A couple of months ago, Greg wrote an awesome post about booking luxury Hyatt suites for really reasonable points prices in some cases (See: Finding extreme luxury in Hyatt Premium Suites). Then, last week, Charlie at Running With Miles uncovered what can be another gem: it is possible to book a standard cash rate and then upgrade to a premium suite for 9K points per night on top of the cash rate. That sounded awesome to Greg and I for use at mid-tier to top-tier hotels, particularly when cash rates are quite high. Spoiler alert: It isn’t always as good as it sounds. That’s not to say that you can’t score a great deal on an awesome room; this can certainly be an awesome feature of the World of Hyatt program. It’s just not quite as good as I’d hoped when I read Charlie’s post.
How it works
As Charlie points out, the World of Hyatt offers three options to upgrade cash bookings:
As seen above, one can pay the cash rate plus 3,000 points per night for a club-level upgrade (with lounge access) or the cash rate plus 6,000 points per night for a standard suite or 9,000 points per night for a premium suite.
That’s particularly exciting for some of the higher-category Hyatt hotels.
At the low end of the Hyatt award chart, you can probably do better by booking a premium suite entirely with points. Since a premium suite costs double the standard award rate, you can book Category 1 premium suites for just 10K per night, Category 2 for 16K per night, etc. That can be a considerable value for the points.
In order to find out whether or not a property has availability for upgrades, you’ll either need to call Hyatt over the phone or send a direct message to the Hyatt Concierge on Twitter.
Suite upgrade awards are more attractive for high-end properties
At the higher end of the Hyatt award chart, premium suites start to get pretty pricey in terms of booking them with all points. For example, a Category 6 hotel that ordinarily charges 25K points per night for a standard room would charge 50K points per night for a premium suite. While that can sometimes still be a deal in comparison to cash rates for premium suites at such properties, it’s a lot of points. Furthermore, cash rates sometimes aren’t high enough to justify dropping so many points on a premium suite.
In fact, sometimes cash rates are low enough that I struggle with whether or not to use points. For example, if I’m looking at a hotel that costs $200 per night or 25,000 points, I’d not be enthused about using points since I wouldn’t be getting good value in comparison to the cash rate (nor would I be interested in using 50,000 points to stay in a premium suite in that case). But on the other hand, I’m never particularly enthusiastic about paying $200 per night out of pocket for a standard room, either. As a lowly Hyatt Explorist, I’m unlikely to see much of an upgrade on a cash booking.
However, booking premium suite upgrades might change my perspective on that a bit: if I could lock down a really nice suite for $200 + 9K points, that could make me more interested.
As a real world example, Greg previously showed that the Hyatt Regency Casablanca has a premium suite called the Ambassador Suite that features two bedrooms, a kitchenette, and a private butler (and was selling for around $3,000 per night on the dates he checked!).
Since that hotel is only Category 3 (standard award = 12K points per night), a premium suite at that property would ordinarily cost 24K points per night, which is an absolutely slammin’ deal. Alternatively, I see some dates where the standard nightly rate for a standard room is about $240 per night. You should be able to use 9K points on top of that to secure the premium suite. In that specific case, since the hotel only charges 24K per night for the premium suite, I don’t know as though I’d be willing to shell out $240 plus 9K. However, if I were short on points and needed a 2 bedroom suite, that might make sense. Keep in mind that you would earn Hyatt points on the paid portion of the rate and qualify for promotions, etc.
One thing it’s worth noting: Charlie posited that you have to book, “a cash rate or something like the Points+Cash rate”, though I don’t think that Points & Cash will actually work — at least not exactly. According to the Hyatt Concierge on Twitter, you have to book the standard cash rate in order to upgrade. Points & Cash is not (exactly) eligible, nor is the Hyatt Member rate (or presumably then any other discounted rates). Sometimes, the standard rate isn’t much more than the member rate — but other times, it could be 20 or 30% higher.
