Booking Barcelona: A Hilton Points Dilemma

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It’s been a minute, but remember when I was tempted by the 75,000 Hilton points signup bonus on the Citi Hilton Visa? And then I went ahead and got it anyway?

OK, flash forward to now. I have the 75,000 Hilton points, and just booked a trip to Barcelona in January.

Those are all great things, so what’s the dilemma?

To Points & Money, or just money?

This is how life has been lately: I think one thing sounds good, then turn it over in my mind and convince myself of its opposite. Then repeat, like an annoying little hamster wheel of indecision.

Why stop now?

Here are my conflicting ideas.

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The setup

Within the image above are the raw materials for a room at the Hilton Barcelona in January. The options are:

  • The room rate at $150 a night, prepaid (AKA $935 for 6 nights after taxes)
  • 30,000 Hilton points a night (AKA 150,000 Hilton points for 6 nights with 5th night free)
  • 12,000 Hilton points + $50 a night (AKA 72,000 Hilton points + $310 for 6 nights)

Pros and cons

Is it better to pay the cash rate of $935 for 6 nights? Or the Points & Money rate of 72,000 Hilton points and $310?

My 72,000 Hilton points are essentially worth $625 that way.

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Points & Money Reward final cost

Which means the signup bonus on the Citi Hilton Visa is/was worth say, $650 after it’s all said and done.

That’s not bad. But it’s not as good as it could be, either.

I found several Hilton Category 2 hotels that could make the sign-up bonus worth well over $1,000. 

But, I don’t have flights to those hotels. And I got a great deal on flights to Barcy (I’m calling it Barcy now).

Plus, the value of points is always subjective. What are your points worth to you?

In this case, I know my points could be worth more, but I could also use them for this trip right now.

So is it better to pay the cash rate and save the points for later? Or use ’em and earn more Hilton points for the next travel goal? 

Or even use another type of hotel points, like IHG?

 

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Save the points, spend the cash?

Assuming I split the cost with my BF, we’d both pay $470ish for the cash rate (the price above is in Euros), but only $160 for the Points & Money rate. The latter sounds like a better deal, obviously.

But my pernts!

Then I think:

  • Earn and burn, baby
  • But points are a great insurance for future deals that pop up, too
  • Am I OK with my sign-up bonus being worth “only” $625?

Philosophy

This quandary taps into the very vein of why I earn points and miles in the first place.

To have when a trip comes along. To use for hotels I wouldn’t ordinarily pay for.

But $150 a night isn’t a bad rate to pay, either.

Points are always worth the value you assign to them

Points are always worth the value you assign to them

For now, I’ve booked with Points & Money. I figure it locks in the rate, and I can always cancel later and rebook if the cash rate drops.

Then it’ll be a no-brainer.

Plus, as Hilton Gold, I get free breakfast for 2 all 6 days. That can really add up, and I value breakfast for 2 for at least $15 a person, per day, which is nearly $200 all by itself.

Or, I can scrap it all and just book a cheap Airbnb. Sighz.

Bottom line

Have you ever been torn between redeeming points at a less-than-stellar rate for a trip you’ve already planned or save them for an aspirational award trip that you’ll take “someday?”

That’s where I’m at right now. I’m usually not this wishy-washy, but my instinct is to burn the Hilton points, especially because they’re so easy to earn.

What would you do, or what have you done in the past when it comes to being on the fence about a points redemption? Did you pull the trigger, or save them for a bigger trip with better value?

Also, if anyone has better recs about where to stay in Barcelona, I’m all ears!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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Comments

  1. I don’t. Marriott Il Ciocco in Tuscany is like $110 or 25k points. It was a no brained. This is exactly why the points game is no longer worth the chase.

    • Yes, a lot of them are priced that way. The best redemptions are few and far between, especially for the lower level awards, and you have to look harder for them. But when you get a great deal, it can still be worth it.

      That said, I hate having to choose between 2 so-so options! Wish it were easier!

      • Stay at the Le Meridian. It is 12k points and regularly goes for $400/nt+. Apply a SNA and get upgraded to a $600/nt room on a 12k/nt hotel. But as a whole, if you look at hotels.com for 4 or 5* hotels, and are just willing to have zero loyalty – the competition makes it hard to want to spend time earning points. E.G. – why spend 40k or 70k night at a $300 or $400 Marriott in South Beach Miami, when there is a Kimpton hotel coming in @ 200/nt and still 5 star. Just pay $200/nt. Hotel points were the first sign that this whole game is useless. It can take so long to accumulate 200k hotel points, and you can burn them in 3-4 nights in many brands (Hilton I think charges as much as 80k/nt). Even if you are a road warrior on the road 40+ weeks a year, you likely won’t have enough for a 6 night stay at a Ritz Carlton, or Intercontinental, or W hotel. It is best to just assume you will pay for hotels.

        If you get more than 2 cents per point out of your hotel points, you are doing very well. Otherwise, just use a cashback credit card and pay for the hotels out of pocket – because it truly becomes easier that way. Hotels upgrade paid guests more generously than points guests.

        • Understood. I was looking at Le Meridian today… I’m thinking it’ll get cheaper closer to January, low season and all. In that case, I’ll definitely save the points and go all-cash.

          Hotel points are the trump card of points – hard to put a value on in the 1st place, and then stuff like this comes up.

          Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. 5th night free benefit for HHonors elites: wouldn’t the all-points option therefore be 150,000 points? not that that changes the equation much, as the cash-with-points option is still better that the all-points option.

    As for using points now as cash-with-points vs saving for better opportunity: I vote for the bird in the hand. your redemption is 0.8 cents per Hilton point, which isn’t bad. Enjoy your trip.

    • Ah, you’re right! I’ll update to reflect that – thank you!

      And yes, unless the cash rate drops significantly, I think I’ll reconcile myself to what’s been planned instead of holding out for some magical Hilton redemption in the future. Besides, you can always earn more!

  3. Just did a quick search on Airbnb for your dates in great neighborhoods like El Born, found fantastic places one beds and up for around $80 a night all in. I don’t think I would spend for a standard hotel room $156 less $15 per night in cash OR 12K HH+$50 less $15 per night, instead of the Airbnb option which shows that the real value using P+C would be $45 for 12K HH, i.e. 0.38c per point. Perhaps you might prefer some great jamon flautas and coffee for 10 euros for 2 instead of a hotel breakfast.

    Some pretty highly ranked hotels below $100 per night too if you don’t like non-hotel options, like Brummell and Ambit.

  4. I can see a rate of 106 Euro rate using a corp code. At this time of year you should also be able to get a very serviceable room on Priceline for less than the cash portion of the Hilton cash and points.

    • Ah, cool! I didn’t even consider a corp code.

      But booking with a 3rd party website won’t earn me elite credit, and I might not get free breakfast and wifi (as is the case with most hotel chains).

      I’ll check Priceline for a few boutique hotels in the area, but I must admit the free breakfast at Hilton is a huge draw.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  5. We stayed at the Hilton Diagonal. Not the best location, but very close to the metro. As a gold given access to the lounge, where the food and drink in the evenings was great. Could make a really good dinner with vegetables, cheeses, seafood, sandwiche etc. and good wine. Saved as a fortune and the rooms were quite nice also. Breakfast was extensive buffet in the restaurant with made to order items included.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing that! Sounds similar to what I did in London with the lounge at the Hilton London Tower Bridge. Basically had full meals there, plus cocktails and takeaway drinks – and saved major $$$. And London is very expensive!

      I wonder how the breakfast & lounge compare at the Hilton Barcelona? This might enough to sway me, and I’m fine with riding the metro.

      Definitely something to consider – thank you!

  6. Go with the cash and points version and use the Citi Prestige to pay for the cash portion. The extra HHonors points are not worth it when using your new Citi or AMEX HHonors cards, as the cash value of those extra points amount to nor more than 2 cents, I think == 5 HHonors points/$, I believe.

    Using your Citi Prestige or Premier (if you have a partner who has a Prestige) permits you to get 1.6 cents per point when redeeming for AA airfare == 4.8 cents/$ for the hotel cost == almost a 5% additional discount off the cost of the cash portion of the hotel stay.

    Finally, the hotel breakfast is worth it, but I believe I read that the Alexandra has cut back on that benefit.

    • You love Citi Prestige! Neither I nor my partner have it yet, but given the whole thing with AMEX this week, I may have it sooner rather than later.

      You know, I was also thinking… I could pay cash and get the 4th night free with Citi Prestige, and then book the other 2 nights as Points & Money awards. The 4th night free would be much more than a 5% discount. And I’d still earn points from booking with Citi Prestige, too.

      Hmmm… great, great ideas here. Thank you so much for sharing!

      • Yes, that is a good idea — I just find HHonors points generally pretty worthless so any way to use them up for decent value is a winner.

        Good luck and enjoy Barcelona!

  7. I stayed at the Hilton Diagonal in Aug for 5 nights. I used BRGs to get the rate down to ~EUR80/night. I get points for the stay plus stay credit and as HHG also got access to the lounge.

  8. The trick for Hilton paid stay is you must register for various promotions. You can earn at least 47.5x points per dollar you spend. So 1K spending can be nearly 50K points which is worth about $300. Also use MVP rate which saves you 20%.

    • I checked the MVP rate, but nothing came up in Barcelona.

      Here’s hoping they have some good promos in 2016 Q1!

      And yup, the key is stack stack stack the discounts and promos!

    • A value of .004 per HHonors point is closer to reality, so those 50K HHonors points earned — if true — would yield at most $200.00, not $300.00 and I think you are being wildly optimistic with that earning schedule, especially for someone who is only a Gold member and the fact that HHonors has not released any information with respect to their early January (if any) promotion — nor have the other hotel giants, as well.

      • This is my first time earning/redeeming HHorribles points – or would be. It’s still a few months out. I’ll see if I can’t come up with something better. I do like your Citi Prestige idea, though.

        Thank you so much!

  9. Barcelona is fairly easy to navigate with public transportation, but I would look for a more central location for a hotel. I would stay much closer to Place de Catalunya, which in may ways is the center of Barcelona. If you’re most interested in location, character and friendly service, check out The Moods, located on one floor of an apartment building. Hotels.com shows several rooms at The Moods available on your dates. The Terrace Room can be had for $84/night. With taxes and fees, the total runs: $540. Split two ways: $270, minus the 4% rebate you could get through Ebates.com.

    • Incredible advice – the stuff you can’t find just by searching online. Thank you so much.

      I’ll add your note to my Barcelona 2016 notebook right now, and will look into it.

      Thanks again, much appreciated! So looking forward it!

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