The long awaited sequel is here, amigos! To my new readers, “Devil” Cards’ Advocate title is a shameless rip-off on popular series in Travel Codex, formerly known as Hack My Trip. Confused?
Over a year ago, I managed to write exactly one post which is now completely irrelevant. Amtrak is no longer a Chase transfer partner and Avios program killed 4,500-mile redemption in the US.
Back to my topic. I love getting comments from readers that challenge me and make me re-think my analysis. I got one such comment on my Monday’s post:
This is an interesting comment for several reasons. First, it looks like Barclays is starting to crack down on churners who only want to get sign-up bonuses, and the bank doesn’t pull your credit in the process. Second, of course, is the mention of Choice credit card.
It’s funny because I originally planned to add it to my lineup of worthy Barclaycard bonuses, but ultimately, decided to leave it out. Nope, nothing to do with commission because three out of five offers on that list pay me zero. There were several reasons for Oscar snub (color of the card ain’t one of them):
1) Daily Getaways just had a sale on Choice packages where you could buy points for around 0.4 cents a piece. By that logic, 32,000 points could be acquired for around $120. In fact, I even mentioned Choice card when doing an overview of this particular deal and said that buying points was the way to go rather than using hard pull on your credit.
2) Even though many Choice properties cost only 8,000 points, you may not want to vacation in them. Read my posts here and here I absolutely don’t mind staying in basic hotels, and have done it many times. Under the right circumstances, those can be a perfect fit. But here is the thing. The last two Choice hotels I stayed at had this distinct smell. It can only be described as “dog pee+sweat+air freshener.”
I’m not a spoiled princess and don’t mind a little dirt here and there, but smell is my kryptonite. And super cheap properties usually smell funky, unless they have been recently remodeled. Also, showers normally look a bit gross, another pet peeve of mine.
I’m definitely not a fancy gal, but I do have certain standards. I cracked up when I saw a comment from a reader recently. He said that when he thinks of a certain well-known blogger (no names), he pictures him in an airport lounge petting a big white fluffy cat and eating caviar with a giant spoon. I don’t think anyone will ever say that about me!
Honestly, Holiday Inn and Radisson brands usually get a bad rap in our hobby, but I find them to be perfectly suitable for family vacations. Econo Lodge? Not so much.
3) I like to plan way ahead and Choice booking window is only 50 days (a perk of being a cardholder, otherwise it’s 30 days). Huh? What’s up with that?
4) Choice has a nasty habit of raising rates without notice. It happened to me before. SEVERAL TIMES. Also, you can only redeem points for your immediate family members. They wouldn’t make an exception even under tragic circumstances
I see bias (in me)
All of this is to say: I really don’t like Choice. In fact, you can say I hate their guts! And therein lies a problem. I’m biased because the truth is, there is plenty of potential value to be had for some families. No, if you want to vacation at a beachfront property, this isn’t the card for you. For example, this Quality Inn in Clearwater beach will run you 25,000 points per night. It’s a rather basic hotel, and you won’t be able to get even two nights here with your credit card sign-up bonus.
So here is another bias of mine. Many times I measure the sign-up bonus by how many nights we can get at a beachfront Florida property. Usually, I aim for at least two. But not everyone cares about the beach. Some families like road trips or staying in motels near National parks. This is where Choice brand is at its strongest.
If we disregard the promotion and just focus on the sign-bonus, you’ll have enough for 4 nights at a property that costs 8,000 points per night. Assuming the hotel room would otherwise cost a moderate $75 (tax included), that would make the offer worth at least $300. Plus, I’m sure not all of them are dumpy (another bias of mine).
It’s true, buying via Daily Getaways would have been a much better deal, but the promo is over now. Plus, the packages sold out within minutes and they won’t be coming back for at least a year. So, yeah, if you want Choice points now, your best bet will be getting their co-branded credit card.
Additionally, if you are going to Europe, there are fantastic values to be had. Check out this hotel in Rome that runs at 12,000 points or this one in Bergen, Norway, costs the same amount. Both are great deals on points and include hot breakfast. You would only need to charge $2,000 on your new card, and you’d have enough for 3 nights at either property. I would say the value here is closer to $450.
And there are many more good deals. I recommend you search Hotel Hustle and Award Mapper to get an idea on various places. But do keep in mind: by the time you get the sign-up bonus, the property may no longer be available or it might go up in price.
Recently, I got an interesting email from one of my readers:
“I bought 68K CPP via USTA Daily Deals the other week and just booked a night at the Cocoa Beach property. What I noticed is that using the Points Plus Cash option (10K points = $75 co-pay) was effectively a point purchase at 0.75cpp, similar but slightly higher than buying IHG points at 0.70cpp.
While not an amazing discount, stays booked purely with points purchased this way are still significant. At the 75 day booking window (status matched to CP Platinum via IHG Platinum) availability appears to be decent although nothing like SPG.”
So, this is another way to stretch your points, which could come in handy during high season. So yes, for some families, this is a worthy offer indeed. Here is a non-affiliate link
Choice or Wyndham credit card?
Honestly, comparing the two is similar to comparing apples to oranges. It really depends on where you are going, how far in advance you like to book etc. For me personally, Wyndham offer is far superior. In spite of $69 annual fee, you get 3 nights at ANY Wyndham property. It can be Chicago, New York City or Florida beach during Spring Break (which is how I used the bonus). Or it can be a basic motel.
Obviously, you will do much better if you stick to nice properties. That said, Wyndham program has “Go fast” rates. In exchange for using 3,000 points per night (see my post for a good example), you can get a significant discount on many properties. This would be ideal for budget motels and will let you stretch your bonus. Unfortunately, this option isn’t always available, something you should take into consideration.
Bloggers are biased, and that includes yours truly. And no, I’m not just talking about affiliate vs. non-affiliate offers. We are much more likely to write about places and credit cards that align with our own personal preferences. Is it wrong? Well, no, it’s human nature.
For some, it’s about finding affordable (points-wise) beachfront accommodations that don’t smell like dog pee. For others, it’s about drinking champagne for breakfast and eating caviar with a giant spoon, figuratively speaking.
Readers, which type are you?
Image courtesy of BrandonSigma at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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