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[HOTEL] Expiry Policies (November 25, 2013)

The question usually is, do we just pay for the cheapest option out there or do we want to bank all our points into one account? Often times, we do not even want to collect hotel loyalty points because of the complicated expiry policies, the blackout dates for redeeming rewards and websites like Priceline have competitive prices. Below is a quick rundown on the main hotel chains out there.

I prefer collecting points on specific hotel chains so that I can use the points for free hotel rooms later on, especially on rooms that I would have not paid for with my own money. The two main factors I consider are affordability of the hotel chain (if I paid in cash) and the expiry policies. Therefore, my two favourites are Best Western Rewards and IHG Rewards Club. I’m not a big fan of paying a lot of money to stay at a hotel and in a time when points devaluations are occurring across the board, I do not want to have the added worry of having my points expire too. So if you have the points, use them whenever you can, because the devaluations are just going to keep on getting worse because more and more points are being pumped into the system because more and more people are taking advantage of loyalty points systems.

The hotels are grouped into the following categories: (1) Never expire, (2) Never expire with activity, (3) Expire too quickly

Never Expire

Best Western Rewards: The points do not expire (no activity required) for members of the North American club. They have over 4000 hotels in over 100 countries. Furthermore, their hotels are very affordable and they are known for great customer service. I previously wrote about my stay at a Best Western Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia.

Another key factor about Best Western is that they have a credit card for Canadians associated with the hotel to help you jump start your balance and there is no annual fee.

IHG Rewards Club: The points never expire (no activity required). They have over 4,600 properties in almost 100 countries. I like how they have different choices of hotels: Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, InterContinental and Staybridge Suites. If you dig a little deeper, you will notice that they pretty much range from 3-star to 5-star hotels, giving us more affordable options. For instance, we can stay at the cheaper hotels when we pay to earn points faster, but use our points on more expensive hotel rooms that we would not normally pay for. I generally like to use my points during the double dipping opportunities, such as the Points Break Promotions, Last Minute Rewards or the 24-Hour Flash Sale. You may not always find the availability that you want in these promotions, but they do provide the most value for your points.

The two Canadian credit cards associated with the hotel are the Platinum and World Capital One MasterCards. Having credit cards associated with a hotel chain makes it quicker to accumulate points, yet there are only a handful of hotels chains in Canada that have a credit card associated with the chain.

Delta Privilege: This is a hotel chain that is only available in Canada, so I definitely have to include this on the list. There is no predetermined termination date, so the points will continue to be on your account until the Delta Privilege program decides to terminate. Members will receive 6 months noticed to redeem the benefits if the program is terminated. There are no Canadian credit cards associated with this program.

Never Expire with Activity

Club Carlson: Points do not have an expire as long as the account remains active once every 24 months. An activity includes earning or redeeming points. For Club Carlson, you can choose between Radisson, Radisson Blu, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts and Hotel Missoni. This company is probably not the best choice for travel in Canada because they are not that common in Canada. There are no Canadian credit cards associated with this program.

Hilton HHonors: Points do not expire as long as the account remains active once every 12 months. They have 4,000 hotels in 90 countries, so they are common enough, but I generally find Hilton as more upscale, so you will need to pay a bit. There are no Canadian credit cards associated with this program.

Hyatt Gold Passport: The points never expire if there if there is activity once every 12 months UPDATE- now 24 months. It seems like they are not very strict about the points and there are ways to reinstate them if you keep your account active quickly enough, but this is enough reason for me to avoid this hotel chain, unless you go there often. Furthermore, Hyatt hotels are quite pricey if you have to pay out of your own pocket. There are no Canadian credit cards associated with this program.

Le Club Accorhotels: The points never expire and can be extended indefinitely as long as Le Club Accorhotels member stays in a participating Accor hotel at least once a year. This chain includes over 2,500 Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, ibis, ibis Styles, Adagio and Thalassa sea & spa hotels around the world. It is not very common in Canada and no Canadian credit cards associated with this program.

Marriott Rewards: The points expire after 24 months if no points are earned. They do have 3,800 hotels and they seem to be quite visible everywhere in Canada, but the expiry policy is a fairly big deal breaker for me.

Fortunately, there is a Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card associated with these points to help you keep your account active. This credit card is very valuable because it often has a 50,000 sign up bonus (normally 30,000) with first year annual fee waived. Furthermore, because it is a Chase credit card, the are not foreign transaction fees. So this is a very valuable credit card to have if you stay Marriott hotels. Furthermore, this credit card gives you a free night stay at a category 1-5 hotel every year that you have this card (only category 1-4 hotel in the first year), so that effectively pays off the $120 annual fee anyway. So this is definitely a must-have credit card if you are a Marriott fan.

Starwood Preferred Guest: Starpoints do not expire as long as there is an activity once a year. I find Starpoints extremely valuable because of all the transfer partners that they have. Even if you do not want to use your Starpoints on hotels, you can easily transfer them to a wide variety of airlines or other hotel chains. Remember to keep in mind their double dipping promotions, for many of their partners, if you transfer 20,000 SPG points you get a bonus 5,000 points of that transfer partner.

The AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest credit card makes it easy enough to keep your account active. Watch for a 20,000 sign up bonus or first year annual fee waived before signing up for this credit card. Here is the analysis on Starwood.

Expire too Quickly

Choice Privileges: When your points expire, they will be taken off your account on December 31 of that year. The points expire two years after the year in which they were deposited into your account unless forfeited or canceled earlier due to membership inactivity. It makes it very difficult to use these points in time if you do not accumulate quick enough. They are not the most upscale hotels, but they are very affordable.

There is however a no annual fee credit card associated with this program. So if you can earn enough points quickly enough to get free stays before your points expire, it could work. Watch for the 24,000 sign up bonus, instead of the usual 8,000 sign up bonus.

Wyndham Rewards: Points expire 4 years after being posted to the account. Points will also expire if there is no activity after 18 consecutive months. Without a Canadian credit card with this program, it is very difficult for me to be a fan of this program.

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