Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hacking Hong Kong

As I reported earlier, somehow I got another free stopover out of our upcoming trip to India. Due to a schedule change, and an almost-inevitable missed connection in Hong Kong, I was able to talk United into letting us stay an extra day there. Of course that leaves one issue...Where are we going to spend the night? In the spirit of keeping this a "free" stopover I began exploring the options of using miles and/or points to help finance our stay. As much fun as I had spending the night in the HKG airport when United stranded me there in 2006 (haha, just kidding), I knew there just had to be a better way.

My husband and I have a number of points with Starwood, Hilton, and Priority Club, most of them from credit card sign ups. I checked out the W Hong Kong (Starwood)- expensive, The Conrad (Hilton)- doesn't really look like our style, and even considered transferring some points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to stay at the Grand Hyatt. Finally there's the good ol' Intercontinental Hong Kong (Priority Club) where we stayed during Babymoon 2011. My husband is the Priority Club guy in the household. He has the credit card and the Platinum Ambassador status, he knows the system, and he usually takes care of all things hotel-related on most of our trips. Not this time. We are already using a lot of his points (and status) to get the most out of our upcoming stays in Singapore and Bali, and since this little extra stopover in Hong Kong was my idea, guess who gets to pay for it. That right, me.

It turns out I have quite a few Priority Club points too! Before I was banned from Topguest, I managed to rack up quite a few of them (and at one point Gold status too). So for most of us the Topguest ship sailed a long time ago, but if you somehow weren't in on the deal, you can still sign up at topguest.com and earn points for "checking in" via Foursquare. Just don't try and rig an auto check in service because recent foursquare updates make it blatantly obvious that you're cheating (i.e. Michelle just checked in to the local Holiday Inn Express via auto4sq.com). In the end it didn't seem to matter whether you cheated or played fairly, we all got shut down the same. Anyway, the deal was good while it lasted and still may be for whatever you can get out of it.

In addition to the Topguest hack trick, I earned extra points through participating in various promotions (check out the flyertalk master thread) including the some fun quizzes:
This was an old promo and I'm not sure who to thank for originally finding out about this one (flyertalk, milepoint, or another blogger) but The Points Guy does a pretty good job explaining it. Isn't it amazing how many Priority Club properties there are around the world?!? USA, Great Britain, Canada, China, Japan, Italy, Spain, France...Read between the lines here and this little trick is good for at least a few thousand free Priority Club points.

I also stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in New Mexico in 2008, and who knows where else over the years (I've been a Priority Club member since 2001) so some of those points may very well have come from actual hotel stays- but I'm guessing it's a minority of them. My Priority Club account for the most part has been neglected since we started using my husband's.

When I logged into my account the other day, I had just over 32,000 points. I had narrowed down our choices in Hong Kong to two: the Intercontinental Hong Kong and the Crowne Plaza Causeway Bay. Both properties require the same amount of points. Since we stayed at the IC back in 2011, I thought it might be fun to try someplace new. I also wasn't planning on getting lucky with a Harbour View room at the Intercontinental like we did last time, especially since this stay is on my account and I don't have any status. I like the Causeway Bay area because of the convenient shopping and dining choices plus they have a rooftop infinity pool (The IC would like you to think they have one too, but it turns out it is for the Presidential Suites only). Crowne Plaza it is!

Priority Club in Hong Kong

You may notice that the nightly rate for the Intercontinental is quite a bit higher than what it is for the Crowne Plaza, but since we are using points, it really doesn't matter. Sure, you could argue the the IC is a better value and that I'm not getting the best deal, but we already stayed there and in the end I'm still getting a $350/nt. hotel room for free. I'm perfectly OK with that. So my 32,000+ points balance puts me within striking range of the Point and Cash option of 35,000 + $70. Luckily, I don't have to pay the extra $70 (although $70 for 10,000 points is not a bad deal). Priority Club recently devalued "enhanced" their award chart but as a courtesy are giving members until mid-March to call in and book at the old rates (Thanks Mommy Points!). The CP used to cost 35,000 points outright and that's what I'm going to pay.

To top off the account I redeemed 60 e-Rewards dollars for 2,200 more Priority Club points, which put me 265 points frustratingly short of the 35,000 I needed. My next move was going to be a transfer of 1,000 points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account at a rate of 1:1. That kind of annoyed me because I didn't want to use those Ultimate Rewards for Priority Club points (they are much more valuable transferred elsewhere), and if I counted the $7.90 cost of what it would cost to replenish those points by buying a couples of Vanilla Reloads at the store, my stay wouldn't be so free anymore. Luckily, Jason from Miles Quest saved the day by posting about how to get 1,000 points from VISA for watching a short film about the Priority Club credit card. I watched the movie and the points should be in my account by the time you are reading this.
Redeeming e-Rewards for Priority Club points

So that's how I hacked creatively booked Hong Kong and ended up with a free room for the night. I also cleaned out my Priority Club account (which we no longer use), so now I don't have a bunch of points sitting around waiting to be devalued the next time they "enhance" their award chart. Without miles and points, I can guarantee you we wouldn't be staying in as nice of a hotel and there's no doubt that the extra money I saved will come in handy for a little shopping in Hong Kong.







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