Saturday, January 9, 2010

The economics of hotel program credit cards

OK, so when does less mean more? It does when you are looking at which hotel program credit card to get. Let me explain. All of the major programs (Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Priority Club) differ in terms of how you earn points in their programs. Starwood guests get either 2 or 3 points per dollar spent, for example, while most Priority Club hotels get you 10 points per dollar or 5 points at Staybridge and Candlewood Suites. What equalizes the programs is how you redeem them. So, a Westin is typically 10,000 points per night while an equivalent Intercontinental at the Priority Club is 30-40,000 points per night. Think of these as exchange rates if that helps. So, this has HUGE implications for you when picking your point earning credit card tied to a hotel program since most of these cards offer 1 point per dollar spent on non-hotel purchases. It means that you would have to spend $10,000 for a Westin night with SPG versus $30,000 or $40,000 of spend with Priority Club for an Intercontinental night. You can look up Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton to see how they stack up. The two things to keep in mind are 1) specials, such as Point Breaks alluded to in my prior post and 2) the fact that Priority Club has run some great credit card promos in the past, including one that gave you 25,000 points for simply using the card something like 25 times in a specified period. Also, if you only stay at one brand of hotel either due to company policy or availability, keep that in mind as well. More on the SPG card later as it's my favorite and has served me well for many years.

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