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How To Stay For Free At Luxurious Hyatt Hotels

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When my wife and I checked in for the night at Hyatt Piñon Pointe, a Hyatt Residence Club in Sedona, Arizona, we were handed certificates good for two free glasses of wine at a great little wine bar on the property. We would see the concierge later for more gifts.

We were upgraded from an efficiency to a one-bedroom condo, at no extra cost. It was larger than our home (really). We turned on the cozy gas fireplace, checked out the large bedroom with its huge whirlpool bath, put our drinks away in the fully-equipped kitchen, and took in the view of the surrounding red rocks from our very private (and large) balcony.

Later we would enjoy the pool and hot tubs, which sit at the high point on the property — a great place from which to see Sedona and the surrounding area.

Out of curiosity I checked the price for a night online. With taxes and fees it came to $454.46. We paid nothing.

Our real cost was $75, the annual fee for my Hyatt credit card, which is what earned us this “anniversary night” award.”

But as a new card holder you could get your first night (and two more) at one of these high-end places for free, or, if you do it right, you can get up to nine Hyatt Hotel nights for free.

Let’s look at how to do that, and how to maximize the value of your Hyatt credit card and World of Hyatt account, starting with…

The Hyatt Credit Card Signup Bonus

When you get the Hyatt Credit Card, if you don’t already have a World of Hyatt account, one will be set up for you automatically. That’s where your points will be deposited.

The signup offer changes from time to time, but it’s always good for a free night or two, and, depending on how you use it, possibly much more.

For example, the current offer is 40,000 points if you spend $2,000 on the card in the first three months you have it. You get an additional 5,000 points for adding an authorized user. And the $75 annual fee is waived the first year.

Okay, so let’s do the math. By the time you put $2,000 on the card you’ll get at least 2,000 points (more if some of that spending is at restaurants, airlines, or car rental companies, which earn 2 points per dollar spent). Add to that the 40,000 bonus and the 5,000 points for adding your spouse to the card, and you’ll have 47,000 points.

Then you’ll have some decisions to make. You could spend most of those points on one night if you stayed at a category 6 hotel and upgraded to a suite (40,000 points), The Piñon Pointe Hyatt, the category 4 place where we recently stayed, is 15,000 points, so you could have three free nights there.

But if you check the Hyatt free nights chart you’ll see that Category 1 properties cost only 5,000 points. You could use your points for nine free nights at one (or more) of those hotels. And some of them are really nice!

For example, my wife and I love the category 1 Hyatt Place near the Phoenix Airport. It’s clean, has a nice  pool, and a free breakfast.

Free really is free in this case — there are no extra fees or taxes to pay when you use your World of  Hyatt points to book a room.

The Spending Requirement: If you have trouble meeting that $2,000 spending requirement to earn your bonus points, buy Walmart gift cards or something similar that you can easily use in the future without spending anything extra. See my post on manufactured spending for more on how to generate “spend” without any additional cost.

How To Get More Regular Points

Using the card earns you more points, of course, but if you have other rewards credit cards you have to decide when it’s worth using your Hyatt card.

The Point Guy pegs Hyatt points at a value of 1.8 cents, or 1.8% of the amount spent, so a Citi Double Cash card, at 2 cents per dollar of spend would be a better choice for most purchases.

On the other hand, the Hyatt card earns three points on Hyatt properties, so if you’re heading to the coffee shop in the lobby while you’re at a Hyatt, use the card there

Also, the card pays “2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies.”

And you may have to do your own math based on where you’ll redeem your free nights. For example, some category 1 Hyatt hotels might normally cost $150 per night with taxes and fees, in which case, when you pay 5,000 points earned from $5,000 in spending, your points are effectively worth 3 cents each.

How To Maximize The Value Of Your Anniversary Night Award

In addition to the free nights you get from your points, every year you get a free “anniversary night award” once you’ve paid your $75 annual fee. This is good for a stay at a category 1 through 4 Hyatt hotel.

You can find lists of the best category 4 Hyatt hotels at which to use your free anniversary night. Alternately, use the Hyatt hotel search tool, starting with category 4. Naturally, to maximize the value, you’ll want to aim for at least a category 3 hotel.

My wife and I loved our stay at the category 4 Andaz (a Hyatt brand) in Savannah, Georgia. Sadly, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, where we stayed free and had a wonderful catamaran cruise, has since  been changed from category 4 to category 5 — double check the category if you’re not getting your information directly from the Hyatt website.

The category designations do not directly correspond to the quality of the hotels. Sometimes a hotel is in a higher category because it’s simply in a busy location. So check out the details to find the right place for you, regardless of category.

Keep in kind that while you can keep your points for years, you have only one year to use that free anniversary night. Don’t make the mistake of booking a room with points if you have an anniversary night award that expires soon.

