Oh the lengths I’ll go to secure a good deal… Using Choice Privileges points, it’s possible to book Preferred Hotels & Resorts (some of which are considered to be the best hotels in the world). With the new ability to double Citi points when converting to Choice, booking Preferred Hotels is a way to get excellent value from your Citi points. Unfortunately, the booking process is a nightmare. In the post “Preferred Hotels & Resorts via Choice: Value unlocked. Frustration assured,” I recounted my 3 hour ordeal in booking a single hotel stay. Now, 3 months later, I had to change the dates of the stay. Spoiler alert: Along with a second new booking, I got it done, and I’m excited about my upcoming stays, but the process was excruciating.
Cavallo Point Lodge
Cavallo Point Lodge looks amazing. The property is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and downtown Sausalito is just two miles away in the other direction. Reviews are outstanding. Through Choice Privileges it’s possible to book a Cavallo Point Lodge “Historic Queen” room for 55,000 points per night. The cash rate at the time of booking was $601 per night after taxes. This would have given me decent value if I had started with Choice points (1.09 cents per point), but since I started with half as many Citi points, I got excellent value (2.18 cents per point).
Dolphin Bay Resort
The Dolphin Bay Resort, in Pismo Beach California, is a condo-style all-suite resort. Each suite includes a kitchen, living & dining room, washer & dryer, etc. Through Choice Privileges it’s possible to book a “One Bedroom Non-Ocean View” suite for 55,000 points per night. The cash rate at the time of booking was $483 per night after taxes. This would have given me average value if I had started with Choice points (0.88 cents per point), but since I started with half as many Citi points, I got good value (1.76 cents per point). After booking, I called the resort to see if they’d let me pay to upgrade to an ocean view. Yep. I’ll pay $100 per night at check-out for the upgrade.
The (Re)-Booking Process
I absolutely dreaded the idea of calling Choice again, but I had a previous booking at Cavallo Point Lodge, and the dates I had booked weren’t going to work. As our trip to California neared, I finally gave in. I figured that if I had to do this, I might as well do it big, and so I picked out three additional Preferred Hotels to try to book. I picked up the phone on a recent Friday afternoon, and I documented my pain in a private Slack channel with the Frequent Miler team…
I called Choice at 4:59 pm and finally got someone on the phone about 20 minutes later. She clearly had no idea what I was talking about (few call reps know about the ability to book Preferred Hotels with Choice points), but was determined to pretend otherwise.
5:18 PM Greg via Slack:
On phone with Choice trying to change dates of my Preferred Hotel reservation. We need a plan in case I don’t make it out alive.
When the call rep couldn’t find my reservation in her system (yes, I told her that she had to check a different system for these reservations), she said that I needed to speak with “[garbled words].” “Can you say that again?” I asked. “I’m going to transfer you to [more garbled words].” “Um… OK.”
5:25 PM Greg via Slack:
They shoved me off to Bluegreen vacations. I hope they don’t make me buy a timeshare.
5:28 PM Greg via Slack:
omg… got a call back with “press 1 to speak to a representative” but it won’t listen to the “1”!
5:33 PM Greg via Slack:
I’m apparently in an infinite callback loop. Since the computer couldn’t understand my phone when I pressed 1, it said it would call me back in 5 minutes.
Not surprisingly, when a rep from Bluegreen Vacation Rentals finally connected with me, we didn’t have a very productive call. They have nothing to do with Preferred Hotels in any way. I gave up for the day.
1:24 PM Greg via Slack:
For better or worse, I’m diving back into Choice calls. Wish me luck.
I waited and waited for a rep to pick up. When he finally did, he of course had no idea what a Preferred Hotel was or why I’d want to bother him about it. He confidently told me that I needed to speak with Customer Relations…
1:48 PM Greg via Slack:
Now I’m being transferred to Choice Customer Relations. Seems more likely than BlueGreen Vacation Rentals to be helpful, but we’ll see. I get to listen to hold music for another 25 minutes. Yay!
My hold time was only 15 minutes before I got to speak with another person who didn’t know anything about Preferred Hotels. I asked to speak with a manager…
2:06 PM Greg via Slack:
Only 15 minutes that time. Asked to be transferred to manager, now on hold again (but no music)
2:09 PM Greg via Slack:
And…. the system hung up. Restarting…
2:13 PM Greg via Slack:
Someone tried to call me, but before I could answer, they hung up. Great.
