Preferred Hotels & Resorts via Choice: Value unlocked. Frustration assured.

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Citibank recently added the ability to transfer ThankYou Rewards points to Choice Privileges at an excellent 1 to 2 rate.  1,000 Citi points becomes 2,000 Choice points.  This is great for Choice Hotels stays.  They even have some high end Ascend Collection hotels that offer excellent value (the Hotel Napa Valley and the Peacock Inn in Princeton, NJ are ones that Nick and I, respectively, have booked in the past).  Venturing outside of Choice’s own hotels, though, it’s possible to go really high end thanks to their partnership with Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

The only problem with this option is that booking a Preferred Hotel with Choice points is an extremely frustrating experience.  More about that later.  Hopefully as more and more of us book these properties, Choice will smooth out the process.

Great value is now possible

Preferred Hotels & Resorts is a collection of over 650 high-end independent hotels around the world.  Not all Preferred Hotels are bookable with Choice Privileges points, but many are (349 at the time of writing).  Point prices range from 25,000 to 55,000 points per night.  Given the 1 to 2 transfer ratio, this translates to only 12,500 to 27,500 Citi ThankYou points per night.  If you think of it as being similar to an award chart, that’s fantastic.  Among the major hotel chains, only Hyatt offers an award chart that’s competitive (Hyatt has a few award charts, but their primary chart ranges up to 40,000 points with the vast majority of those hotels at 30,000 points or lower).

Prior to Citi offering 1 to 2 transfers to Choice, the best options for acquiring Choice points quickly were to transfer from Amex Membership Rewards 1 to 1, or to buy points indirectly at 8/10ths of a cent each.  At those rates, my previous looks at the Preferred Hotels & Resorts partnership showed that while good value was sometimes possible, most of the time the value was poor.  Citi has changed that equation…

Value Examples

Below are a handful of examples of Preferred Hotels bookable with Choice points and the value I found for specific upcoming dates.  As you’ll see, I found that Choice point values in these examples ranged from 0.76 to 1.05 cents per point.  That’s decent value on its own, but not amazing.  I certainly wouldn’t want to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to get that value.  But with Citi offering a 1 to 2 transfer ratio, the value of Citi points in these examples ranges from 1.5 to 2.1 cents per point.  That’s very good!

The Brown Hotel, Louisville, KY

  • Dec 3 to 5: $400 after taxes and fees.
  • Choice points: 25K x 2 = 50,000 (0.8 cents per point value)
  • ThankYou points: 25,000 (1.6 cents per point value)

The Kahala Hotel and Resort

  • Dec 10 to 12: $1,161 after taxes and fees
  • Choice points: 55K x 2 = 110,000 (1.05 cents per point value)
  • ThankYou points: 55,000 (2.1 cents per point value)

Balboa Bay Resort, Newport Beach, California

  • Dec 10 to 12: $894 after taxes and fees
  • Choice points: 45K x 2 = 90,000 (0.99 cents per point value)
  • ThankYou points: 45,000 (1.99 cents per point value)

Hotel Sans Souci

  • Dec 10 to 12: $841 after taxes and fees
  • Choice points: 55K x 2 = 110,000 (0.76 cents per point value)
  • ThankYou points: 55,000 (1.5 cents per point value)

How to find participating properties

Click this link to find participating Preferred Hotels & Resorts: preferredhotels.com/offer/participating-hotels-choice-privileges-rewards

Once there, you can filter by location or click the map location symbol to see a map view:

Return to the list view to select a particular property and to view availability.  Unfortunately, most properties only show nights available for the next few months, like this:

This property (and many others) showed plenty of availability until the end of December, but then no availability from January 1st onward. Fortunately, some properties do show availability much further out and I’ve confirmed with at least one property that it is possible to book further out when it shows available.

How to book your stay

The Choice website says “To book your stay with Preferred Hotels & Resorts, call 888-770-6800.”

