So there is a new kid on the block — the Bank of America Sonesta World Mastercard. I have never stayed at a Sonesta so I had to educate myself on the merits and peculiarities of this hotel chain. After digging into Sonesta, I can tell you one thing: I’d go for the Sonesta credit card only to get 95,000 points. If you’re not willing to spend $7,500 within the first year I’d skip it entirely unless you’re bored and don’t have any other Bank of America cards to fill your 4/24 “quota.”
Sonesta is a tiny, tiny chain
Sonesta has 74 participating hotels. Out of those there are 3 airport hotels and one hotel “inside” of another hotel (Sonesta Ocean Point Resort/Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa).
And yet, there are 9 tiers
I kid you not. There is just one hotel in Tier 8, one hotel in Tier 9 (which isn’t even a separate hotel), and there are 3 in Tier 7. Here is the link that lists every Sonesta hotel in their respective tier.
The Sonesta credit card offer highlights
- 60,000 bonus points after spending at least $1,000 in purchases within your first 90 days of account opening
- 5,000 additional points after adding an authorized user within your first 90 days of account opening
- 30,000 bonus points on your Account Anniversary, if you spend at least $7,500 in purchases every year
- $0 Introductory Annual Fee for the first year. After that there is a low Annual Fee of $75
- 3x/2x/1x on Sonesta purchases/airfare, car rental and dining/everything else
- Upgrade to top Sonesta Travel Pass Elite Member Status
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
Here is the direct Application Link.
Well, my threshold for credit card offers is a $400 cash equivalent. This offer can give you that. It can also give you more than that or less than that. It depends on how you use your points and whether you’re even interested in going to places where Sonesta is present.
My research revealed that a Sonesta point can cost from $0.005 to $0.01 and, in some rare instances, even more. That’s not so bad for a program I’d never heard of before.
On the other hand, we are dealing with an extremely limited footprint. This is not about getting the card speculatively and then trying to find a place you’d like to go. Don’t get this card if you can’t see any interesting redemption. At least, I wouldn’t.
So let’s try to analyze whether or not the Sonesta credit card will work for you at all.
7 best Sonesta redemptions (IMHO, of course)
Number 7: Sonesta Posadas Del Inca – Sacred Valley – Yucay
- Tier: 3
- Points: 20,000
- Cash price: $140 and up
I believe that no visit to Machu Picchu is complete without a stay in the Sacred Valley, and this Sonesta has an additional bonus as it’s housed in a former monastery. And Yucay is also close enough to Cuzco but at a much lower elevation, which can make it a great plan B if you need to acclimatize for a couple of days.
Number 6: Other hotels in Peru
They are all good deals. You can’t go wrong with these redemption rates, IMHO, although obviously check the cash rates (with taxes) for your own dates and remember that if you pay cash, you’re getting the fourth night free with the Citi Prestige card.
Number 5: Royal Sonesta New Orleans
- Tier: 7
- Points: 30,000
- Cash: $229 and up
Number 4. Royal Sonesta Boston
- Tier: 7
- Points: 30,000
- Cash: $217 and up
Number 3. The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel (San Francisco)
- Tier: 6
- Points: 27,500
- Cash: $240 and up
Add the taxes to the cash rate and I’m sure you’ll get close or even above the $0.01 valuation. Excellent redemption!
Number 2. Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
- Tier: 7
- Points: 30,000
- Cash: $340 and up in the summer, less in the winter
I believe this is an incredible value if you’re interested in a Hilton Head Island vacation. The hotel is just a few minutes from the beach (on foot). I read a few reviews and checked some pics – and I love what I see!
The number one Sonesta redemption: Sonesta Ocean Point Resort – St Maarten (all-inclusive)
- Tier: 9
- Points: 50,000
- Cash: $340 and up (way into $600+)
Sonesta had 2 all-inclusive properties. They’re both on St. Maarten, and they’re practically one resort.
The first is called Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa. It’s a family-friendly, 40,000 points, tier 8 resort. The reviews are very mixed.
The other is Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. They call it a “resort within the resort.” It’s an adult-only property located next to the Sonesta Maho Beach. If you book the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, you do have access to all the bars, restaurants and other facilities of the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, but not vice versa. After Irma decimated the island, the resort was rebuilt, and it reopened in January 2019 (the reviews I’ve read seem to indicate that not everything is running smoothly yet). However, the resort has mostly good reviews, although there are enough negative reviews as well thrown in for good measure. 🙂 I recommend reading all Trip Advisor reviews for a few months back – including the ones that beg you to trust the negative reviews and those that beg you not to.
From what I can see, all suites at the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort have an ocean view, and not just an ocean view – they overlook the world-famous Maho Bay. Which is one of the reasons I would really love to stay there despite my general dislike for all-inclusive hotels. Think of all the plane-spotting opportunities right from the grounds of the resort you’re staying at!
How the new Sonesta credit card can help
Let the numbers speak for themselves. First of all, I will assume that if you do apply for the Sonesta credit card, you’re going for 102,500 points (60,000 points PLUS 5,000 points PLUS 30,000 points annual bonus PLUS at least 7,500 points for $7,500 in spend). So how many nights can you get for your 102,500 points?
