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Today’s reader question comes from reader Gaurav, who asked over on the free Points With a Crew miles and points Facebook group:
I have been using airline miles to book hotel stays. Please tell me if this is a good idea or not. I have used miles to save tremendous amounts of money on trips to Rome and Tokyo. But I want to know if there were better uses for these miles. Thanks. BTW, you guys have me addicted to finding ways to maximize my points and miles.
First of all, it’s good to see someone else joining this hobby. It is certainly true that miles and points can lead to some pretty amazing experiences. So let’s answer Gaurav’s question
Should you use airline miles for hotel stays?
My answer to this question is almost always “no”. All things being equal, 1 airline mile is worth more than 1 hotel point. Sure, there are exceptions, with certain airlines or hotel chains being worth more or less than others. I’d probably value 1 Hyatt point as worth more than 1 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards mile, but that’s about it. If you are transferring points from flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, you’re almost always going to get better value by transferring those to airlines instead of hotel chains. 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards could be 60,000 IHG or Marriott points, which might be only 1 night at a top-end hotel. Or you could use those 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards for a roundtrip ticket from the US to Europe. I know which one I’D value more!
Having said that though, a lot of it depends on you, and your spending (and earning!) patterns. I’m a big fan of “you travel how you want to travel, and let me travel how I want to travel”. So if that works for you and your family, go for it. I try not to get too hung up on valuations and always getting the maximum possible deal from my miles and points (not always successfully!), so if that works for you, then go for it!
Rates for transferring airline miles to hotel chains
While I can’t think of too many situations where I’d want to transfer flexible currencies to hotels instead of airlines, I’m having an even harder time thinking of when I’d use airline miles to book hotel rooms. I did a bit of research on this and most airline miles programs do not transfer miles to hotel points directly. One exception is Hawaiian Miles, which transfer to Hilton Honors points at 1:1.5 (so 50,000 Hawaiian miles would become 75,000 Hilton Honors points)
I followed up with Gaurav and he said that he used United miles to book hotels at the MileagePlus Hotel and Car Awards site. This is similar to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal where you can use miles to book hotels, car rentals or other travel. The problem is that you are getting a value of about ~0.75 cents for your United miles, which is really low.
So, after doing a bit of research, the answer comes out to be exactly the same as my first impression – it is almost never a good idea to use airline miles to book hotel rooms
Readers – can you think of any times when it would make sense to use airline miles for hotel stays?