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I Pick Hotel Points Over Airline Miles Every Time – Here’s Why!

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Hotel Points Over Airline

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.

Hotel Points Over Airline

#2.  Availability

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.

#3.  Flexibility

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.

Hotel Points Over Airline

#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.

Hotel Points Over Airline

#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?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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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.
Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I agree, we almost always fly to our location on points but then often have to pay for the hotel. I have been building up a lot of Marriott points and free nights and that is going to save a lot at Westins in the future! I will still take a good airline bonus but definitely leaning towards hotels! Great article!

  2. I have the opposite problem as you. My wife and I have enough points to stay at hotels for months. What we really needed were some airline miles, especially UAL and JetBlue. We both swore off credit card app’s over the past year in order to get our count below the Chase 5/24 rule and it paid off. Chase has recently had some great offers on the Sapphire and United cards and we both took advantage of them to build our UAL accounts to 450K miles each. Barclays is currently running a great offer on their personal and business cards. I was approved for both JetBlue cards and my wife received approval for the personal card which will give us over 500K combined miles once we complete the spending and pool the accounts together on our family account.
    I guess you apply for what you need the most.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree, but for a completely different reason. My SO is an Allegiant crew member, so we either fly free or pay zed fares on a competitor. The beauty of hotel points is that while we are taxiing on our free flight, I can book a cheap Priceline bid/express room or use points while en route, gaining the maximum flexibility of the points.

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience on Allegiant. I’ve done about 100 flights on them in the past 5 years, and the couple times there were flight irregularities, I maneuvered around it with zed flights or grabbed a one-way rental car from the next nearest airport. Granted, not everybody can do this…

    • Tino,

      Thanks for sharing and your perspective on Allegiant! Indeed, I’m only one person, and I’m sure many have had perfectly fine experiences with them.

  4. I agree. Another reason I value hotel points is that I avoid paying the additional taxes, and sometimes the resort fees.

  5. So the take away is that you have enough airline miles banked to not really focus on them. Yep, we got it!

    Also, while domestic first class is nothing compared to that of an international flight, BUT it does it give more space as to be not jammed in between 2 overweight folks encroaching in my space. At least in first class theirs no adjustable armrest for their girth to spill over…it provides at least a little boundary.

    And for full transparency, I don’t hate myself enough to ever fly Southwest again. Tried it once and never again. It reminds me of the Walmart Black Friday rush of 1996 when the Tickle Me Elmo was taking the country by storm; no thanks!

  6. Good post. Ten years ago, I was primarily focused on airline miles, but have switched over the past 5 years to focus on hotel points. The airlines have devalued their award charts fairly significantly during this time, which makes accumulating airline miles like storing wine in open containers. While hotel points have suffered somewhat from the move to variable pricing at many chains, the changes haven’t been as severe.

    With Covid-induced lockdowns in many parts of the country and around the world, it’s still possible to enjoy local area staycations using hotel points, while airline points are left on the shelf gathering dust.

    • Quo Vadis,

      Great point about local area staycations! “…like storing wine in open containers” – never heard that before, but I love it! Thanks for reading.

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