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Choice Hotel Rewards: The Cheapest Hotel Redemptions Ever, and Most Luxurious Hotels

Choice is probably the most under rated hotel program around. I used to think it was Club Carlson, but Choice actually has higher end hotels. I haven’t added it up, but via the Preferred Hotels partnership, I think they have more T&L Top 500 hotels than IHG.

Plus, I will show how to get a resort in the Caribbean for 2,000 Chase points. Believe me when I say, there are so many gems in this program. And if you read nothing else, read about the Amtrak transfers and the Preferred Hotels partnership.

Earning Choice Privilege Points

There are so many ways to earn Choice points, and while not all of them are great ways to earn, I’ll try to be as thorough as I can.

Paying for Hotels

While I wouldn’t actually recommend staying at hotels, I know there are many people who stay at hotels covered by work, and maybe the promotions will make sense for you. So here’s how to maximize points earning on a paid stay.

First off you earn 10 points per dollar at most hotels, and then 5 points per dollar at their cheapest Econo Lodge type hotels.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 8.11.23 PM

So now you’re earning 5 – 10 points per dollar, let’s try to stack up a little more earning.

  1. Refer a friend = 500 points. Here’s the refer a friend link info, you can drop yours in the comments for people who need an account. Or you can refer your spouse or something. Basically you’ll get 500 points on your first stay. Not much help, I know.
  2. Status match for 50% more points. Given that status is easy enough to get with most other programs (like IHG giving top tier Platinum status with the credit card), you can likely call and get Choice to match with the equivalent status. (888-770-6800)
  3. Promotions. Usually there’s a decent Choice promo to check out. This is where 90% of the benefit of a paid stay is. At the moment you can get 8,000 points per two choice stays, and there’s usually something similar.

More about promotions. Choice doesn’t do a good job of easily showing promos, so I’d recommend checking FrequentFlyerBonuses before your next hotel stay. Or LoyaltyTraveler’s hotel promotions page (and search for “Choice”). Ric probably writes about Choice Hotels more than… any other blogger.

I’ll mention another current promotion: it’s 15,000 points + 3 nights for $199 and a timeshare thing. Weird, but more details here.

 

Credit Cards

The Choice Credit Card

The Choice Privileges credit card gives 8,000 points for signing up, and another 24,000 points after paying for a stay at a Choice hotel. In total it’s 32,000 points after one paid stay. 32,000 points could in theory be 5 nights, but it’s unlikely. So unless you really have a plan, I see seriously no reason to get this credit card and personally do not have/won’t ever. The only good news is that it’s a no annual fee card, and it’s with Barclays.

American Express transfers 1:1

If you have Amex MR points via one of the Gold cards or Platinum cards, you can transfer to Choice points 1:1.

Personally, I’d rather transfer to British Airways or something, but 6,000 points for the hotel on an island in Honduras or 10,000 points for a hotel in Downtown Venice is seriously tempting.

Diners Club Rewards

According to the Choice website, Diners Club Rewards points transfer to Choice 1,250 : 2,400… which I suppose is good, but I don’t know the first thing about Diners Club.

 

Amtrak 5,000 : 15,000

Now the amazing transfer of amazing transfers is Amtrak to Choice at 5,000 Amtrak points to 15,000 Choice points. Which means you can transfer from Chase points to Amtrak 1:1 and then Amtrak to Choice 5k:15k. Which is really a transfer from Chase to Choice at 5,000 to 15,000 via Amtrak.

However, I wish it were that simple. I did lay out all the details in the recent Best Use of Amtrak Points. But basically, you need the Amtrak credit card or Amtrak Status. If you have Amtrak status, then check out the Amtrak post. But let’s assume you don’t.

If you get the no annual fee Amtrak credit card you can transfer 25,000 points from Amtrak to Choice per calendar year. In case you didn’t already do that math, that’s 75,000 Choice points a year. A killer combo with the Chase Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Chase Sapphire preferred (which can transfer to Amtrak).

Too bad the Amtrak 25k bonus isn’t back… I’d totally jump on that.

 

Redeeming Choice Points

Choice hotels generally cost 6,000 to 35,000 points per night “(excluding Australasia where points required are up to 75,000)”. The thing that’s really annoying with Choice, is that I can’t accurately make a map of Choice properties sorted by award type since their awards often vary greatly.

