This has been an interesting year for me. Even though I’m normally the only person interested with miles and points in my family, I actually am traveling less than ever thanks to business school. My wife is weeks away from MVP Gold status with Alaska Airlines, while I’m struggling to earn MVP.
She’s been working on a project in Portland that takes her away from Seattle nearly every week, and business travel happens to be an excellent way to earn miles faster. Besides her impending airline status, thousands of dollars in reimbursable expenses have added to our supply of Ultimate Rewards points thanks to earning 3X on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But on the hotel front, things have been quiet.
I was told the company had to book her hotel stays for her. I was told she had to stay at a specific hotel that doesn’t let her earn points. I was told a lot of things. But I started pressing harder and found out that she was booking these stays herself and had a fair amount of leeway in choosing where she stayed. Granted, the Mark Spencer is still one of the cheapest options downtown, so being a good steward of her company’s money it makes sense that she continue to stay there.
There is still no reason not to earn points for her stay. This is a textbook case for using an online travel agency to book your stay and take advantage of the OTA’s rewards program.
I’ve since taken over my wife’s travel reservations and have been consistently booking through PointsHound. Some people prefer Rocketmiles, which sometimes issues more points on every stay, but Rocketmiles works with a smaller group of properties. I prefer PointsHound because it essentially has access to the same menu as Expedia so you can stay anywhere you want.
Just this week I booked another stay for her, four nights in downtown Portland, for the same $214 per night charged by booking directly with the Mark Spencer. By going through PointsHound instead, she’ll also earn 7,100 Alaska Airlines miles. (Be sure to click through to the property page if you’re comparing rates. The main search results in this case displayed only 2,100 miles — surely a bug of some kind.)
My wife’s not dumb, but I think even she didn’t realize the magnitude of this missed opportunity. She’s easily stayed 40 nights at this hotel over the past six months. Ten similar stays at 7,100 miles each would be 71,000 Alaska Airlines miles — enough for a first-class award ticket on her favorite carrier, Cathay Pacific. Many people agree that Alaska’s miles are so valuable that they’re actually worth buying more. They sell for about 2 cents each when you top up your account during a new flight reservation.
71,000 miles at 2 cents each are worth $1,420. My wife has passed up at least $1,420 in free travel during the last six months alone. (If you want to try PointsHound, use my link to sign up and we’ll each earn 1,000 bonus miles after your first stay.)
She’s put up with quite a bit from me, too, so I’ll let it slide. 😉 But let this be a lesson to all of you business travelers. I understand not everyone gets a say in where they stay when they book business travel. You might not be able to earn points or status with a hotel loyalty program. That’s still no excuse for not earning anything! Book through PointsHound, Rocketmiles, Orbitz — even Expedia offers something. Make sure you explore your options before giving up.
There’s too much free travel out there just waiting for someone to take advantage.