The Choice Privileges program doesn’t get a lot of attention in the points-and-miles blogger world. Yet, Choice is a huge hotel chain, with more than 6,800 hotels globally, 12 brands, a vacation rentals group, a Resorts partnership with Bluegreen Vacations, and some known sweet-spot redemptions.
We thought it would be interesting to dive into Choice Privileges a bit, and see what we could learn and share about the loyalty program for this chain with a huge global footprint. We also thought that a Choice Privileges article would be especially timely, with Choice points going on sale this week in the Daily Getaways 2019 promotion (sale begins at Wed 5/15, Noon Central time).
We’ll break down some of the most important things about Choice Privileges and the Choice Hotels group into 17 bite-size facts and tips.
1. Choice has 12 brands
Choice is generally thought of as a lower-end hotel chain without many (if any aspirational properties) – and truly, most of its brands are on the “value” end of the hotel spectrum. However, there are 2 nice brands at the top end of its hotel spectrum, Cambria and Ascend.
Here are the 12 Choice brands, broken down into tiers by Choice itself:
- “Enjoy the Extras” brands:
- “Rest & Refresh” brands:
- Sleep Inn
- “Get More Value” brands:
- Quality Inn
- Clarion Pointe
- “Stay Awhile” brands:
- MainStay Suites
- Woodspring Suites
- Suburban Extended Stay Hotels
- “Travel Simply” brands:
- Rodeway Inn
2. Choice Privileges points-earning is ok but not great
At all Choice brands, you’ll earn 10 Choice points per dollar. We give Choice points a baseline value of 0.5 cents per point (cpp), which means that base-level members are getting a points rebate of about 5%.
- Hyatt base-level earning is 5 pts/$ (at 1.5 cpp, that’s 7.5%)
- Marriott base-level earning at most hotels is 10 pts/$ (at 0.7 cpp, 7%)
- Hilton base-level earning is 10 pts/$ (at 0.5 cpp, 5%)
- IHG base-level earning is 10 pts/$ (at 0.5 cpp, 5%)
In addition, Choice has a “Your Extras” program for any stay that includes a weekday (Sunday-Thursday), where you can select from one of the following benefits:
- 400 Choice Privileges points
- 100 airline miles with participating airline partners
- $0.20 per gallon in Fuel Rewards savings at Shell
- $2.50 Amazon.com credit
- $5 coffee card
- $2.50 Uber trip discount
You must opt in to the “Your Extras” program, make sure you’ve set Choice Privileges points as your earning preference, and select your preferred reward in advance of your stay.
- Choice Privileges: “Your Extras” page
3. Elite-level privileges aren’t too exciting
Choice Privileges has 4 tiers of membership (3 elite tiers):
- Gold (10 nights/year)
- Platinum (20 nights/year)
- Diamond (40 nights/year)
Reward stays count toward elite status.
Elite members get a point bonus on their stays – 10% for Gold; 25% for Platinum; 50% for Diamond. Elite members also get bonus points for each stay in the US or Canada, ranging from 150-250 points depending on the brand.
There is no free breakfast at any elite level with Choice (although many of the hotels include breakfast), and elite room upgrades are only available to Diamond members.
- Choice Privileges: Membership Levels page
4. Choice runs regular promotions
Choice Privileges is good about running regular promotions to enhance your point-earning. The standard Choice promotion recently has been a bit of a convoluted one that works like this:
- Make 2 stays during the promotional period
- If your stays earned less than 3,000 base points total, Choice will add sufficient points to make your total for the 2 stays add up to 8,000
- For instance, if you had 2 stays at $100 each, you would have earned 2,000 points; in that case, Choice would give you an additional 6,000 points to bring your total up to 8,000
- If your stays earned more than 3,000 base points total, Choice will give you an additional 5,000 points
- For instance, if you had 2 stays at $200 each, you would have earned 4,000 points; in that case, Choice would give you an additional 5,000 points (and your total for the 2 stays would be 9,000 points)
Choice’s newest Summer 2019 promotion has an extra twist – you can redeem 8,000 points from the promo for a gift card worth $50 (from Amazon and certain other merchants). This gives your promo points a value of 0.625 cpp, which isn’t bad. Regular redemption rates are 16,000 points for a $50 gift card, which isn’t a good deal at all compared to other redemption options.
