Hotel Point Purchases – Calendar Year Limits/Current Promotions

1 Comment

As the end of the year approaches, we wanted to summarize the rules in most of the major hotel loyalty programs when it comes to purchasing points to use for award stays as well as talk about when it may make sense to buy points for each program.

pointpurchases-border

Most hotel programs have an annual calendar limit on purchased points, and some currently have limited-time promotions on buying points, so it may be useful to take advantage of some of these before the end of the year or before these promotions expire.  Here is a summary by major hotel program.

Marriott Rewards

Regular Cost: $12.50 USD per 1,000
Max Number of Purchased Points Per Year: 50,000
Current Point Purchase Promotions: None
Link to Purchase Points

Marriott has never run any point purchase promotions (or at least as far back as John, Sebastian and I can remember!)… and at the regular price, it would hardly ever make any sense to purchase Marriott points for a hotel stay unless you’re within a few thousand points away from a particular award. However, as John has written about before (see here and here), with the value Marriott offers with their Travel Packages (airline miles + Marriott nights), purchasing points may make sense for some travelers.  Also, keep in mind if you’re going to buy any more than 2,000 Marriott points, as long as the SPG program is alive (likely through the end of next year at least), it will be cheaper to buy SPG points and convert them to Marriott points (see SPG section below).

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

Regular Cost: $35 USD per 1,000
Max Number of Purchased Points Per Year: 30,000
Current Point Purchase Promotions: “Mystery Bonus” 25-50% off the purchase price of points (see here) until 12/31/2016
Cost with Promotion: $17.50-$26.25 per 1,000
Link to Purchase Points

At the regular price, there are probably few instances where SPG points purchases make sense. However, with the current promotion (see link above), which ends on December 31, it may make sense to purchase points to use toward a particular award stay, even with the lowest discount (25%). For example, I priced out a 2 night stay at the Four Points International Drive Orlando for next month and the lowest rate (prepaid) is $110 per night, which comes to $248 for a 2 night stay including taxes.

spg-pointspurchase-1

Since this hotel is a category 2 property, weekend night awards are only 3,000 points per night, which would equate to 6,000 points for a Friday to Sunday stay.  Under the current promotion, I was targeted for a 25% discount on points, which would make the cost for 6,000 points $157.50, saving almost $100 on a two night stay, and the points rate is cancelable up until the day before vs being locked in at the prepaid rate, and award nights still count toward elite qualification.

spg-pointspurchase-2

Also, since SPG points can be transferred to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio, with the promotion, you can essentially buy Marriott points for $5.83-$8.75 per 1,000 vs Marriott’s regular rate of $12.50 per 1,000.  Even at the regular rate of $35 per 1,000, every 1,000 SPG points can be converted to 3,000 Marriott points, giving you an effective cost of $11.67 per 1,000 Marriott points, which is still less than the $12.50 per 1,000 you would pay to buy Marriott points directly.

Hilton HHonors

Regular Cost: $10 per 1,000
Max Purchases Points Per Year: 80,000 (raised in conjunction with some promotions up to 160,000)
Current Point Purchase Promotions: Targeted – 40% off until December 23
Cost with Promotion: $6 per 1,000 (40% off)
Link to Purchase Points

At the regular cost, buying Hilton points for $10 per 1,000 would not really make sense in most circumstances.  Hilton has frequently run sales (including a few in the last year) on buying points, the most recent of which was their Black Friday sale which offered points for 50% off ($5 per 1,000).  The current promotion is targeted (but fairly widely targeted) and offers 40% off purchased points ($6 per 1,000), but you will have to sign into your Hilton HHonors account (link here) to see if you’re eligible.

