The difficult thing about writing about Choice Privileges is that they have so many properties it can be tough to know precisely where to focus: the 6,000-point Quality Inn in Wilsonville, Oregon, the 30,000-point Port Inn Kennebunk in Maine, the 35,000-point Quality Hotel View in Malmo, Sweden, or the 55,000-point "Preferred Hotels & Resorts" Myconian Naia in Mykonos, Greece?
That being said, let's see what we can say about the value proposition of the program as a whole.
The Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card has a strong earning rate on unbonused spend
Barclaycard used to issue Wyndham Rewards credit cards that earned two points per dollar spent everywhere. Before 2015, that wasn't particularly remarkable: Hilton Honors cards earn 3 points per dollar spent everywhere, Marriott Rewards cards will soon offer 2 points per dollar spent everywhere, and so on. The important question is always a card's earning rate compared to the cost of redemptions you actually want to make. But in 2015, that changed: all Wyndham properties now cost 15,000 points per night, which means legacy cardholders can stay at any Wyndham in the world for just $7,500 in unbonused spend.
While Choice Privileges isn't as generous as Wyndham, they do have a "flatter" rewards structure than many other programs:
- a bottom-tier Choice Privileges property costs 6,000 points, or $3,000 in unbonused spend, while a bottom-tier Hilton property costs 10,000 points ($3,333 in unbonused spend) and a bottom-tier Marriott property costs 7,500 points ($3,750 in unbonused spend).
- a top-tier standard Choice property, which I consider the equivalent of a mid-tier Hilton or Marriott property, costs 35,000 points, or $17,500 in unbonused spend, while a mid-tier Hilton property costs 40,000-60,000 points ($13,333-$20,000 in spend) and a mid-tier Marriott property costs roughly 30,000 points ($15,000 in spend).
- the most expensive Preferred Hotels & Resorts properties cost 55,000 Choice Privileges points ($27,500 in spend), while top-tier Hilton properties cost 95,000 points ($31,667 in spend) and peak top-tier Marriott properties will eventually cost 100,000 points ($50,000 in spend).
I want to note that in this analysis I'm actually tilting the playing field slightly away from Choice. There are New York City properties (in Brooklyn, not New Jersey) that are bookable today for 6,000 Choice Privileges points per night, and in Manhattan for as little as 12,000 points per night. Neither Marriott nor Hilton offer anything like those rates, with Marriott starting at 35,000 and Hilton starting at 70,000 points per night.
Earnings on paid stays are relatively weak
The Barclays Choice Privileges Visa earns 5 points per dollar spent at Choice Privileges properties, or 2.5 times the unbonused earning rate. Compare that to:
- 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt properties with the Chase World of Hyatt credit card (4 times the unbonused rate);
- 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties with the American Express Hilton Honors Ascend card (4 times the unbonused rate);
- 6 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus and Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards (3 times the unbonused rate).
Unless you're fully committed to Choice Privileges as your primary hotel program, you're almost certainly better off putting paid stays on a more valuable card like a Chase Ink Plus that earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on hotel stays, or charging your paid stays to a cashback card like the Bank of America Travel Rewards card with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards status.
Choice is currently running a timeshare scam you might want to get in on
Like many hotel chains, Choice operates a "vacation ownership" (timeshare) company as well, and you can redeem your Choice Privileges points at those properties. They're currently running a promotion at 6 of those properties where you can redeem 16,000 points for a two-night stay (which would otherwise cost 32,000 points) and receive a $50 MasterCard gift card, in exchange for sitting through a 2-hour sales pitch and going on a tour.
I don't see any limitations on participation (as long as you're 25 years old), so I think you could theoretically visit all 6 properties at the discounted rate and earn $300 in gift cards for your trouble.
Choice Privileges is the first program I've considered adding to my travel hacking practice in a long time. I've mostly been happy using a combination of Chase Ultimate Rewards, US Bank Flexpoints, and Hilton Honors for virtually all of my travel. However, I think adding Choice Privileges to my arsenal will help fill in the gaps where Hyatt properties aren't available and Hilton offers only their standard 0.5 cent per point redemptions, allowing me to save those points for higher-value luxury redemptions.
I'm not terribly impressed with most of Choice's brands, but even focusing exclusively on their Ascend and Cambria hotels, putting $10,000 or so per month of spend on their no-annual-fee co-branded credit card will open up access to a vast number of properties offering outstanding imputed redemption values. Fortunately, I've always had a good relationship with Barclays, so I'm optimistic I won't have any trouble getting approved with a decent credit line.