But do check out the other Hotel Complete Maps sortable by Points Category.

For example, you could hear about someone redeeming 10,000 Choice points for a hotel in Paris and most of the time when I go to check it out, the same hotel could be 24,000 points. I guess this is a glass half empty approach, but it seems more than half the time it’s at the much higher price. Also, it just means that I can’t give consistent advice for great redemptions. Really… just have to check online.

Searching or Booking award nights is actually really easy.

  1. Go to Choicehotels.com
  2. Put in City and date
  3. Select “Choice Privileges Rewards Night” rate in the drop down.
    Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 3.23.52 PM
  4. Click “Find Hotels”.

Super simple. Then it shows you all the hotels and reward prices on the right.

Best Uses of Choice points

The thing is, there are hotels that cost 6,000 to 8,000 points all over. Even in super expensive areas of Europe.

There are many great awards but I’ll mention again a few favorites:

  • Two hotels in Prague for 8,000 points
  • 5 hotels in Italy for 8,000 points
  • 3 hotels in Tokyo for 8,000 points
  • Stockholm, Sweden for 6,000 points
  • Estes Park, CO for 8,000 points
  • Denver and Boulder for 8,000 points

The list could go on and on and on. And when you think of these as 2,000 – 3,000 Amtrak/Chase points, it’s totally worth it. However, there are two that particularly stood out to me:

  • Comfort Hotel Diana – Venice, Italy = 10,000 points
  • Clarion Suites Roatan at Pineapple Villas – Roatan, Honduras = 6,000 points

 

Luxury Hotel Redemptions

In case simplicity and modesty aren’t your thing, don’t worry, Choice points have some amazing redemptions for you too. Many people remain unaware of the partnership with Preferred Hotel Group because the hotels don’t show up in the Choice hotels award search.

To view Preferred Hotels available with Choice points go here.

They have so many amazing hotels. Hotels I’ve seen or even stayed at and had no idea they were Choice hotels. For example, the Fullerton in Singapore is a nice hotel we’ve walked through to view the Marina Bay Sands.

These are some of the most under rate redemptions… period. So I had to make a map, of course.

Some amazing hotels at first glance are:

  • Keekorok Lodge, Masaai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
  • Fullerton, Singapore
  • and 30,000 points hotels in Japan

But also there are incredibly unique hotels in that there’s a hotel in Iraq, Madagascar, Seychelles, Burma, Cusco, and points hotels in Switzerland. Check out the map or the site!

 

Best Rate Guarantee

Choice’s Best Rate Guarantee is simple. Book a room on ChoiceHotels.com and then find a lower rate on a competitor website you get your first night free. Even if you only stay one night, the night is free.

My experience with Choice isn’t great, because there’s a learning curve to realizing that sometimes their standard rooms are completely sold to Expedia or something. Thus you’re not comparing equal rooms like you think you are.

I check on sites like Kayak, and search for Choice hotels and if I see a lower rate with the exact same room type and cancelation policies, I book on Choice.

Then fill out the claim form here. It will have all the details and terms and conditions. It’s tricky, but totally a source of completely free nights.

 

Conclusion

Between Amtrak transfer, 6,000 point hotels, free nights from BRGs, and Preferred Hotel Group redemptions… Choice is a hotel that I will be giving a lot more attention to, and making an effort to collect points with.

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41 Comments

  1. I just love choice as I have over 300K points with them, most was them was bought via promotion. They do expire, so keep that in mind, I did have some sub optimal redemption but I think I get good value.

    Reply
    • Yea, I forget to mention or think about expiration as it’s rare I have points for more than a few months.

      … wish I had 300k.

      Reply
  2. I think it’s worth noting this tidbit about their Reward Nights:

    “Members who have not yet achieved Elite Status must make their free night reservation personally through the Program Line or through their online account no more than 30 days prior to planned arrival for stays in their country of residence. Sixty days prior to their planned arrival at all other locations worldwide.”

    Now if there was only a way to bypass that…

    Reply
    • I’ll have to do some research on this, I’m just getting “into” Choice. But the obvious is that if you want to redeem 60 days out in the US, be Canadian or something. Or a smaller country. lol

      But I’ll be testing this out and doing a post on it in the future.

      Reply
  3. Great post! Do you know the approximate amount of time it takes for the Chase to Amtrak to Choice transfer?

