Windbag Miles is a blog about points, miles, credit cards, travel, and general windbaggery.

I just found out you can earn Amex points with Rocketmiles, and like... WOW.

An introductory note: Many of the big blogs have written about the Rocketmiles/Amex partnership, so I'm not exactly breaking news here. However, I just found out about it tonight and did a shallow dive into what type of value you could get out of the partnership, and I figured this analysis might be useful. For those who aren't familiar with Rocketmiles, it's an online travel agency that offers you airline miles instead of discounted rates. Like any OTA, you don't get any elite recognition or points earning at the hotel. I have used it a few times in the past, and it always works as advertised, so I have nothing bad to say about it. I just usually end up valuing elite recognition + hotel points earned for the stay more than whatever miles Rocketmiles is going to throw my way.

Like most things in this hobby, calculating whether you're better off booking via the hotel itself or via Rocketmiles is maddeningly complicated. For instance, is your hotel chain running a promotion right now? If it's an IHG hotel, will the stay trigger an Accelerate program bonus, because if so you probably have more to gain booking through IHG. How much is breakfast worth to you? Do you really need an upgrade, or is that just something that's nice to have? Have you factored in the hotel points you'll lose out on by not paying with your fancy co-brand card? And on and on.

Basically, my calculation usually comes down to the fact that I like and use hotel points, and outside of sign-up bonuses, I earn the majority of my hotel points through hotel stays. Therefore, regardless of whether 35,000 Hilton points are worth more or less than 9,000 United miles (or whatever), if I want to amass Hilton points, I might as well book through Hilton. Plus, it's not like I'm against  free breakfast and a potential upgrade.

I learned something tonight, though, which is that ROCKETMILES OFFERS AMEX POINTS FOR HOTEL BOOKINGS. This changes things, since Amex points have so many uses. In the stark, barren once-per-lifetime wasteland, picking up 30,000 points for a weekend hotel stay could very well be the drink of water you need to stave off your point-based dehydration for another year. Wait, 30,000 points? Damn skippy 30,000 points.

rocketmiles.jpg

At around $1200 for the stay, you're effectively paying 4 cents per point and getting a free three-night stay at a 4-star hotel. To compare that with booking direct, you'd save around $90 booking with IHG, and you'd earn around 14,000 points. At a 1/2 cent-per-point valuation, that's around $160 in total savings by booking direct. But, if you cashed out those 30,000 Amex points into your Schwab account, you'd get $375, meaning you could net over $200 savings through Rocketmiles.

That's a fairly conservative estimate, too. I try to get at least 2 cents per point for my Amex points, which only further inflates the Rocketmiles value proposition. It doesn't hurt that IHG also has weak elite benefits, so you're missing out on very little by going through an OTA. The only hitch would be if this stay were key to requalifying for Spire Elite status or hitting one of those aforementioned Accelerate targets.

Well, there's one other big hitch, which is that a 10,000 point-per-night bonus is the exception rather than the norm. Most hotels are in the 500-1000 point-per-night range, so if you're out to maximize earning, your choices will be limited to one or two hotels in an entire city. The chances of those hotels meeting your geographic and budgetary needs are pretty small, and of course shelling out $600 per night at a Mandarin Oriental to earn 30,000 Amex points when you were originally in the market for a $200 Hilton is probably a dumb idea.

I'm not saying I'm never going to book direct again, but I'm for damn sure always going to check Rocketmiles before I book anything to make sure I'm not missing out on any pots of Amex gold. Has anyone else racked up Amex points this way? I can't believe I didn't know about this before.

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"Poor Patrick Pibb," or the cruel ambiguity of Amex's new restrictions on sign-up bonuses

A review of the breakfast potatoes at the Hilton Conrad Chicago.