The Cash + Points Booking Trick You Need To Know About

The lobby of the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy Hyatt.com)

The hubby is away this week at a work conference in Minneapolis, a city that neither of us had previously ever been to. And while his work was picking up the tab for his hotel room starting this past Saturday, I suggested we tack on a night to the front end of his trip so that we could explore the city together beforehand, and then I could fly home once the conference started.

I used my Southwest companion pass to fly up to Minneapolis with the hubby for free, then booked my return ticket using my own Southwest points, making my flights gratis.  Then, we added a free night using Hyatt points (actually Chase Ultimate points that we had transferred over to Hyatt) in the same hotel that the hubby’s conference was in, the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.

But here, I used a trick of the trade that will often help you to upgrade a longer stay for cheap: I booked the points portion of the stay in a higher category room than the hubby was booked in for the conference.  In this case, I paid 17,000 Hyatt points to get us a room on the Club level – which includes free breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres, free bottled water and sodas, and an upgraded room itself – instead of the 12,000 points it would have cost me to just book a standard room.

And here’s why: most hotels, if they have the space available, will attempt to let guests on back-to-back bookings stay in the same room for their entire stay. 

My breakfast from the Club lounge.  Offerings included a wide variety of cereals, yogurts, and pastries, fruit, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, bagels, and fresh juices.

My breakfast from the Club lounge. Offerings included a wide variety of cereals, yogurts, and pastries, fruit, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, bagels, and fresh juices.

So even though only the one night points-portion of my hubby’s hotel stay was “supposed” to be on the Club level, the hotel was able to give him a Club-level room he could keep even through the cash-portion of his stay (which should have been a standard room at the “conference rate” that his work paid.)

As such, if you give a conservative estimate that the perks of the Club level are worth about $30 a day (in savings from not having to buy breakfast, bottled water, snacks, etc.), then the extra 5,000 points that we paid to get on the Club level for the extra night ended up being worth $210 over the course of his entire weeklong stay. In redemption terms, that comes out to roughly 4.2 cents per point value – which is nearly 2.5 times the current estimated value of Hyatt points, or double the estimated value of Chase Ultimate points.

Now let me be clear – the hotel was in no way required to do this. They could have just as easily made us switch rooms after our points stay to a standard room, and they would have been totally in the right to do so. And if they had made us change rooms, the redemption value on those extra 5,000 points would only be 0.6 cents per points for one day’s worth of Club access- pretty measly.

Still, I’ve found this trick works well over 1/2 the time – making it a gamble I was willing to take.  It’s also good to remember that you could do this the other way around just as easily, with an upgraded cash portion of your stay at the front of the trip, followed by standard-room level points redemption at the back end.  Whichever way you book it, just make sure the higher-level room is at the beginning of your stay, and don’t be upset with the check-in agent if it doesn’t work out.

Tomorrow, I’ll detail where we went and what we saw in the great city of Minneapolis, so stay tuned!

Whitney