Category Archives: Hotels

Hotels

BookBRG- another useful tool for finding BRGs

Best Rate Guarantees, or BRGs, are cool ways you can make the cheaper prices offered by Online Travel Agents (OTAs eg Hotels.com, Expedia etc) work for you while still earning loyalty points and status with the hotel. Have a read of my refresher here on how BRG claims work.

Now, I’m one of those people who actively hunts for BRG opportunities every time he travels. I wrote previously about JustBRG, a rudimentary site that did something very similar.

However, JustBRG was slow, buggy and inelegant, and the site has not been working in a while. I think it’s safe to say the developer has abandoned that project.

Fortunately, I’ve learned about a new site called BookBRG. The interface here is much more like a traditional OTA, the site is a lot smoother and less buggy. Here’s me looking at potential BRG opportunities in Bangkok for my post Christmas trip-

You’ll note on the top left that I’m able to search for Hilton, Best Western, Marriott, Starwood, IHG and Choice hotel options. The engine also tells you the maximum value per point possible if you opt to redeem points.

The engine also recommends whether or not you should book direct or go with the 3rd party OTA and then file a BRG.

In this example, I can see 3 opportunities to file a BRG claim with Hilton, because the agency price < booking direct.

Let’s try this with the Conrad, since that’s the biggest price differential.

Clicking on Conrad sends me to this page where I can see all the competing sites that offer the $138 rate.

Just to verify that this $138 rate does indeed exist, I click through to Hotels.com and see this (the rate is actually even lower @ $131)

Versus this price on Hilton.com. Now in this case there’s actually an even cheaper rate of $120 on Hilton.com so perhaps this isn’t the best of examples, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how the general principle works. You use the search engine to identify possible BRG opportunities, click through and compare like for like rates between the OTA and the official site.

Just as a reminder, here are the BRG offers each chain has

  • Starwood- 20% off competing price OR 2,000 Starpoints
  • Hilton- 25% off competing price
  • Marriott-25% off competing price
  • IHG-Match competing price + first night free
  • Choice- Match competing price + first night free
  • Best Western- Match competing price + US$100 gift card

20% off AirBnB Gift Cards on Amazon, with a catch

Amazon is having a promotion now which allows you to get 20% off a US$50 AirBnB gift card. This promotion is limited to 1 per Amazon account but there’s nothing stopping you from getting your friends/relatives to buy on your behalf.

The catch is that AirBnB gift cards by right can only be redeemed by US residents. So you’ll need to  (1) indicate your residence country as USA in your AirBnB profile (easy) (2) link a US-based payment method to your account (not so easy).

With regards to (2), there are two ways of doing this

  • The first is to use the UOB VirtualPay AMEX Card (which comes with a US billing address). Unfortunately, UOB is not issuing this anymore

Image result for uob virtual pay amex

  • The second is to buy a prepaid online credit card that has a US billing address. I found a provider called US Unlocked that seems to provide just this (full disclosure: haven’t tested it personally but it does seem promising)- a US bank issued virtual credit card with a US billing address that you can top up from Singapore. There are also several other virtual credit card options you might be interested in (this probably deserves a full post in itself)

You’ll be pleased to note that you can use multiple gift cards in a single transaction, and can combine gift card balances with whatever referral credit/other coupons you have with AirBnB. If you sign up using my link, you get S$51 off your first stay.

how my Orlando AirBnB reservation is pricing after applying 2 gift cards + referral credit. 

It’s simple to take advantage of this- all you have to do is go to this link and select the US$50 option.

At checkout enter the code Airbnb and click apply. You’ll see the cost reduced to US$40. I’m using my Citibank Rewards card to buy this so that I’ll get 8 mpd.

Once you finish the order you should receive an email from Amazon. Click on the link and you’ll receive your gift card. 

Then follow the instructions on the AirBnB page to redeem your credit and you’re done.

Even if you’re not a first timer AirBnB user, you can still get S$72 off your next booking by registering an AirBnB for Business account. Keep in mind you don’t actually need to stay for business, all you have to do is add a work email ( I assume this means anything other than a gmail/hotmail/yahoo email) to your account, book a stay and click the box that says “business travel” (see below)

I’ve got upcoming AirBnB stays so it’s a no brainer for me to buy a few gift cards to pre-purchase a 20% discount. I do not know how long this deal will be valid for but if you’re able to link a US-based payment method to your account then I’d act sooner rather than later.

