Hunting for the best redemption: Hyatt, UR, or Citi Prestige?

Some people get into miles & points to travel more, others to travel more cheaply, and still others to travel more luxuriously. Some are drawn into this obsession hobby for the thrill of the hunt — whether a way to stack as many points as possible on the earning side or redeeming for maximum value. Of course, it gets tricky in determining which option returns maximum value, and I’ve run into a bit of a dilemma in that regard. I thought I’d lay this one out and ask readers what you would do.

Goal: A cheap vacation

Last year, I booked flights on Delta in business class from New York to California via Virgin Atlantic thanks to Virgin’s online search tool showing more Delta availability than we may have otherwise expected (See: Holy availability! Transcon flat beds in Delta business for 18K points; Hawaii cheap, too). As those flights approach, we’ve been thinking about how to turn the trip into a vacation we can enjoy while minimizing out-of-pocket costs.

An option that quickly came to mind was to put our Southwest Companion Pass to use and head from California down to San Jose del Cabo to spend a few days at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos in Mexico. This Hyatt all-inclusive resort seemed like it might be a good idea since we could really just kick back and relax without focusing on a budget for meals, gas, etc – points could cover just about our whole trip. We’ve never been to an all-inclusive resort, but this one seemed like a good fit for the situation.

I initially just assumed I would book this stay on points because I know the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos runs just 20K Hyatt points per night. That seems like a pretty good deal considering the fact that it covers the room, food, drinks, entertainment, etc. While I don’t expect Michelin-star food at an all-inclusive, the restaurant variety sounds pretty good (Japanese, French, Italian, Mexican, Spanish tapas, coffee house, snack shack, etc). I was pretty sold on the idea. We decided we would consider a four-night stay.

Finding award availability

I knew from previous searches that Hyatt.com does not show award availability for the all-inclusive properties but rather instructs you to call. Figuring I’d save myself the time on hold, I reached out to the Hyatt Concierge on Twitter and asked about award availability for the dates I was considering.

Unfortunately, the only dates available near my dates were starting on the last day of my intended trip. Bummer! I inquired about the room type I’d need to find to book an award (Master Double / Master King) and figured I’d just set up a search link and come back to it periodically.

Finding availability…that opened up other options

A few hours later, I did a search and came up with the Pool View Master King, which is not the same thing as a “Master King” — this is not the “standard” room at this property.

However, the price instantly thickened the plot.

As you can see, the price for my dates came to $265 per night for an advance purchase rate (or $279 for a “Member rate”). The trip would be coming up soon enough that I’m using the advance purchase rate for the rest of this post, though the difference in price is small enough that the flexible rate would produce similar results.

The price threw a wrench in my original plan for two reasons: first, if the room price is only $265, that wouldn’t be a terribly good value for 20K Hyatt points per night even if awards were available (about 1.325 cents each). Second, the price brought to mind several other options for using points.

Option 1) Use Hyatt points (Total cost = 80K)

Again, this one isn’t actually possible for my dates at this point, but if I were to find availability, it would cost 80K points for four nights. This one is pretty straight forward. I could transfer 80K Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book the room for four nights. As I have a couple of Globalist friends, I could even ask a Globalist to consider booking it for me, though the Globalist benefits at this hotel seem pretty limited. As best I could tell, a Globalist Guest of Honor booking would get me top-shelf liquor and the ability to make reservations at the restaurants. I rarely drink alcohol, and when I do it is typically just wine — fancy liquor isn’t a big draw for me, so I imagine I would just book this one on my own.

Option 2) Chase Travel Portal (Total cost = ~69.3K)

Of course, when I mentally ran the numbers on $265, I realized that booking through the Chase travel portal with a Chase Sapphire Reserve would cost fewer points if the same rate were available. In fact, Chase’s rate is a bit better yet at $260 per night. With the CSR, that comes out to just 17,376 Ultimate Rewards points per night — a savings of 2,667 points per night over first transferring to Hyatt.

Unfortunately, if I book through Chase, it will count as a third party booking — meaning I won’t earn any Hyatt points or get stay credit. Further, I would not get any elite benefits, though my Explorist status doesn’t entitle me to much anyway. Realistically, I’d probably be giving up what little shot I had at scoring a room upgrade by not booking direct. That said, I could self-upgrade. For still fewer points than Hyatt would charge, I could book a “suite” for….the same price as the Master Double.

