I am a lodging cheapskate. My ideal trip length is four weeks, so hotel bills would add up quickly. Right now I haven’t been in the US since February, so I’ve had to come up with creative ways to sleep cheaply.

But just because I’m a cheapskate doesn’t mean I don’t want to stay at fancy hotels sometimes too. I’m jealous that Rookie Alli has two nights at any Hilton worldwide. I have my own two free nights at Hyatts worldwide that I’ll be sure to use somewhere way outside my price range.

There is a third way, though, between the extremes of free ultra-luxury and cheap adequate accommodation: under-categorized hotels are a fantastic value play.

Free nights at hotels cost a certain number of points that are decided by which category a hotel places the hotel into. For instance, a Category 1 Hilton costs 5,000 points for a free night. A Category 10 Hilton costs up to 95,000 points for a free night.

The number of points needed generally tracks the quality, location, and price of the hotel, but some hotels are under-categorized and represent fantastic value with points.

Last night I stayed in one such hotel, the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur, which is a Hilton Category 2 property that costs only 10k Hilton points per night.

Continue for my review with photos of the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur and a rundown of all the freebies I got. What hotel award charts might have sweet spots? What are the best value free nights you’ve gotten?

The DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur is conveniently located about 10 minutes walking from the stunning Petronas Towers and KLCC Park.

Petronas Towers, last night

I arrived at 10 AM, hoping to check in five hours early. When I handed the front desk agent my passport and Hilton Gold card, she sent me to the 34th floor Executive Lounge to check in, but not before handing me a signature warm cookie.

The cookie was warm, though not soft, but still a nice way to check in!

While I assume the top-floor check in is designed to be a perk, I found it a bit annoying, since I just wanted to get to a room and take a nap.

When I got to the top floor, I was promptly checked in. There was a hot breakfast spread still available, which I was offered, but I declined since I had just eaten quite a bit at the Malaysia Airlines lounge. I did think it was a nice touch to be offered breakfast when I hadn’t stayed the night at the hotel.

I headed down five floors to find my simple, but spacious and pleasant room.

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On the bedside table were two complimentary bottles of water.

A few moments after my arrival the doorbell rang, and I was presented a complimentary fruit plate and cake.

The fruit plate was excessive for one person staying one night, and I felt bad having only one apple.

The only other feature of note in the room was the “pillow menu,” from which I didn’t order anything. The bed and pillow provided were comfortable enough as is. In fact, I promptly took a six hour nap.

I woke up in time for the 5:30 – 7:30 PM complimentary cocktails in the lounge.

The two-hour happy hour was a nice touch in Kuala Lumpur, where sin taxes make alcohol quite pricey for a developing country.

But even better was a concurrent hot dinner buffet that featured chicken wings, potato wedges, samosas, and coconut rice. I saved myself a meal out with the delicious food on offer.

The next morning, I woke up in time for the free hot breakfast and feasted on baked beans, chicken curry, rice, noodles, hummus, pita, and cheese.

That means, that I got all this for free:

  • breakfast
  • dinner
  • in-room water
  • in-room fruit plate
  • happy hour
  • hot cookie
  • internet
  • five-hour-early check in

And I spent only 10k Hilton points on the room. I value Hilton points at 0.4 cents at most, so that is $40 worth of points, for a room that goes for about $107.

Now, in fairness, all of my freebies except for the cookie and early check in were because of my Gold Status with Hilton. But I got that status for free by entering a Visa Infinite credit card number on a promo page. (That deal is now dead.) I have SPG Gold Status from having an American Express Platinum Card. I have top-tier Le Accor hotel status from signing up for it.

You can even get Hilton Gold Status for as long as you hold the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card which comes with two free nights at Hiltons worldwide after meeting the minimum spending requirement.

My point is that hotel status is very easy to get for free, so considering status freebies is reasonable when determining the value of a room.

What Would a Hotel Chart Value Sweet Spot Look Like

I think any time you can get an awesome hotel for under $50 worth of points that’s a sweet spot. Or if you can get a hotel for a third or a half of it’s going rate, that’s a sweet spot.

For the dollar value of the points used, I’d use either their purchase price or my valuation of them.

I’d also factor into the sweet-spot-ness the quality and quantity of the freebies the hotel provides. Another important factor is how easy it is to earn status to be used for freebies on award stays.

What Charts Are Likely to Have Sweet Spots

Charts that have award levels that use few points or charts that rely on very low-value points should both have sweet spots.

An example of a chart with low-point award levels would be the Starwood chart with free nights for as little as 2,000 points.

An example of a chart that uses low value points would be the Choice Privileges chart. I bought those points during Daily Getaways for 0.39 cents.

Let’s look at a few programs to see where the sweet spots might be.

Hyatt

I value Hyatt points at about 1.5 cents each. Realistically I’d get most of my Hyatt points by transferring in Ultimate Rewards, which I value at 2 cents each. That means the value on the Hyatt chart probably isn’t on the low end, where Category 1 hotels cost 6k points ($90 at my valuation.)

But Category 5 and Category 6 hotels cost only 18k and 22k points, $270 or $330, which can be a small fraction of the $1k+ cash price for the rooms.

Hilton

I value Hilton points at 0.4 cents. Category 1 rooms go for 5k points, which is $20 worth of points to me. Unfortunately most of them seem to be in Mexico. Category 2 hotels are 10k points ($40 to me) and are in more varied locations.

SPG

Weekend nights at Category 1 hotels go for 2k points and Category 2 hotels go for 3k points on the weekend. Too bad Starpoints are the most valuable points out there at 2.5 cents each, so that’s $50 or $75 in value.

Others

I’m intrigued by 9k Category 1 nights on the Club Carlson chart, especially when I saw the Radisson Blu in Budapest is on that list. That’s only about $36 worth of points to me.

PointBreaks from IHG are the ultimate sweet spot at 5k points (maximum $35) per night, though the rest of the chart isn’t great, starting at 10k points a night.

What Hotels Are Actually Sweet Spots?

More valuable than my speculating, what hotels have you stayed at that you thought were a steal in terms of the points needed for a free night? Why?

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