Being a loyalty program points hound means not having to stay in cheap hotels

During our six day stay in Portland for our bus’ new paint job, I was reminded of how much of a benefit we derive from years of pursuing and hoarding loyalty points from airlines, hotels, and umbrella programs such as American Express.  I needed this reminder since I had not done my research before pulling in to On Time Paining, and thus felt like I had only a few minutes to check for local hotel options before our Uber driver arrived.  Foolishly, I used those minutes to find the cheapest close hotel, a Motel 6 as it turned out, rather than take a quick run through the handful of points programs that might reveal better options.

Look, there is nothing wrong with discount hotels, I am writing this from a Super 8 (long story, but it’s on someone else’s dime) as we speak, but if you have worked the loyalty programs, then you usually have more options.  Portland was a perfect example.  We stayed two nights in the Motel 6, which I was reserving night by night since we didn’t know how long we would stay.  When it became clear we would be in town through the weekend I attempted to extend the reservation only to find it was full.  Forced to find a new place, but with a bit more time to check the options online, I ran through all of our hotel programs, and found a Hampton Inn available for only 10,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

This is an astoundingly good deal since HH points are only worth about 1/2 a cent each.  So rather than pay the $70 for a Motel 6, we would pay the rough equivalent of $50 for a nicer hotel with better benefits such as actually reliable WiFi and free breakfast.  If only I had checked things from the beginning we would have had three solid nights there before I ran out of HH points.  As it was we were so late to this Hampton Inn deal that I was only able to take advantage of it for one night, so we shifted to the airport Sheraton using Starwood points for our last three nights.

Though the Sheraton was another step or two up in hotel quality and much closer to the paint shop, it also cost us a lot more in terms of points; 7000 per night.  SPG points are worth over 2 cents each, let’s call it about $150 worth of points per night.  Since we have elite status with Starwood due to holding a specific credit card this year (AmEx Platinum Business proffers Starwood Gold status) we were able to get access to the executive lounge for an additional 1000 points.  This went a long way towards making this stay quite affordable since the lounge has a cocktail with hors d’oeuvres. So we got free drinks, dinner, and breakfast every day as well as access to an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna.  Our points expenditure was reduced by taking points instead of a drink ticked as our Gold Member welcome gift and electing “Make A Green Choice” as our housekeeping option, which granted refunded another 500 points every we turned down towel and bed service.

A cheap hotel can be a great deal, but if you have worked the hotel loyalty points, you have options, and our Portland experience reminded me of this in a big way.  Had I checked things out in advance we would have done three nights in the Hampton Inn and three in the Starwood, skipping the Motel 6 entirely.  This would have saved us one Uber ride, given us a higher degree of creature comforts for the first couple of days, particularly reliable hotel quality internet rather than the crammed up frequently unusable Motel 6 wifi.