    Reply
    • Two weeks, and YMMV. Although I think they say it takes more, two weeks seems to be the norm.

      Reply
  4. I have stayed at a bunch of Choice properties and am a fan. Many are not fancy or luxurious, but I’ve stayed at several in excellent locations for 8,000/night, including the understated EconoLodge in Encinitas, CA, north of San Diego just a couple blocks from the Pacific Ocean (just looked, and appears it’s 10,000 pts now – still a good deal). The sound of the ocean waves thru the open windows makes for great sleep at night there, and it’s probably my favorite Choice hotel so far.

    Reply
    • If I have to choose between paying more, not being near the beach, or getting a cheaper hotel near the beach… For sure going for the cheaper hotel. :-p

      Good recommendation.

      Reply
  5. My first experience with Choice since I began collecting points was at the Las Vegas Downtown Grand. We got a BRG (my first try at that and it went through quickly and easily) and the 5 nights we spent there cost about $130! And we were upgraded! They also gave us lots of coupons for drinks and meal discounts. A great place to stay if you prefer to be off the strip.

    But since they are a smaller/lower profile program, I haven’t made it a priority to get their points. Thanks for this how-to; I will pay more attention to Choice going forward!

    Reply
    • Nice to hear of a BRG first try. :-p

      Yea, they’ve been off the radar, but I’m thinking they should be on radar.

      Reply
  6. last i checked you have to spend $200 on actual amtrak paid fare to be @ble to transfer to choice hotels. so as far as i see thats not a free or easy transfer option unless you are doing paid travel with amtr@k anyways, correct?

    Reply
    • I am not recommending you do this! I am just throwing it out for your consideration. Take some personal responsibility for your actions!

      Book refundable fare months out, do your transfer, cancel it.

      Amtrak card has no annual fee. Wife has it for years. I used to have it too but darn ChaseReconsideration Dept made me sacrifice it for one of the Ink cards a few years ago. I tried really really hard to save it…but he would not have none of it. It was really really sad letting it go!

      Reply
  7. In November, we’re staying 3 nights in Prague (that you mentioned above) at a Choice hotel for 8K per night. I have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical about Choice brand. 😉

    Reply
    • I know. I want all my hotels to preapproved by Gary “The Princess and the Pea” Leff.

      Reply
    • 3 nights in Prague for 24k… Which happens to be almost half of 1 night at the Radisson Blu, IC and Hilton. 😀

      Reply
  8. Great post but 2 glaring omissions. Choice points expire 2 years after earning and the real problem for me: you can only book rewards nights 30 days out, 50 days with elite status. Most of my travel is family travel during busy times and that is just ridiculous. I did use them for two rooms at the Port Inn in kennebunkport Maine this summer and it was a really nice property. I had made a back up reservation elsewhere, though, in case it was booked during the busy summer season since I couldn’t book until 50 days out.

    Reply
    • These are two really good points that people should be aware of.
      My airheadself tends to not think much of expiration because I use my points almost always right away, and book last minute travel. So I’m glad for others helping me out with including this info.
      I know this is a concern for people and hope to figure out some tricks to get around it.

      Reply
    • 30 Days OUT? As in you can’t book a hotel for April 1st on Feb 26th? That is ABSURD, and borderline unbelievable…

      That being said, the UR-Amtrack-Choice Trick is Golden!

      Reply
  9. So many bloggers ignore Choice Hotel because the properties are not fancy. However, in many rural areas, like near national parks, the only chain available is Choice. They are great for road trips, hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor trips. Thanks for this post!

    Reply
    • Right, I see the properties out in the middle of nowhere, where other hotels just wouldn’t get high end business travelers.

      But, they do have plenty of fancy hotels with the preferred hotel group. 😉

      Reply
  10. Here is a link to the Amtrak card with 12,000 bonus points.

    Reply
  11. Is the Chase Amtrak card churnable? I have already gotten the Amtrak card and several years ago transferred the Amtrak points to Choice but I was wondering do I have to cancel my current Amtrak card in order to get a new bonus?

    Reply
    • Well it’s only 12,000, you should just keep the amtrak card. I would not go canceling and reapplying. But I would keep and transfer points from UR.

      However, if you’ve cancelled more than 2 years ago, I would recommend applying again and keeping the amtrak card if you’re interested.

