A case where I pay for a luxury hotel instead of using points…

I’m paying $315 per night to stay in a hotel instead of using points, and don’t feel all that bad about it (while I’d usually never pay that much). Let me explain.

One of the questions I often get asked by readers is when to use hotel points vs. paying for a stay. This is probably something I could write a 200 page book on, since there are so many things that factor into it.

Instead of getting into a bunch of theoretical stuff, let me explain the painful thought process my little brain went through when trying to choose a hotel in Shanghai for my four night stay in a couple of weeks.

The first challenge with the new year is that I have a minimum of two top tier hotel elite status levels to requalify for — Starwood Platinum and Hyatt Diamond. That translates to roughly 50 stays or 100 nights across both chains, which is a lot for a leisure traveler. Then again, I don’t really mind mattress running at my local hotels, especially if there’s a good promotion running at the time. So in that sense I’m not too worried about requalifying.

Still, the main challenge I face is whether to stay in the same hotel for four nights (which earns me one stay credit and four nights), or switch hotels every night (which earns me four stay credits and four nights). Staying in one hotel is obviously much more convenient, though the longer my stays, the more mattress running I’ll have to do at my local hotels when I get back home.

The next question is whether to pay for a hotel or use points. Fortunately this is starting to become less of a concern, as Starwood has started to count award stays towards elite status, though Hyatt has yet to follow.

I’ve always wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Shanghai, which is one of the tallest hotels in the world, occupying the 79th to 93rd floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center. The hotel is a bit on the pricey side, so initially I was going to use points for the stay, at the rate of 18,000 Gold Passport points per night for a standard room. I was planning on maybe staying there for one night, and then mattress running between that, the Grand Hyatt, and some of the Starwood properties.

But then I said to myself “hmm, why don’t I pay for the hotel and instead use one of my confirmed Diamond suite upgrades?” Diamond suite upgrades can only be used on revenue stays, so it’s always a bit of a toughie for me. On one hand I want to use points for my hotel stays that would be expensive, but at the same time I’d really love to pay for them and use suite upgrades so I can get a huge room. Still, for hotels like the Park Hyatt Paris, Zurich, etc., we’re talking $800+ per night, at a minimum.

Now, at the Park Hyatt Shanghai, the suites are roughly 1,400 square feet, which is massive. The revenue rate for a Park King room was $270 plus the 15% service charge (roughly $315 total). Now, given that the Park Suite King sells for about $1,500 per night, I actually felt like I’d get pretty good value from using a suite upgrade.

The next challenge quickly became how many nights to spend at the Park Hyatt. On one hand I should just spend one or two nights there so I can maximize the number of stay credits I earn, but then again, if I’m already using a confirmed suite upgrade, why not maximize the value of it?

In the end I just booked all four nights at the Park Hyatt and am confirmed in a suite for all of them. Not only will I have a 1,400 square foot suite for my stay, but free daily breakfast and internet thanks to my Diamond status. Beyond that I’ll earn 6.5 Gold Passport points per dollar spent, which I value at about 1.5 cents each, which basically equates to a 10% rebate. That means my total cost per night is roughly $280. The alternative would have been to use 27,000 points per night for a suite, getting me just over a cent per point in value.

So as you can see there’s no science to deciding when to use points or pay for a stay, at least not for me. On one hand I feel like an idiot for paying $300+/night when I could be maximizing stay credits instead, but then again, isn’t part of the fun of elite status actually enjoying the perks instead of just running around to maintain them?

Am I crazy for paying that much for a stay? Should I have used points instead? Gone mattress running at four different hotels?

Filed Under: Hotels, Hyatt
  1. No doubt it’s going to be an extremely nice room, but are you planning to spend much time in your room if you’re only in Shanghai for 4 days?

  2. I think you are nuts. There is a corp. code that can get you the same suite for under $100 but you cant do that because you are famous. I feel for you man. 🙂

  3. Without commenting on whether you made the right decision or not, I simply want to say that

    “isn’t part of the fun of elite status actually enjoying the perks instead of just running around to maintain them?”

    is the smartest thing you’ve ever said

  4. I can understand your reasoning. However, I’m pretty happy without the extra space of a suite. The Park Hyatt is going to be a nice hotel either way, so if anything I would probably prefer that Hyatt found other ways to reward its top-tier elites besides offering confirmed suite upgrades.

  5. I know when I find myself spending way too much time debating whether to use points or $ for a stay, I almost always know I that paying $ rather than points is the way to go. It doesn’t happen often but sometimes I do pay $ for a room. We all know what we’re doing so it’s a given that we’re debating a low $ rate against burning some of the tons of points we have. I only consider $ stays when the rate is v low and the side perks – suite upgrade, Plat benefits, whatever – will kick in only with the $ stay. Maybe it’s the idea of actually paying for something that nags me. Today I decided to book an Amex Plat Four Seasons stay in Asia rather than use Hilton points for a Conrad stay, even with the 30% point rebate taken into account. In my case the Amex Plat FS rate with benefits brings the room cost down to Motel 6 rates. Sometimes it makes sense to get off your wallet.

  6. Good thinking. It will be a very very nice stay, the high end hotels in China are better equipped than their comparables in US.