That’s technically true, but believe me when I say that it’s not easy.  I started working on a booking shortly after 9 in the morning and it took 3 hours and four phone calls to get it done.  Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and get it done more quickly…

Step 1) When the Choice computer voice asks if you want to book a stay, say “NO!”

I made the mistake of saying yes the first time and I spent nearly an hour on the phone trying to convince a booking agent that he should be able to help me book a particular Preferred Hotels property, and no I don’t want to be transferred to Expedia, please transfer me to a supervisor, no I don’t want to be transferred to the hotel itself, please transfer me to a supervisor, no I don’t want to be transferred to Expedia…  I never did get to that supervisor no matter how hard I tried.

Second attempt:

  • “Would you like to book a stay” No!
  • “What can I help you with?” Choice Privileges
  • “I’ll connect you with an agent”

Step 2) Ask agent if they’re familiar with the ability to book Preferred Hotels with Choice points.

If they say no, I recommend asking to be transferred to someone else or hang up and try again.

Step 3) Have lots of patience

I was lucky enough to get an agent who knew about the Choice partnership with Preferred Hotels, but he didn’t know how to book the stay.  Here’s an abbreviated version of our conversation:

  • Agent: “I’ll have to go into another system here….  I’m trying to verify the system..  [mutters] That’s actually a different system…  OK what are the dates and location of the stay you want?”
  • Me: [I give him the details]
  • Agent: “I will have to contact another department. Let me place you on a brief hold” … [time passes] … “I am trying to contact the other department that handles this. Is it OK if I put you on hold for a while?” … [time passes] … “I just got that info sent to me. Let me place you on hold for a brief moment” … [time passes] … “This is actually a very nice hotel.” …[hums, mutters, and clicks]…”Let me click onto the other line to see if they have it, OK? Just one second” … [time passes] … “They sent me a thing just showing how much it costs, but not the option with points. So I’m trying to see here.  It just shows me money value, not points.” … [time passes] … “I need to get into contact with one of my coordinators. OK? She’s looking into that right now. Maybe I have a little glitch in my system. OK?  We are going to verify both at the same time. OK?  Please allow me to put you on hold.  OK?” … [time passes] …”I just got good news for you.  If you have points, we can book it right now.”
  • Me: “What is the cancellation policy?”
  • Agent: “Good question…” … [time passes] … “Please cancel 72 hours prior to the arrival date.”
  • Me: “I transferred in the needed points, can we book it now?”
  • Agent: “I have to transfer call… Please allow me to reach out to them.  I’ll have to put you on a brief hold?”

Eventually I was transferred to a supervisor to actually book the stay.  The supervisor had similar sounding computer issues as with the first agent.  After lots of clicking and muttering, we got to this:

  • Supervisor: “I need to reboot my system and that will take a while.  Can you call back in about 35 minutes?”
  • Me: “Can you call ME back when you’re ready?”
  • Supervisor: “OK, I’ll do that”

I was worried about the situation… would he really call me back?  Luckily, he actually did call me back only 5 minutes later.  The final conversation only took 7 minutes to complete and my stay was finally booked!  A few hours later I received a confirmation email.  Done!

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Dugroz Reports

Oh, is that all!?!?!? 🙂

Craig at Middle Age Miles

Hi Greg – Thanks for the great article. I had an almost identical experience to yours in terms of the time it took to get through the process and many iterations of being put back on hold. Unfortunately for me, after an hour on the phone, the rep finally informed me that the property was not available on the nights I wanted (even though the online calendar tool showed availability for those nights). I gave them feedback that the online tool wasn’t accurate, and it would be helpful if they would keep it updated – or, at least tell me in some amount of time less than an hour if the property wasn’t available on my dates. Honestly, I wasn’t too optimistic that the booking would work, even though the online calendar was showing availability, so I wasn’t terribly surprised. Hopefully they’ll make the process a little easier going forward, although your other readers’ comments are right that the pain of the process does help preserve the value for those who persevere!

Kaz

Hi Craig. It’s good to see that you are back in miles & points. As soon as I saw your name on my another favorite blog FM, I had to drop a comment. I miss reading your insightful blog posts. Stay safe!