      Reply
  12. Glad to see you coming around to the Choice program. I remember trying to convince you of its utility earlier this year:

    http://travelisfree.com/2014/05/19/breakdown-of-the-best-daily-getaways-deals/

    Choice isn’t for everyone. Domestically, most fancy-pants travellers will be disappointed. The single most obvious use of their points is for airport and non-urban hotels in the USA — and the program is particularly good for families because they often don’t charge more for their larger rooms. As you’ve found, though, there are also some very nice properties overseas, often at very attractive redemption levels. Oddly, the best place to use Choice points in the world is Scandinavia — 4-star stylish hotels with perks for cheap prices in some very expensive locales.

    Reply
    • So… you were right…
      lol

      Reply
  13. FYI-Just booked two nights at Comfort Hotel Diana in Venice on points and the reservation notice included the statement “From 8 December 2014 to 6 February 2015 and from 18 to 26 February 2015 the property will be closed.”

    Reply
    • Most open up for Carnival… funny.

      Reply
  14. So if you MS spend 5X for a Chase card then you get 5000 UR points for about $11 Visa GC cost. Then transfer to Amtrak then to choice which will yield 15,000 Choice points enough for a top end Choice hotel. Better than IHG..

    Reply
    • It’s like 15 points per dollar with a limit of 75k ($5,000 of spend).

      Reply
  15. Does the booking within 30 days clause also effect bookings for the Preferred Hotel Group?

    Reply
    • Not too sure. But if you status match to Diamond (which seems to be easy) the booking window becomes 100 days.

      Reply
  16. Drew, love your thoughts on something. My wife wants to try Atlantis water park near Nassau. We plan to do half a week in disney with our annual pass, which the arrival and venture card got us for close to free. Then We drive to Miami and use 9000 avios to get us both to Nassau. Now here’s where this post comes in.

    So, the Comfort Suites Paradise Island is 25k points a night. If I were to grab the 12k sign up that’d be good for one free night and a free day in the Atlantis water park. As mommy points pointed out, that CS gives you free entrance to Atlantis. Between that and some spend in bonus categories on my freedom, I could possibly get up to two free nights as I’d have access to 3x transfers since I’d now have the CSP and Amtrak card.

    I may even toss my hat in for the 70k ink to help this plan out a bit.

    Reply
  17. What a remarkable, original post(s) Drew…. yet again. In re-reading this post, then the companion piece on Amtrak, I now see how to get that Honduran island spot for 2k chase UR points. I’m also pleasantly startled to see the Gran Melia Golf Resort (Puerto Rico) via the choice “preferred hotel group” — for just 10k chase UR points. (the hidden gem you wrote about before — that you got cheap rates via priceline…. This is even better!)

    Am though a bit perplexed about the $200 spending on Amtrak…. to get access to the good transfer rates. (That transfer program from Chase to Amtrak is so good that I generally don’t pay cash for Amtrak fares. ;-( , just chase UR points….. Hmmmm…..)

    Reply
  18. I was hoping you could find a way to map the hotels.

    I am burning some expiring points in Australasia. Each time I have looked at their Australasia awards the prices are much higher than other regions as you noted in the article. An example is in November any hotel in Perth is 25k+, 50 miles away there are 20k. Not good value compared to other regions, though Australia in general is so massively overpriced that it works for me.

    Also worth note, and this may be just an Australia thing, but quite a few of their hotels there have restrictions like no check-in after 8 pm. Some of these must truly be mom and pop operations. Last time in Australia I had to cancel some bookings due to needing late arrival. Fortunately this is listed on the hotel information page. Important to check it.

    Reply
  19. What city are you using on the Choice site for Keekorok Lodge? I can’t seem to get it to come up….

    Reply
  20. Need a referral if someone would like 500 points

    Reply
  21. I could not find a link for the Amtrak credit card. I also checked at Chase.com without success. Is this card still available?

    Reply
  22. hey Drew, I don’t have any Choice points transferred into my account and I’m trying to check availability for rooms with 4 adults in some of the Clarion Collections in Norway. Is there any way to tell if there really is availability? When I try to click through to see the room type, it tells me I don’t have enough points. Is it safe to assume that if I select 4 adults and it doesn’t say it’s unavailable, that the room type I need is available? I’m just trying to plan ahead for a trip next year and don’t want to transfer a bunch of points into Choice.

    Thanks!

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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