Either way, my total cost for 4 nights would be 69,504 Ultimate Rewards points. That’s a savings of almost 10,500 Hyatt points — or more realistically Ultimate Rewards points since it means I would need to transfer fewer to Hyatt.

For those paying close attention, you’ll notice that I’m using the “Master Double” as the first example above, which is the room that normally has to be available for an award stay. Curiously, that room type is available through many sites other than Hyatt. If I decide to stay and want to book it as an award, I’d probably reach out to the manager to inquire about availability of that room.

Option 3) Citi Prestige 4th night free (Total cost = 79,500 points spent and earn points)

The other option that jumped out at me was booking through the Prestige Concierge. While the Citi Prestige 4th night free is based on the average room rate over the first four days exclusive of taxes (See: Complete Guide to the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free), Hyatt does not break out the taxes separately on this hotel. I’ve called on this property in the past and they have quoted me a 4th night free based on the average rate as shown on Hyatt’s site.

Based on that, I would expect four nights at $265 to initially cost $1,060. After the 4th night free discount, that comes down to $795 total for four nights.

My stated goal from the beginning was to create a vacation with as little out of pocket cost as possible, so for the sake of comparison, let’s say that I would pay for this by cashing out Ultimate Rewards points at $0.01 each. My total cost would be 79,500 points.

I think most readers would balk at the idea of cashing in Ultimate Rewards points at $0.01 each, though note that it would cost fewer points than if I transferred directly to Hyatt in this instance (though more than booking through the Chase portal).

However, by booking over the phone / via email with the Prestige concierge (i.e. not online via the ThankYou.com portal), I should be able to earn Hyatt points for my stay. Since I would actually be paying $1,060 for the stay (and later receiving a rebate from Citi), I would expect to earn 6 Hyatt points per dollar on that figure (5 base points + 20% bonus for being an Explorist) for a total of 6,360 Hyatt points. Further, I’d earn 3 ThankYou points per dollar by paying with the Prestige card. I should also earn elite night credits this way (though that doesn’t matter to me in this situation as I do not intend to go for Hyatt status this year). Even at a bad value of $0.01 per Ultimate Rewards point, that doesn’t really seem like a bad value overall with regards to the goal.

(Note that I could alternatively cash in Citi ThankYou points for a statement credit to cover this charge – I’m using Ultimate Rewards to keep a consistent point of comparison with the other two options above).

Which would you do?

As I considered those options, I wondered what readers would say. I recognize that none of those options get maximum value out of Ultimate Rewards points and I don’t usually consider redeeming for what seems like such “poor value” in terms of buying power. On the other hand, the joy of free is undeniable – and the cost of acquiring the points was low enough to make these options plausible. Assuming you were flush with points that cost you less than 1 cent each to acquire (and you shared my goal of as little out-of-pocket cost as possible), which way would you book and why? I know what I think I’m going to do if we take the trip, but I’m curious about your input. I’ll then update if and when we make arrangements to do it.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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MarkG
Guest
MarkG

It is an all inclusive property. So…everybody gets the same treatment pretty much. If you are not going for Globalist (need the stay credit)) go with Chase portal…less points

Jason
Guest
Jason

As you said, the “joy of free” is pretty unbeatable, especially for a vacation where the stated goal is to minimize cash spend. Your best find was the suite available on the Chase portal for the same price as a “standard” award room. Go with the Chase portal suite!

OR97
Guest
OR97

@Nick, Agree w Jason. Also gets you the upgrade you were pursuing essentially.

You lost me when discussing using UR points through Citi Prestige. Did you mean using UR points at cash value?

Blue
Guest
Blue

Depends on how many UR you have and the velocity and cost for you of replacing them. Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you currently generate one 1 million UR every year for $2,500 (.0025 cpp)–not unreasonable at all for MS. The marginal cost of replacing 69,504 points is $174. If you are stuck replacing them at .01 cpp, on the other hand, the marginal replacement cost is $695. If your generation is also restricted the cost benefit of using UR gets even worse.

While cpp measures are useful–and I use your Reasonable Values on my tracking sheet for overall point portfolio value–in general I think the decision to use cash or points (or even what point currency to use) should be made on the margins.

