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As an avid collector of points and miles, it’s fair to say I have a fairly hefty stash of both. However, my general view of them is enormously different.
As the title to this post rather suggests, I much prefer hotel loyalty points.
Hotel points I see as a flexible, almost universally applicable currency with hotel chains. Compare that to the inflexibility, raft of conditions and additional costs that come with airline miles, and I think it’s difficult to disagree too strongly with my assessment.
Here’s my concise five point summary of the relative benefits of hotel points…
1 THE ABILITY TO REDEEM
If I want to redeem my hotel points for a particular night at a particular hotel, chances are I probably can, even at fairly short notice.
Taking a random upcoming November night in a London Hilton, I’m instantly presented with a range of luxury hotel redemption options (all at quite reasonable redemption rates, I should add):
Compare that to airline miles redemptions, where an intended Saturday to Saturday flight in August may well, if you’re lucky, end up being a Tuesday to Friday flight in November. Oh and those first class redemptions you wanted? Well you can fly out…. premium economy, but coming back there’s just one economy seat left. Oh and that’ll be £500 each-way too (see below).
Here’s a snippet of Business Class flights to Bangkok using Avios in November:
That’s right, nothing.
Looking at the next six months it’s almost as bleak, with NO outbound flights at all:
Not the greatest situation to be faced with when you’ve spend the last couple of years (and all your Tesco points) desperately saving up for an Avios redemption.
2 TAXES, FEES, FUEL CHARGES ETC ETC
When you buy a hotel room with points, it pays for the hotel room. While you’d sort of hope this was obvious, it doesn’t come close to explaining the position with airline miles.
Nope. Book a redemption flight using airline miles, and you’ll be hit with taxes, fees, fuel surcharges and any other possible admin charge that airlines can think of to add to their bottom line and reduce your value.
Here’s a Business Class return flight from London to Bangkok in June 2019.
That dream trip to Thailand can be covered with a mere 150,000 Avios. Oh and £584.54.
It certainly makes British Airways description of such redemptions as “Reward Flights” a little hard to take at face value. Imagine buying your other half a Rolex for Christmas, only to somewhat undermine their wide-eyed joy and wonderment by demanding they now reimburse you £750 in service fees.
I joke, but it really is pretty galling when you spend years saving up for a flight redemption, only to be told that yes, your 250,000 airline miles will get you a luxury redemption, yes there is availability, but you will also have to pay £950 in additional charges for the privilege. Lufthansa are particularly guilty of this – to the extent that I find it bordering on the impossible to actually find any value whatsoever in Miles&More miles redemptions with them.
Indeed, it’s a sad truth, but actually many “travel hackers” have largely given up purposefully collecting airline miles at all, safe in the knowledge that the next Qatar sale will offer them a cash flight that’s barely much more than the additional charge on many redemption flights.
That really is a ridiculous situation, but it’s happening.
In the case of Economy redemption flights versus Economy cash flights, it happens so often it’s frankly unacceptable. (Indeed, at this point I am going to give a small shout out to the beleaguered British Airways, as their Reward Flight Saver, which caps the taxes/fees on intra-Europe Avios redemptions, is a fantastic benefit. Albeit the type of benefit that should be offered much more frequently to loyal travellers/points collectors. The fact is, it shouldn’t really be a “fantastic benefit”, it should be the norm.)
3 EARNING RATES AND PROMOS
If I fly with British Airways, I’ll often find an Avios haul at the end of it so derisory I’ll wonder why I even bothered to log my Executive Club details for the flight.
(Those who know me will realise I’m saying that for effect – I’d sell my kidney if I earned 50 Avios on the transaction – but hopefully you take my point).
Compare that to hotel stays. When I stay at Hilton, they shower me with so many points for doing so that I’m often genuinely not sure what a large number of them actually relate to.
Then there’s the bonus points promotions. Airline promos for bonus miles are few and far between, while you can rest assured that the majority of major hotel chains almost certainly have a bonus point deal on. As I write for example, the likes of Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and IHG are all running generous promos.
4 SOME AMAZING REDEMPTION OPPORTUNITIES
We’ve heavily flagged the fantastic value you can get from redemptions at “low end” chain hotels.
However, it doesn’t always have to be the budget conscious that benefit from some great value on hotel stays.
Value varies enormously depending on when and where you going, but by way of fairly random examples, you’ll find excellent value with Hilton in the wonderful Istanbul (and indeed other parts of Turkey):
You’ll also get great value with Marriott in South Africa.
5 THEY’RE SO MUCH LESS COMPLICATED
Tying up all the above, really, is my final point. Hotel points are just a much easier proposition. There’s no detailed logistics required for their redemption, no need to go on advanced reward checking web sites or plan convoluted routes around the globe, starting in Helsinki.
In short, for me, hotel loyalty points encapsulate the pleasure of travel hacking – easy earning and burning – with very few of the frustrations. Sadly, this is often absent from airline miles collecting, which even with a number of easy earning opportunities can end up being an absolute pain to redeem.
That said, those devaluations are an absolute nightmare…