I got this question a few weeks ago, and my sister has long used Avios for booking hotels. (I didn’t say I approved, only that she does it. You try telling my sister what to do.) But in light of the recent Avios devaluation, Ann’s question is more relevant:
I read many of the blogs and wonder why no one ever talks about using airline miles to book hotels in Europe? Specifically, I have BA miles to use. I have enough AA and UA miles to book flights, so with that scenario, would you then use and can you then use BA miles to book hotels? I realize that they wouldn’t necessarily be American chains, but it seems like BA does have many hotel relationships. I just wonder why no one writes about this.
Can you give me some insights? I know most would use BA miles for short distance travel in the US, etc.
Ann asks all the right questions. She knows what other people do with their Avios. She has enough airline miles to book the flights that she needs. So, sure, if she wants to use Avios for booking hotel stays then that might be a good idea. My sister does it because she finds it easier. Points are converted to cash and have no blackout dates, whereas Avios for flights are only good when there’s award availability. It’s even worse if you want to use Avios on Alaska Airlines because you need to call in to book.
But using miles and points is always a debate between cost-savings and convenience. Never underestimate the value of your time, but neither should you ignore the potential value of those miles if you can be patient and flexible.
More people who write and read the blogs Ann references are in the “patient and flexible” camp. If you want ease-of-use, get a good cash back card. When you redeem Avios for a hotel award, all British Airways does is convert them to cash and then book the hotel on your behalf. It probably converts them at a bad rate because it needs to pay cash to the hotel (it would much rather put you in an empty seat on its own planes). It probably doesn’t even have a good rate with the hotel because there’s no competition (unlike Kayak, which searches multiple websites).
I could be mistaken. A few test searches for a Memorial Day stay in San Francisco suggested I am not. Out of several properties I looked at, here’s one representative example of a stay at the Grand Hyatt in Union Square.
The first thing British Airways did was tell me that my reservation could not be changed or refunded. I mean, what are they going to do? Get the cash and sell me my points backs? No. They want to get the liability off their books.
Then I looked at the prices they wanted to charge. If you don’t have enough points to book your entire stay, you can see that British Airways will let you pay with points and cash. The final price will be somewhere between ~140,000 points or ~14,000 points plus $1,075. In case you’re wondering, all the taxes are included unless otherwise stated.
But an easy search on Kayak found me a lower rate of $289, or just a hair under $1,000 after taxes and fees are included on a three-night stay. This rate can even be cancelled.
By paying cash on a rate booked through Kayak, you not only save all your Avios, you still pay less. British Airways wanted $75 more AND 14,000 points. That’s almost enough for me to book a round-trip flight from Seattle.
Then again, you may not have $1,000. For those who are miles-rich and cash-poor, booking hotel rooms makes plenty of sense. Just remember to check the points balance for your favorite hotel loyalty program before you do. You’d probably get a better deal if you used Hyatt Gold Passport points to book this stay instead of airline miles.