Being fairly new to this game, I have to keep telling myself that rookie mistakes are inevitable. A lot of the pro bloggers make all this shit sound so easy that whenever I can't find availability or execute a strategy before fully thinking it out, I end up getting way angrier at myself than I probably should. The little mistakes, like paying with the wrong credit card or forgetting to check a shopping portal before making a purchase, don't really get to me, but this mess I've made with my Hyatt Gold Passport account definitely does. Here's the situation: I have a trip to New York in November and will be traveling to Paris on October of next year. I really wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt NYC, since I've never been to a hotel that nice, and there's no way I'm ever going to pay cash for a $750+/night hotel. I could always redeem points, but 30,000 points per night is a lot to spend, even at a halfway decent redemption rate. So the Hyatt sign-up bonus was pretty much my best chance. And, worst case scenario, I could always use the free nights for the Park Hyatt Paris on my trip next year, which would be almost as cool.
So what two boneheaded mistakes did I make? Well, even though I tend to research everything to death before doing anything, I decided to go ahead and apply for the Hyatt card without actually checking if there was award availability at the Park Hyatt in the first place. It didn't occur to me that I could only use the free nights at a hotel with award availability, although it clearly should have. I hit the spend pretty quickly, only to find out that I couldn't use the free nights either for the Park Hyatt or the Andaz 5th Avenue (which was my second choice). There were some other options, but I had it in my head to use the free nights on a really special hotel, so I didn't want to spend them on a run-of-the-mill Hyatt with a typically inflated New York nightly rate.
Oh, but I wasn't done yet... see, one of the ways I hit the minimum spend on the card so quickly was that I spent $300 on a gift card. (Most cards exclude "cash equivalents" from counting toward the minimum spend, but Chase doesn't consider a Hyatt gift card to be a cash equivalent, in case you were wondering.) And, given that I'm going to New York on the weekend, I found a great discounted rate on the Andaz Wall St - great news, since I could at least earn some points on a paid stay at a nice hotel, even if it was way out of the way geographically speaking.
Again, though, I bought that stupid gift card before reading all the terms and was cockblocked again when I found out that you can't use a gift card to book a prepaid stay, since the gift card can only be used at the hotel. On a normal rate, you use a card to hold the room, but they switch the payment method at the hotel - however, if the rate is nonrefundable, they can't switch the payment method, so you're out of luck. And since I tied up most of my free funds for travel in the gift card, I didn't have the extra money to book a paid stay on my credit card. Maybe I could have done it anyway and begged the hotel to accept the gift card, but I didn't want to risk it.
No worries, I'd just save the free nights until next year and use them at the Park Hyatt Paris... except that I didn't read the fine print that they expire within a year. I've read on The Points Guy that you can sometimes ask them to extend the expiration date, but the Gold Passport rep I talked to unequivocally told me that's not possible. I suppose I could have waited until later next year and called over and over again until I found someone who could extend the awards, but I didn't want to risk that either.
So what did I end up doing? Well, I used all my IHG points to book the Intercontinental Times Square, that's what. I've been on a roll with Intercontinentals lately, and the pictures on Tripadvisor looked pretty enticing, even if Times Square is a shitty neighborhood to stay in. (I don't know New York from a hole in the ground, so I only know what I've been told by others.) It's a far cry from the Park Hyatt or the Andaz, but I'm sure I'll live.
The problem is that I was saving those points for that same Europe trip to book the Intercontinental Amstel, which goes for over 500 euros per night. There are plenty of good-looking cheap hotels in Amsterdam, though, and from what I could see online, the Intercontinental isn't nice enough to command that price. Also, it isn't a huge loss, since I kind of hate hotels that are decorated in that "don't you feel like an 18th Century aristocrat?" style. I feel like I'd need a powdered wig or something.
And what of the Hyatt free nights? No doubt you're extremely concerned at this point how I'll use them. Well, I have a trip to Chicago coming up next year, so I decided to get my Park Hyatt on there instead. It isn't as nice as the New York one, but it's still out of my budget for a weekend trip, so it's a good redemption. I also found a Hyatt Regency Chicago standard rate that's within spitting distance of the advance purchase rate, so I booked a night there as well so I can use my gift card. There you have it... learn from my mistakes and make sure you do your homework before taking actions (like applying for credit cards) that you can't take back.
Requisite question designed to spur a flurry of responses in the comments section: What's the worst mistake YOU'VE ever made? I'm not just talking about miles and points. In your entire life, what's the worst mistake you've ever made?