  7. Didn’t realise that I needed a maths degree to use my points! Blimey! My head is spinning! LOL

  8. Are you crazy? Only if you are second guessing your decision. It wouldn’t be the right choice for me (I can’t imagine needing more square footage on vacation than I need in my apartment *wink*) BUT if this is what you want, then I surely wouldn’t call you crazy. Besides, everyone splurges on something on vacation…whether it’s a room, a great meal, or a private tour. Hope you enjoy!

  9. Good choice and it’s a Park Hyatt. I recently did something similar in HK, getting exec lounge and a nice suite at a similar price you are paying in an expensive hotel market. Albeit, not anything close to a PH, so your deal is even better.

    Without the suite upgrade, or even an upgrade to a crappy suite, I would rotate, as the LM has a good reputation there with respect to its exec lounge.

  10. I’d only do it if I had partner to make some rounds with… 1400 sq. ft…. many possibilities indeed.

  11. Corporate code is the way to go. I just finished a stay at Hyatt in Hawaii at a corp rate and was upgraded with my Diamond certificate.

  12. I stayed at this hotel last year and the regular King room was fantastic and that was for two of us! I would just use the points and use the $$$ to pay for the fun part! But that is just me 🙂

  13. I would go for the different hotels. Mind that this time of the year might be cloudy and the day you stay there may not give you the view you expect.

    That happened to me last november. I decided to do 1 day at Park Hyatt Shanghai and 2 days at Westin Shanghai. The day at the PH was cloudy so I didn’t see a thing; the day after I went with full clear skies to the observation deck.

    Westing Shanghai is awesome an within the Bund which is the best area for singles!

    So it will be a “hit or miss” on the view, but a lot more fun going around the hotels!


  14. Lucky, Understand your thought process but would have opted for 1N PH, then 1N GH (both next to each other and both spectacular in their own rights). Then move over to the Puxi side of Shanghai and stay with the LM for 1N and then at the Westin Bund Center for the last one. The latter should be a sunday so you can feast at the Funday Sunday (make reservation in advance with good views) – this is even more fun with company. The Starwood properties have a very high suite upgrade probability and the PH and the GH are both solid on Diamond treatment as well (GH a bit less since it is so frequented by diamond-level executives). If you must have suites you can try to secure them separately.

    Additionally you could have used one of these vacation vouchers from Hyatt to get a decent deal (but have never used nor checked those).

    Anyhow: enjoy your trip to the middle kingdom. I loved every second of my 3 years there…

  15. If I’m travelling alone, I don’t really see much value out of a suite upgrade. Depends what the standard rooms are like though.

  16. I spent 2 nights at a Park Hyatt Shanghai suite and absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED it! This one compares to Park Hyatt Tokyo for service too… I LOVE it!!!

  17. Good call on the stay.

    The discount code mentioned earlier would be nice to know…doesn’t seem forthcoming though.

  18. WorldWingedExplorer is giving dumb advice or just isn’t on top of things. PH Shanghai has been already for 1,5 years cracking down hard on Louis Vuitton corporate code abuse.

    “this is the mail PH Shanghai send to employees of Louis Vuitton;

    Greetings from Park Hyatt Shanghai.

    We are pleased to note you have a future reservation on xxxxxx, 2010 made through hyatt.com. I do kindly ask that you bring your valid working ID in order for us to be able to confirm the corporate rate at time of check-in which will be cross referenced with the company. Unfortunately of late we have been experiencing misuse of some of our corporate rates, with your company a target and we have had to implement tighter controls in this regard.”

  19. FYI, just checked this code and while it’s available and gives 25% cheaper rate than Advance Purchase in Grand Hyatt Shanghai, it is NOT available anymore for PH bookings.

  20. When we were in BKK several years ago, I could have booked The Peninsula hotel for $145 per night. Airport transfer and breakfast was included. This would have cost $435 for 3 nights. My wife would have had a hissy fit if we wasted that kind of dough.
    Instead, I cashed in my *wood points and got a beautiful suite at the Royal Orchard (as a Plat) that included full buffet breakfast. In the end, it was a win-win.

  21. Actually it is not the LV code at all. I used one of my certs to upgrade and it worked no problem.

  22. Either way, pay or points, a diamond member at the park Hyatt, one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, will have a very enjoyable experience. The breakfast is astounding with the view. I’d pay and use the suite upgrade for a once in a lifetime moment and make sure you get the bund view.

  23. Paying for the room and using the suite upgrade was a good call. I love the luxury on trips like this. When I’m on vacation, I minimize switching hotels just to earn another stay credit because it takes precious hours away from the time I could be enjoying the area. On business trips however, I move hotels every night because I’m traveling much lighter and have a routine at several hotels I frequent in the LA area. That strategy has earned me Platinum at Starwood and Diamond at Hyatt and Hilton. This year I’m adding Priority to the mix to see if I can earn status there too.

  24. Ditto on:
    – This was by far the best hotel I have ever stayed at… (but I haven’t been around as much as you!)
    – the King is MORE than enough. The bathroom is killer! You will never leave the shower…
    – Hotel hopping with the Grand Hyatt across the street is a breeze and some have mentioned a couple +’s with that property over the PH even. I read how someone said they will even transfer your bags for you!

  25. …beware trying to hop to The Bund area. Getting under/across the river is not so easy with the Metro being a good walk away.

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