At the rate of $6 per 1,000, you could stay at the Hilton Dublin Kilmainham for example on a Saturday night in April for a cost of $180 USD ($6 x 30) as opposed to 224 EUR (approx $234 USD), saving you about $54 USD on the stay. However, you’d also be missing out on any promotional offers tied to paid stays, so be sure to keep that in mind when deciding between paid and award stays.

hilton-points

IHG

Regular Cost: $13.50 per 1,000 (up to 5,000); $10 per 1,000 (6,000 or more points)
Max Purchases Points Per Year: 60,000
Current Purchase Promotions: None
Link to Purchase Points

IHG is a somewhat unique program as there are a couple of different ways to purchase points for an award reservation.  The costs above are the “direct” purchase prices via points.com (see here) which requires you to sign in using your IHG account information. Although there is no current promotion to buy points, IHG frequently runs promotions to discount the price of points down to as low as ~0.575 cents per point.

The other “indirect” way to buy IHG points is by making a Points & Cash reservation (as long as you start with a minimum of 5,000 points in your IHG account).  If you don’t have 5,000 points you would have to purchase points directly first as outlined above.  In the following example, if you wanted to stay at the Intercontinental Times Square New York in July, a hotel which requires 60,000 points per night, but you only had only 40,000 points in your account, you can make a Points & Cash reservation and essentially buy the other 20,000 points needed at the time you make your reservation for an additional $125 USD:

ihg-points-cash-nyc

The maximum amount of points that can be purchased for a Points & Cash reservation per night varies by market/property, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason why this is the case, but you’ll notice the cost per point purchased is less as the number of points purchased increases, up to (as high as I have seen) 20,000 points per night.  IHG also runs promotions from time to time to discount the cash portion of a Points & Cash reservation. If this reservation is canceled (in accordance with the rate policies), you wouldn’t get any cash back; you’d simply get 60,000 points back (your original 40,000 plus the 20,000 purchased), essentially letting you “buy” points for as low as 0.625 cents each.

I wouldn’t recommend abusing this somewhat roundabout way of purchasing points as IHG has been known to take negative action against members who abuse the system, but it’s fairly common to change plans occasionally and cancel a Points & Cash reservation that you don’t need once in a while resulting in additional points added to your account.

Choice Hotels

Regular Cost: $11 per 1,000
Max Purchases Points Per Year: 50,000
Current Purchase Promotions: up to 30% off until December 26 (see here)
Cost with Promotion: $7.70 per 1,000 (30% off for purchases of 35,000 or more points)
Link to Purchase Points

Similar to IHG above, Choice Hotels has a couple of ways of purchasing points.  The direct way and costs are outlined above.  However, if and only if your account is based in the United States, you can also purchase points by making a Points & Cash reservation.  It is slightly different than IHG in that for each Points & Cash reservation, you spend 6,000 points (which is the minimum you would have to have in your account to do this) and the balance of points needed are purchased for exactly 0.75 cents per point (or $7.50 per 1,000).  Two examples for London hotels are shown below.  Note that you will ONLY see the Points & Cash options if (1) you are signed into your Choice Privileges account and (2) your account is based in the United States.  Any accounts based outside the U.S. will only see the “full” point redemption rates.

choice-points-cash

For the first hotel, you’re essentially buying 19,000 (25,000 – 6,000) points for $142.50 USD (0.75 cents per point).  In the second example, you’re essentially buying 10,000 (16,000 – 6,000) points for $75 (also 0.75 cents per point).  So if your account is based in the US, it doesn’t really make sense to buy directly buy points from Choice even with the 30% discount promotion going on now. However, if you’re not based in the US, it may make sense to buy points during this promotion if you have a specific use in mind.

Hyatt Gold Passport

Regular Cost: $24 per 1,000
Max Purchases Points Per Year: 55,000
Current Purchase Promotions: None
Link to Purchase Points

Like many of the other chains mentioned above, Hyatt points are usually not the best investment at regular price.  However, they’ve also run some promotions recently where you could buy points for up to 40% off the regular cost.  The regular cost of 30,000 points, which would get you a night at some of Hyatt’s top tier properties, is $720 USD.  While that’s quite high, consider that a night at the Park Hyatt Sydney during Mardi Gras starts at $1,112 AUD (about $804 USD), potentially saving you about 10% if you purchase points at the regular rate (up to almost 50% if you had purchased points during the 40% off promotion).

