The sweet spots of Hyatt Gold Passport

Hyatt Gold Passport is, at the same time, both the most frustrating and potentially interesting of the major hotel loyalty schemes.  I speak from the perspective of someone living in the UK who enjoys luxury city hotels.

Hyatt is a very small chain with just 488 sites at 31st March, compared with, say, 4,500 in the Priority Club (Holiday Inn etc) portfolio.  This number is itself a lot bigger than it was, bulked up by the Summerfield Suites acquisition (now Hyatt Place) in the US.  Outside the US, coverage is spotty.

On the upside, Hyatt properties outside the US (US ones can be poor) are often of very high quality, with the Park Hyatt brand now on a par with Mandarin Oriental and Ritz Carlton as a challenger to the Four Seasons crown for most luxurious hotel group.  Lost In Translation showed off the Park Hyatt Tokyo to the world, but many Grand Hyatt properties – theoretically one notch down the quality scale – are also outstanding.  I can personally recommend GH Berlin, GH Shanghai and GH Tokyo, for example.  More down to earth, the Hyatt in Birmingham is the best business hotel I have ever stayed in here.  They are also moving into W territory with the Andaz chain of ‘funkier’ properties, which includes the impressive London property at Liverpool Street.  This photo is of the Park Hyatt Dubai’s pool in April 2010, the last Hyatt stay I did:

So far so good.  But here are the problems from a miles and points perspective.

Firstly, Hyatt points are very hard to earn if you are not in the US where there is now a credit card option.  There is no UK credit card and they have never been an Amex Membership Rewards partner.

Secondly, even if you do stay at the hotels, the points take a long time to mount up.  My wife stays at Park Hyatt Hamburg a lot (one of the ten best city hotels in Europe in my view) and earns about 1,400 points a night due to her good corporate rate – it would take 16 nights to earn a 22,000 point free night at a top property.  In fact, whilst it is rarely good value to take airline miles instead of hotel points, it is almost worth doing here.  Hyatt used to run a lot of hotel-specific bonus point promotions but these have almost totally dried up.

There used to be a third problem – no points purchase option, apart from an offer to let you buy the last 10% you needed.  However, Hyatt moved on this last year and you can now buy points.  Which brings me to the specific point of this post – a 30% bonus on buying Gold Passport points before 31st August.

Now, even with a 30% bonus, Hyatt point purchases are not a no-brainer.  44,000 points (2 nights in a top property) is $816 (£523).  That is a decent deal for two nights at the top Paris, London or Tokyo properties but you’d need to check availability for the dates you wanted first, and of course the competing cash price.  And of course paying cash would get you points back, and some Hyatt hotels offer special deals for booking via American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (Platinum and Centurion cardholders only) or via a Virtuoso travel agent.

So … the only obvious route here is to use the promotion to top up your balance if you are a little short of an award.  And that probably means you are buying a small number of points, and so will get a bonus smaller than 30%, probably 10%.  Less exciting.

My preferred Hyatt reward is a small one – the 6,000 point suite upgrade award.  This is real no-brainer for me on many city hotel stays.  Just 6,000 points gets you up to four nights in a suite for the price of a normal room.  There are a couple of caveats – the ‘normal room’ must be booked on a refundable rate and often cannot be the cheapest room they have.  The hotel may insist you book a deluxe room rather than a standard one, for example.  Availability is limited and the fact that suites are available for cash does not mean they are available for upgrades.

However, if you can get through these hoops, it is an outstanding deal which I used a lot in Asia.  The attractiveness often depends on the size of the gap between the flexible room rate and the cheapest advanced purchase one being sold at the time – hotels which discount less are better deals.  As far as I’m concerned, spending 6,000 GP points plus a cash sum for four nights in a suite is actually a far better deal than redeeming points for a suite redemption.  After all, a suite at a Category 6 property is 33,000 points per night, so 132,000 for a four-night stay.  I’ll take 6,000 points plus cash any day.

There are also good deals to be had with using Hyatt Gift Certificates for rooms instead of cash, but that is a post for another day.

(To see our complete list of all current hotel promotions for Hyatt and other major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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