Using Points and Miles to Stay in London
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Whether you’ve seen the crown jewels at the Tower of London, climbed the dome at St. Paul’s, perused the artifacts at the British Museum, or wandered Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, there’s always something new and interesting to discover in London.
The city has up-and-coming neighborhoods galore, one of the world’s best collections of museums, and one of the Europe’s most exciting restaurant scenes. In short, it’s a fabulous place to visit, no matter what your interests or your budget. Here are some strategies for using credit-card and hotel points to save you money on a stay in London Town.
The UK is considered an expensive destination, but while we remain in a period of Brexit uncertainty, the exchange rate has hovered around £1: $1.30. That makes now an opportune time to travel to Great Britain if you’re on a tight budget, both in terms of money and points. The city has a plethora of low-category hotels within the major chains where you can redeem points for award nights at relatively inexpensive rates.
However, I’d highly recommend comparing these award rates with paid rates, as you may find that these offer mediocre redemption values. For example, the Moxy London Excel regularly clocks in at just $70 per night. Redeeming 25,000 points there would result in a value of just 0.28 cents per point, less than a third of TPG’s most recent valuations. Booking a paid stay would not only earn you points with each chain; it would allow you to keep your existing points balance for more lucrative award stays.
Nevertheless, there are many options to spend your points in the city. At the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Tower of London, for instance, room rates start as low 33,000 points per night.
At the Hilton London Hyde Park, rates start at 36,000-37,000 points per night.
With World of Hyatt, to which you can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, your choices are more limited, since the chain only has four properties in and around the city. Its two budget ones are rather far out, but the Hyatt Place London Heathrow and Hyatt Place West London/Hayes are each just 8,000 points per night.
If you have IHG Rewards points, another Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, you could stay at either the Holiday Inn London – Oxford Circus or the Crowne Plaza London – Kings Cross for just 35,000 points per night.
Marriott Bonvoy is another Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Most of its properties in the city are at the higher end of the redemption range. However, it does field some budget hotels as well, including several where you can spend just 35,000 points per night like the London Marriott Hotel Kensington, Hotel Xenia Autograph Collection and London Marriott Hotel Regents Park.
Any of these properties would also be eligible for the free night certificates issued from cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. Again, though, you’d want to consider the paid rates before using a certificate that could be used at more optimal hotels and resorts around the world, especially family-friendly ones.
Radisson Rewards doesn’t have too many non-airport budget hotels, but you could use 44,000 points to stay at the Park Plaza London Park Royal.
You can save money getting around by taking the Tube and buses instead of taxis or car services. When purchasing fares or a Visitor Oyster card that you can reload and use on various modes of transport, remember to use a credit card that earns multiple points or miles per dollar on travel purchases, specifically mass transit. Such cards include the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred, the Citi Premier Card and The World of Hyatt Card from Chase, which earns 2x points per dollar on purchases of local transit and commuting services. All of these cards also waive foreign transaction fees, so you won’t get dinged for making a purchase in pounds.
Have a few more dollars and points to spare? You can stretch them on stays at some of the city’s most distinctive hotels, though again, you’ll want to compare paid rates with award rates to ensure you’re getting a solid value.
Hilton Honors members have dozens of hotels to choose from at the middle and high end of the spectrum. The imposing, neoclassical Waldorf Hilton, London is a landmark right near the city’s theater district. Rooms go for 67,000-80,000 points per night.
The Conrad London St. James, which opened in 2012 as an InterContinental but was rebranded two years later as a Conrad, is a contemporary luxury property in the heart of the city. Award nights there cost between 70,000-80,000 points per night.
The Trafalgar St. James London, Curio Collection by Hilton is a distinctive property in a sought-after central location, and consistently costs 70,000 points per night.
For IHG Rewards enthusiasts, the InterContinental London Park Lane is the chain’s top property in the city, and costs 70,000 points per night.
The Hotel Indigo London – 1 Leicester Square is also a good option. It recently opened in a central location last May and goes for 60,000 points per night.
Hyatt, meanwhile, has the staid Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill in the West End for 25,000 points per night, and the Andaz London Liverpool Street with an edgier vibe near Shoreditch for 20,000 points per night.
Marriott, meanwhile, offers a plethora of choices including the W London – Leicester Square…
And stately Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, all for 60,000 points per night.
For those with Radisson Rewards points, there are plenty of high-category hotels here, but save your 70,000 points per night for standouts like The May Fair, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Kenilworth and the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel.
If you want to stay aboveground during your visit, your best bet will be either to take taxis or Uber. Uber tends to be cheaper, though it did just get slightly more expensive to make good on the company’s pledge to improve London’s air quality. Assuming that no further legal issues crop up for the ride-sharing app, use one of these credit cards for your rides. Unfortunately the $200 worth of Uber credits given annually on The Platinum Card® from American Express don’t apply outside the US, though Uber purchases do count toward the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel statement credits.
