A Sneaky Way Hotels Can Keep You From Booking Reward Nights: the Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Most hotel chain loyalty programs offer rooms on points whenever a ‘standard room’ is available for sale.

Starwood pioneered what they called ‘true redemption’ — not just “no blackout dates” (specific days of the year where you can’t use your points) but in fact ‘no capacity controls’ (every base room at the hotel available on points.

Prior to that hotels offered a limited amount of inventory for redemptions, you could have a hard time using your points for rooms (like folks get frustrated using their airline miles).

Hyatt moved to the no capacity control model in 2009.

The trick, though, is what a hotel defines as a standard room. Most members think of it as the ‘most common room’. Some hotels have played games with this. There might be just a couple of suboptimal rooms, that may not even be sold, but that could be called award rooms by a hotel looking to limit the number of guests staying on points.

Or they could try what it appears the Hyatt Regency San Francisco is doing — their ‘basic’ room is often only made available as part of rate packages, while inventory for the ‘Daily Rate’ which is what Hyatt Gold Passport books awards from, appears to never have that basic room type available. (This is the hotel that downgraded me from a confirmed suite two years ago so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.)

You’ll see that room packages, including parking or breakfast, are less expensive than the basic room rate. That’s because those packages offer value-add services alongside the standard room while the basic Hyatt Daily Rate never shows that room type available.

If you book the ‘park and play’ rate you can have that standard King or Queen room type.

If you book the ‘bed and breakfast’ rate you can have that standard King or Queen room type.

But the ‘Hyatt Daily Rate’ only has ‘business plan’ rooms available.

As a result, when you search for award rooms — even though there are open standard King or Queen rooms at the property — nothing is available using Gold Passport points.

Now, they do not do this every single night of the year. After much searching I found award availability for both King and Double rooms the night of February 10.

I’ve reached out to Hyatt for comment on this practice and plan to update.

(HT: Vuelos)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a trend that seems to be expanding at Hyatt. You also see it with Hyatt Place which has created a “high floor” category (even in six story buildings!) apparently to reduce the number of award rooms. From recent FT threads, I don’t get the sense Hyatt has a true appreciation how important this issue is to many of us, and while SPG has some issues in controlling properties (letting them pull upgrade shenanigans), award availability policing would be a *major* differentiating factor in SPG’s favor.

    As a business traveller, I’ll put up with a lot. I will tolerate, unhappily, devaluations if they are communicated fairly. It’s part of the game. But if I lose confidence in my ability to use, for vacations at desirable properties, the points I’m grinding out night after night at places like Hyatt Place Reno while I’m away from my family, then I have zero use for a program. That is, literally, the entire point of the program (for me at least).

  2. The Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle was doing something similar, but after enough people complained, the issue was fixed. Before it was fixed, I was still able to book a supposedly unavailable room via the Hyatt concierge on FT. Hopefully Hyatt corporate will properly address this soon, as it looks like it’s the individual properties that are doing it.

  3. Hyatt Place New Orleans. No standard rooms available for sale, so no awards. They did, however, have a package rate that included a standard room with free parking included. Great, if you’re in New Orleans with a car! Same trick. I had to call Hyatt and point it out to them and ask them to contact the property directly to open up an award night for me, which they did. I baffles my mind how properties try to pull this and think no one will see right through it, which has an even worse effect IMO.

  4. Yes a million times over. This is by no means the only Hyatt property that is doing this sort of thing. Hit this with Hyatt Lost Pines that only had standard rooms available as part of a “double points” package and not the daily rate. Hyatt Regency Hill Country was doing similar. I know Lucky posted about the Olive 8 doing something similar.

    Of course other Hyatt properties (including some of those already mentioned) are really taking “upgraded” room categories to a whole new level with the “high floors/resort view” etc. not being available for point redemptions.

    I love Hyatt, but this issue absolutely has gotten worse in the last few months to a year.

  5. A similar trend I wish you would report on Gary is how hotels are gaming the suite upgrade benefit system by creating new categories of suites with no real distinction. Andaz Maui used to have only Andaz Suites now they have ocean suites, partial ocean suites and pool suites. There are only 4 pool suites on property and that’s all they now make available for upgrades (used to be 30 some odd suites available). Park Hyatt Shanghai has only had Park Suites for years now they have Bund View and Partial View suites and they’ve eliminated about half the suite upgrade inventory. Grand Hyatt Kauai. On and on and on. What’s deceptive is that the sole purpose of creating these categories appears to be to game the suite upgrade system. A clerk at Andaz Maui point blank told me that management had decided to further characterize and limit suites for the SOLE purpose of not having so many diamond upgrades. I started to write a letter to Zidell complaining about this but never sent it. I wish you would report on this aspect too, its really crummy how hotels try to end run the benefit system in this way.

  6. I know Hyatt Grand Seattle is doing something similar on Aug 8 this year. Could use points or free Visa night for stay Friday night, but not Sat, despite rooms being available – so using free award night Fri and staying at a different hotel Saturday.

  7. Is this like Hilton designating some rooms as ‘premium’ and making them prohibitively expensive to redeem points for, but at least they upfront about it and those who are point-rich can still redeem…?

  8. These tricks are spreading like wildfire across all categories of Hyatt properties. Jeff Z. has accomplished wonders with HGP but some greedy property owners are quickly undoing his and his colleagues’ years of hard work.

