The Best Ways to Book Independent Hotels on Points

There are many scenarios in which using cash for a hotel stay makes more sense than redeeming points.

In fact, there are many properties around the world at which using points isn’t even an option. These include independent properties, boutique hotels, or hotel chains without a loyalty program that offers its members points.

In these situations, it’s important to know that you can still save money on your hotel bookings instead of just paying full price. Plus, you can also get some elevated perks to enjoy, usually at no extra cost.

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Redeem Fixed-Value Points Currencies

Without directly redeeming points from a hotel loyalty program for a hotel stay, you’ll usually be stuck paying cash. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t still use points to help offset the cost.

This is because most credit card programs issue points that can be redeemed against travel expenses at a set value.

Fixed-value points allow you to offset the cost of independent hotels you can’t book through a loyalty program

Indeed, almost all banks in Canada have the option to redeem points for statement credits, which you can use to offset the cost of travel purchases.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that redeeming points against your hotel stay or travel purchases may not be their most valuable use.

With transferable points currencies, such as American Express Membership Rewards, RBC Avion, and HSBC Rewards, you can generally get better value by transferring your points to airline or hotel partners and strategically redeeming them, rather than by redeeming them for statement credits.

On the other hand, with programs such as TD Rewards, BMO Rewards, CIBC Aventura, Scene+, and National Bank À la carte Rewards, redeeming your points against hotel stays or other travel expenses might just be the best, most valuable use of those points.

American Express Membership Rewards

Generally speaking, you’ll get the most value out of your American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points by transferring them to a partnered loyalty program, such as Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, or Marriott Bonvoy, to name a few.

However, if you’re looking to book a hotel stay that can’t otherwise be booked with points directly, you can use a credit card that earns American Express MR points to pay for the hotel, and you can then use your points balance to cover the cost.

You can redeem MR points against any purchase made on the card at a rate of 1 cent per point (all figures in CAD). This means that if you paid $200 for a hotel room, you can redeem 20,000 MR points for a $200 statement credit to cover the cost of that stay.

What’s more, American Express occasionally has targeted promotions, through which you could redeem your MR points for statement credits at a rate as high as 1.5 cents per point.

In these situations, the value you get from redeeming points creeps higher, and even approaches the value you might get with transfer partners. If any of these promotions come up, it’s worth considering how you might be able to benefit, unless you have a better immediate use for your points.

American Express Membership Rewards Credit Cards
Credit Card Best Offer Value
70,000 MR points $1,676 Apply Now
120,000 MR points $1,574 Apply Now
75,000 MR points $1,561 Apply Now
Up to 77,000 MR points $1,419 Apply Now
100,000 MR points $1,361 Apply Now
15,000 MR points $372 Apply Now
12,500 MR points $301 Apply Now

RBC Avion

Similar to American Express Membership Rewards, you’ll tend to get the most value out of your RBC Avion points by transferring them out to airline partners, such as British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, WestJet Rewards, or American Airlines AAdvantage.

While RBC also allows you to redeem your Avion points for a statement credit, the redemption rate is 17,200 points = $100, which isn’t necessarily a good deal, and should be avoided.

Instead, if you want to use your RBC Avion points to offset the cost of a hotel stay at a better rate, you can book your stay through the RBC Rewards travel portal.

Through the travel portal, you’ll be able to redeem Avion points at 1 cent per point, or 20,000 Avion points = $200.

When choosing this option, you’ll just want to compare the price of the stay as seen on RBC’s travel portal to other booking options to make sure you’re being offered a similar rate.

Sometimes, booking directly with hotels and other travel vendors results in better pricing.

RBC Avion Credit Cards
Credit Card Best Offer Value
Up to 55,000 RBC Avion points†
$120 annual fee
Up to 55,000 RBC Avion points† $1,080 Apply Now
Up to 55,000 RBC Avion points†
$120 annual fee
Up to 55,000 RBC Avion points† $1,080 Apply Now
55,000 RBC Avion points† $826 Apply Now
35,000 RBC Avion points
$120 annual fee
35,000 RBC Avion points $580 Apply Now
35,000 RBC Avion points $525 Apply Now

Scotiabank Scene+

Scotiabank’s Scene+ points can be used to offset any travel you’ve previously purchased with your Scene+ credit card at a rate of 1 cent per point, or 20,000 points for a $200 hotel stay.

The best part is that you can book directly with any vendor, and redeem your points at the highest possible value. This means you can search for the best price or book directly with hotels to earn nights towards status, and then offset the cost after the fact by redeeming Scene+ points.

Scotiabank is also home to Canada’s best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, which means that you’ll save money when travelling and still be able to offset the cost using your points.

Scotiabank Scene+ Credit Cards
Credit Card Best Offer Value
40,000 Scene+ points $355 Apply Now
40,000 Scene+ Rewards points $310 Apply Now
40,000 Scene+ points $176 Apply Now
60,000 Scene+ points $161 Apply Now
7,000 Scene+ points $120 Apply Now

TD Rewards

TD Rewards allows you to redeem points for travel you’ve already booked on your own, and to redeem points through Expedia for TD at an elevated rate.