You can read our article about Choice’s Summer 2019 “One Stay. Two Stays. Spend It Your Way.” promotion here:
- Middle Age Miles: Choice Privileges Summer Promo Is Now Open – Earn at Least 8,000 Points for 2 Stays + Discounted Gift Card Redemptions
And you can access the promotion page here:
- Choice Privileges: Registration/landing page for the “One Stay. Two Stays. Spend It Your Way” promotion
- Choice Privileges: FAQs for “One Stay. Two Stays. Spend It Your Way” promotion
5. Choice Hotels can be booked through shopping portals, and some days rates have been as high as 10% cash back or more
You can go through many popular online shopping portals to earn cash back, points or miles on your Choice Hotels bookings. You should definitely make using a portal part of your regular routine if you’re booking paid rates at Choice properties.
For the most part, cashback or points-equivalent rates run in the range of 5% or a little less. But in recent months, we’ve seen many days where cash back rates were as high as 10% or more for Choice. In particular, Ebates (now Rakuten) has run many recent one-day promos – and remember, if you have an Ebates account that earns Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points, you can get 10x MR on a 10% day, which can be extremely valuable.
As always, check Cashback Monitor for the best shopping portal rates on any particular day:
- Cashback Monitor: Link to Cashback Monitor home page
6. Choice Privileges has a sign-up bonus if you’re referred
If you’re referred to Choice Privileges and sign up through the referral link, you’ll earn 500 bonus points upon completion of your first eligible stay.
Under the Refer-a-Friend program, the referrer will also earn 500 bonus points after your referred friend completes their first point-eligible stay.
We don’t believe a direct link will work for this. As best we can tell, you need to have your friend send you an email with a referral link.
If you’re interested in the 500-point sign-up bonus, please leave a Comment here, and we’ll send you a referral link at the email address attached to your Comment. Alternatively, you can DM us on Twitter at @MiddleAgeMiles1 with your email address, asking for a Choice Privileges sign-up referral, and we’ll send it along to you.
Here’s the web page for the Choice Privileges Refer-a-Friend program:
- Choice Privileges: Refer-a-Friend page
7. Choice Privileges points don’t expire as long as you have activity in your account within 18 months
Not too long ago, Choice Privileges had a draconian points expiration policy where points would expire at the end of the 2nd year after they were earned; for instance, if you earned points in October 2015, they would expire on December 31, 2017.
A couple of years ago, however, Choice Privileges switched its points expiration policy. Now, points expire only if there is no activity in your Choice Privileges account for 18 months. So, as long as you have activity in your account every 18 months, your Choice points will never expire.
A wide variety of activities qualify to keep your account active:
- Making a qualifying point-eligible stay
- Redeeming Choice Privileges points
- Earning points with the Choice Privileges Visa card (US members only)
- Purchasing points
- Earning points through the Refer-a-Friend program
Check the Choice Privileges program FAQs under “Point Forfeiture” for more information:
- Choice Privileges: FAQs for “Point Forfeiture”
8. Choice Privileges has a status-match program
Choice Privileges has a status-match program with a dedicated page containing directions on how to request a match.
- Choice Privileges: Status Match page
According to the terms and conditions, status matches are once-per-lifetime, and the highest status you can be matched to is Platinum (not top-tier Diamond).
The Status Matcher website contains data points of people being matched to Choice Platinum status from Hilton Honors, Wyndham Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, and IHG.
9. Choice Privileges has a co-branded credit card, but it’s not terribly useful
The Choice Privileges card is a Visa card issued by Barclays. It’s a no-fee card. Currently, the sign-up bonus is 32,000 Choice bonus points after $1,000 spend within 90 days (worth about $160 at 0.5 cpp). The card also comes with Gold elite status. Another benefit is that you can earn 8,000 anniversary bonus points if you spend $10,000 on the card during your cardholder year. (At 0.5 cpp, the anniversary bonus is worth about $40. That’s an extra 0.4% return on your spend, if you spend exactly $10k on the card.)
Bonus categories aren’t terribly exciting, and this card won’t be best-in-class for spend in any category:
- 5 points per dollar at Choice Hotels (2.5% points rebate)
- 2 points per dollar everywhere else (1% points rebate)
Note that the marketing for the Choice Privileges card is somewhat deceiving about how much you’ll earn on spend at Choice hotels. The materials all say that you’ll earn 15 points per dollar. But in that calculation, they’re including the 10x points you earn normally through Choice privileges; the card itself only earns 5x points.
As a result, cards with general bonus categories that include hotel spend are better options, including:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points (4.5%)
- Chase Ink Preferred also earns 3x UR points (4.5%)
- US Bank Altitude Reserve earns 3x US Bank points (4.5%)
- Citi Premier earns 3x ThankYou Points (TYPs) (3.75%)
The only way we see any value in this card is with the sign-up bonus – and even at that, it may not make sense to waste a card slot and a hard pull for a bonus that’s worth only about $160.
