Is buying hotel points to 'save' on hotel stays good value?

By Chris Chamberlin, February 4 2016
Is buying hotel points to 'save' on hotel stays good value?

Buying airline miles to book low-cost business class and first class flights is an almost-secret trick of savvy travellers as the cost of those miles is significantly lower than buying a ticket on the same flight in the ