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Booking the (T&L) Top 500 Hotels on Points

Maybe I should get a life, but I went to every website of the top 500 hotels according to Travel and Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels of 2015 list. I’ve done this every year, but this is the first time I’ve been so thorough.

In this post I’m going to list all points options for every one of 160+ points hotels of the top 500. And I’ll go ahead and list all the hotels on the list for each rewards program.

If you have points or free nights with a hotel chain, which chain has the most of the Top 500 Hotels to redeem with:

Marriott Choice SPG Hyatt Fairmont IHG Hilton
50 42 25 14 12 10 8

 

Choice Points = 42 Top Hotels

Shocked as I am?

I should start by clarifying that there are no Choice Hotels that are T&L Top 500 Hotels. None. Instead, Choice Rewards has a partnership with the Preferred Hotel Group which allows you to redeem points for their luxury hotels.

Still, isn’t it amazing that one of the most neglected hotel rewards programs by aspirational travelers has some of the best redemptions for nice hotels?

And I should also explain that the Preferred Hotel Group doesn’t actually own hotels but it is made up of independent hotels.

Award prices range from 30,000 points to 60,000 points a night. Although, do note that a couple of the properties I didn’t see the points price for. They show up on the preferred hotel group booking, but didn’t show up when I was searching for Choice points. Like Dromoland Castle, what’s the deal?

The best way I know for earning points I explained on this post about Choice Hotel redemptions, is via Amtrak. If you have the Amtrak card (or Amtrak status) you can transfer 25,000 Amtrak points into 75,000 Choice points per calendar year. Since Chase transfers to Amtrak 1:1, it’s basically transferring Chase to Choice 1:3 if you have the Amtrak card.

Warning: Please check out award availability and if the Preferred Hotel is even participating here.

The hotels on the list:

  • Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa, Sedona
  • Montage Beverly Hills
  • Carneros Inn, Napa
  • Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
  • Montage Laguna Beach
  • Grand Del Mar, San Diego
  • Cavallo Point—The Lodge at the Golden Gate
  • The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs
  • The Sebastian Vail
  • Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater
  • Seagate Hotel & Spa, Delray Beach
  • Marco Beach Ocean Resort, Naples
  • Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast
  • Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort, Kauai
  • The Brown Hotel, Louisville
  • Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans
  • Inn by the Sea, Porland
  • Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf, Boston
  • XV Beacon, Boston
  • Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, Chatham
  • Townsend Hotel, Birgmingham
  • The Sagamore Resort, Bolton Landing
  • Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort
  • Hermitage Hotel, Nashville
  • Montage Deer Valley, Park City
  • Sundance Mountain Resort
  • Woodstock Inn & Resort
  • Keswick Hall, Charlottesville
  • Tides Inn, Irvington
  • Willows Lodge, Woodinville
  • The Jefferson, Washington, D.C
  • Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee
  • Hotel Terra, Jackson Hole
  • Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria
  • Dromoland Castle, Ireland
  • The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin, Ireland
  • Castello di Casole, a Timbers Resort, Italy
  • Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, Switzerland
  • The Stafford London, UK
  • Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, Bermuda
  • Peter Island Resort & Spa, BVI
  • Cap Maison, St. Lucia

 

Marriott Points = 50 Hotels (17 Marriott + 33 Ritz Carlton)

34 of the top 500 hotels were Ritz Carlton hotels, which can be redeemed with Marriott Rewards points. However, non Ritz Carlton hotels like JW Marriotts, and hotels in the Autograph Collection, are a lot cheaper.

If you count Ritz Carlton as part of Marriott, it makes Marriott the Chain with the most hotels on the Top 500 list.

The Marriott credit card has been known to have a 70,000 point signup bonus, and the Ritz Carlton card has off and on had a 140,000 point bonus (with a near $400 fee). Chase Ultimate Rewards points also transfers to Marriott but I would never make that transfer, personally.

