Points, Credits and…Indecision

Grand Hyatt Kauai Suite Bedroom

It’s great to have choices. When we travel, we have a choice of airlines (usually) and hotels or vacation rentals. Sometimes there can be too many choices.

We’re headed to Quebec over Labor Day weekend. We’re meeting our older daughter and her boyfriend there. They live in Connecticut so they plan to drive up as it takes about five hours, which is much shorter than the connecting flights it would take to get there from where they live.

I have our flights to and from Montreal booked on Air Canada, and we have three nights accommodation to figure out. We’re spending two nights in Montreal and one in Quebec City. There are many options for booking these hotel nights. There’s obviously cash options for independent hotels or AirBnbs. There are also cash or points options for the major chains like Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott. Another option is to use portals like American Express, Chase or Capital One where I have travel credits to use.

For Quebec City, I looked at the points options (mostly with Marriott) and didn’t see anything in a good location that looked like a good deal. In the end, thanks to a friend’s recommendation and pictures, I booked two rooms at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, one of the most famous hotels in North America. I used two American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) credits (a perk of the Amex Platinum card) to offset some of the room cost. So, the room is US$542, but if we factor in the $200 FHR credit and the $100 property credit and a reasonable value for breakfast (call it $21 per person although I’m sure the prices at the hotel are much higher), the price comes down to around $200 for the night, a steal at a luxury landmark hotel.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

For Montreal, I also looked at FHR (as I have two more Amex Platinum credits to use this year). I really couldn’t find anything at a great value. Even the lowest priced FHR or Hotel Collection property would end up with around $600 out of pocket for each room. I’ll keep checking these rates as we get closer to the trip. I am trying to limit the cash outlay and use points (or credits) as much as possible for these two nights.

My next option to check was Hyatt, but there is only a Hyatt Place, which looks overpriced, and a Hyatt Centric, also pricy, which has just opened and is not allowing points bookings for Labor Day weekend. Hilton has a lot more properties in Montreal and the nicest looking one is the Vogue Hotel, a Hilton Curio Collection property. I decided to book it as a placeholder for 60,000 points per night per room while the standard award was available. That’s a lot of Hilton points in total – 240,000 is equivalent to about $1400 at my valuation of Hilton points, which was roughly equivalent to the cash price of these rooms. As I read more about the hotel, it became apparent that a big renovation will not be completed before our stay. That will lead to potential construction noise plus the restaurant will not be open. Thus, breakfast will be a to-go continental cold breakfast. I’m not that bothered about the breakfast per se, although as a Hilton Diamond member, we would usually get a full hot breakfast outside the US. It’s more about the hotel generally not being ready and the problems that come with that.

I looked at Marriott properties and found a decent looking deal on the Marriott Chateau Champlain, an older hotel that had recently renovated rooms. It was 33,000 Marriott points per night vs. about US$275, so a pretty good deal based on my valuation of Marriott points. I went ahead and booked two rooms, but I was unable to apply my suite night awards. When I looked into it further, the suites at this hotel are still being renovated. Again, the suite itself isn’t the issue (as we won’t know if the upgrade clears until a few days before the trip), but I don’t enjoy the general atmosphere of a hotel under construction while we’re staying there. The M Club at the hotel also looked to have a pretty weak food selection since it reopened after the Covid lockdowns.

I researched the Marriott properties a bit more and the nearby Sheraton stood out for its suites, lounge food and drink and location. When I priced it out, the rooms were 79,000 points for 2 nights (about 20% more than the Marriott) or about US$350 per night on a cash rate. I did see that there was a points and cash offer of 39,500 plus CA$242 for two nights (about US$188 at current exchange rates). Thus, I can basically “buy” 40,000 points (about a $300 value) for US$188 for each room. This was the better deal. Plus, as I booked both rooms separately, I was actually able to apply for suite night awards for both rooms. Let’s see if that actually clears, but either way, I think we have a winner…for now. I will continue to check options every week or so until we go on the trip.

Having choices when we travel is great. Sometimes you can go down a rabbit hole of checking too many options. When a hotel is refundable (up to 24 or 48 hours before check-in), it’s OK to grab a deal that looks good and then re-evaluate when you find something else, but don’t spend too long figuring it out or you will drive yourself crazy.

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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