- Sonesta Posadas Del Inca – Sacred Valley – Yucay: 5 nights
- Royal Sonesta New Orleans: 3 nights
- Royal Sonesta Boston: 3 nights
- Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island: 3 nights
- The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel: almost 4 nights (you’ll need 110,000 points)
- Sonesta Ocean Point Resort – St Maarten: 2 nights
If you’re thinking of using your points at Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, I would definitely apply with a spartner. And yes, you can share your points with the family members.
Is the top Travel Pass Elite Status that comes with the Sonesta Credit Card worth it?
Definitely! There are enough tangible benefits that make the status a good deal.
- Complimentary club lounge access (or continental breakfast daily)
- Early check-in / late check-out (up to 3 hours)
- Complimentary room upgrade (to the next higher room category)
- $15 Sip ‘n snack credit at Sonesta ES Suites
- Choice of welcome amenity (no idea)
- 50% discounted suite upgrade at check-in (unclear whether this benefit works for award redemptions)
- 15% discount on dining & resort amenities (at Sonesta-operated outlets only)
There are some other lesser benefits including one that I believe is silly:
- Complimentary non-alcoholic beverage (up to $15).
Come on! What non-alcoholic beverage can possibly be worth $15? And if you don’t mind covering a $15 beverage – why not let me gulp down something real, LOL?
But, one way or another, some of these benefits are real. I’m particularly fond of complimentary breakfasts and lounge access, for instance, and some other bennies from the list above are quite decent as well.
But you don’t need the Sonesta credit card to get the status
Here is a thing, though. Many if not most of us don’t need the Sonesta credit card to get the top Elite status. They status-match.
Sonesta offers a status match to Preferred and Elite levels in other hotel loyalty programs. All you need to do is enroll in Sonesta Travel Pass and simply email Travel Pass customer care (email@example.com) with your Travel Pass Member ID and a copy of a current membership card or statement showing your status in another hotel loyalty program. It’s that simple.
It seems to be very simple indeed. From what I see on Status Matcher they easily match Hilton Gold to Travel Pass Elite – the Sonesta top elite tier.
Is anyone who’s reading this piece not a Hilton Gold member (at least), LOL?
So, while the Travel Pass Elite has some excellent benefits, the Sonesta credit card is hardly the only way to reach it without staying at a Sonesta hotel. In this case, are there real benefits of this credit card beyond the welcome bonus?
If there are, I don’t see them. The 3x/2x/1x earning scheme looks quite lame to me. The only reason to apply for this card, IMHO, are the bonus points and low spending requirements, which is not to say it’s not worth it. Quite the contrary, it can be totally worth it IF you can enjoy the Sonesta tiny footprint.
The Sonesta Travel Pass program seems to be very member-oriented, but a little quirky
The FAQ section of the Sonesta website didn’t answer all my questions, so I called and chatted with 2 CSRs. Here is what I’ve found.
You can transfer points between family members. You can’t do it online, but they will send you a form upon request to transfer points. She said there weren’t any limits.
I requested the form but haven’t received it yet. Maybe they noticed that I don’t have any points yet, but the point is it’s possible.
- You can’t book your free nights online. You either send an online request form or call the provided number. Having said that, I had to wait for about 5 seconds to talk to agents.
- Points expire after 18 months of inactivity.
- There are no blackout dates, and as long as a room is available for cash, it should be available for points.
- Some hotels (like the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort – St Maarten) don’t show availability beyond 2019.
- Speaking of all-inclusives: the redemption covers 2 people at the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort – St Maarten and 3 to 4 people (either 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids up to 13) at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa. If you can’t dump your kids and don’t mind staying at a lesser all-inclusive, then paying 40,000 points for 3-4 people sounds like a bargain to me.
- One agent told me that you don’t have to pay taxes and resort fees on a reward stay. I believed her about the taxes, but she didn’t sound very certain about resort fees. I didn’t push, but I honestly doubt this is true. If it is, however it’s fantastic! Here are resort fees for some of the Sonesta hotels according to Resort Fee Checker.
- Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach: $35 (but includes beach loungers)
- Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island: $25 (but doesn’t include the loungers)
- Sonesta ES Suites Orlando – International Drive: $15
- The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel: $28
Is it easy to get the Sonesta credit card?
Unfortunately no. Bank of America has joined many other issuers who have declared an open war on serial applicants. You can get 2 BofA personal cards within 2 months; 3 new cards within 12 months; and 4 new cards within 24 months. That wouldn’t be too bad, maybe, but BofA is also sensitive to the number of open accounts. In addition you can’t get some cards if you’ve had the same card within the last 24 months, but since the Sonesta card is so new, it shouldn’t be a problem. 🙂
Check this Reddit thread for some experiences of applying for the Sonesta credit card.
The new Sonesta credit card can be a great addition to your wallet, but most of its virtues are in the welcome and annual bonuses, and almost nothing else. If you do apply, I would collect the whole 102,500 points after adding an authorized user and meeting the $7,500 spending requirement within the first year. I would probably use these points to stay in St. Maarten, San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans, or Hilton Head, and I would try to apply together with my spartner to double the loot.
What are your thoughts?