Charlie

Hi Greg,

I have frustration on booking Bluegreen Vacations from Choice hotels website as well. I used to be able to book some properties of Bluegreen Vacations in the website by using points. It is easy to do and you just need to find the availability. However, for this property “Bluegreen Vacations Big Bear Village, Ascend Resort Collection”, located in Big Bear Lake, CA, I couldn’t find any availability in points or cash, on any date. That is a little weird but customer service couldn’t provide any helpful information to me. Do you have any insight for this booking process? Thank you for your time.

Eyesonthepoints

Great write up FM. Thank you.

Reps are a lil clueless but once they transfer you/ or find somebody that knows how seems straight forward. Problem is like Charlie above availability seems to be an issue at some hotels. Montage laguna beach seems to be available per the calendar but as soon as you click through says not available. Website seems clunky imo.

Charlie

Another Rep told me that some Bluegreen vacations are not open to “normal members”. But I don’t think that is true. Finally I found some cash rates availability in May 2022. But there is no chance I can book those rooms by using points because of the 100 days rule from Choice hotels. I used to book 3-4 bedrooms for only 15K or 20K points and that is a great deal. Figures crossed!

Charlie

Hi Greg,

After trying different booking strategies, I was able to book the bluegreen vacation hotels. The key is that some of the Bluegreen vacation hotels don’t allow one night stay by cash or points. If you search for two nights stay, the availability will pop up, still not widely open but you can find some availabilities even on the weekend. You can try it and see if you can find some availabilites in your interested hotels.

NK3

I am a little concerned for a Choice devaluation soon. Between the best ever offer on the Barclays Choice no AF card, and adding Citi as a transfer partner with a pretty decent transfer rate, it is a lot easier to accumulate their points these days. Of course I still grabbed the card when I could.

farbster

I think the hotels are only for double occupancy. No third person in the room. Maybe if you call it is a different story, but online is says only up to 2 people.

Ben

Love posts like these that cover not as popular programs

Frustrating booking process but then again, the easier it is to book, the faster it dies so I’m not complaining

Neil

Didn’t read a word (I tune out anything with Choice) but love the headline!

Paul

Can we all agree the best part of this review is Greg photo?

toomanybooks

When calculating “cost per point,” you should add something in there for your time.

Jed

Come on now, we all know his time is worthless.
But for real, doing this stuff is his “job”, and I’m sure he isn’t just twiddling his thumbs while sitting on hold.
Besides since booking any of the hotels listed would have required the exact same phone call and the same amount of time, the time cost is a fixed.

rick b

That’s my feeling with a lot of these obscure award “opportunities”. Sometimes the time and soul sucking isn’t worth the effort, like with Turkish miles.

Cavedweller

Correct most of the Deals and what if u cancel $$$.

Alex

If we start doing that, the whole game will start looking way less attractive. But we’re doing it for fun, right? 🙂

Brant

Greg, I once had a similar experience using Choice Privileges points to book the storied Emma Hotel in San Antonio, TX near me. The frustration didn’t end with the reservation process. When I arrived at the hotel on the day of my stay, the front desk had no idea about an award stay and told me how much my stay would cost. After showing them my confirmation email and a few phone calls by the hotel manager, I was finally given my room key and welcomed as a guest. In short, call the hotel you reserved in advance of your arrival to insure they have your reservation properly recorded. I would also suggest that this archaic system will not soon be updated as my stay was at least three years ago. Choice Hotels has, arguably, the worst backend support of all major hotel chains, IMHO.

Aloha808

Thanks for sharing Brant, and thanks for the helpful write-up .

Pam

Appreciate so much, is the exact property am looking to book!

Edward

Have been looking at this as well, but looks like only weekday stays now.

paul5795

Sounds a lot like my recent attempt to book a Star Alliance Award using Turkish Miles and Smiles. I posted that detailed horror story over on flyertalk (attempted email booking turned into call center nightmare). At least with Choice you are dealing with people whose first language is English! And that might actually call you back!