Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.

It’s time for another Travel Miles 101 Asked & Answered – today’s article discusses how to redeem points for smaller, non-chain hotels, among a few other related items.

Today’s Topic: Maximizing Points with Non-Chain Hotels

For this article we will be referring to a question from Lola L., which is as follows:

Airplane costs have been greatly reduced by using points.
However, because we enjoy renting a car and staying at hotels in smaller towns which do not have hotel chains, we have to pay out of pocket for this expense.
I hope you can share your expertise in staying in small hotels in small towns to decrease costs of travel by using the appropriate credit cards.

It sounds like Lola knows how to redeem miles and points for flights, however she wants to learn more how to save money and possibly book smaller, non-chain hotels using points.

Lola’s situation and question isn’t uncommon – we often travel to some places on Earth that have smaller, boutique hotels rather than large chain hotels which can be booked through a hotel’s frequent guest program.

Booking Chain Hotels Through a Third-Party

Let’s back up a little – booking a chain hotel is possible through a third-party platform like Expedia, however if you do so, you won’t earn any points or receive any benefits during your stay, if you’re an elite member. This is because you must always book with the hotel directly if you want to earn points and elite benefits during your stay.

Booking Non-Chain Hotels Through Online Travel Agencies

I assume that when Lola searches for hotels in smaller towns, she looks on online travel agencies like Expedia. She could very well also be booking with the hotel directly. However, given that platforms like Expedia are usually where we book smaller hotels, we will focus on that aspect and how to maximize earning and redeeming points for these smaller hotel stays.

If Lola decides to book via Expedia or another online travel agency (OTA), she can sign-up for their loyalty program – should the OTA have one. Expedia does have one and basically you can earn cash back from booking various trip elements via Expedia. The program is very much revenue-based and the more you spend, the more rewards you’ll get and even then, the program isn’t that rewarding. However, it is better than earning nothing.

Lola could be booking all of her hotel stays via Expedia and eventually earn enough rewards cash to redeem towards a future stay.

Booking Non-Chain Hotels via Bank Travel Portals

Many banks have their own points programs and one of the elements is their online travel portals. While the main reason for collecting flexible and transferable bank points is so you can transfer them to airlines, you can also use the bank points you’ve earned via their online travel portal towards the cost of a flight or hotel, for example.

Many of the bank’s travel portals where you can book flights, hotels, cars, and more are powered by Expedia and they usually work the same way – except that you can pay with a combination of cash and your bank points.

Example: Booking via Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal

While all of the major banks that have transferable points also have travel portals, the best one is the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and this is especially true if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve as you can get more than 1 cent per point in value.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal works similarly to Expedia – you can book flights, hotels, and more. When searching on the Chase portal, you should get roughly the same results that you would as when you search on Expedia. So Lola should be able to find the same non-chain, boutique hotel in that small town for the same cost on both Expedia and Chase.

The one major difference is that on the Chase Travel Portal, you can apply some or all of your points towards a flight or pre-paid hotel. The value that you receive in cash from your points depends on which credit card you have:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 10,000 points = $125 in value
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 10,000 points = $150 in value

You can redeem any combination of cash, points, or both cash and points on a flight or hotel booking through the Chase Travel Portal.

Therefore if Lola has one of these cards, she can use it for everyday and travel purchases to collect points and later redeem them through the Chase Travel Portal at a higher value. She would also be able to transfer them to airlines and convert the points into miles. Either way, she would be saving on her travel costs.

Always Use the Right Credit Card

There are many credit cards out there, and you always want to use the right one – depending on what you’re buying. Many premium credit cards offer multiple points per dollar spent on travel purchases – and you should always aim to use these so you maximize your points earned. For example, the AMEX Platinum Card earns you 5 points per dollar spent on flight bookings directly with airlines and so that’s the card to use for flights. For hotel stays, many cards offer multiple points per dollar spent on travel purchases like the AMEX Green or Chase Sapphire – have a look at what cards offer what benefits and test out the ones that would work best for you.

All in All

Sometimes it’s nice to stay at a smaller, non-chain boutique hotels – and sometimes the actual stay experience is much better than if you were staying with a large chain. The downside is that many independent hotels do not have loyalty programs and therefore the best ways to book those is via one of the methods described above. We’ve tested many travel portals from bank programs and have found that if you have one of the premium Chase cards, then the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is the best to use as you can redeem your points at a higher value. Lola should apply one of the strategies above to help her save money when booking smaller, non-chain hotels – whether she’s redeeming points or earning multiple points per dollar spent, for future use.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.