When Hotel Loyalty Programs Are a Waste of Time

Booking last-minute hotels on a quick cross-country road trip taught us the value of using CASH to book last-minute budget hotels.  We never paid more than $60 a night for hotels that were basic but adequate.  This experience makes me question the value of hotel points that I have been saving.

Loveland Pass Colorado
Loveland Pass Colorado–the highest elevation on our road trip!

A Cross Country Whirlwind Road Trip

The trip:  Help family members move cross-country.  Drive their car filled with house plants from Utah to New Jersey.  Must be gone no longer than a week.  Take the fastest route where the plants wouldn’t get frostbitten on the way.  We drove most of the way on I-70–driving 10 hour days listening to audio books and Great Courses on CDs.


Atlanta to Salt Lake City–17.5 SkyMiles (on Delta) each (donated by family members, thanks!)

Philadelphia to Atlanta–7500 Avios (on American Airlines) each


We did not know where we would be stopping each night so we booked hotels from the road on our smart phones.

Our Hotel Loyalty Program Points Bank

We have decent point balances in our IHG and Hyatt accounts and were perfectly willing to use those if we needed to.  I like to save my Hyatt points for nicer hotels where we have time to take advantage of the amenities, but I don’t mind spending IHG points on Holiday Inn Express hotels, which are everywhere.  Most  Holiday Inns on our route were charging 20K points per night for hotels that would cost $80-$100 per night.  I wanted to save our points if we could get decent hotels for about half of that.

Hotels We Booked for Cash

We were successful finding decent hotels all along our route at low prices.  We were on the road for four nights and the first three nights we paid from $52-$58 per night tax and breakfast included.  Those three nights were booked via Booking.com.  The last night we booked an Econolodge for $46 directly on the Choice Hotels website.  The rate on Booking.com was $50, but the hotel website was quoting a rate of $46 for the same room, and we were able to get a senior rate of $41 ($46 with tax.)  I am going to do an experiment soon comparing Booking.com and hotel websites!

Is It Worth Collecting Hotel Points?

Not if you don’t mind staying in inexpensive hotels.  I have gotten all my hotel points with credit card sign ups and the days of churning card after card for bonuses are gone.  Right now I only sign up for cards if I think I can get AT LEAST $400 of value for each sign up.  A hotel card would have to offer me eight nights of easy to book hotels to meet that criterion. It is just too easy to take your pick from the many inexpensive hotels available when you pay with cash.


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