Here are the top hotels:

  • The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
  • JW Marriott Marquis Miami
  • Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club
  • Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront
  • Raphael Hotel, Kansas City
  • Wentworth by the Sea, New Castle NJ
  • Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville
  • Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes
  • JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
  • The Shelbourne Dublin, a Renaissance Hotel
  • Powerscourt Hotel
  • Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel
  • CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort
  • JW Marriott Mexico City
  • JW Marriott Hotel Lima
  • JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square
  • JW Marriott Bangkok
  • Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
  • Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
  • Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
  • Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
  • Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
  • Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
  • Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
  • Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
  • Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
  • Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples
  • Ritz-Carlton, Naples
  • Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta
  • Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation
  • Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
  • Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis
  • Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park
  • Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
  • Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
  • Ritz-Carlton, Dallas
  • Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City
  • Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown
  • Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.
  • Ritz-Carlton, Toronto
  • Ritz-Carlton, Montreal
  • Ritz-Carlton, Vienna
  • Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul
  • Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
  • Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
  • Ritz-Carlton, Santiago
  • Ritz-Carlton, Cancún
  • Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong
  • The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai
  • Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

 

SPG Points = 25 Hotels

SPG is definitely known for having luxurious properties, however their earnings are a bit slow. SPG actually has the slowest earnings of all the best hotel rewards programs. The best way is via the SPG credit card, which is Amex and therefore you can only get the card bonus once. However, a lot of people use the SPG card as their daily spender since SPG points are so rare and so valuable.

Here are the top SPG hotels:

  • The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort
  • St. Regis San Francisco
  • St. Regis Aspen Resort
  • St. Regis Atlanta
  • Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort
  • St. Regis Princeville Resort
  • St. Regis New York
  • St. Regis Houston
  • St. Regis Deer Valley
  • Hotel Goldener Hirsch, a Luxury Collection Hotel
  • Hotel Imperial, a Luxury Collection Hotel
  • Le Bristol, Paris
  • Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel
  • King George Palace
  • Le Méridien Budapest
  • St. Regis Florence
  • Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel
  • Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel
  • Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Resort
  • St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
  • W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island
  • The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa
  • St. Regis Punta Mita Resort
  • Westin Beijing Financial Street
  • The Westin Bund Center Shanghai

 

Hyatt Points = 14 Hotels

Who isn’t in love with Hyatt? Not only do they have such nice properties but there are a number of amazing hotel redemptions, with award nights ranging from 5,000 points to 30,000 points a night.

Even hotels on this list can be had with a category 1-4 cert you get every year you pay the annual fee for the Hyatt Visa (PH Saigon and Siem Reap). But then again, you could also pay 15,000 points.

And not only is there a Hyatt card you can get two free nights with, but you can transfer 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Top Hyatt hotels:

  • Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
  • Park Hyatt Aviara Resort
  • Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
  • Park Hyatt Chicago
  • Le Palais de la Mediterranée
  • Park Hyatt Milan
  • Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
  • Park Hyatt Siem Reap
  • Grand Hyatt Tokyo
  • Grand Hyatt Singapore
  • Park Hyatt Saigon
  • Park Hyatt Sydney

and 1 M-Life Redemption:

  • ARIA, Las Vegas

 

IHG Points = 7 Hotels (plus 3 to Kimpton)

IHG has its 5 star brand, InterContinental Hotels, although many of the ones I’ve seen on the list have been demoted. I remember seeing the IC Budapest being on the list, as well as Paris and Madrid. We’ve been to the IC Budapest and Paris Le Grand and there are no complaints… but I can certainly understand them being demoted.

The IC’s in Atlanta, DC and Sydney seem to be the only hotels in capital cities this year. But the properties on French Polynesia are also doing well for the brand. See our infographic on Overwater Bungalows on Points. I can’t imagine using my points for the properties in Vegas though…

Earning points with IHG is easy. Their credit card gives bonuses between 60,000 and 80,000 points, plus a free night every year. Plus, you can transfer from Chase. But lately I’ve been earning most of my IHG points from promotions like the latest Set Your Sights IHG promo.

Hotels on the list:

  • InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta
  • The Palazzo
  • The Venetian
  • Willard InterContinental
  • InterContinental Sydney
  • InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa
  • InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

Plus 3 Kimpton hotels:

  • EPIC, Miami – A Kimpton Hotel
  • The Grand Hotel, Minneapolis
  • Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City

 

Hilton Points = 8 Hotels

Recently I did a post that shows 15 different credit cards that earn Hilton HHonors points. That includes a lot of ways to earn Hilton points. Everything from transferring from Virgin Atlantic to American Express.

But of course Hilton has their own credit cards, and in fact I explain the differences between the 4 Hilton cards in the same post. But one of them gives two free weekend nights at any hotel.

Hilton hotels on the list:

  • The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Waldorf Astoria Chicago
  • The Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans
  • Waldorf Astoria, Park City
  • Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel
  • Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort
  • Hilton Beijing Wangfujing

 

Fairmont = 12 Hotels

For whatever reason Fairmont is less talked about than other chains but just like Hyatt its credit card gives two free nights anywhere, and they have nearly the same number of hotels in the Top 500 list.