If you book a hotel stay on your own with your TD Rewards credit card, you’ll have the option to redeem your TD Rewards points at a rate of 0.4 cents per point. In other words, you’ll need 50,000 TD Rewards points to cover a $200 hotel stay.

If you opt to make your booking through the Expedia for TD online portal instead, you’ll get a slightly higher rate of 0.5 cents per point, which would require the incrementally lower amount of 40,000 TD Rewards points to cover the same $200 hotel stay.

As long as you’re getting the same price for the same product, you should endeavour to redeem your points through the Expedia for TD portal, since doing so results in the best value.

TD Rewards Credit Cards
Credit Card Best Offer Value
Up to 135,000 TD Rewards Points† $825 Apply Now
Up to 50,000 TD Rewards Points†
$89 annual fee
Up to 50,000 TD Rewards Points† $258 Apply Now
15,152 TD Rewards Points†
$0 annual fee
15,152 TD Rewards Points† $73 Apply Now

CIBC Aventura

Similar to TD, the CIBC Aventura program also allows you to redeem Aventura Points against travel expenses, or to redeem points through CIBC’s in-house travel agency, at different rates.

By redeeming Aventura points through the travel agency, you’ll get a set value of 1 cent per point, or 20,000 Aventura points for a $200 hotel stay.

Comparatively, if you cash out your points against a hotel stay that’s been charged to your Aventura credit card, you’ll normally get a redemption rate of 0.625 cents per point, which means you’d need 32,000 Aventura points to cover $200.

However, CIBC is currently running a promotion until March 31, 2024, which allows you to redeem Aventura points against any travel expenses you’ve charged to your Aventura credit card at an elevated rate.

The promotional redemption rate is fairly generous, and comes in at double the normal rate, equalling 1.25 cents per point. This means that you’ll only need 16,000 Aventura points to cover a $200 hotel stay.

Just keep in mind that you must redeem your points while the charge is still pending to benefit from the elevated redemption rate, so be sure to act quickly if you want to get the best value from your points.

CIBC Aventura Credit Cards
Credit Card Best Offer Value
40,000 CIBC Aventura Points† $538 Apply Now
35,000 CIBC Aventura Points†
$139 annual fee
35,000 CIBC Aventura Points† $475 Apply Now
Up to 80,000 CIBC Aventura points $420 Apply Now
60,000 CIBC Aventura points $313 Apply Now
10,000 CIBC Aventura points†
$0 annual fee
10,000 CIBC Aventura points† $125 Apply Now

BMO Rewards

With BMO Rewards, you’ll get a value of exactly 0.67 cents per point, whether you redeem your points against your own hotel booking charged to your BMO credit card, or you redeem for a booking made through BMO’s in-house travel agency.

With either route, it’ll cost you 29,850 BMO Rewards points to cover a $200 hotel stay.

If you have to choose between the two, it’s best to book directly with hotels, since you may be able to enjoy extra benefits through your elite status or by booking through a preferred partner program.

BMO Rewards Credit Cards
Credit Card Best Offer Value
Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points
First Year Free
Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points $320 Apply Now
Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points
First Year Free
Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points $221 Apply Now
Up to 90,000 BMO Rewards points $74 Apply Now

HSBC Rewards

HSBC Rewards points can be used to offset any travel purchase at a rate of 200 points for $1, or 0.5 cents per point. This means it’ll cost 40,000 points to cover a $200 hotel stay.

Since HSBC credit cards are no longer open for applications, if you’re sitting on a stockpile of HSBC Rewards points, you may want to consider redeeming them on a travel booking in the short-term future. 

However, since you can also transfer them to three different airline partners, you may want to explore those options before cashing them out for travel.

National Bank À la carte Rewards

As with the other programs we’ve mentioned, National Bank’s À la carte Rewards can also be used to cover travel expenses. When redeeming points through National Bank’s online travel portal, you’ll get a value of 1 cent per point, meaning you can redeem 20,000 points for a $200 hotel stay.

If you want to redeem À la carte Rewards points against your own hotel booking, redeeming fewer than 55,000 points will get you 0.83 cents per point, and redeeming more than 55,000 points will get you 0.92 cents per point.

Based on these rates, you’ll need 24,096 À la carte Rewards points to cover your $200 hotel stay.

National Bank World Elite Mastercard
Credit Card Best Offer Value
Up to 40,000 points $190 Apply Now

Use Travel Credits

Another way that you can save on your hotel costs when you’re booking a cash stay is by using travel credit offered as a perk on select credit cards to offset the final price.