Starwood announces Q1 2017 promotion, hopes you have long stays planned

Starwood has announced its Q1 promotion for 2017 and I have mixed feelings about it. Registration is required and can be done here. Here’s the details-

  • Earn double Starpoints® on your first three stays between January 16 and April 15, 2017.
  • Plus, we’re giving you an extra Double Take bonus to earn even more Starpoints.
  • Offer valid at all hotels and resorts in the SPG program — no exceptions.

Let’s start with the good. The best part about this promotion is that 100% of SPG properties worldwide are participating. No exclusions. It just strikes me as petty and small minded whenever properties opt out taking part in these bonuses, and I’ve found that elite member treatment is invariably worse at such places (given that their participation in the program is only half-hearted. Sheraton Singapore, I’m looking at you)

Unlike past promotions, they only reward your first 3 stays with double Starpoints. Subsequently, however, what’s called the Double Take bonus kicks in.

So far there have been two reported variants of the doubl eTake bonus you can get

Variant 1 (I got this one)

  • Starting on your fourth stay, you can earn up to 15,000 bonus Starpoints®:
  • Achieve 20 nights and you’ll earn 10,000 Starpoints.
  • After 20 nights earn 500 Starpoints for each additional night, up to 5,000 Starpoints

Variant 2

  • Starting on your fourth stay, you can earn up to 10,000 bonus Starpoints®:
  • Achieve 10 nights and you’ll earn 5,000 Starpoints.
  • After 10 nights earn 500 Starpoints for each additional night, up to 5,000 Starpoints.

The problem with the Double Take bonus is how restrictive it is, because they only start counting the 20 nights from when you complete your third stay (confirmed by the SPG representative on Flyertalk)

So imagine a scenario like this

Stay 1: 6 nights
Stay 2: 11 nights
Stay 3: 5 nights

I’ve already exceeded 20 nights here, but for me to get my 10,000 bonus Starpoints I need to stay a further 20 nights from the end of my third stay. Therefore, another way of reading this promotion is

  • 2X Starpoints on first 3 stays
  • 500 bonus starpoints per night from fourth stay for 20 nights (but only if I hit 20 additional nights, otherwise 0)
  • 500 bonus starpoints per night from the 21st night after the fourth stay for a maximum of 10 nights

Wow, they really want you to rack up the stays. For you to maximise the 15,000 point kicker, you need to stay 30 nights after your first 3 stays.

I need to do the math on this, but it appears that for some people, it may make more sense to do 3 short stays upfront so you can trigger the count for the 30 nights. It all depends- I think in general 500 bonus points a night is better than 2X Starpoints for your entire stay, but you’ll have to work the math for yourself and see what happens.

 

I’m going to be in Sao Paulo in January for the first two to three weeks and my old friend the Sheraton Sao Paulo beckons.

publicity photo
IRL
IMG_20160313_220939
IRL part two

Although the promotion starts on 16 Jan, as per the T&C all I need to do is get one night of my stay within the promotion period in order to have the whole stay qualifying. So if, for example, I stay 2 Jan- 17 Jan, the entire stay qualifies for double starpoints.

I was really hoping to reach Platinum 100 this year but because of a last minute change in travel plans that will not be possible. I do retain high hopes for 2017 though, with about 49 Starwood nights already locked in. Also, 2017 will be the last year of the SPG program in its current form as we know it. After 2017 it is likely that Marriott will either do away with it completely or merge the Marriott Rewards program (boo) with the SPG one.

Therefore my immediate goal is to lock in Lifetime Gold and pray that Marriott doesn’t terminate the Lifetime program (Lifetime, in the realm of loyalty programs, refers to the lifetime of the program, not your lifetime sadly). I’ve already got 275 nights so all I need to do for Lifetime Gold is requalify for elite status for 1 more year.

For those of you who earn points with Marriott (why?) you might be interested to note that Marriott Rewards and SPG seem to be aligning their promotions. Marriott’s Q1 promotion sounds, on the surface, to be similar to SPG’s but I haven’t gone to read the details.

What do I think of the promotion overall? It’s definitely weaker than past ones, but since hotels are enjoying good occupancy rates now there’s really no need to incentivize people to stay. I’m hopelessly loyal to SPG so they’ll still be my choice of hotel provider for 2017, but depending on what Marriott does 2018 may be a different stoy for me…

Oh who am I kidding.