The top Fairmont hotels:

  • Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui
  • Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston
  • The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle
  • Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
  • Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver
  • Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver
  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler
  • The Savoy, UK
  • Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Cambodia
  • Fairmont Mara Safari Club, Kenya
  • Fairmont the Norfolk, Kenya
  • Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, Kenya

Update: Only “Fairmont” hotels are covered by the free nights from the card. Raffles and Swissotels are not included.
 

Accor Points = 3 Hotels

I’ve never even had a single Accor point, but they do have a rewards program. So if you do have Accor points for whatever reason, I thought I’d include their 3 top hotels.

Top Accor hotels:

  • Sofitel Washington D.C. Lafayette Square
  • Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, Cambodia
  • Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Other Interesting Facts

Four Seasons Mandarin Oriental Rosewood Peninsula TAJ Shangri-LA Keminski Trump
44 10 9 8 7 5 4 3

The single brand with the most hotels on the list again this year is the Four Seasons. Unfortunately, I’ve never stayed in a Four Seasons hotel as they have no rewards program or way to earn free nights (that I know of).

Still, I wanted to include the other chains that were commonly among the top hotels for the other hotel junkies out there. Not surprising to see Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, and others on the list.

 

Conclusion

I find it incredibly impressive that one third of the Top 500 hotels in the world can be gotten for free with free nights or points earned from credit cards or promotions. It’s a good time to be a points collector.

But let me leave with two tips for free nights at these luxury hotels:

1) Free night certs are the way to go. The 50,000 points signup bonus with Marriott won’t get you a single free night at the best Ritz Carlton. But you can sign up and get two free nights with the Hyatt visa, the Fairmont card, the Hilton reserve, or the IHG card annual night.

2) Choice is the most under rated program and you should consider the Amtrak card. See more about Best use of Choice points for details. Via this strategy you could get some of the top hotels on this list for a little more than 10,000 Chase points. What a deal.

Either way, there’s no shortage of ways to get free nights at nice hotels.

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24 Comments

  1. wow! This is great in depth analysis! Thank you for this post, much appreciated.

    Best,

    PedroNY

    Reply
    • Thanks Pedro, glad it was appreciated!

      Reply
  2. When was the last time Amtrak had their sign-up bonus at 25k? Very tempted to get it with the 3:1 transfer, but don’t want to miss the boat signing up for 12k current offer

    Reply
  3. Hopefully it never gets old hearing it, Drew, but you continue to have the most useful original content of any travel with points blog I’ve seen. My wife and I are planning a luxury trip to Ireland and I never would have considered Choice were it not for this post. Thanks yet AGAIN for creating so much value here.

    Reply
    • lol, never gets old. Obviously not everyone appreciates this nonsense as much as you. 😀
      Yea mon. Also, check out awardmapper.com or wandr.me/Hotel-Tools/Hotel-Hustle/
      They will give you ideas of all the hotels on points. But my map in the Choice post is the only map (that I know of) to have preferred hotel group hotels listed. But there are good deals with Radisson hotels in Ireland, and a cat 2 SPG hotel, and what not, but it really depends on where you go.

      Reply
  4. Awesome post Drew! Too bad we can’t yet redeem IHG points at Kimpton yet. Also I wish four seasons did have a reward program that we can take advantage of. It looks like I need to look more into Choice Hotel points

    Reply
    • I’m waiting for the day that Chase gets a Four Seasons credit card with two free nights! lol.
      Yea, IHG has included Kimpton on their site when listing their chains… but they have yet to make them redeemable. Soon enough I imagine.

      Reply
  5. Great post. I really like it.

    The takeaway seems to be that we should be looking more closely at the Choice Hotel/Preferred Hotel Group angle if you want to stay at nice hotels with points.

    But I’ve been looking into this for an upcoming trip for a while and I’m finding that many of the Preferred Hotels I’d like to stay at do *not* participate in the program.

    For example the Grand Hotel Tremezzo and the Grand Hotel Zermatterhoff. Both are in the Preferred Hotel Group, but neither participates in the Choice Privileges Rewards program. So you can’t redeem Choice Rewards points for stays at these hotels.

    The Carneros Inn is another example of a hotel that’s on the T&L Top 500, and is indeed in the Preferred Hotel Group, but cannot be booked with Choice Rewards points.