You just have to watch an episode of Downton Abbey to know that if there’s one thing England does well, it’s luxury. Luckily, you don’t need to be as rich as Lady Mary to enjoy some of the city’s best hotels.
You can even score extra benefits and perks thanks to certain credit cards, even if you do plan to splurge on your trip. Instead of spending points on a stay at a major chain property, here are some other opulent options that might intrigue you.
Cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express have access to Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts collection. When you use your associated card to book directly through the program, you can enjoy on-property perks like a room upgrade, free daily breakfast, guaranteed late check-out, credits for spa and dining, and more.
Participating FHR hotels in London include:
- 45 Park Lane – Dorchester Collection
- Baglioni Hotel London
- Browns Hotel
- Bulgari Hotel London
- Claridge’s, Corinthia Hotel London
- Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane
- Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square
- Grosvenor House Suites by Jumeirah Living
- Ham Yard Hotel
- Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (reopening in April)
- Rosewood London
- Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard London
- The Beaumont
- The Berkeley
- The Connaught
- The Dorchester Hotel
- The Goring
- The Lanesborough Oetker Collection Hotel
- The Langham London
- The Ritz London
- The Savoy, a Fairmont Managed Hotel
If you have a Visa Signature card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, United Explorer Card, or many, many others, you can also consider booking through the Visa Signature Hotels portal. Doing so might earn you benefits like room upgrades, free Wi-Fi, on-property credits and more. There are 24 participating London hotels, including the Sanderson, the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, the Rosewood London, One Aldwych, COMO The Halkin, The Connaught, Claridge’s, The Savoy, The Langham and The Berkeley among dozens of others.
And don’t forget about Leading Hotels of the World, which recently revamped its Leaders Club so members can earn and redeem points at the collection’s 400+ luxury hotels across the world. Those in London include:
- Baglioni Hotel London
- Hotel Café Royal
- One Aldwych
- Brown’s Hotel
- The Landmark London
- The Lanesborough Oetker Collection
- The Milestone Hotel & Residences
- The Ritz London
Stocking up on Points and Miles
Don’t quite have the necessary points for one of these hotels? Luckily, there are some incredible credit card offers currently available. Many even feature historically high sign-up bonuses that can put the awards you want within reach. Here are some to consider based on the strategies above.
Transferable and Fixed-Value Points Cards
If you want Amex Membership Rewards points that transfer to Hilton Honors, you could consider getting the Amex Platinum which is offering welcome bonuses of up to 100,000 points via the CardMatch Tool.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, among other partners. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card now offers 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, though its $95 annual fee is not waived the first year. The card’s more premium brethren is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is currently offering 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. Though its annual fee is $450, you get $300 worth of travel credits each calendar year.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard currently offers 70,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and earns unlimited 2x miles on every purchase. When you redeem miles for travel redemptions, you get 5% of them back. This card has an $89 annual fee.
With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you also earn 2x miles per dollar on every purchase and can redeem them at a fixed value of one cent apiece for statement credits. The card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year. It currently carries a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card also has a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Though it has a $95 annual fee, you also get $100 in airline fee credits each year, which can save you on things like checked bags or seat assignment charges. The card earns 2x points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1.5x on everything else (though earning rates are boosted for the bank’s Preferred Rewards customers). Miles are worth one cent apiece when redeemed for statement credits and travel purchases, among other options.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card currently offers up to 50,000 points to new cardholders. You’ll earn 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, then another 25,000 points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening. There are other new benefits to the card as well, including bonus earning categories and automatic Discoverist status.
Hilton and American Express introduced new credit cards in January 2018, and they are currently offering some great bonuses. The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card comes with 125,000 points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of cardmembership. It also comes with one free weekend night after spending $15,000 in a year and automatic Gold status in exchange for a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
Costing $450 a year(See Rates & Fees), the new Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express awards 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of cardmembership, and it includes an array of benefits like a $250 annual Hilton Resorts statement credit, an annual $250 airline incidental fee credit, automatic Diamond status and Priority Pass lounge access.
The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is offering up to 120,000 bonus points. You’ll earn 80,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months plus an additional 40,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first six months. It credits cardholders with a fourth night free on award stays and has an anniversary benefit of a free night certificate each year good at any IHG property that charges 40,000 points per night or less. It also confers automatic Platinum status.
Now through April 24, 2019, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is offering 100,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months, and entitles cardholders to an anniversary free night award valued at up to 50,000 points plus automatic Gold elite status. It has a $450 annual fee (See: Rates & Fees), but you can recoup a large chunk of that thanks to the card’s annual $250 Marriott credit.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, meanwhile, has just a $95 annual fee but also has a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening (note that this offer is only available until May 2). As noted above, it offers an anniversary free night at hotels costing up to 35,000 points each year and automatic Silver elite status.
Featured image by Uca Michelii via Unsplash.
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