I’m definitely one of those award travel aficionados who likes to get the most out of his points. Getting a high “cents per point” (cpp) or “cents per mile” (cpm) value is ideal, and for many currencies, I have a minimum value that I must get in order to be willing to use them.

But maximizing value is not the be-all-end-all of the hobby. And, unfortunately, getting the best “value” sometimes it clouds my judgment.

Maximizing Value Is Nice, Until It’s Irrational

As with so many things, the devil is in the details. If I need to book an award ticket, and the options are either 12,000 United miles or 6,000 Aeroplan points, I’m likely to go with the latter. Especially when it’s the same flight, and one option simply costs fewer points. This is an apples-to-apples comparison with an objectively better answer. And, yes, I’ll calculate the cpm I am getting at the end of the day.

With some flights things are less clear. Comparing two different itineraries on two different carriers that can be booked using different currencies adds multiple levels of complexity. But usually flights are easy to navigate, in terms of getting good value.

Hotels are a different story. There is a lot to factor in. Am I willing to spend more points to stay at a luxury property? What benefits can I enjoy as an elite that I can factor in? What overall value am I getting from my points? Should I spend fewer points to stay at a lower tier hotel?

Usually, I like to stay at a nicer hotel when the price is equal. If you offer me a Renaissance Hotel and a Residence Inn at the same award price, I’m likely to choose the former. Makes sense, right?

Not always. You see, I end up blind to other things I need to factor in.

award travel value in NYC

Location Is Value

I have an upcoming trip to New York City where I almost fell prey to the “value” trap of booking a nicer hotel. With a couple Category 1-4 Hyatt free nights to burn, I wanted to get the most out of these. Since there isn’t a single Manhattan hotel anymore lower than Category 5, I’d have to settle for staying close. The Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson jumped out at me. It seemed best for maximizing my Globalist benefits, and it was just across the river.

But then, a couple weeks after booking, it occurred to me: I am arriving into LaGuardia and departing from JFK. The Hyatt Regency is on the other side of Manhattan. Getting to and from the hotel won’t be easy. Not to mention most of the places I want to visit during my brief two days in NYC are nowhere near in Lower Manhattan. This is what I get for picking a hotel based on “value”.

There is a far better option: the Hyatt Place Long Island City. It’s the same award category, but offers a much better location. It’s much closer to some of the places I want to see, and the transfer from and to the airports will be far easier. I’d still get free breakfast, just less nice, I’m sure. And Hyatt Place rooms are plenty comfortable.

There is a small piece of me still grumbling. Sure, I’d get more “value” for my free night certificate if I use it at the Hyatt Regency – over $100 more. And the Hyatt Place isn’t as fancy as the Hyatt Regency. But those are dumb reasons for picking a hotel with a far inferior location. At least that’s what I remind myself.

Final Thoughts

I’m still staying on a free night certificate in NYC. I’ll still have a comfortable stay. I’m still going to get over $200 in “value” for a certificate I get from holding a $95 credit card. I’m still going to enjoy free breakfast.

Sure, this means no potential for a swanky suite. But it does means easy access to multiple subway lines, closer proximity to most places I want to see, and will undoubtedly be exactly what I need from a hotel.

Bottom line: don’t be lured in by the “value” trap. It’s happened to me before. And almost happened to me again. There are some things in this hobby that lead to irrational thinking, and this is one of them.