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…
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:
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.
- “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) Ask agent to write down your phone number
Once you finally get an agent on the phone who seems to know what it means to book Preferred Hotels with Choice points, ask them to write down your phone number in case you get disconnected. Believe me, you do not want to chance losing contact with this person!
Step 4) 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!
Also see my follow-up to the above when I had to reschedule my stay: My nightmare booking Preferred Hotels via Choice