Travel for Nearly Nothing: Hotel Points

I hope you got a lot of good ideas from my last article and won’t be spending much money on airfares in the future.  Being able to travel for only a small amount of money can be life changing.  However, even with free flights you need a place to stay and that’s where hotel points come in.  If you are going to visit and stay with a friend then you are all set and you can stick to earning airline miles and cash back, however if you want to venture to new places, let’s see how we can go about it.

What are hotel points?

Hotel points are a reward system that entices you to be loyal to a hotel.  I find hotel points a bit simpler than airline miles because the rules are more straight forward.  You collect them each time you stay at a property and redeem them for hotel stays.  Just like airline miles you can earn a huge amount through a credit card sign up bonuses.

Choosing a program

I chose Marriott at first and later added Starwood which worked out well because now they are merged and you can transfer points between the programs.  Other programs include Hyatt, Hilton, Best Western, Choice, IHG, and some other smaller ones.  Each program has its own number of points you need to redeem for a hotel which will be a smaller amount for less high end properties and more for properties that are in good locations as well as the luxury ones.  For instance, Marriott redemptions run from 7,500 points for Category 1 properties up to 45,000 a night for Category 9 properties.

Specials and combinations

So now you know the basics, but each program has its own promotions that enable you to earn more points or save them.  For Marriott there are certain times of the year at certain properties where you can get a discounted rate at certain properties.  So instead of paying 30,000 points at a Category 6, you’ll only need to pay 25,000.  Also if you stay 5 nights at a Marriott using points you only have to pay for 4 nights.

My favorite package

Marriott has a pretty generous packages that allow for a 7-night stay and airline miles, but as  you can see it costs a lots of points, starting from 200,000.  The Tiers are for Ritz properties.

Airline miles are more valuable than hotel points, so these packages offer a good deal.  For instance for 60,000 miles/points you could get a roundtrip to Europe or 2 nights in a Category 6 hotel.  What I like to do is get the Category 1-5 Package with 120,000 miles with 7 nights for 270,000 points.  One time we used this to stay in Japan and the miles were almost enough for two roundtrips.  The only downside to these are that you have to stay in the same place for 7 nights which may be longer than a typical stay.

How to get so many points

To get one of these packages you’ll need 200,000 points or more.  No way are you going to spend $20,000 on hotel stays to get it.  Just like airline miles you can get big points from credit card bonuses.  Currently Marriott offers 80,000 points when you sign up for their credit card, but it has been as high as 100,000.  Also, there are credit cards with transferrable points such as ones from Chase, Citi, and American Express which you can use to transfer to hotel programs.

That first picture

So the picture at the top is a screen shot I took a month ago.  You’ll see four reservations totaling 15 days.  The first and third were paid with Ritz 1-night certificates which were the sign up bonus for the Ritz credit card.  The cost of those three night would have been an outrageous $1500.  The seven nights in Austin were part of one of the above packages and saved about $700 in hotels.  The last is 5 nights in Milan which only need requires paying for 4 nights, so 120,000 points for a room which is about a $1000 value.  It is pretty amazing that we can go so many places on points.


I am happy I get to stay in hotels when I travel and often nice ones, but some may prefer Airbnb as a more authentic experience and I get that.  I’ve heard Switzerland is expensive, so I’m wondering how that trip will be.  I hope that you now have a good idea of how to stay for nearly nothing.

This entry was posted in Earn.

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