The transfer to a manager process lead nowhere but to more frustration. I started over from the beginning with a new call to Choice. This time, the rep said he knew about Preferred Hotels!
2:24 PM Greg via Slack:
Milton has heard of Preferred Hotels!
2:26 PM Greg via Slack:
And he was able to pull up my reservation! Please, please don’t disconnect!
2:34 PM Greg via Slack:
OK, before he put me on hold again I made him write down my phone number.
2:34 PM Greg via Slack:
Last time, the supervisor had to reboot his computer to get the Preferred Hotels system to work. I gave Milton that tip just in case.
Even with a rep who knows about Preferred Hotels, the process is painstakingly slow. First, the rep has to go into a separate system, then they have to enter a bunch of info about the desired stay, then they have to transfer you to a specialist to make it actually happen (I kid you not). At this point, I realized that it was crazy to plan four different Preferred Hotel stays. What if I had to make a change to one again? I decided just to change the Cavallo Point reservation and book one more (Dolphin Bay Resort)…
2:46 PM Greg via Slack:
This might actually happen. Milton is transferring me to a specialist now to complete the transaction. If all goes well, I’ll have changed my existing reservation and booked a new one at another hotel. I was originally eyeing a couple more, but my heart can’t take it.
13 minutes later…
2:59 PM Greg via Slack:
Specialist is now on the phone. His name is Chris
3:03 PM Greg via Slack:
They had to cancel the original reservation and book a new one. Each step is painstakingly slow. He’s putting the points back in my account now (I think he’s manually moving the points one by one) in preparation for booking the new reservation.
It took Chris nearly 20 minutes just to cancel the old reservation and to restore my points…
3:20 PM Greg via Slack:
Chris is now trying to book the new dates. This is taking forever. I think he had to walk to the hotel and discuss this with them directly.
Chris started to give me the confirmation number for the new booking at Cavallo Point lodge, but then he said “Uh oh…”
3:32 PM Greg via Slack:
And… just when Chris thought he was done with the first reservation he got an error message. Now he’s going to work on it and call me back.
I was really scared about getting off the phone with Chris. Would he really call me back? Did he have the right phone number? I made him recite my number back to me before I’d let him go. Fortunately he did call me back about half an hour later…
4:13 PM Greg via Slack:
Finally done with reservation #1! Started calling at 1:20pm ET and complete by 4:10pm ET. Less than 3 hours!
4:14 PM Greg via Slack:
Let’s see how long reservation #2 takes…
4:21 PM Greg via Slack:
What a great way to spend a weekend!
Next, we started the process of booking the Dolphin Bay Resort. While it was still terribly slow, the only hiccup this time was with trying to transfer points from Citibank. Citi was trying to confirm my identity by texting a code, but the texts I received didn’t include a code! Finally, I chose to get a phone call instead of a text and that did the trick.
4:36 PM Greg via Slack:
Done! Second reservation complete in about 20 minutes!
Would I do it again?
This is crazy. Why would I ever put myself through this pain to book (or re-book) a hotel? Here’s the thing… I have hundreds of thousands of Citi ThankYou points that I rarely use. Now, through Choice, there’s finally a great use of Citi points towards hotel stays. I’d far rather use the points to book desirable Choice properties since that can be done easily and online, but… there are relatively few desirable Choice properties and many amazing looking Preferred Hotels that I want to try.
So, yes, unless things go horribly wrong with my upcoming stays, I probably will do this again. I think I’ve learned the trick. Next time, I’ll keep calling and hanging up until I get Milton back on the phone… or someone like Milton who knows what he/she is doing. Yes, it will still be painful, but it’s all part of the game…
If you’re interested in using your Citi points towards great value with Choice, I recommend checking out these posts as well:
- Preferred Hotels & Resorts via Choice: Value unlocked. Frustration assured.
- The worlds best Preferred Hotels bookable with Choice points
- Choice’s Ascend Collection Gems (Great Value with Citi Points!)
- Nordic Choice Sweet-Spots: Great Value w/ Choice Points