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A Choice Privileges Improvement with Strings Attached

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Preferred Hotels Online Booking

Preferred Hotels Online Booking

I’ve been a fan of the oddball Choice Privileges loyalty program for years, and they rank as my #2 hotel currency in my noncents rankings.  In a world of devaluation, Choice has steadily improved over the years, bringing on Radisson Americas and improving credit cards while maintaining perhaps my favorite barrier to entry.  One unique redemption option is using Choice points for Preferred Hotels stays.  The big catch here has historically been the need to call in to redeem, often an arduous time-suck.  But that just changed – Preferred Hotels online booking is now available to all Choice Privileges members!  On the heels of booking my first reservations with the web-based capability, here are my observations.

The Good

The site many of us used previously to check availability of Preferred Hotels and Resorts still exists.  Choice’s new page for booking these properties is eerily similar.  After a simple sign-in with my Choice credentials, the site immediately directed me to the list of 321 Preferred properties available for online booking.  Users can conveniently filter by region, country, state, and/or city.  Most importantly, the site immediately displays that beautiful “Book Now” button.

The new site can be a remarkably simple booking experience, but not always – more on that in a bit.  Armed with my travel plans, I quickly filtered to the list’s eclectic selection of California properties.  After clicking my desired hotel’s Book Now button, the site immediately displays the familiar-looking calendar noting availability.  Fortunately, my desired dates were available.  A few clicks later, I was on the final booking page.  Interestingly, the page notes a credit card guarantee is required at the time of booking, but no fields for this info are present.  I successfully booked without providing any credit card info.  Meanwhile, I enjoy a flexible booking and cancellation policy of 48 hours prior to scheduled arrival for my December stay.

A few minutes later, I received three emails confirming my first booking – two from Preferred Hotels and one from the specific property itself.

Everything Else

When the stars align, booking Preferred Hotels and Resorts with Choice Privileges points is a smooth, short process.  But quite often, other items get in the way.  Here are just a few I experienced while messing around on the site and booking other stays.

Availability Issues

Individuals familiar with the availability site will be disappointed but not surprised to know that many properties continue to be blocked out for a wide swath of dates.  Some have absolutely zero availability.  For instance, members are teased with Montage Laguna Beach and Salamander Middleburg which have no availability at all.  Elsewhere, I attempted to book several other properties that were, of course, blocked out on my required travel dates.

Website issues blew another availability wah-wah.  I excitedly found another California hotel which miraculously showed availability for my preferred timeframe (no X’s on the calendar).  The site then greeted me with the following – Error code 1200: We are sorry, there are no rooms available for the dates you have selected.

It Ain’t All There

Again, the Preferred Hotels Online Booking capability on the Choice site offers 308 properties to book.  But that’s not exactly accurate, as I described above.  Let’s continue painting the not-so-pretty picture.  Preferred Hotels and Resorts lists 570 properties in their collection, far from the actual number of properties Choice Privileges members can actually book with points.  While I appreciate whatever award options I can access, Choice members are only partially-preferred, it seems.

Goodbye, Barrier To Entry

This matter’s one I can see two ways.  As a reminder, according to Choice Privileges program’s rules, members can redeem for a free night  “no more than 100 days prior to planned arrival for all locations worldwide.”  With this new Preferred Hotels online booking capability, many of the Preferred properties can be booked well beyond the normal 100 day advance timeframe.  That’s a win for many out there, including this writer.  Given the option, I happily booked a December award stay.  But this is the first way around perhaps my favorite barrier to entry in the points and miles hobby.

I now get shamelessly selfish, if I haven’t been already today.  Choice Privileges’ 100 day award limitation has been enough for many to steer clear of the program.  But now, plenty of aspirational properties are available, easily bookable online, and not subject to that award rule.  I fear a larger group of travelers, from casual points and miles collectors to advanced hobbyists and blowhards, will absolutely annihilate award space.  The easier things get, the more people will do it.  And the more people do it, the more likely it will devalue, or cease to exist entirely.

It’s like Choice Privileges is my favorite band.  The more popular it gets, the more it will suck.

Preferred Hotels Online Booking – Conclusion

Okay, it’s time to quit sulking.  First and foremost, the Preferred Hotels online booking capaibility with Choice Privileges points is a net-win.  And, ironically, maybe the availability issues will work against too many joining the Choice party.  Regardless, goodbye, phone calls.  For now, many (but maybe not too many) of us have access to very efficient methods to generate large point balances with Choice.  The ability to earn at scale and redeem at desirable properties don’t always intersect, so let’s enjoy this while it lasts.  I know I am, and maybe some of you will, too.

How has your experience been booking Preferred Hotels awards with Choice Privileges points, over the phone or online?

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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve gotten lucky with preferred hotel stays in california, new york, and Southeast Asia. I booked a room with points for a stay in India later this year and it went through, points were deducted from my account. Great everything works! But two days later the hotel emailed me and said no such room is available and offered me their published rate for the higher classes of room. When I checked their website, no base level rooms were available anymore. Not sure how the inventory of rooms is managed for each hotel but not a smooth experience this time.

  2. Choice elite status counts for nothing generally at Preferred hotels.

    Ever since Choice brought on board Radisson Americas loyalty program and the rest, Choice has been increasing its scope and scale of point devaluations. Choice have massively devalued the points for uses at Choice hotels in Europe and in Asia within the last few months — and that is even in the absence of any change to what Choice is paying hotels for each award nights in say Scandinavia and Japan. And I suspect Choice will also devalue the points for Preferred Hotels & Resorts use too since they seem very inclined to try to pay for their acquisition of Radisson Americas on the back of Choice program customers and in every other way possible as a result of also having imbibed too much of that customer-unfriendly Goldpoints/Club Carlson/Radisson Rewards culture which made Radisson’s program repeatedly turn off customers.

  3. Twice now I’ve stayed at preferred hotels with choice points and both times got the crappiest room in the hotel with no ability to upgrade or change. Having elite status with choice made no difference.

    • They indeed tend to be heavily inclined to assign us rooms to say “you are your (low aware night reimbursement) rate this time”. And that is even when the Choice award night reimbursement rate is higher than the award night reimbursement rate of a Preferred hotel’s own chain program affiliation.

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