There are a number of cards that offer annual credits that can be used to book your next hotel stay. These cards, and their associated credits, include the following:

Credit Cards with Travel Credits
Credit Card Best Offer Value
70,000 MR points $1,676 Apply Now
120,000 MR points $1,574 Apply Now
100,000 MR points $1,361 Apply Now
Up to 135,000 TD Rewards Points† $825 Apply Now
Up to 80,000 CIBC Aventura points $420 Apply Now
Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points
First Year Free
Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points $320 Apply Now
Up to 90,000 BMO Rewards points $74 Apply Now

Of the above credits, some are fairly flexible, while others require that you jump through a hoop or two. This means that some of the credits allow you to redeem against any hotel expense, while others require that you book through certain travel portals connected with the card issuer.

Book with Preferred Partner Programs

Pretty much every major hotel brand, whether they have a loyalty program or not, has what’s called a preferred partner program.

Preferred partner programs offer a selection of benefits to provide an elevated experience during your stay, which are similar to those enjoyed by guests with elite status.

It’s worth noting that in order to book a hotel through a preferred partner program, you do need to book through a travel advisor, and it’s not possible to book on your own.

Book Luxury Hotels with Prince Collection

Book luxury hotels and preferred partner programs with Prince Collection.

While the exact perks vary by program and by property, the benefits that can be accessed through bookings using preferred partner programs typically include the following:

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • $100 (USD) hotel credit
  • Welcome amenity
  • Room upgrade (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and/or late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Additional property-specific promotions

Notably, the cost to access and enjoy these benefits is the same price you’d pay if you booked with the hotel directly at the best flexible rate.

So, if you’re going to pay for a hotel with cash instead of points, it’s almost always in your best interest to book through preferred partner programs to enjoy extra benefits at no additional cost.

And since you’re charged directly by the hotel, you’ll still be able to offset the total cost of your stay by using fixed-value points from cards listed above, and you’ll enjoy any benefits associated with your elite status.

Book with American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts

If you have an American Express Platinum Card or a Business Platinum Card from American Express, you have access to the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts (FHR) program.

Through the FHR program, you can book luxury hotels and enjoy some of the same benefits as you would if you booked through a preferred partner program.

However, not all luxury hotels are available to be booked through the FHR program, and for those that are, it may be better to book through the hotel’s own preferred partner program, as it might offer better benefits.

In any case, it’s worth comparing the available benefits and costs through all booking options to ensure you’re getting the best combination possible.

And if you’d like to use your MR points to offset the cost of your stay, you can choose to do so once you’ve been charged.

Leverage Amex Offers

American Express has frequent promotions called Amex Offers that are accessible to current American Express cardholders. 

Generally speaking, you’ll need to register for an offer, and then you’ll receive a statement credit for fulfilling a minimum spending requirement at an eligible vendor.

The types of offers that you’ll find vary tremendously and change all the time. However, hotel promotions are fairly common, with some promotions focusing on a specific hotel brand, and others offering perks for spending done through Amex Travel.

Some examples of past Amex Offers include:

As long as you meet the minimum spending threshold to trigger the statement credit, Amex Offers essentially offer a meaningful discount on hotel stays.

Depending on the Amex Offer’s terms and conditions, you can also potentially stack the offer with elevated benefits from a preferred partner program. And if you wish, you can also use Amex MR points to offset the cost of the stay.

For example, let’s suppose you registered for the Spend $500, Get $100 at Canadian Marriott hotels Amex Offer.

You then make an eligible $500 booking at, say, the St. Regis Toronto, via Marriott STARS. Through the preferred partner program, you’ll get free breakfast for two, a $100 (CAD) property credit to use during your stay, priority for room upgrades, and more.

Since you’re charged directly by the hotel, you’d wind up with a $100 statement credit after your stay from the Amex Offer, which made the effective cost just $400. Then, you could use MR points to further offset the cost of the stay, which would bring the total cost down even further, perhaps even to $0.

Whenever there’s an Amex Offer for hotels, it’s certainly worth seeing if you can stack any more perks or offers to get more for less.

Best Rate Guarantees

Lastly, if you’re ever booking a hotel with cash, and especially if you are trying to find the cheapest rate possible, you should know that most major programs offer best rate guarantees.

With best rate guarantees, most hotels will price match your room rates if you happen to find a better eligible rate elsewhere. Not only will they match the rate, but you’ll often receive a further discount or a gift of points, depending on which hotel chain you’re staying with.

Every hotel that has a best rate guarantee policy with different terms and conditions, so make sure to read up on those differences before you make your next booking.

Conclusion

If you aren’t planning on redeeming points for a hotel stay, or if you’d like to book a hotel that can’t be booked with points from a loyalty program, there’s still a lot of ways you can squeeze value out of your next trip.

This can be done by leveraging fixed-value points currencies from credit cards, taking advantage of any travel credits you may have as a card benefit, getting the most out of a luxury hotel stay through preferred partner programs, or through promotions that come up.

Before you book your next hotel stay with cash, be sure to plan ahead, as you’ll likely find a few ways to optimize your stay.

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