One Mile at a Time has written more than I will bother to about Hyatt changing their award chart (short version: 6 hotels get moved into a new Tier 7, which costs 30k points/night; suite upgrades are now 6k points per night, not per stay; Tier 5 and 6 hotels cost more points).
There will be many tears shed about this, but I think it just underscores what I’ve been thinking since the United devaluation:
1) Cards that are aligned with multiple programs are now much more valuable;
2) For me that means that Starwood Amex rather than the Ultimate Rewards cards because of the breadth of transfer partners;
3) People who pooh-poohed cash back cards should probably take a second look.
Let’s take a look at those 6 properties that now cost 30,000 points per night – they’re the Park Hyatt hotels in Beaver Creek, Sydney, Tokyo, Milan, Paris and Zurich.
If you put $30k in spend on an Ultimate Rewards card you can get a free night at one of those hotels when you transfer the points to Hyatt.
But – and this is why I like the Barclays Arrival as my cash back card – for 4 of those properties I’m actually better off earning points on the Barclays card and just buying the hotel with those points. The hotels in Beaver Creek, Tokyo, Milan and Zurich are all under $600/night. So that $424 Beaver Creek room will only require $21,200 in spend on the Barclays card (not even including the 10% bonus I’ll get back from Barclays. Plus I’m earning 2,100 Hyatt points per night because I’m buying the room (rather than using their miles). That means I can upgrade to a Club room for only 900 more points per night.
Yes, the math gets more complicated because you’re probably putting some travel/restaurant bonus mile spend on that Sapphire card, but still — the flexibility of that 2.2% cash back you earn on that Barclays Arrival means you’re not subject to the whims of the programs nearly as much as if all your eggs were in one basket (if, God forbid, you were earning points on the Hyatt card, for example).
Personally, I’m torn about how to spread my spend between the Barclay Arrival and the SPG cards. I see value in getting cash back that can be spent on any travel (car rentals, for example), and I see value in airline points that I can generate with the SPG card. For now, I’m just planning on splitting my spend – but I’d be interested to hear if others have a better strategy.
But my larger point was that these devaluations are certainly going to continue and a hedge against them – especially with hotels – is to have some of your spend go onto a cash back card. I was surprised that earning on the cash back card was actually a better deal than just earning points through spend and transferring the points to Hyatt for several of those top hotels.
(Incidentally – I’m talking about everyday spend here….you should certainly feel free to earn points through signups as much as you’re comfortable…)