You have earned lots of hotel points with your favorite hotel rewards program or credit card and now you are planning to redeem them for some well deserved free nights? Well, that sometimes is not as easy as it sounds. The smaller hotel chains may not have a property at your vacation destination or there are no rooms available. And even if you can find a room, you might not want to use your hard earned points for it – the value at your destination can be a very bad rewards value. But don’t worry – help is on the way, or more precisely, available on the internet! Check out the tips below to find the best hotel value for your hard-earned hotel rewards points!
There are two free online tools I use frequently to redeem hotel rewards points: AwardMapper is the most comprehensive tool and allows you to search for hotels that participate in the major hotel reward programs, including Best Western, Choice, Club Carlson, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Marriott, Starwood and Wyndham. That covers 10s of thousands of hotels around the world, available for reward point redemptions! AwardMapper is simple to use: You just enter your destination and let it search for all the hotels available on points. On the right side, you can select the hotel chains you are interested in (and have collected reward points). In the center, you get a map with all the hotels and on the right, you get a list with the hotels and how many points from which rewards program you need!
The great thing about AwardMapper is that it covers all the major chains, so you get a comprehensive overview of which hotels from which chains can be booked for how many points. The downside is that AwardMapper doesn’t show actual room availability or the cash price of the room for comparison! I use it for an overview of reward hotels – and then move on to step 2!
I use HotelHustle, developed by the Wandering Aramean, to see actual room availability and cash prices. In the initial search screen you enter your destination and travel dates.
You get the results displayed with all the hotel chains on the left, a map at the center and a list of the available hotels, including their points and cash rates on the right. You can select your favorite hotel chains as well as the search distance on the right. What makes HotelHustle the most powerful hotel awards search tool available is the in depth search of availability at points and cash prices, as well as the comparative rating against average point values. It will show you the “Hustle Hotness” – or are you getting good value for your points. If the cash price is very high and you receive a better value than usual for your hotel rewards points, the hotel is ranked with 5 stars, or very hot. If the hotel is available for a low cash price compared to the points needed, it has a low 1 star rating. That allows you to quickly see whether it is worth using your hard earned points or rather pay cash and save your points for a better deal.
If you are a points pro, you can even enter your own points values per hotel rewards program to make sure HotelHustle reflects what you value the most! You can also create alerts in case your hotel is not currently available on points – it might become available later!
I use HotelHustle regularly for its unique value. It does have some quirks and sometimes certain hotel chains won’t show up, for example in my Bangkok example none of the many Accor hotels show up and I’ve had search were no hotels are visible at all. That’s why I often start with AwardMapper to be sure.
Personally, I perform a third step before making a booking – and that’s a search with a regular hotel search engine, like hotels.com, Agoda or Tripadvisor. In many destinations, American Chain hotels charge a high premium for their brand and independent, local hotels have very similar offerings for a lot less money. A good example is Bangkok, where you can regularly find competitive, local hotels for 20-30% less than the American brands. So, even if the “Hustle Hotness” is high, you might get an even better deal by choosing a local hotel for less.
So, whether you use one of the tools above to finally use those points you have earned or whether you follow my three-step process, I hope you can find great value with the tools for your next rewarding vacation! Give AwardMapper and HotelHustle a try – it’s worth it!