Fun with Choice Privileges Preferred Hotels & Resorts

On Friday I wrote a quick rundown on the basics of redeeming Choice Privileges points at their thousands of hotels all over the world at reasonable cost, compared to the big chains I usually write about. Readers were quick to point out that I had missed a key value proposition of the Choice Privileges program, which is their Preferred Hotels & Resorts collection. So let's rectify that today.

Preferred Hotels & Resorts can be more expensive than normal Choice properties

The Preferred Hotels & resorts collection cost between 30,000 and 60,000 Choice Privileges points per night, and each property's cost does not vary by season (indeed I don't know if it varies even from year to year).

Preferred Hotels & Resorts availability can be checked online...

Just navigate to the Participating Hotels page and click on "check availability" next to the property that interests you. There are three kinds of availability: "No Availability," "Availability," and "Minimum Stay Required."

At the property I looked at (Pier 2620 Fisherman's Wharf) the minimum stay requirement for many nights was 3 nights for arrivals on the given night, while earlier arrivals could stay through the restricted nights. Those restrictions likely vary by property.

...but cannot be booked online

To book a Preferred Hotels & Resorts property, you need to call the appropriate booking phone number. For US residents, it's 888-770-6800.

How do Preferred Hotels & Resorts compare?

With that out of the way, let's see if we can get any value from this program.

There are two easy places to watch for outsized value from this program: at the low, 30,000-point-per-night level and the high, 60,000-point-per-night level.

At the low level we see an imputed redemption value of $333 per night, which is competitive with low-to-mid-tier properties in all the chains but Hilton (it's competitive with top-tier Hilton properties).

At the high level, 50,000- and 60,000-point redemptions are competitive with mid-to-top-tier properties in all the chains but Hilton (where imputed redemption values top out at $352 per night).

At the bottom end I wasn't able to find any properties that cost more than $333 per night for a random date in August I searched. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but I certainly wouldn't stockpile Choice Privileges points on the off-chance of finding one.

At the top end, Drew at Travel is Free conveniently assembled 31 Preferred Hotel & Resort properties bookable with Choice Privileges points, all of which are among the top 500 hotels in the world, apparently according to Travel and Leisure. My value added is searching for prices at all 31 properties and seeing whether any are, in fact, good deals at 50,000 or 60,000 Choice Privileges points.

These are the only two of Drew's 31 properties where I found nightly rates exceeding the properties' imputed redemption values:

  • Montage Beverly Hills – 60,000 points
  • Montage Laguna Beach – 60,000 points

That's not to say that the other properties aren't nice, or expensive. They're just not expensive enough to justify manufacturing the spend required to stay there on a Choice Privileges co-branded credit card (for the dates I searched).

Squaring the circle: the Amtrak co-branded credit card and Amtrak elite status

As Drew points out when he writes about Choice Privileges, the key to maximizing the program is not earning Choice Privileges points through hotel stays or through co-branded credit card earning. The key is transferring points from Amtrak Guest Rewards to Choice Privileges at an extremely favorable ratio: 5,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards point can be converted into 15,000 Choice Privileges points, and Amtrak Guest Rewards is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

In other words, it's possible to buy Choice Privileges points for a third of a cent each (rather than 1.1 cents each) by transferring your Ultimate Rewards points first to Amtrak, then to Choice Privileges.

But there a catch.

According to Amtrak's website:

"Members that are active cardholders of the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard issued by Chase Bank with an Amtrak travel spend on the card of over $200 per calendar year may redeem up to 25,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per calendar year for hotel points and Audience Rewards.

"Current Amtrak Guest Rewards Select or Select Plus Members...may redeem up to 50,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per calendar year for hotel points and Audience Rewards.

"Current Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Executive Members...are not subject to point limits when redeeming for hotel points and Audience Rewards."

Since the Amtrak Guest Rewards co-branded credit card is no longer available for new applicants, unless you already have the card, you'll need Amtrak elite status in order to take advantage of Amtrak Guest Rewards points transfers to Choice Privileges.

[update 7/13/15]

Here's the actual dollar cost of Choice Privileges properties when transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Choice through Amtrak: