Is a Starwood Card the Best Choice when Paying at Hyatt?

Carl gets another mention in the blog today. He started a thread on MilePoint when he found that not all Hyatt hotels participate in the OPEN Savings® program offered by American Express, which gives you  a choice of cash back or bonus points when you use your Amex business card. Hyatt is a relative newcomer to OPEN Savings, but it attracted some attention when first announced because the cash back can be more lucrative than the bonus points earned by paying with the Hyatt Visa.

Hyatt Amex OPEN

This is also a good opportunity to remind you that starting this year you need to choose between cash back or bonus points, a topic I’ll cover tomorrow.

A hotel stay of $500, for example, would earn 5% in the form of a statement credit plus 500 points when charged to an SPG Business Amex card. Valuing Starpoints at 2.5 cents each, the rewards total $37.50. If that same $500 charge were made with the Hyatt Visa, you’d get 3 bonus points per dollar, or 1,500 Gold Passport points. I value these at about 1.8 cents each, or $27. An extra $10 in rewards for every $500 spent is equivalent to an extra 2% — not shabby at all.

Your Hyatt Visa still comes in handy sometimes. It has no foreign transaction fee, while the SPG Business Amex does, so you should use your Hyatt Visa for stays at international properties. There might also be quarterly promotions for Hyatt Gold Passport members. During these promotions cardholders often get a 50% bonus on their points, but you don’t actually need to use the card to qualify.

But back to the problem at hand: If you use a card like the SPG Business Amex at a Hyatt property that does not participate in OPEN Savings, then your rewards will drop significantly. That same $500 hotel stay? Instead of getting $25 in cash back and $17.50 in valuable Starpoints, you’ll only get $17.50. Now you’re down $10 instead of up.

It isn’t as simple as keeping one card for high-end properties and another card for the rest. Although most participating hotels are part of the Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt, and Andaz brands, exceptions exist. A complete list of participating properties can be found on the Hyatt website. In general, Hyatt House and Hyatt Place properties never qualify for OPEN Savings, so you should always use your Hyatt Visa when staying there.

There are few things worse than a complicated benefit that annoys the customer. The participating properties ought to be all-or-none, in my opinion. The benefits of using my Hyatt Visa are pretty consistent, and the benefits of using an Amex business card are not. I am all about maximizing my travel benefits. I also believe in keeping things simple enough so I stay happy. For the time being, I plan to continue using my Hyatt Visa for the majority of my stays.

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  • Carl

    The OPEN program only applies to domestic properties – so definitely use a no-fee card internationally, and I agree the Hyatt Chase Visa seems the best bet.
    I do find the inconsistency of the OPEN benefit at Hyatt annoying and unnecessary. Another card choice is the Amex BRG – Business Rewards Gold – which qualifies for the 5% rebate, and I think earns 2 Amex GR points per dollar.
    But the OPEN program is greatly diminished for me by (1) having to remember not to use the card at Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, etc., and (2) having just learned that not even every USA Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt, Park Hyatt, and Andaz participate. It’s a burden to have to remember the check by property.
    Hyatt & Amex need to make this consistent

  • Mommy Points

    The list is super annoying, but assuming your property is participating, then I do think that the SPG Biz card is the way to go for domestic Hyatt stays. I know it is my go-to for that type of charge

    • Scottrick

      You have more patience than I do!

      • chuck

        how do you enroll the spg business amex in the OPEN program, is it only for cards that earn membership reward points?

      • Mommy Points

        Not really – but I have never stayed at a (non Hyatt House/Place) domestic Hyatt that was non-participating, so I’ve never been stung by that detail. 😉

  • Andrew Pechersky

    I was pleasantly surprised that purchasing Hyatt Stay Certificates also qualifies for 5% OPEN rebate.

    • Scottrick

      Now THAT is clever!

  • disqust101

    Why would anyone have an SPG card in the first place? Sure, “valuable” points for low end redemptions, but poor value on high end. Plus no way to get 5x unlike Hyatt/Marriott. Unless and until SPG gets competitive, collecting SPG is a waste of time for savvy travelers.