  9. The most “creative” I’ve seen so far is the Hyatt Regency DFW who would not allow me to book a standard smoking room with points. So just remember that for Hyatt the smell of stale smoke is the new ocean view!

  10. I have the same problem with Hyatt’s annual free night from the Chase CC. Impossible to use because of 2 night minimums. I understand this makes me want to distance myself from Hyatt, but is there any recourse for credit card holders since Hyatt is promising something that doesn’t really exist?

  11. This is a bit off topic, but related to your post regarding Hyatt downgrading you on a confirmed suite upgrade. This exact thing happened to me at the Hyatt Grand Cypress in Orlando last year. I was traveling with 3 friends and was really, really not happy with the property to say the least when this happened. Then, two months later I wasn’t able to check in to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek hotel until 6:30pm because they were “cleaning my room”. Both times I was on the government rate with a Diamond confirmed suite upgrade. I am certain that they prioritized over “high” paying customers over me. After 6:30 at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek I had it, I walked out of the hotel drove to San Francisco (stayed at the W @ $400 a night… not the best choice but I was mad) and had them delete my Hyatt Diamond account. I didn’t want their free nights (both properties offered it), I wanted the hotels to do the right thing. I’ve also experienced Hyatt pulling stuff you are talking about with redemptions. Until Hyatt gets their properties to do the right thing, I want nothing to do with them.

  12. @A did the hotel offer any form of compensation? You’re guaranteed a room at their check-in time, even if it’s a regular room.

  13. @Melinda — don’t count on corporate here. At least if the initial reactions from their rep on flyertalk is an indication, I get the sense that this may be an area where they have ceded too much authority to the local properties. SPG has this issue too, with respect to upgrades and some other stuff, but allowing properties to essentially impose their own effective blackouts on reward reservations strikes so fundamentally at the core of a loyalty program that this bears very careful watching. I’m way into hyperbole land here, but this strikes me as a very significant moment in terms of judging the value of Hyatt going forward. My 40 something nights a year won’t make a huge difference to them, but there don’t need to be too many of me to become a real issue. Perhaps the matter is that Hyatt is simply not compensating properties sufficiently for award nights, which is really only fixable with program devaluations. At least those, however, are honest and can be planned for.

  14. @Jimmy I was offered a free night by the Hyatt Vineyard Creek after I really pushed. They claimed that they didn’t have any regular rooms even though I witnessed them checking in numerous people. They didn’t even offer a free drink or dinner as I waited to 2+ hours in their lobby. I ended up just leaving and not taking the free night. Not worth it.

  15. Add HR Austin to the list. Busy periods, they’re bundling extras like “turndown service” or internet into packages, and no Hyatt Daily Rate available.

  16. Hah! I once stayed at the Hyatt Regency SF following a 3-day camping trip in the rain. We needed to dry out our soggy tent and sleeping bags, and there was enough floor space in the king room to fully set up the tent! I wonder what housekeeping thought of that.

    Then again, I’m sure they see much weirder things.

  17. Well Hyatt properties have been learning from Hilton…

    At the Hilton Sydney there is never any base room available for redemption, only a premium room… which is identical to a base room.

  18. Thank you for this post and I can’t wait for the update, as I’ve been trying to book reward nights at the Hyatt Regency SF as well.

    Also I wish Chase would give us 15K Hyatt points instead of the free night certificate.

  19. For two years now I have been unable to use my free night that comes with my Hyatt Credit card. I get nothing for it and am thinking of dropping the card. I don’t mean that there are no hotels for the free nights, but thus far every one that I wanted to book has plenty of rooms, but none that could be used on the free night. Each one had a minimalist defined room that didn’t exist for booking and almost the whole hotel was off limits for the free night. I’m starting to think that they are just scamming.

  20. Gary–so glad you brought this up. We’re frequent travelers to San Francisco and quite enjoy staying at the Hyatt Regency (it’s great for Giants games and the Ferry Building….). No doubt–they’re playing games with award nights.

    We tried to use our Chase Annual Award Certs and were told there were no available rooms….our personal research turned up same info you posted here. A few phone calls didn’t help, but at the ‘last minute’ (night before), they were able to get us into a room for the weekend…..hotel seemed about 40% full….lots of rooms available online at low rates, so the whole runaround seemed silly. Nonetheless, we always have a great time at the property despite a bit of heartache getting into the room…..or am I just projecting my positive feelings about the overall trip onto the hotel?

    But here’s a clue for Hyatt…..on our upcoming trip this August we’re staying at the W…..(location is o.k., but no hassles in redeeming my points)….Thanks Gary for all you do!

  21. A couple more data points…. Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, and Hyatt Morristown both do this on a regular basis – particularly during the working week, in high demand periods of the year. As both are Category 2 properties a short train ride from NYC, looks like they have pressure on their rooms/rates. So standard rooms disappear, and ‘Business Plan’ rooms (the exact same standard room, just with breakfast) are loaded up. It’s definitely a trend, and one it looks like corporate aren’t that interested in controlling…

  22. Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but I just called the goldpassport line 2x and got identical answers (to the word) from both reps: “pure award/points rooms ARE capacity controlled, but not ‘as much’ as the P&C rooms.” So either that IS the case, or I need to know how to get around the reps and website not allowing me to do what Hyatt insists I can do. The room IS available–I can book it for cash, and it’s not even disguised as one of these package deals–it’s just the basic room. But, not available for 25,000 points, only $$$. Arrrgghh.

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