In my last post, I’ve mentioned that Wyndham awards program is aggravating to deal with. That’s an understatement of a century! To put it in perspective, IHG looks organized and efficient by comparison. Still, this credit card is most certainly worth considering for some. But before we get to that, let me tell you about the aggravation part. And there is aplenty!
So, here is the deal. Wyndham has revamped its program where all the properties cost 15,000 points per night. Officially, there is “no blackout” policy, as in if a room is available at paid rate, it should be available for redemption. Emphasis on “should.” There are many reports on properties that don’t seem to comply with this policy. Not surprisingly, they are usually the ones that cost quite a bit. Take Koloa Landing n Kauai. When the program was first introduced, there was plenty of availability. Then, just like that, it evaporated.
Update: Koloa property is no longer part of Wyndham program.
Turns out, the hotel is leaving Wyndham next year. But why eliminate all availability for this year as well? Because they can. Wyndham appears to have very little leverage when it comes to their franchises. When people called to inquire, customer service reps simply told them to look elsewhere. No manual opening of awards here, my friends. BTW, this property once again appears to be bookable on many dates, including next year. For how long? That’s a “15,000 points” question. Another question is whether Koloa place will honor reservations made after it leaves Wyndham.
Quite a few other properties also have an issue with vanishing award inventory. Another problem is how individual hotels load availability. It appears that there are no rules or common pattern. Some open it 6 months ahead, some 15 months. There is no rhyme or reason as to when you might find availability for your desired property, that is if you find it at all.
For example, I’m looking to take my parents to Puerto Rico next March. There are two hotels in the nearby area: Wyndham Grand Rio Mar and Wyndham Garden Palmas Del Mar. The first one runs at $430 per night, and the second at $120. Both are supposed to cost 15,000 points per night. Hmm, which one to choose? Spoiler alert: I want to stay at Wyndham Grand Rio Mar! Unfortunately, only the first night of our 3-night stay shows availability via points.
Now, I want to add that paid rate isn’t available either. But here is an interesting quirk: This property is available for booking on all the major websites, just not through Wyndham. I don’t know what the explanations for this is. Wyndham rep on Flyertalk thread has indicated that sometimes properties sell the bulk of their rooms to third-party websites. But you can see how easily “no blackout policy” can be circumvented.
Now let’s talk about cancellation woes. Originally, I went ahead and just reserved 2 rooms for 1 night in Wyndham Grand using points from my account. That’s because we will have my parents with us in Puerto Rico. In fact, that’s the whole point of the trip, to show them a Caribbean island without leaving US territory due to visa issues. Anyway, the plan was to wait and see if availability for the other two nights would eventually open up. Another option I was contemplating was to reserve those two nights at the Palmas Del Mar (the poor cousin of Rio Mar).
After thinking about it, I’ve decided to instead reserve each room from mine and my husband’s accounts, respectively. That way, it would be easier to track. We each had 45,000 points to begin with, and it just made more sense. So, I went ahead and looked for a way to cancel one of the nights. No luck, amigo! There is literally no place to do it online. There isn’t even a clear indication of where to find the reservation, but eventually I located it by putting all the info here:
They make it sound like you can cancel it online. Nope! Perhaps, it was a website glitch. Anyway, I called, and after 30 minute wait, the agent was able to cancel one of my reservations. She needed to talk to a supervisor first. To make a simple cancellation.
Update: It appears the glitch has been fixed now and you can cancel online.
But then the points were not re-deposited. I called the next day, and another agent said that it usually takes 24 hours for the points to show up in your account. He also put me on hold for 30 minutes. Then he says that for some reason, the cancellation didn’t actually go through. I mentioned that we had two identical reservations. He said none were cancelled. I said OK, nix one of them. Next day, I got cancellation emails for both. Still no points. So, now I had no room (s) AND no points. Lovely.
I called again, and the lady had to once again leave me on hold for 30 minutes. I got the usual party line of “24 hours to get the points back” but she said she would check with her supervisor on this. Amazingly, the points appeared in my account within minutes. Coincidence?
