A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on family lodging options in London that you can get via hotel points. I got an interesting comment from my reader Leticia, which I wanted to highlight.
“Those sound like good deals for families, however, it’s hard for me to imagine how to accumulate so many points to cover stays for many days. I love airbnb, prices are much lower and you can count on people to be more flexible to take kids. I have been a host for over 3 years and it has been a great experience. I have also used it twice when traveling.”
I am so glad she decided to comment on that post! My blog’s mission is to make miles and points hobby more accessible to regular family in America. I strive to set realistic and achievable goals for my readers.
I am a Cheap White Momma and will try to convert everyone to my way of thinking, so beware. BTW the “white” part is irrelevant and just a play on the name of my reader Cheap Black Dad. The motto of my site is NOT “Miles and points for an average (white) family.”
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, obtained with permission
I bet CheapBlackDad will approve of how non-racist I am! 😉 Anyway, in that post, I mentioned that Club Carlson properties in London go for 62,500 points per night and represent a very good value. At first glance, this statement may seem like an oxymoron. Well, it is and it isn’t. Let me explain. First, when I said it was a good deal, I assumed that your redemption will come from the sign-up bonus.
Currently, when you apply for US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card, you will get 85,000 points upon approval and spending $2,500 in 3 months. When you redeem your points for 2 nights, your second night will be free. An update: This benefit will no longer be available after May 31st, 2015. So, if both spouses got this card, you can have a 4-night stay in London just from your sign-up bonuses. The properties I mentioned are located in a central part of London, and for 62,500 points, you get a studio with a microwave. The room fits 4, as long as your kids are under 12.
Here is when it would not be such a good deal: If you stay for only 1 night; you are staying for 4 nights, but only have one US Bank Club Carlson Visa; your kids are older than 12. The idea is to maximize the “second night free” benefit and fit everyone in one room.
Here are some other reasons it would not be such a hot deal for you: There are many properties in the U.S. that go for only 15,000 points per night, including some in Orlando. So, for 62,500 points, you can potentially get 8 nights, as long as you maximize the “second night free” benefit. IMO burning points for London Club Carlson properties makes a lot of sense, since it’s a very expensive city.
To Spend or Not to Spend?
But what if you already have US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa but have used up your points from the sign-up bonus? Is it worth it to collect them through your everyday spending? It just might be. Let’s take the London property I mentioned. It would only require $12,500 in spending to get 62,500 points (you get 5 points per dollar on all spending). If you measure it against a 2% cash back card, you would be giving up $250.
So, you could get 2 nights in a central hotel in London for $125 per night. The rack rate for this hotel is 217 pounds per night (about $320). So, basically, you would be getting a deeply discounted price. No, it’s not free (it never is), but it’s a decent deal in my opinion. Of course, you may decide that AirBnB or VRBO are a better fit for your family. There is no right or wrong way to do this hobby.
If you are looking to redeem for a property that goes for 15,000 points, you would only need to spend $3,000 to get 2 “free” nights. That’s an equivalent of $60 through a 2% card. Thirty dollars for a hotel room (tax included) is a fantastic deal. If you like to go on road trips and prefer to stay 2 nights at any given place, this is a great choice for you. There are many Country Inn and Suites properties all over the US, and most include a hot breakfast.
Any Other Cards to Consider?
The only other hotel card that could make sense for everyday spending is Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass (pays no commission). It’s one of my top picks for hotel bonuses and currently comes with 80,000 points sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in 3 months. You have to apply by February 28th. This is actually a decent bonus, especially if you plan on staying in category 1 or 2 Hilton properties (costing 5,000 and 10,000 points respectively).
Since you get every 5th night redemption free, you could stretch these points to get two 5-night vacations or one long 10-night getaway. Check out this Hampton Inn Cornelia, which is located at the foothills of Georgia mountains, and less than 2 hours away from Smoky Mountains National park. It costs 10,000 points per night, can fit 5 people (2 adults+3 kids) and includes free hot breakfast.
You may consider using this card past the sign-up bonus for some of your everyday purchases if you are a fan of the Hilton brand and spend a lot on groceries, gas and restaurants. That’s because you can get 6 HHonors points per dollar in those categories.
Naturally, if you get 3% or 5% cash back through another card, you would probably want to stick with that. Otherwise, Amex card may be a winner for you. As long as you plan to redeem for category 1 or 2, value proposition is very strong. But let’s take category 3, which goes for 20,000 points per night. You would need to spend $3,333 on bonus categories to get your “free” night.
If you used a 2% cash back card, you would get $67. That’s not a bad price for a Hilton property. If you collect points for a category 2 hotel, you would be giving up only $33.50 in rewards. See this map on Travel is Free that will show you all category 1 and 2 Hilton brand hotels. The card comes with a $75 annual fee, but you get complimentary Gold status, which means free breakfast in most Hilton properties. You will most likely make up for this fee through various Amex promotions.
You may also check out this post on Running With Miles. It mentions that you can upgrade your existing Amex card to Surpass, and get 50,000 Hilton points. I checked and my husband’s Delta card was eligible. Usually, there is no credit pull. It’s a good option for those who already got the sign-up bonus on this card in the past.
Absolutely. The category of your desired property can change without notice. That’s why it’s crucial to have several hotels in mind when actively collecting hotel points through your everyday spending. Don’t fall in love with a specific property because it may not be available on points for the dates you need. Be flexible and have a Plan B.
Hotel points redemptions have their pluses and minuses. For many families, vacation rentals are a better fit, but not always. Additionally, if you can get your hotel points via sign-up bonuses, you can preserve your limited savings. In turn, you can splurge on tours or eating out. You don’t always have to be a cheap momma or dad (color of the skin is irrelevant).
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