    This really kills the value in the Choice program because you have to:
    -Get an Amtrak card (which takes up a valuable Chase slot)
    -Put some real Amtrak spend on it
    -Transferring valuable URs to Choice
    -Hope the hotel you want to stay at participates in the Choice Privileges Rewards program
    -Hope the hotel has award availability on the dates you want to travel
    -Hope they have rooms in a category that meets your needs (thinking of booking for a family of 4)
    -Hope that Amtrak doesn’t pull the rug out from under you by changing terms

    There’s a chance it might work out. But I’d encourage people to really look closely at this with some trial bookings before getting too far down this path.

    Reply
    • Well, you make great points and it confirms my feelings that not all hotels are bookable with Choice points. They just don’t know up, as we both mentioned.
      But let me counter why I’m gonna get the card.

      – Amtrak card does take a Chase slot, but it surely needs a lower credit limit, my guess is $1k. AND it has no annual fee.
      – You can always do cancelable amtrak tickets 😉
      – I agree, the transfer from Chase UR is VERY valuable. No counter.
      – You can look up if a hotel participates ahead of time. It shouldn’t be a surprise. View the list of participating hotels here: https://preferredhotelgroup.com/private-offers/choiceprivileges2015-participatinghotels
      – You always have to deal with award availability.
      – You always have to deal with programs changing.

      Actually, I think most all of your points are great points. And I think it’s a case of best use. Going to Italy and can stay at a 10k a night hotel in downtown Rome or Venice… totally. Going some place where Club Carlson has great properties for similar prices… pass. And I also am maxed out on Chase cards anyways, so this was a natural step.

      Reply
  6. Great post again! I have to agree with VRHunter on this one. There are a lot of variables going the UR-Amtrak-Choice route for those that aren’t 100% flexible.

    Any other good ways to get choice points or increase the 25k transfer cap on Amtrak? The choice cc spend categories aren’t really interesting and has a low sign on bonus.

    Reply
    • Only way I know of to increase the amount you can transfer is getting Amtrak status… which is very expensive. Yea, not a lot of ways of earning but Choice has decent promotions and cheap properties. I’ve seen as much as 8k for one stay from a promo and some stackable promos. Still not great… idk.

      Reply
  7. Do you know if Choice is flexible with canceling award bookings? Will you get your points back without any fee’s if you cancel?

    Reply
    • Each hotel is different in their cancelation policy, but it’s usually 1-3 days before hand for free cancelation. It should say upon checkout, but points are usually the same as the best flexible.

      Reply
  8. I cannot believe the Hilton Moorea or the Hilton Bora Bora did not make the list! Those 2 places are much nicer than some ofthe others on the list I have stayed at.

    Reply
  9. I can’t believe I’ve only stayed at one of these hotels.. and that one was the Ritz-Carlton Santiago on a paid work trip for my husband… and here I thought we were pretty high rollers. ( I guess that’s relative to the motels and campgrounds of our youth. )

    Reply
  10. Drew, I’ve got an awesome trip to Boston/Ireland planned that I paid for entirely in points. The one request my wife had was to stay in a castle and I had all but resigned to paying cash for this night but then I saw you mention Dromoland castle which is one of the places I was considering!

    Like you mentioned though, it doesn’t show up! Argh! What to do…any ideas why it’s not showing up or what I can do?

    Thx!

    Reply
  11. Excellent post Drew.
    Dromoland Castle does not appear as a Choice Preferred-eligible redemption for 2015. You are able to use Marriott points to redeem for a certificate to use at Dromoland.

    One night accommodations for two persons
    in best room available – Off Peak 75,000
    One night accommodations for two persons
    in best room available – Peak
    100,000

    Ashford castle is also available with marriott @ 70k/85k off/onpeak

    Reply
  12. Brilliant post………Diner’s to Choice looks very enticing………..

    Reply
  13. Was about to pull the trigger, but the Amtrak card has disappeared from Chase website.

    Reply
  14. No, seriously. It took a lot of courage to build up the bravado to apply for the Amtrak card, but now it’s gone. This is an emotional roller coaster. What do I do now? I can’t find a working application link anywhere.

    Reply
  15. Hi Drew,
    I am currently teaching a travel class for our area junior college continuing education program. Your resources are amazing.The research and organization is really wonderful! While some of these details are a little outdated, overall, your site is a valuable resource! (It’s very possible that some of my students will be using your credit card links in the near future, as will I.)

    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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