Author Archives: Andy Shuman

Citi Adds Choice Hotels With a 1:2 Transfer Ratio: Here Is Why It’s Great News PLUS a Few Ideas for Your New Year’s Eve Travel!

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Citi has added Choice Privileges as its new transfer partner. If you have a premium Citi card, like Premier or Prestige, your ratio is 1:2, otherwise it’s 1:1.5.

There aren’t too many ways to earn Choice points. AmEx also transfers points to Choice Privileges, but only at a 1:1 ratio. One used to be able to transfer points from Amtrak at a good 1:3 ratio, but it was eliminated sometime earlier this year (and there were hoops to jump through anyway).

So this partnership is welcome news. There are regions in the world where you can get a Hyatt-like value from Choice points. That doesn’t mean you should jump on this offer right away, but it’s definitely something to think about.

But first!

Choice Hotels operates the following brands

This is the Choice hotels ranking by Wikipedia.

Upscale

    • Ascend Hotel Collection
    • Cambria Hotels

Midscale

    • Comfort (Economy in Norway, Sweden and Lithuania)
    • Sleep Inn
    • Clarion Hotels (upscale in Australia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland)
    • Quality Inn

Extended stay

    • MainStay Suites
    • Suburban Extended Stay Hotel
    • WoodSpring Suites

Economy

    • Econo Lodge
    • Rodeway Inn

Note that WoodSpring Suites doesn’t currently participate in Choice Privileges.

Here is why you might NOT want to transfer your Citi points to Choice

The Choice Privileges program is weird. That’s right — weird! You can only redeem points within 100 days of your stay. It used to be even worse, but 100 days is still terrible. This is one of the most user-unfriendly features for a hotel loyalty program.

Want to plan your next summer vacation? No problem, Choice will gladly take your money, but you can’t book on points. You’ll have to book flights first and then cross your fingers and hope that 100 days before your vacation, a Choice hotel of your choice (yep, pun intended) is available. And not just available, but available for the same low amount of points you can book it now with.

This may or may not be the case because Choice has an iteration of “dynamic prices” of its own. It can increase and decrease the redemption rate depending on what the hotel is charging. The redemption rates jump up and down all the time. Sometimes, the reason is clear (weekends, high season, a festival, ball game, or other huge event in town) when the cost of the award corresponds with the cash price tag. But quite often, there is no rhyme or reason for the increased rate, which makes it very difficult to plan your vacation beyond the 100-day period.

However, this is also why Choice Privileges still has some sweet spots that we love and cherish so much.

And while the 100-day window makes it hard for me to demonstrate terrific values you can still enjoy with Choice points, here I am, trying anyway. πŸ™‚

All prices and availability are at the time of writing.

I checked best Choice Privileges values in Scandinavia

There are over 200 Choice hotels in Scandinavia, which are operated by its franchisee Nordic Choice Hotels.Β  It’s been three years since I’ve written about Choice Privileges redemptions in Scandinavia, and when I say “Scandinavia,” I mean Sweden and Norway (there are a few Choice hotels in Denmark and Finland, but, as a rule, they’re more expensive). The rates I’m seeing right now on weekdays are pretty cheap, like they were in the old good times, but that might be because we’re at the beginning of winter and winter might not be the best time to travel in Northern Europe. Which is why, as an equalizer of sorts, I’ve picked the date traditionally busiest in winter — New Year’s Eve.

Please note: Clarion Collections hotels (but not regular Clarions) offer a free light evening meal in addition to free breakfast.

Of course, Norway and Sweden are currently closed to American travelers, so why do we need this exercise at all? Well, the travel ban will end one day, and perhaps seeing what they charge for New Year’s Eve might give us some idea of what to expect during the high season, like summer 2022. Or maybe not, but it’s still fun. πŸ™‚

Sweden

Clarion Collection Hotel Temperance, Malmo

Let’s start with Stockholm. Note that Nordic These two 10,000-point Clarions featuring free breakfast are the cheapest central hotels in Sweden’s capital.

And this is the cash booking price.

As you can see, Clarion Hotel Sign would cost you $163 so redeeming points would give you 1.6 cents on one point — not too shabby at all!

Here is Malmo. The cash rates for these days are $128 and $134 respectively.

Norway

Clarion Collection Hotel Folketeateret

On average, Choice properties in Norway cost more than in Sweden. Oslo hotels that have redeemable rooms for our dates range between 12,000 and 20,000 points, but most of them are 16,000 points. Still, each of these hotels consistently delivers over 1 cent per point. For those who’re willing to splurge, 20,000 points can buy you a room at upscale Amerikalinjen, Ascend Hotel Collection (not in the screenshot), which sells for $329 at the time of writing — a whopping 1.6X value.

