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There’s been an amazing number of new credit card offers to help you earn big points in different hotel points programs lately, but what if you don’t usually stay at hotels?
Many travelers focus on using airline miles and flexible reward points and often struggle to understand the value of hotel points as part of their travel strategy. But if you’re in that group, you might be missing a big opportunity.
For example, we often get questions like this one from readers wondering what the big deal is with hotel points:
“I was thinking about getting either the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express or the IHG® Rewards Club Select Card. However, I wonder if it’s a good idea for me. I almost never stay in hotels! I much prefer independent lodging through Airbnb or hostels or even camping. Once in a while, I’ll admit that it’s great to stay somewhere more comfortable, but most of the time I want to stick with being a budget traveler.
Airline cards, on the other hand, have been great. We got the British Airways Signature Card a while back and used it to fly to Europe (making sure to book flights on AA to avoid the high fuel surcharges, per your recommendation). But for hotel cards, what am I missing?”
Here’s the short version of our response: Is it worth it even if you don’t stay in hotels very often? Sure! And you don’t have to “compromise” in any way, because you can still do what you normally do most of the time.
There are lots of ways to travel, even if you don’t always aim to book yourself into the fanciest hotels in the city. People who like to see the world on a budget can be found in hostels, guesthouses, surfing on couches and even sleeping on the floor of airports.
You don’t always have to stay in hotels, but in our experience having a collection of hotel points can come in very handy. Here are three ways to use hotel points are a smart addition to your points and miles travel strategy:
1. Hotel Break
Even if you love to camp, couch surf, or spend long breaks in a home exchange, sometimes it’s nice to break things up with a hotel stay. Having points makes it possible to stay at a hotel when you want to or need too. Like when you have to arrive in a new city at 2 am and there is an expensive Airport Marriott, but there are no buses available in the middle of the night to get you to the guesthouse where you plan to be spending the week.
This is a good time to use some of the points from a hotel card signup bonus to get a good nights sleep and catch the bus in the morning to resume your normal routine. It beats sleeping on the floor of the airport.
2. No Room at the Inn (and Last Minute Planning)
If you’re a last minute planner—or even a very organized traveler with an unplanned circumstance like a canceled flight–you may very well find yourself in a situation where you need a place to stay and all the reasonably priced hotels are booked out. While room rates can often skyrocket hundreds of dollars, most hotel programs offer points awards at standard rates.
A Cards for Travel team member, for example, recently found herself in Tel Aviv during a week when most hotels were booked out for a conference. With all the “cheap” rooms taken, one of the only hotels left in town with availability was the Intercontinental which was pricing standard rooms at a rack rate of $2,200 a night!
Fortunately, these same rooms were also available as IHG awards for the standard cost of 40,000 points, and she had just received her bonus for the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card. So even if you don’t actively use your points all the time, it’s nice to have them as insurance that you’ll almost always be able to find some place to stay
Hotel points can be used for hotels, but guess what? Most of them can also be used for other things too. Marriott points, for example, can be transferred to Southwest to help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass. SPG points earned from the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express can be transferred to more than 30 different airline partners. You can use your points even if you NEVER ever want to stay in a hotel!
That’s what hotel points can do for you. You like Airbnb—no problem. You prefer Couchsurfing or hostels—great. But why not have the opportunity to stay in a hotel that would otherwise cost hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars a night?
These days, it’s very easy to get these opportunities. That’s why hotel points can be so valuable.
Learn more about current hotel offers and apply for these bonus offers (minimum spend required to earn bonus):
- IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card by American Express
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 Point Bonus! )*
(*Points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card can be transferred to Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott—in addition to numerous airline partners.)