The savings is potentially even greater with Points + Cash reservations (depending on availability). This same property is available on the same dates for 15,000 points plus $400 AUD.  Even at regular price, 15,000 points can be purchased for $360 USD, and the cash portion equates to about $289 USD, for a total price of $649 which is almost 20% lower than the lowest revenue rate and this rate still earns Gold Passport points and counts toward elite stay and night qualification.

hyatt-cash

hyatt-points

Club Carlson

Regular Cost: $7 per 1,000
Max Purchases Points Per Year: 40,000
Current Purchase Promotions: None
Link to Purchase Points

A few years ago, the Club Carlson program was the “talk of the town” among frequent travelers. After many years with a ho-hum loyalty program, Carlson came out with some ridiculously generous promotions that allowed travelers to earn a heck of a lot of points for very little cost.  Combined with the “two for one” award perk that they offered to co-branded credit card holders in the U.S., this made points even more valuable.  Then at the beginning of 2015, things went downhill rapidly. Many top tier hotel awards increased 40% or more and the “two for one” award perk was scrapped.  So Carlson points suddenly devalued almost as rapidly as the Burmese kyat in 2012.

However, as I wrote about in October, there is still some opportunity to get value out of Club Carlson points, but hardly ever at the regular purchase price.  But Carlson has run a few promotions in the last year or so which offered up to a 75% bonus on purchased points.  So unless you need to top off your account for a specific stay, I would definitely wait it out until another one of these promotions comes out likely sometime next year.

Wyndham Rewards

Regular Cost: $11 per 1,000
Max Purchases Points Per Year: 5,000
Current Purchase Promotions: None
Link to Purchase Points

Last but not least, even though it is the largest hotel chain in the world in terms of number of properties (about 8,000 worldwide), Wyndham Rewards is probably one of the least talked about loyalty programs of the major brands. However, while most other programs were devaluing their points over the last few years, Wyndham Rewards completely overhauled their program in 2015 and in the process basically increased the value of their points.

They have a pretty simple reward program: every participating hotel in their program is available for 15,000 points per night, whether it’s the Super 8 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama or the Wingate Times Square NYC.  Although it doesn’t make sense to redeem 15,000 points for low-tier hotels, availability for higher-tier hotels is pretty good.  See the below example for an award in NYC for Memorial Day weekend:

wyndham-points

In addition to “regular” points stays (which they refer to as “Go Free”), another way to redeem points is through Wyndham’s “Go Fast” rate (their name for Points & Cash) which allows you to redeem 3,000 award points and pay the remaining variable balance in cash.  This can sometimes equate to significant savings, especially with last minute stays if the hotel is below expected capacity.

Feel like braving the cold and going to Montreal for New Year’s weekend?  For Friday night December 30, you can either pay $126.65 CAD (about $109 USD after taxes) to stay at the Travelodge or you can buy 3,000 points for $33 USD and pay $72 CAD (about $62 USD after taxes). So you’re basically paying $33 to save about $47 which can make sense to buy points even at the regular price.

montreal-wyndham-points-cash

Conclusion

In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to purchase hotel points. However, points purchases may make sense if (1) you’re very close to the number of points needed for a specific award redemption, (2) there is a good promotion going on discounting the cost of the points to less than the value you could potentially get from them or (3) you can generally get good value out of the points even at regular price and the points are difficult to acquire in other ways.  Do you have any examples of situations where hotel point purchases paid off for you?  Please let us know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this article, get our blog updates for free!

SHARE
Previous articleIHG Rewards Club Account Security (Name, Account Number & PIN All In Plain Text)
Next articleDelta Kicks Muslim Pranksters Off Their Flight For No Other Reason Than Being Complete Idiots

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE