Are Hotel Savings Card Programs a Good Deal or Not?

Hotel CardsIf you stay at any of the major hotel chains, such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt properties, on a frequent basis, you may have been offered a hotel savings card to save money on future stays.

Collecting hotel rewards points is similar to collecting frequent flier miles and may help to offset the costs of future hotel stays or vacations.

In some cases, the rewards program is linked to a credit card rewards program – either the hotel's reward card or another card – where you can earn bonus points for other discounts and special offers.

But are hotel savings card programs alone really a good deal?Not all savings card programs may pay off in the long run and in many cases, you need to collect many thousands of points before you can even earn a free night's stay.

Here's a quick look at the pros and cons of hotel savings card programs:

Benefits of Hotel Savings Card Programs

1. Partnerships with other brands. Some hotel savings card programs, like the Hilton HHonors rewards program, allow you to earn points for both your hotel and towards airline travel with participating airlines. For instance, you can rack up points for future Hilton stays at no cost, as well as airline miles on carriers such as United, U.S. Airways, Continental and more. This "double-dipping" perk is an attractive benefit, so if you're considering a hotel savings card program, look for one that offer extended benefits on the other travel expenses you typically incur.

2. Reduced rates on weekend stays. Weekend rates at your hotel of choice are typically higher than weekday rates, so you can use earned points in a hotel savings card program toward the cost of a weekend getaway -- even during peak season. This can end up saving you a significant of money when you want to take that last-minute weekend trip.

3. Traveler support services. Some of the premium hotel savings card programs and credit cards that offer hotel rewards offer concierge-type services for members and can help you find some great deals on local attractions and events. In some cases, these representatives are available 24/7, so travel-planning or on-the-road assistance is easier and more convenient when if and when you need it.

Drawbacks of Hotel Savings Card Programs

1. Annual fees or redemption fees. Some rewards you want to tap do require that you fork over cash, along with points, in order to get a free or reduced cost stay. Other hotel savings programs are accessed via credit card reward programs that have annual fees attached to the card. Unless you're a frequent traveler, the amount of points you end up collecting won't offset any costs involved with having the card or being a member of a certain rewards program. Consider how many hotel stays you're planning at a particular chain or resort before you enroll.

2. High point threshold for free stays. Make sure you're aware of how many points you need to collect (25,000 points isn't uncommon) before you can redeem them for a free night's stay or reduced rate on your vacation package. Points requirements vary by hotel chain, but some may offer "bonus points" for booking a stay during a certain season or extra points when you book several months in advance. Read the terms thoroughly, and always inquire about any special points offers that are currently underway.

3. Limitations on redemption. Some hotel rewards programs only allow you to redeem free nights during a certain season, which means you may have a very limited booking window. In some cases, you'll only be able to book a standard room and won't be eligible for a suite upgrade – unless you pay extra.

Overall, hotel savings card programs can offer a number of benefits for frequent travelers, and they're best suited for those who tend to stay at the same hotel chain or property when they travel.

If you do decide to enroll in one of these programs, make sure you review the terms, limitations and conditions of the hotels savings card program thoroughly so that you really are collecting points for something you want, need and can readily use.

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