As to Points & Cash, Charlie isn’t wrong that it’s possible to upgrade those as well — but you’ll end up paying half the standard cash rate of the suite to which you upgrade.
For example, a standard award room at a Category 5 hotel ordinarily costs:
Cat 5 Standard Award room = 20K points per night
Cat 5 Standard Points + Cash = 10K points per night + half the cash cost of a standard room
Upgrading a Points + Cash rate to a suite then costs an additional 6K points per night for a standard suite or 9K points per night for a premium suite (so 16K or 19K total) plus half the cash cost of that suite. There are probably a few scenarios where that makes sense, but I’d think that the cash cost on that would make that option much less enticing.
Backing up to the Ambassador suite in Casablanca, I’d certainly not be paying half the cash cost of that suite (which would amount to $1500 per night), no matter how nice it looks.
Sometimes, upgrade awards are a terrible deal
I checked the rates for premium suite upgrades at the Grand Hyatt New York from January 10-12th, 2020. To be fair, the Grand Hyatt New York isn’t particularly well-regarded — in fact, it is scheduled to be closed at the end of 2020 and torn down. Nonetheless, it’s a good example of a bad deal. Cash rates that weekend start at $139 for a standard 1 Queen room (you can see that there are other rates from $112, though the cheapest rates require advance purchase).
I checked for premium suite upgrade options and one of the available options is the Junior Suite. First of all, I think it’s a stretch to call a Junior Suite a “Premium Suite”. Apart from that, it would be crazy to pay $139 plus 9,000 points per night for a room with a standard rate of just $189.
In fact, the World of Hyatt “Member Rate” for that room is $176. The advance purchase rate is $152. Upgrading to a premium suite in that case doesn’t make sense — just pay the cash rate if you want a junior suite.
The Hyatt Concierge told me that the Grand City View suite was available for the same price. That name doesn’t match any of the room names on the Grand Hyatt New York’s website. If that name refers to one of the 1-bedroom suites, that might make more sense since those rooms have nightly rates in the range of $320-$400. The point here is that these upgrades may not always represent good value.
Further, it seems that not all hotels have their inventory loaded property. For example, on the same weekend, I was quoted an upgrade price at the Parker New York of $1,269 per night plus tax plus destination fee plus 9K points per night. But that didn’t make sense as the standard cash rate for that room is $1,269. The Members rate is $1,243. There’s no upgrade in that case — you’re just paying for the room. When I brought that to their attention, the Hyatt concierge told me that it didn’t seem correct and they would follow up with the appropriate department. The Parker New York was not the only hotel at which I got quoted the full nightly rate plus 9K points.
When this might become a great deal
In some situations, the “standard” rate was only a few percent more than the “member” rate. In those cases, a Citi Prestige 4th Night Free booking would bring the average cost per night pretty well below the member rate. Furthermore, since Prestige 4th Night Free bookings made via the Prestige Concierge over the phone or through email (not via thankyou.com) have traditionally earned Hyatt points and qualified for promotions and so on, I would also expect booking the standard room rate through the Prestige concierge would make you eligible to upgrade with points. In that case, your out of pocket costs could become quite reasonable.
However, keep in mind that you’ll want to make your 4th night free bookings before 9/1/19.
The ability to book a cash rate and upgrade to a premium suite for 9K points per night certainly can be exciting and present a great value in some instances, especially since upgrades to premium suites are otherwise not guaranteed even for top-tier Globalist members. On the other hand, the need to pay the “standard” cash rate can take away from the deal in some instances and when cash rates are particularly low it still might not make sense to use points to upgrade rather than paying the cash rate for a suite. Furthermore, just because there is a premium suite available doesn’t mean that particular suite is bookable as an upgrade — you’ll have to reach out to Hyatt to check. When I began this post, I expected to be pretty enthusiastic about this option, but my searches came up with such mixed results that it was hard to get very excited. It’s a great nugget to keep in mind to check when a suite matters to you and cash rates are low.