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I have written before about how Radisson Rewards probably deserves a little more attention from UK points/miles enthusiasts than it gets. That article looked at how you can get a lot more value from Radisson Points than is commonly believed by taking advantage of Points + Cash redemptions, but there are other valuable aspects that get overlooked too…
One of the most interesting is the fact that you can routinely upgrade points bookings with cash. You can, of course, also use additional points to book ‘family’ or ‘premium’ rooms – but as I’ll demonstrate below, you’re usually better off sticking to cash if you want an upgraded room.
Example: Get a Westminster View Balcony Suite for just £50 extra
The Plaza on the River is a 5 star luxury hotel on London’s South Bank, with great views across the river. A significant proportion of its 96 rooms are actually 1-bedroom apartments and suites, rather than standard rooms.
The cheapest rooms if you want to pay with cash are usually standard King River View rooms, but standard points redemptions (70,000 per night) actually book into the larger “Studio – Open Plan” rooms. These are larger rooms, but have an internal atrium view, so are arguably less desirable, depending on your preferences.
If you want to upgrade, one option is to use 105,000 points when you book, rather than 70,000, to book a 1-bedroom suite.
Alternatively, when you make a standard points booking, you will be presented with a list of ‘space available’ upgrade options that you can bid for. Select the upgraded room you want and if it is available when you check in, you pay the extra and get the room. Note that these upgrades are not confirmed until you actually check in.
The cost of these upgrades seems to be based closely on the difference between what the cash rate for the room you used points for would have otherwise cost and the cash rate of the room you want to upgrade to. What is great is that the difference is often surprisingly small.
For example, on a recent booking I was given the option of upgrading to a one bedroom apartment with river view for £47 or a one bedroom apartment with river view and balcony for £62:
Both room types listed are higher categories than the standard suite that a premium points redemption costing 105,000 would get you. So, you would effectively be paying £47-£62 instead of 35,000 additional points (over a standard points redemption) and getting a better room. I value Radisson Points at at least 0.3p per point, making 35,000 worth £105+. Therefore upgrading using cash is definitely the better value option.
When you bear in mind that these suites can comfortably sleep 3 adults (the living room has a sofa bed), 70,000 points + £47-£62 is a brilliant price for a 5* suite in London. Upgrading to a suite might even mean that you don’t need to book a second room, depending on who you are travelling with.
I was very tempted by the balcony offer above, but I wanted to confirm the upgrade in advance (which is a big problem with the ‘space available’ upgrades) and I wanted to ensure I got a Westminster view, because half the river view rooms face the other direction, so I sent the hotel email.
I quickly got a response saying they could confirm an upgrade to a newly refurbished deluxe 1-bedroom Westminster-facing balcony suite for just £50!
To be clear, that’s a confirmed upgrade for an even better suite than any of the options I was automatically presented with, for just £50!
If you’re wondering whether this is a one off, it’s not.
One of the great things about booking with points is that the reservations are almost always refundable. That means you can make a booking, see what space available upgrade options you are presented with, and then ask the hotel whether they can confirm the upgrade in advance for you. If you don’t like any of the options you’re given, just cancel the points booking.
I did a few experiments and discovered that even speciality suites are sometimes included as upgrade options. At the higher end, the upgrade cost actually seems to be lower than the difference in the cash cost between the suite and the standard room, so the value can potentially be even better.
The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, for example, charges higher cash rates for a Duplex Suite than it does for a Presidential Suite (which is weird, but a different story):
On the dates I looked at, the difference between the £588 listed above for a Duplex Suite and the cash rate for the category of room you get when booking with points was ~£400.
When I booked a room with points though, I was given the option (admittedly on a space available basis) to upgrade to a “Duplex Suite with Balcony and Big Ben View” for £147.
70,000 points and £147 is still a significant sum of course, but to book a massive suite with incredible views of London… I bet I’m not the only one who would be tempted for a special occasion!
Aside from the slightly extreme cases of extravagant suites, there is a wider point here.
When you make a standard points redemption with Radisson Rewards, you often get a room that isn’t really that desirable – and Radisson can be stingy with free upgrades for elite members. For relatively little money though, you can upgrade to a great room (with the iconic views/more space/etc that you really want).
Making a ‘premium’ reward redemption using points is also an option, but I would strongly suggest making a standard redemption first and taking a look at the sort of cash upgrade options that are available, as it usually works out significantly better value. Once you’ve got some ballpark figures, email the hotel directly to see if they confirm the upgrade for you in advance, or offer something even better.
Remember that you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to Radisson Rewards Points at a 1:3 rate, so 70,000 Radisson Points requires 23,334 Amex Points.
Have you taken advantage of Radisson’s generous cash upgrade options before?