Maximize Earning Hotel Points – Charge Incidental Expenses to the Room
[I have unpredictable Internet access while traveling this week. This post was written last week with a pre-scheduled run date.]
This miles and points hobby has been very good to me, enabling me to travel frequently and well for pennies on the dollar. But the front-end work required to earn miles and points in the first place isn’t always as thrilling – although even that is fun as long as I’m careful to not let it overtake more important things in life.
So I don’t do stuff like take long online surveys to earn a few measly points. And when a deal requires physically going to a store, I combine the trip with other errands to maximize the return on my time and resources.
Earning miles and points efficiently is as important as earning them at all.
So here’s a low-maintenance suggestion for maximizing the points you earn for hotel stays: charge incidental expenses to the room rather than pay them directly.
- If you dine in the hotel restaurant, charge the meal to your room. Don’t whip out a credit card and pay the bill on the spot.
- Likewise if you buy something from the gift shop or a concession stand.
- Same if you have to pay for hotel parking.
When all these incidentals are on your hotel bill, you double dip because most hotels award points as a multiple of the dollars you spend. So first you earn hotel-stay points on the incidental charges. Later when you pay the hotel bill with your credit card, you earn points again – this time credit card points.
Here’s a comparison using a Hilton example.
If you have a $100 restaurant bill and pay it with a credit card that earns 1 point/$, you simply earn 100 points.
By putting that same $100 meal on your room tab you’d earn 1,500 Hilton points. Later you pay the tab with your credit card and earn 100 credit card points:
And that’s before any promotions.
Taking it further, say you’re not just a base member but a Gold member who also holds a Hilton co-branded credit card that earns 10 points/$. Here are your potential earnings:
Much better than a mere 100 credit card points, no?
(Keep in mind – I don’t value Hilton HHonors points and credit card points equally. To me an HHonors point is worth about $0.004 while a credit card point generally about $0.017 [although that varies by card]. Still, I’d come out way ahead earning 2,750 HHonors points vs. a mere 100 credit card points.)
Even if you’re not doing a paid stay at the hotel:
- You might still get points when dining in the hotel’s restaurant as a non-staying patron. It takes legwork – you often need to submit a receipt after the fact (find the email address or fax number on their website under something like “support” or “customer service”) – but could be worthwhile for a large amount. This often works, but not always.
- If you’re just attending an event at the hotel and have to pay for parking, pay at the front desk (where you can give your loyalty account number) rather than the valet stand. I’ve once or twice gotten points that way, but again it’s not foolproof.
- An award stay, as long as it has even a nominal paid transaction attached to it, could trigger a stay credit for elite qualification. I’ve had this happen only very occasionally, and not lately, so this is definitely not foolproof.
The only instance I can think of where it’s disadvantageous to charge a meal to your room is if you have a credit card awarding a dining bonus that trumps the hotel points. (The bonus would have to be unusually high to “pencil” though.)
Whether you’re hosting a lavish dinner at the hotel restaurant or just buying a bottle of sunscreen from the gift shop, select your payment method wisely to maximize point earnings.
All part of the game. 🙂