Charlie
Guest
Charlie

Whatever option you decide I think you’re going to really enjoy this property. I stayed here in March of 2017 for 5 nights and it didn’t feel like an all-inclusive at all. The food and restaurants were much better than I expected, and the property was gorgeous. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again, although there was this https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/tourists-take-cover-in-los-cabos-violence/

Mick
Guest
Mick

I think you’re missing something in option 2. Taxes and fees are not included on that screen. After you click the book button, the cost in UR points will increase to cover taxes. And you might need to pay a resort fee directly to the hotel. (I didn’t check if this property has a resort fee, but I’m assuming it does. Could be an additional $160 or so in cash.)

With option 1, the resort fee, if there is one, would be waived. Hyatt does not charge resort fees on award stays.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yup always do Total Cost ..

RS_WI
Guest
RS_WI

Since you’re not chasing status, go through the Chase portal and book the suite if the better room is important to you.

You didn’t explore a Flexperks option. Do you have a Flexperks visa? Book directly with hotel, pay with Visa, mobile redemption at 1.5cpp. Just like Chase portal, except you get the direct-book hotel perks, if any. (Note, bill has to exceed $500).

Ricardo
Guest
Ricardo

Absolute no brainer…pay for the room with Prestige, use points later for a much better redemption. I am sure you know this already.

Joe
Guest
Joe

If I had to pick one of the options listed I would go with Hyatt points. However, I would pay cash with fourth night free and save the points for a redemption closer to 2 cents each.

Nate Nate
Guest
Nate Nate

Great analysis and I want to read it again later when I have the capacity to follow the math. But I do think that when we use a valuation perspective, we ignore that points can always be devalued, even flexible points like UR and Amex MR points. I think Citi devalued their TY points in the past 2 years for AA redemptions. So there is a benefit to using points now while the value is certain.

Dee
Guest
Dee

I can tell you what I did. Book with the URs. I’m taking my family of 9 to New Orleans for Christmas- Hubby, our 5 adult kids, 2 have SOs, and me. We decided on the Hyatt Regency and needed 4 Club rooms for 4 nights. That’s 4(21,000 x 4) = 336,000 points. I set a Kayak alert for when rooms got to $125. They went even lower. I booked a couple of months ago, so i don’t remember exactly what I paid, but I used about 120,000 URs for the whole thing. It helps that I started planning a year in advance. The price dropped in February.

I care about stretching my budget. My kids are in their late 20s and early 30s, live on both coasts and in between. We’ve decided as a family to travel together every other Christmas. We love hotel club\lounges for hanging out, breakfast and happy hour. Plus, it stretches the food\booze budget.

I don’t care that my Hyatt nights won’t count or I won’t get upgraded. 200,000 Point savings was worth it.

Boonie
Guest
Boonie

The cash price is very good considering this is an AI!

tom
Guest
tom

If you did the recent IB promo, perhaps you could book this using avios?

Miles Ahead
Guest
Miles Ahead

Since you said YOUR GOAL was free, it’s an absolute no brainier to spend UR with two assumptions I’ll make about your situation.
1) you have a good stash of UR
2) Since you MS you can easily replace 69k UR much more cheaply than any other options.
Separately, o think many of us get hung up on the cost that the hotel or flight) charges rather than the consider the actual experience. Would we feel better about using 69k, if the hotel price were $400 rather than $260 per night.?? The experience will not be different for u or your family. Is the use of 69k to spend 4 nights at a great property all inclusive resort at a nice location a good value and get the joy of free with it too you (regardless of what the hotel charges)? Then it’s an easy decision.

Usernamechuck
Guest
Usernamechuck

Nick don’t you have a child over 2? Would be extra 10k per night, right?

Greg The Frequent Miler
Admin

A great option if Citi online sees the same prices as Chase: Sign up for the Citi Premier card if you don’t already have it (first year is free and you might qualify for the 60K signup bonus depending upon your Citi card history https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/TYpremier/#Goto). Pool your Prestige and Premier cards to get both 4th night free and Premier card’s 1.25 cents per point value:

Price for suite: $1,042.56
Price after 4th night free: $781.92
Expected Point Price with Premier card: 62,553

Elite benefits won’t matter at this hotel, but note that I’ve been able to attach my Hyatt number to 3rd party bookings and sometimes receive elite benefits anyway (but no points earned and no elite night credits)

RMKE
Guest
RMKE

+1 to this. This is my plan for a Disney hotel since elite status is irrelevant and it’s impossible to get big deals on them. TYP are the best hotel points when pooled between the Prestige and Premier.

