Disclosure: Some posts contain referral links (much love if you use them!). Opinions expressed here are the author's alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any entities.
One of the biggest costs of any trip is the accommodation. Sure, airfare can be cheap or even free, but it is harder to find good deals on hotels and Airbnb’s. A couple nights of hotels or Airbnb’s, plus the assorted cleaning fees and taxes and whatnot can really add up.
One of the best things you can do to fight against the accommodation money-suck is to consolidate your rewards programs. And what I mean by that is to pick a major hotel chain and stick with it when you are looking at multiple bookings that cost the same. This way, you will be able to funnel any rewards points into one stack instead of randomly having a couple thousand points here and there.
Hotel points are funny because it seems like across the board almost they cost more in points than airfare. On Southwest, a $100 flight will run me around 5,000 points, but a hotel room at a mid-level chain can easily start at 20,000 points. Because of that, these hotel credit cards with huge sign-up bonuses don’t go as far compared to airline cards with smaller sign-up bonuses.
Early on, I narrowed my hotel chain of choice down to IHG, or International Hotel Group. You might know them as Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, etc. – they have a bunch of those big names in their portfolio. One of the reasons I picked them was because of their credit card and the perks that came along with it.
At the time that I signed up for the card, it was carrying an 80,000 point bonus with a waived annual fee of $49. And this is one of the very few cards that I have that I do not cancel when the annual fee comes around. The reason for that is simple – as long as the card is open, you get an anniversary night every year. And this anniversary night can be used anywhere. As in… anywhere. With this cardmember anniversary, we have stayed at the nicest hotels in NYC, Chicago, and Queenstown, NZ! These are hotels that typically go for hundreds of dollars a night, but due to our fancy little $49 annual fee, they are coming at us pro bono. Not a bad tradeoff, I’d say.
Now, it’s worth noting that this perk does not exist anymore for new card members, and will soon be going away for people grandfathered in like me. The language is getting a little update, and the anniversary night will only be redeemable on hotels worth 40,000 points a night and under. And I mean, for the most part, that still works out to a pretty great deal.
Another perk of this card is that it comes with Platinum Elite status, which is the second highest tier in IHG’s reward’s program. This means that people are extra, extra nice, especially showing appreciation in my favorite way – room upgrades. Every time I book a hotel room with IHG, I throw a room upgrade request into the comments and then I’ll follow up on that when I check-in. It doesn’t always work, but then sometimes I’ll find myself upgraded to the corner suite with a river view.
If the upgrade doesn’t happen, there are always some other sweet perks like free breakfasts or drinks. It doesn’t make any kind of difference to the bottom line, but it is nice to get the extra attention 🙂 The best thing about this status is all you have to do is have the card – there is no crazy $20k spend or anything of the sort in order to obtain it.
Last and certainly not least: PointBreaks. PointBreaks are a fun little IHG program that involves a rotating list of hotels bookable for as low as 5,000 points a night. Every three months, this list gets updated with new PointBreak options. It used to be that all PointBreak hotels were 5,000 points a night, but they were recently updated to include three tiers: 5,000, 10,000 and 15,000. This was a good and bad change – good because there are some nicer hotels on the list and bad because the nicer ones probably cost a little bit higher.
PointBreaks is one of the big reasons that I chose IHG as my go-to hotel chain. An 80,000 sign up bonus goes a long way at 5,000 points a night, and the anniversary night has been clutch for trips to some of our favorite cities.
The Simple Summary
Discounting accommodation is tough. But do yourself a favor and pick a chain of choice, stick to it and over time the rewards will pile up. Once the chain is chosen, look into their credit card options and see if there are any good ones. My choice is IHG, but I’ve definitely dipped into the Hilton program and have that in my back pocket for a rainy day (hopefully on Hawaii). Whatever the path forward, just make a point to be intentional with points (haha!) and they will start to rack up a lot quicker than before.