Here are two Choice hotels in Bergen for 16,000 points ($184 and $147 respectively).

Once again, this is more of a theoretical exercise because both Norway and Sweden are currently closed to U.S. travelers. But if you want to toast the New Year elsewhere in Europe, guess what: you do have choices.

Use Choice points for New Year’s Eve in Europe: prices and availability

Now this and the following sections are a bit more practical in terms of traveling now or in the near future — especially if you’re thinking of ringing in New Year’s Eve away from home.

Great Britain

There are a few hotels available in London where you can redeem Choice points for New Year’s Eve, but I think this one is the best value, price and location-wise.

  • Comfort Inn Hyde Park: 8,000 points or $185 (I seriously doubt this will last).

FranceΒ 

Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre

You can use Choice points for New Year’s Eve at the following hotels:

  • Comfort Hotel Nation Pere Lachaise Paris 11: 12,000 points or $133.
  • Comfort Suites Rive Gauche Lyon Centre: 8,000 points or $93.
  • Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre: 14,000 points or $134.

Italy

Here are three hotels in Rome.

And the cash price.

I hear Venice is magical between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which culminates in spectacular fireworks at St. Mark’s Square. Here is Hotel Aquarius Venice on points…

…and this is the cash price. Guess which is a better value, LOL.

Other Choice Hotels options

Unfortunately, the Choice website is a mess right now. Many hotels searches return as unavailable, probably because a lot of properties haven’t reopened yet. Some partner hotels are open, but you can’t book them on the Choice website. Others simply block award space during high season, which has always been the case and has nothing to do with Covid.

And by the way, while many folks believe that Choice points are useless in the U.S. and Canada, nothing could be further from the truth, IMHO. If you want to know what your Choice Hotel options might look like during normal times, read my following older posts (while the 64,000 bonus is long-gone, you’ll find that the gist of the information is still valid).

Miles to Memories has a post dedicated to luxurious Preferred Hotel partners, but I personally don’t like an idea of blowing huge wads of Choice points on Preferred Hotel partners. I tend to be strategic about my hotel points. To me Choice Privilege is valuable precisely because it allows you to find cheap lodgings in expensive places like Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. However, it’s always nice to know you have options.

Use Choice points for New Year’s Eve in All-Inclusive resorts: prices and availability

Dreams Punta Cana Resort and Spa

Choice has another bunch of partners: All-Inclusive resorts. Prices start at 25,000 points and can be a great deal considering corresponding cash options. And you can redeem Choice points at some of the best All-Inclusive resort chains like Secrets, Breathless, or Dreams, although that’ll cost you more, unsurprisingly.

Here are some available stay options for New Year’s Eve: Cozumel and Riviera Maya on points.

Same resorts on cash.

These types of comparisons, however, don’t always give you the whole picture because the types of the rooms you get can enhance your points values, sometimes considerably. For example, 25,000 points can get you a one-bedroom suite at El Cid.

Β  This suite will cost you $373, which makes the value of your points even higher.

 

And then there are taxes. Sometimes they’re included in the total price, but other times they’re extra, like here. If you divide the full tax-inclusive cost of your booking by four nights, you’ll arrive at $444. A whopping 1.8 cents per point value.

If we play the same way with the second resort: Ventus in Riviera Maya, we’ll see a similar picture. 35,000 points put you in an ocean-view suite.

But the same suite will cost you roughly $100 more than the lowest cash price.

And even higher after taxes. Eventually, 35,000 points will buy you an $810 suite — all in all, an astonishing 2.3x value. Whether a room at this hotel really justifies spending that kind of dough is another matter, but it’s New Year’s Eve, after all.

Here are some other AI resorts redeemable with Choice points in Punta Cana and available on New Year’s Eve.

To recap

Citi has added a new transfer partner — the Choice Privileges program. The 1:2 transfer rate is terrific; however, the Choice loyalty program is not without quirks. The biggest one is that you can only book an award reservation 100 days in advance, which make it difficult to plan anything. On the other hand, the program still has outsized values, such as cheap hotel rooms in Europe (especially in Scandinavia) and even some All-Inclusive options. It might be worth it to apply some effort into navigating Choice Privileges, especially since you can easily get loads of points now due to the new partnership with Citi and its terrific 1:2 transfer rate.

What’s your take on Choice Privileges and the new Citi transfer opportunities?

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