- Choice Privileges: Landing page for Choice Privileges credit card
10. You can only reserve rooms using Choice Privileges points 100 days in advance
Nothing more to add here. This is a critical fact to know about the program.
11. There are incredible sweet-spot redemptions in Scandinavia at Nordic Choice hotels
If you’re looking for sweet-spot award redemptions with Choice Privileges, a great place to start is in Northern Europe, and especially at “Nordic Choice” hotels in Scandinavia. We’ll leave it to you to find the places that work best for your own travels, but let’s look at a couple of examples, using articles from some of our favorite travel & award bloggers:
First, here’s a great tip from Nick at Frequent Miler about using Choice Privileges points at Clarion Collection hotels within the Nordic Choice group. These hotels offer free breakfast and evening meal in locations where food prices are high, and they also can give you great value on room rates for your Choice points. Nick notes that many of these hotels can be booked between 10,000 and 20,000 Choice points per night, and he gives examples where hotels in Oslo with room rates of well over $200 can be booked for only 16,000 points. The point redemption values are in the neighborhood of 1.5 cents per point on the room rate alone, before you even consider the free meals. That’s a tremendous value for a points currency that we otherwise consider to have a baseline value of about 0.5 cpp!
- Frequent Miler: Free hotel breakfast & dinner at Nordic Choice Clarion Collection [Sweet-spot spotlight]
Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler has also written extensively about using Choice Privileges points at Nordic Choice hotels. Here’s an excellent piece from three years ago with tons of detail and examples (points prices may have changed, but the basic lessons of this article remain relevant today):
- Loyalty Traveler: Nordic Choice Hotels offer high value for Choice Privileges points
Loyalty Traveler also has some more recent articles detailing great-value Choice Privileges redemptions in Scandinavia:
- Loyalty Traveler: Clarion Collection Hotel Temperance Malmo, Sweden is nice Copenhagen hotel substitute (4/1/2019)
- Loyalty Traveler: Clarion Hotel Sign Stockholm a transit stay 10K per night deal (3/14/2019)
12. How About Spain? Choice added 23 Sercotel Hotels to its Ascend Collection last year, and you can find some great values there
Again, hat tip to Loyalty Traveler for putting us on the scent of this deal.
We’ll leave it to you to find the detailed deals that might work for your travels (see the linked Loyalty Traveler article for a list and map of hotel locations, including in Barcelona and Madrid). These won’t be the biggest aspirational redemptions you’ll ever have, but at the same time we didn’t have much trouble finding deals during the height of Summer 2019 holiday season with redemption rates of 8,000 Choice points where you’d be receiving between 1 and 2 cpp of value.
13. Speaking of aspirational – Choice Privileges has a partnership with Preferred Hotels & Resorts to redeem for 25k to 55k points per night – but something is broken wit this program; good luck finding availability
At least in theory, Choice Privileges has a partnership with Preferred Hotels & Resorts where you can redeem Choice Points for a standard room at participating Preferred Hotels & Resorts. There are 4 tiers of hotels in this program, and they cost either 25k, 35k, 45k, or 55k Choice points per night. The Choice terms & conditions say that the booking window opens 100 days in advance for these reservations (although the online availability calendars go out much further).
Given that Preferred Hotels & Resorts includes many aspirational properties (including 2 very nice ones in Italy where we’ve stayed – the Grand Hotel Palace in Rome and Covo Dei Saraceni in Positano (Amalfi Coast)), this has the potential to be a very interesting redemption option.
And in fact, when we’ve looked at this program previously, we’ve found plenty of hotels with decent availability, albeit there were also hotels (particularly in popular European destinations) where all dates were blacked out.
Now, however, it looks like virtually all Preferred Hotels & Resorts have blacked out all dates for this program. In our research for this article, we checked somewhere between 30 and 40 hotels, and we found literally 1 showing any availability under this program (the Atheneum Suite Hotel in Detroit). Other hotels all over the world showed nothing. Plainly, something is amiss with either the program or the award availability calendar.
But if the issue is fixed and decent availability re-appears to book Preferred Hotels & Resorts using Choice points, take a look for some potentially solid aspirational redemption options. We’ve certainly seen some good ones in the past. Note that all bookings through this program must be done by phone, not online. The US booking number is 888-770-6800.
Here are links for this program – to the Choice page with information about the Preferred Hotels partnership, and to the Preferred Hotels page where you can see a directory of hotels and search an award calendar for availability:
- Choice Privileges: Enjoy a Luxurious Stay with Preferred Hotels & Resorts
- Preferred Hotels & Resorts: Directory of Participating Hotels – Choice Privileges Rewards
14. Choice Privileges partners with Bluegreen Vacations resorts, and these can have sweet-spot redemptions
Choice’s partner for resorts and timeshares is Bluegreen Vacations. There are 36 Bluegreen Vacations resorts across the US, and 1 in Oranjestad, Aruba. You can redeem Choice Privileges points for nights at these properties, subject to availability, and these properties can have some sweet-spot redemptions.
