Hilton Is Testing Confirmed Suite Upgrades

Any luxury hotel cardholder will tell you that part of the appeal of climbing the ranks of a hotel loyalty program is the guaranteed room upgrade. For members of the highest tier, that upgrade includes suites. Marriott and Hyatt are well-known for their confirmed suite upgrade awards to elite loyalty members. This is a huge perk, especially if you will be traveling with your family and need to know in advance if you will be accommodated in a suite.

At last, Hilton will be joining its competitors in awarding its members the same elite benefit. The brand is currently testing a pilot program where select Diamond elite members can confirm a suite upgrade at the time of booking. If the program goes well, Hilton plans to unveil it publicly for all users later in 2019. With the absorption of SPG into Marriott Bonvoy, this new feature could give Hilton a serious edge over competitors, increasing its value and attraction to consumers.

The pilot program works in a similar way that Hyatt’s upgrade benefit works. Hotel members, at the time of booking, can choose to confirm a suite upgrade. The upgrade acts as a certificate that covers stays for a duration of up to seven days. For example, if you book a standard room for seven nights, and use your upgrade certificate during the booking process, your entire stay will be in the suite. Additionally, the certificate is applicable to both cash and award stays, making it an extremely lucrative redemption for users who use points for a stay. Hilton’s pilot users are a lucky bunch. A small group of the brand’s most valued customers was each given a single upgrade certificate to use by the end of March. From the start of the program, January 21st, until after the redemption, Hilton will work with its participants to acquire helpful feedback that will shape the rollout of the larger program.

Jonathan Nouri, Vice President of the Honors Strategy and Program Management is familiar with the importance of upgrades and the value they bring to customers. In a press release, he affirms that Hilton is committed to enhancing loyalty benefits for Gold and Diamond members in the future, conveying that this pilot program is the first step in making those changes a reality. However, before that happens, there are a lot of complexities to work out in terms of the program. Nouri did not have any defining parameters to share, so it is unclear if credit card spending will count towards qualifying, or if the certificate will be awarded based strictly on qualifying nights stayed (it currently takes 60 nights to earn Diamond elite status). While there is no official date on the program’s launch, it seems likely that we will be hearing more about it later on in the year.

If you are not currently a Hilton Honors Aspire cardholder, now could be the perfect time to join. The card, from American Express, gives card members complimentary Diamond status, which is valued at over $2,200 annually when you consider bonus points, airport lounge access, breakfast, and upgrades. As a new member, you will also receive 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. With the imminent suite upgrade certificate, this could be just the boost you need to dive into Diamond elite status.

Overall, Hilton is taking a step in the right direction by aiming to keep up with other competing loyalty programs. The suite certificate will certainly work to keep elite members in the Honors program, as Hilton has figured out, not offering it is a detriment to those high-earning members. To really stand out, however, the luxury chain should strive to offer something competitors don’t have, instead of simply trying to keep up. Today, when all incentives are the same, how do members choose where to place their loyalty? At least, with this new pilot, Hilton is helping its current members make that choice easier.

What do you think about the introduction of confirmed suite upgrades by Hilton?

 

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

I Spent 7,200 Chase Points at a Low-End Orlando Hotel

Sometimes we get to redeem our points and miles for aspirational travel other people can only dream of. Other times, we redeem them for trips that are practical or downright boring.

A recent trip from Miami to Orlando I took ended with the latter situation — as in, me cashing in 7,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to spend five hours at the Ramada by Wyndham Suites Orlando Airport hotel. This wasn’t a planned redemption — it was one I made the day before on a whim. But it was necessary and I’m glad I did it.

Why I Love Having Extra Chase Points Laying Around

The redemption in question came about due to the weird flights I had to book into Florida for our spring break cruise on the MSC Seaside out of Miami. Flights from Indianapolis to Miami were insanely expensive and I couldn’t find any award seats I liked with my favorite airlines — American and Delta. Alas, I opted to book cheap Southwest flights early into Orlando and then a flight home from Orlando the day our ship got into port.

This also required me to get a rental SUV on both sides of our cruise, which cost a little over $200 total. The thing is, I still saved over $1,200 on flights with this strategy because Southwest flights into and out of MCO were better than flights into MIA.

Since our flight home took place the day our cruise ended, I was scared to book a departure that was too early. We had to get off the ship, after all, and I had my parents and my kids with me. We also had a 3+ hour drive up to Orlando and would need to stop for lunch. I initially figured we would just stop at a beach along the way and hang out for a few hours.

But the day before we got off the ship, I realized they wanted us to get off at 8:15 a.m. because we have Black status and that’s when our group was set to disembark. That means we could take the time to pick up our rental car, drive the three hours to Orlando, stop for lunch, and still get there at around 2:00 p.m. – EIGHT HOURS before our 10:00 p.m. flight would depart.

That wasn’t going to work, so I got on my smartphone and started figuring out a plan. This ultimately led me to book a night at less than desirable Ramada hotel for 7,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I could have booked something nicer, but we weren’t staying overnight. We just needed a place to hang and watch TV for a while, and this hotel was fine for that — barely, but it worked.

The Bottom Line

This is why I always strive to have extra points and miles laying around. You never know when poor planning or a change in plans can shake up your travel and leave you in a position where you need a hotel, rental car, or flight at the last minute. There’s nothing sexy about booking a cheap Orlando hotel for five hours, but it saved me $100 or more and gave us an easy way to kill some time. You can’t beat that.

Have you ever used points to spend a few hours in a hotel? When?

 

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

Travel Prices in Ecuador – Latest Update

international living in Ecuador

  Every few years I do an updated post on travel prices in Ecuador, plus when there’s a new edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations coming out I dive in deep on that research.  In reality though, prices don’t really change much on the mainland. One of the main reasons is that Ecuador converted to […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

25 Things Travelers Couldn’t Do 25 Years Ago

things travelers couldn't do 25 years ago

Around 25 years ago, I was probably kicking back on some tropical island, staying in a $4 bungalow, wondering whether I should have rice or noodles for my next meal. I was traveling through Southeast Asia, Nepal, India, Greece, Turkey, Holland, and England on my first trip around the world. My then-girlfriend was with me […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

An Easy Way to Purify Water: Grayl

travel water filter by Grayl

The people who have set me up with a GRAYL water purifier twice probably don’t want me to start off this post with an ugly photo of garbage, so I’ll put that further down. When you look at that pile of plastic that will stick around for hundreds of years though, ask yourself a hard […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations