Is It Better to Collect Airline Miles or Hotel Points?
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Million Mile Secrets reader, Leslie, commented:
I just added Hilton to my miles and points programs because I want hotel points. I am wondering if putting all my spending on my Hilton card instead of an airline card is a good idea.
Will this get me less value overall? How do you value hotel points versus airline miles?f
Good question, Leslie! The best card to put your spending on depends on your travel goals and how you plan to use your points and miles!
Airline miles are often worth more than hotel points. But the actual value of your points depends on how you use them.
I’ll compare both kinds of awards. And show Leslie how to earn points that can be used for flights and hotel stays!
Choosing Between Airline Miles and Hotel Points
There are no right or wrong types of points to collect, as long as they fit your travel plans. But make sure you know all the options!
No matter what your personal goals are, a goal we all share is Big Travel with Small Money. Let’s talk strategy so you can achieve it.
1. Airline Miles Usually Go Further Than Hilton Points
Spending enough on a hotel card for a free weekend in a Caribbean resort is great! But if you could have earned a free flight to the Caribbean for the same spending, you probably would have earned more value from using an airline card instead.
For example, if you have the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, you’d have to make ~$33,400 in non-bonus category purchases for a free weekend at the Hilton Barbados Resort ($33,400 X 3 points per $1 = ~100,000 Hilton points).
You’d save ~$340 ($170 per night X 2 nights).
You can book an off-peak, round-trip award flight to Barbados from anywhere in the mainland US for only 25,000 American Airlines miles.
Using a credit card that earns American Airlines miles, like the Citi® AAdvantage Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, you would only need to make $25,000 in non-bonus category purchases for a free flight. And you would only need to spend $20,000 if you’re using the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (more on that later)! The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Depending on where you live in the US, this will likely save much more than $340!
2. Hotel Points Are Far From Worthless!
Hotel points are incredibly useful, even though they do NOT usually match the value of airline miles.
Lots of folks prefer car or train travel. If a road trip is your idea of a fun vacation, hotel points are the way to go!
Many hotels help you stretch your points with options like:Taking advantage of these can add a lot of value to your hotel points!
Different hotel programs work better for different travelers.
For example, collecting Hyatt points is a good idea for leisure travelers who value luxury hotels. But road warriors might not get as much use from Hyatt because it has relatively few locations compared to other brands, like Hilton.
Using a card that earns Hyatt points for $25,000 of non-category bonus spending can get you a free night at a great hotel like the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill. Nights here can go for over $650!
That’s like getting 2.6% back for your everyday spending ($650 redemption / $25,000 spending = 2.6%).
Folks who use their travel to visit family instead of vacationing to popular destinations might prefer IHG because they have hotels almost everywhere!
- Chain hotels in a specified city (map or list view)
- Number of points required for an award night
- Available award rooms for specific dates
- Paid cost of the room (for comparison)
- Value (cents per point and if it’s a good deal overall)
Get the Best of Both Worlds!
Instead of choosing to earn either hotel points or airline miles, Leslie can get a card that earns both! Cards that earn transferable points give you the most flexibility. And you don’t have to move points to an airline or hotel partner until you’re ready to use them.
1. American Express Membership Rewards
Link: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Folks who have cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points, like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express and The Platinum Card® from American Express can transfer their points to 15+ airlines, like Air Canada, ANA, and Cathay Pacific. And 3 hotel loyalty programs, including Hilton and Starwood (though Starwood offers a poor transfer ratio of 3:1).
Make sure to check the transfer rates before making any plans! Because the ratios are not always 1:1, you may end up with fewer points (or more!) than you need.
2. Chase Ultimate Rewards
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Link: Ink Business Preferred
If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred, or Chase Ink Plus or Ink Bold (no longer available to new applicants), you can transfer points to 7 airlines, including British Airways, Southwest, and United Airlines. You can also transfer to 4 hotel programs, including Hyatt and IHG.
Or you can book paid travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point (1.5 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve) for any hotel or flight, even if they are NOT Chase Ultimate Rewards partners. These options make Chase Ultimate Rewards points extremely useful! You can even use them to rent cars, book local activities, and attend exclusive events!
3. Citi ThankYou
Link: Citi Prestige® Card
If you have the Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi Prestige, or Citi Chairman (no longer offered) card, you can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to 14 airline partners, including Etihad, Flying Blue (Air France and KLM), and Singapore Airlines. Citi ThankYou points also transfer to Hilton.
4. Starwood Preferred Guest
Starwood hotels are some of the best in the world! But similar to Hyatt, Starwood doesn’t have a large number of hotels. And it is concentrated in popular destinations.
However, because Starwood and Marriott are merging, you can transfer your Starwood points to Marriott at a ratio of 1:3. So if you collect Starwood points, there are thousands and thousands of hotels to choose from!
And when you transfer Starwood points to airlines in increments of 20,000, you’ll get a bonus 5,000 miles! This means you’re earning 1.25 miles per $1 as long as you transfer in increments of 20,000 Starwood points.
Using an airline credit card to earn miles will often give you a better return than spending on a hotel card. But everyone travels differently! If you don’t plan on flying anytime soon, and know you will be staying at hotels, you will value hotel points more.
And some folks care more about getting to the destination than the luxury level of their accommodations.
Do you prefer earning hotel points or airline miles?
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)