In our research for this article, we noticed a few things about Bluegreen Vacations bookings with Choice points:
- As we sit in mid-May 2019, there are a lot of Bluegreen Vacations properties with very limited availability, even for paid bookings.
- The 100-day advance booking window seems key here. If you see a place that you’d like to visit with paid availability, you should make a note for yourself to check on award availability immediately when the award booking window opens.
- Award bookings weren’t always limited to standard, base-level rooms. We found some instances where larger rooms and suites were available for the same number of points as a standard room.
Here’s the web page with the locations of all 37 Bluegreen Vacations resorts:
- Choice Hotels: Directory of Bluegreen Vacations properties
15. You can redeem Choice points for its Vacation Rentals properties, but please don’t – it’s a terrible deal
Choice also has its own Vacation Rentals portal where you can book homes and apartments, similar to Airbnb or Home Away. You can redeem Choice points for stays at these properties. But please don’t – it’s a terrible deal, for two reasons:
- One, in our anecdotal survey of properties, the rental rates and fees through Choice Vacation Rentals were much higher than we expected in the markets we reviewed.
- In fairness, our research was not nearly comprehensive, and we didn’t try to do direct checks to see if the same properties were available for less on other sites – but we have decent experience and feel for how much accommodations should cost, and the Choice Vacation Rentals seemed very high to us.
- Two, it looks using Choice points for Vacation Rentals results in a fixed redemption rate of 0.4 cpp. This is less than our baseline value of 0.5 cpp for Choice points, and far less than some of the sweet-spot options we’ve featured in this article.
If you’d like to check it out for yourself, here’s the link to the Choice Vacation Rentals website:
- Choice Vacation Rentals: Link to Choice Vacation Rentals home page
16. Choice has Points + Cash redemptions
When you look for award redemptions at Choice-family hotels, you’ll usually see an option for Points + Cash redemptions. All of the Points + Cash redemptions have a points component fixed at 6,000 points, and the cash component is variable.
The value proposition of Points + Cash redemptions is all over the board. That said, anecdotally we didn’t see a lot of great deals using Points + Cash. In fact, there were some nights where the cash component alone was greater than what a regular paid room rate would cost (without using any points at all). You can always check your specific situation for potential value, but we’re not terribly optimistic.
One technique that we found in our research was that people use Points + Cash bookings to generate Choice points for 0.75 cents per point. Basically, when you make a Points + Cash booking, you’re effectively using the cash component to “purchase” the additional points needed for an award booking, at 0.75 cents per point. Then, if you cancel a Points + Cash booking, you receive the entire refund in the form of points. The cash component has been converted to Choice points at a rate of 0.75 cents per point.
To take an example – Suppose you book a room for 6,000 points + $75 cash, then cancel it. You’ll get back a total of 16,000 points – your original 6,000 points, plus 10,000 more for the cash payment (calculated as $75 / 0.0075).
This can be valuable if you need extra points in your account in order to book an award night where you’ll be getting more than 0.75 cpp of value for your points.
Note that you must have at least 6,000 points in your Choice account to use this trick. And further, note that Choice allows a maximum of 250,000 points to be purchased in a calendar year through Points + Cash.
Points + Cash nights count toward earning elite status, but they do not qualify for promotional bonus points or earn elite bonus points.
Here are the relevant program terms & conditions for Points + Cash bookings:
- Choice Privileges: Terms & Conditions / Points Plus Cash Program
17. Choice Privileges has a shopping portal
Indeed, Choice Privileges has an online shopping portal that includes a wide array of merchants. At our baseline value of 0.5 cents per Choice point, we’ve actually never seen an instance where the Choice portal presented the best earning proposition for an online purchase. But, it’s good to know in case it can be helpful some day.
One possible helpful use of the Choice portal would be to earn points to reset your points expiration clock. Unfortunately, the program terms & conditions aren’t clear about whether this works. They list activities that do qualify for extending points expiration, and they list activities that do not qualify – and earning points through the shopping portal is not on either list!
Here’s a link if you’d like to check out the portal:
- Choice Privileges: Choice Privileges Mall shopping portal
We learned a lot about the Choice Privileges program through our recent research. We hope that sharing it with you helps you use it most effectively – or helps you decide whether to use it at all!
What can you add to our tips for using Choice Privileges? What other sweet-spot redemptions are out there? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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