OK, 30,000 points were back in my account (phew!), so I went ahead and booked 1-night stay for the second room using points from my husband’s stash. Hmm, should I just book the other two nights at the cousin property and be done with it? The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t like the idea of switching hotels. When you have kids and all the luggage, it’s no small task. Besides, the other (el cheapo) property is located on the opposite side of the island. What to do? I decided to just switch all of my plans around. You see, originally, we planned to stay at Radisson Melbourne Oceanfront for the first 3 nights after my parents landed in Florida, and then head to Puerto Rico. I decided that we will spend the first night near Orlando airport, and just fly to San Juan the following day.
You guessed it, the fancy Wyndham Grand had availability for all 3 nights. I just booked 2 additional nights from our respective accounts without canceling that 1-night reservation. Are you kidding me? I wasn’t about to mess with it. We’ll just let them know at check-in. Interestingly, I only got confirmation emails for reservations made from my account, but not my husband’s. Make sure to take a screenshot, I did.
There is a wrinkle in my plan. Radisson in Florida was booked via BOGO benefit (RIP). I do plan to call and see if I can change the dates and still pay the same amount. There are reports of success on Flyertalk, so it doesn’t hurt to at least try. I will call, for sure, but I want to secure my Southwest flights (should open on August 10th) first. The truth is, Club Carlson points aren’t that valuable to me. Don’t get me wrong, they are not worthless. But even if I have to spend double the amount for 2 night-stay, I won’t lose sleep over it. Say I pay extra 88,000 points. It sounds enormous, but that amount to me is speculatively worth less than $200. It’s much more important for me to get Wyndham reservation secured before availability vanishes all of a sudden. And the property does look nice. Take a look at what Jr. Suite goes for:
Not too shabby! Of course, I would never pay that much. But I won’t lie, it brings me satisfaction to get a fancy place like this for a mere 15,000 Wyndham points per night. I’m not burning valuable Ultimate Rewards that transfer to miles, but rather currency in a highly unstable program that will most likely devalue in a near future. To be clear, I’m not going to Puerto Rico due to this amazing redemption opportunity. I pick destination first, and work miles an points around it. It just so happened that the stars aligned in this particular case. When you check TripAdvisor page, their rep told a potential guest that their hotel mostly attracts upscale snow birds. For that price, I have no doubt. Well, they better get ready to host some Florida riff raff!
All joking and giddiness aside, I should add a disclaimer. This trip will not be free, not even close. We will burn a ton of Rapid Rewards points, will have to rent a van or pay for an expensive taxi. Of course, how can we not do a tour or two? Multiply that times 6, and I’m looking at a substantial amount of money. Also, as it usually goes with fancy places, the food is very expensive. I found a review on Tripadvisor where someone snapped a photo of their cheapest takeout cafe option:
Looks like we will mostly be splitting large pizza and drinking water from the tap in the room. Yeah, this is no Holiday Inn, y’all! Still, this hotel is in perfect location when it comes to our sightseeing plans, the rooms are oceanfront, and they even have iguana feeding program on the property. How cool is that? Little cousins of komodo dragons.
So, in a nutshell, yes, I think Wyndham card is worth it for now. It doesn’t pay me referral, in case you are wondering, but I think you should at least consider it. Just make sure that your plans are flexible, and have several properties in mind. In spite of all the quirks, frustration etc, I got this amazing redemption, arguably, one of the best in the Wyndham program. And I’m even going to a place I actually want to visit! Can’t beat that.
Here is a non-affiliate link, make sure to click on the offer with $69 annual fee. If you are thinking about applying, I recommend you read this post on Doctor of Credit, listing some best “bang for your point” Wyndham hotels. Make sure to read the comments as well. In my last post, I’ve mentioned just a few beachfront properties in Florida (there are more).
Readers, have I talked you out of/into signing up for this card?