How To Get Thousands Of “Special Points”

In addition to earning points by using the Hyatt credit card, and getting those anniversary nights, you can also sometimes earn extra points in various ways.

For example, last year Hyatt had a promotion that rebated 10% of any points you redeemed. So, for example, when my wife and I stayed at a category 1 Hyatt for 5,000 points, 500 points were added back into our account.

When we stayed at the Piñon Pointe Hyatt, which is a “Hyatt Residence” property, we had the opportunity to earn 10,000 points (!) for attending a 90-minute condo sales presentation (sadly, our schedule didn’t allow for it).

Watch for other offers from Hyatt.

Also, ask for points. Specifically, if a stay doesn’t meet your expectations, ask for compensation in the form of points. The front desk employees have the ability to  add points to your account.

For example, when my wife and I stayed at the Hyatt in Coral Gables, Florida, we discovered some nasty garbage in the bushes next to the hot tub. We mentioned this and we were given 6,000 points as compensation.

If the pool is out of service, and you planned to use it, why not ask for some points for your inconvenience? If the room is dirty, ask for 1,000 points.

How To Maximize Your Points

You can burn through a ton of points staying at the more luxurious Hyatt hotels (30,000 points for a standard room in a category 7 hotel, for example), or stretch those points out by staying at category 1 and 2 hotels.

The decisions are not always easy. Some category 1 Hyatts are really nice, but none of them compare to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, which costs four times as much in points (20,000 versus 5,000).

One way to maximize the value, if you want to visit a general area, but not a specific destination, is to look at a map of Hyatt hotels by category. There may be a Hyatt in one city that cost half as many points as one of their properties in the next town over, and either might work fine for you.

Double check those categories though, because these maps are created by generous travelers who may not have the time to update them. Hyatt does not maintain their own map, an omission that’s probably meant to keep you from getting maximum value from your points.

Using Points and Cash

Like many other hotel chain memberships, World of Hyatt lets you to use points plus cash to book a room. They keep it simpler than most too, with a simple chart that shows the cost by category.

This is great when you don’t have enough points. For example, the Grand Hyatt in Denver (we’ve stayed there several times and love the location) is a category 3 that normally costs 12,000 points. But you can also pay $75 plus 6,000 points.

Even if you have the points you may get a better value using the points+cash system. For example, checking just now, that Denver room would normally cost $265 with taxes. If you stayed two nights you might pay 12,000 points for the first and $265 cash for the second.

But if you paid 6,000 points plus $75 each night ($150 total) you would save $115.

Whether you are better off using only points or points and cash depends on the category and your plans, so do the math.

How To Maximize Your Hyatt Points and Experience

My wife and I rarely choose to upgrade to a better room. It costs too much in points, and sometimes the hotel will upgrade you for free anyhow.

But one upgrade that’s often worth the extra cost is the Regency Club or Grand Club rooms. Hyatt hotels that have these “clubs” offer a special floor where “members” can hang out in a nice lounge, usually with a great view.

These lounges have some sort of food out all day. They call it hor d’oeuvres, but we’ve always found enough variety for us to make three meals of it. That saves us eating out or eating at the expensive on-property restaurants.

For example, when we stayed at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, we paid the extra 5,000 points for a Grand Club room, and enjoyed the ocean views from up high, while eating endless fancy cheeses, strawberries, and more.

The food was all free, saving us the cost of meals. The beer and wine (help yourself and put the money in a jar) cost $2 each, a big savings versus the bar downstairs.

The Four Levels of World of Hyatt

As a member of World of Hyatt, you will be at one of several levels, starting with “Member,” and working your way up through “Discoverist,” “Explorist,” and “Globalist,” as you have “qualifying nights.” Each level comes with additional rewards, including upgrades and additional free nights (with or without having the Hyatt credit card).

Because achieving these levels requires qualifying nights, meaning stays when you pay the regular rate, it’s not a very useful part of the program for those of us who like to go cheap or free. For example, it takes 10 qualifying nights just to move from “Member” to “Discoverist.”

On the other hand, it’s great if you do pay to stay at Hyatt hotels often. In that case, check out the many benefits of membership at higher levels.

Some Final Thoughts

My wife and I have stayed at Hyatt hotels in at least ten different locations, and we’ve almost always “paid” for our rooms with points. We’ve had our World of Hyatt account for years, and we use all the strategies detailed here to get the most points and to maximize their value.

You can do the same. Of course, if you don’t want to pay a $75 annual fee, you can forgo the anniversary night award. Just get the card, use it to pay for all your groceries and such, choose a nice nearby category 1 Hyatt, and have nine free one-night getaways this year.

If you’ve used the Hyatt credit card for free hotel stays tell us about your experiences below… and keep on frugaling!

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