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But on our recent trip to Asia, I needed an overnight stay at a New York (JFK) airport hotel to make our next-day connection to Abu Dhabi. Airport hotels aren’t the most aspirational spots, so I’m usually most concerned with paying the cheapest price or the fewest points. Often, I just pay cash, because in many cities it’s easy to find an airport hotel for ~$100 or less.
Not so with JFK! For our travel dates, most chain hotels nearby were charging ~$200 or more. And there weren’t many locations available to book with points. For example, the Sheraton JFK wanted ~$260 for the night including tax, or 10,000 Starwood points. I balked and kept searching for something cheaper, like a La Quinta, Howard Johnston, or Days Inn, but even these brands were charging big bucks for the night.
Then the lightbulb went off in my head. I’d forgotten about a credit card perk I don’t often use that would save us a TON on our short stay!
I’ll share why I chose a Sheraton hotel. And how a single credit card benefit got us dinner, drinks, breakfast, and snacks for nothing out-of-pocket.
Free Food and Drinks – Just From Having a Credit Card!
In my obsession over finding the very cheapest JFK airport hotel, I’d forgotten about an important benefit that comes with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Cardholders get complimentary access to Sheraton Club lounges on paid and award stays. No elite status required!
This benefit only applies to the small business version of the card, not the personal version. At Sheraton Club lounges, you get free breakfast, daytime snacks and drinks, and hors d’oeuvres (usually substantial enough to make a meal out of!) in the evening.
I’m all about saving money on food when we travel. And I figure a meal out or eating in the hotel restaurant for dinner would have set me back at least ~$60 for the 4 of us, including drinks, taxes, and tip. Not to mention the cost of Uber rides had we chosen to go to a local restaurant in the evening.
Luckily, my girls are pretty flexible about what they eat for dinner. So the evening spread at the Sheraton JFK was plenty to fill us up, including a hot chicken pasta dish, hummus, salad, fruit, and veggies. And my son (remember the vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables?) maximized the unlimited pita bread, cookies, and brownies. 🙂
While some hotel chains offer free breakfast to everyone, hotel lounge breakfasts are usually higher quality with better selection. We probably saved another ~$20 versus eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant (probably more if we’d gone out of the hotel).
Had I picked a different hotel, I would have paid a little less for our stay. But that wouldn’t have been the most frugal angle after all! Because of the lounge perk, this hotel ended up being a better deal because we saved so much on food. Plus, we got a more comfortable stay at a much higher-quality hotel.
That’s why for many folks, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is worth keeping year after year, even with the $95 annual fee.
Now’s a Great Time to Consider the AMEX Starwood Business Card
I’ve had the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express card for a couple of years now. I keep it in my wallet because Starwood points are otherwise hard to earn, and I save more than the annual fee cost each year by making the most of AMEX Offers.
But if you stay at Sheraton hotels frequently, the Sheraton Club lounge access is probably the biggest money-saving benefit from the card. The savings alone from free meals and drinks can easily offset the annual fee over just a couple of stays.
Right now is a good time to consider the AMEX Starwood Business card, because it’s got a limited-time increased bonus. You can earn 25,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. And the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
You can check out our full card review here.
On a recent trip, I overlooked the Sheraton JFK and nearly missed out by booking a less-expensive hotel nearby. I totally forgot to take the free Sheraton Club lounge access from my AMEX Starwood Business card into account.
Even though other hotels were marginally cheaper, the free dinner, snacks, and breakfast my family of 4 enjoyed far outweighed the savings on the room rate. It was a good reminder to remember the little-used perks you might have from the cards in your wallet!
They might not let us stay again, though. I hear they’re out of brownies. 🙂
Come back each Wednesday for a new installment in our Family Travel series!