Full disclosure. This point redemption cautionary tale is not for the faint of heart and not recommended to most readers... do not attempt!
No matter how convoluted it may be, I’ve always been fascinated by how loyalty programs work. Call me crazy, but I once attended a Marriott timeshare meeting voluntarily because I passionately wanted to do a deep dive in how to maximize the value of that program.
For hotel groups, most people know the big 4:
- Marriott (ex. Ritz Carlton Hong Kong)
- Hyatt (ex. Park Hyatt Sydney)
- Hilton (ex. Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills)
- IHG (ex. InterContinental DTLA)
Under these four hotel chains, you can use a wealth of loyalty points in leveraging free stays at some aspirational properties. But if you want to stay at an independent hotel group (i.e. the Montage International Hotels)… are you out of luck? Well… not necessarily
Interestingly, select Montage International Hotels participate in an independent hotel network called “The Preferred Hotel & Resorts” group.
Unknown to most travel hackers, there’s actually a fifth hotel group loyalty program called “Choice Privileges” that offers an unique redemption opportunity where you can redeem Choice points for independent luxury hotels. Redemptions rates range from 25,000-55,000 points/night.
To get the points, American Express allows 1:1 ratio transfer. However, Citibank doubles the value by allowing it to have 1:2 ratio transfer. That means a maxed out 55,000 points stay will technically cost half at just merely 27,500 points per night via Citibank! This potentially makes this a huge sweet spot for some hotel redemptions.
To put into perspective, top-tier Hyatt hotels can now cost up to 45,000 points/night and let’s not even mention Marriott/Hilton/IHG where it can cost upwards of 100k points just for a redemption now. Thus, finding a Montage/Pendry Preferred property like this for less than 27,500 pts via Citi is an absolute steal.
Now here’s the HUGE caveat…
Step 1: Call 1-888-770-6800
Calling is not a big deal… but when the agents DON’T KNOW how to use their own loyalty program to book a partner independent hotel, the calls could include a lot of “supervisor phone transfers” and get very verrrrrry painfully long.
Step 2: Be Patient and Flexible
If the agent keeps pushing back on “Preferred Hotel and Resorts” not redeemable through the “Choice Privileges” program, simply politely say your goodbyes and connect with another (and hopefully more competent) agent.
Step 3: Get your confirmation number
Once you finally succeed in booking, remember to get your confirmation number. This is very important because the agent has to book the reservation manually, so he/she isn’t able to give you any official confirmation emails like a typical hotel booking.
Step 4: Call the hotel to re-confirm
Almost… there! To double check, call the hotel (i.e. The Pendry San Diego) and make sure there’s a confirmed reservation for the date booked. Feed them your check-in date, your name, and say it’s an award reservation under a Choice Privileges booking.
Voilà! Point “hack” complete. Enjoy your $$$$ stay.
Overall though, we don’t recommend this method in booking independent hotels, but if you can stomach it… it can be a phenomenal way to get outsize value in unique hotels outside of the typical Marriott/Hyatt/Hilton/IHG umbrella.