DW
Guest
DW

How does one get the 1.25 cpp? Do you have to call in to book or will it automatically adjust booking through the website? I haven’t pooled my points yet

I just got my 50k sign up bonus for the Premier. I’m going to SM to see if they will match the 60k.

Al jo
Guest
Al jo

Not 100% certain but at least when I’ve paid cash thru third party on multiple occasions now Hyatt let me still register my # at check in and use my Hyatt credit card to pay. ( on a side note the Hyatt credit card w explorist earns 9 points per dollar. 5x via paid stays then 20% extra = 6 points + 3 points per dollar on credit card points.)

That being said I was there just a few weeks ago . Got auto upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite (explorist) which was amazing . Didn’t even ask to upgrade. Very kid friendly resort , and very nice property .

Best restaurant meal is the hibachi Teppanyaki grill. Have to Book early (wait in line around 5:20, to make Rez at 5:30 in person)

Have a great time!!!

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

Everyone doesn’t get the same treatment as someone indicated. Get a club room with the 4th night free. The club has some rather expensive tequilas ($70 / bottle), and it’s indoors.
Nice steaks at the French restaurant and good seafood. Among all-inclusives I like the pace here the best.
But, the beach isn’t swimmable

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

a
Random event shootout at the hotel after a police chase, but murders are up over 1000% in Cabo versus 2 years ago. I’m trying to reduce occupancy so I can get a suite upgrade.

Note: Their “suite” is a regular room.

Anastasia
Guest
Anastasia

Perhaps I missed something, but how exactly would you book with Citi for the 4th night free and then redeem Chase UR points?

Dan
Guest
Dan

Your UR example doesn’t include hotel taxes. The UR points will be higher if you click through to see the final amount of UR points due.

You will probably only save 3k Hyatt points, after hotel taxes, by booking via UR.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Mexico is dangerous. I’ll never go. If you are arriving in luxury in California why would you want to get on a Southwest flight and downgrade your trip? Napa has a great Andaz and the food scene in the Napa Valley is beyond spectacular. You don’t like wine?

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

New to citi, TYP and used some points today to book a car for vegas. $25 cheaper rate over Costco travel which is my usual low price leader, + the 1.25 PP seemed a good use, but it mentioned loyalty credit might not be applicable, because their system is a 3rd party booking engine…and correct me if i’m confused, but I think Hyatt credits award stays anyway. I have stayed at a few Hyatt ziva and zilara and never paid cash. They will upgrade you even with mid range status, we have had swim up rooms as an option as well as oceanfront and huge suites, I guess it depends mainly on occupancy. Our favorite is the adult only Zilara in MBJ, but the Ziva in PVR is excellent as well and was recently updated….I have seen it go for around $300 a night and was tempted to use some UR as direct payment but usually have certs or hyatt points and consider UR the most versatile points that we never use….the question was how to do it with little out of pocket, so citi is not a good option, you get a better rate with UR reserve, if it is cheaper than a straight transfer to hyatt, then use them, if not still use them to top your hyatt account…I found the phone agents to be great in dealing with finding availability. If you can get availability in PVR and match up good flights it will only cost about $60-$70 for a cab transfer…the hotel is a short, cheap ride to the Malecon if you get tired of the resort, but I doubt you will….really can’t believe with all the points you’ve dealt with that you have never tried an AI property….be warned, if you go to a hyatt AI you will get hooked.

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[…] a post looking for some reader feedback on the best of a few options to book an award stay (See: Hunting for the best redemption: Hyatt, UR, or Citi Prestige?). I got some great feedback from readers — and specifically, there were two awesome […]

Terry
Guest
Terry

When you say you could pay cash and redeem Thank you points you lost me. My experience with Thank you pts is you can’t use it on charged travel purchases.

trackback

[…] I had been looking for a stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos (which I had written about previously here and here). In those previous posts, I had made one key mistake: I had run my searches for a room […]