of airline miles isn’t a near-term goal for us. Given our domestic travel style, we’ve enjoyed getting from A to B via Amtrak and car more frequently. Air travel is less of a player for us currently. Regardless of the trip, though, we always need a place to stay. And our hotel points consistently deliver there.
#6. Hotel Points Over Airline Miles – The Nest Egg Factor
I can’t leave this one out. A major reason I’m not overly concerned with accumulating airline miles currently is we’ve been there and done that. My wife and I have plenty of airline miles banked. Maybe too many. Many of you are still building up your miles balances and/or fly much more often in premium classes, and rightly choose to accumulate miles over hotel points. I’d be surprised if we ever end up back earning airline miles over hotel points, though.
Hotel Points Over Airline Miles – Conclusion
Whatever rewards currencies you earn, ensure that’s in line with your goals. One of the great aspects of our hobby is the diversity of rewards earning and redemption options. What’s perfect for me can be absolutely the wrong decision for others, or anywhere in between. And we can both be correct for our own situations! Other than cash back or bank points, which currency type do you enjoy earning and redeeming – hotel points or airline miles? How has the pandemic changed your strategy, if at all?
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Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.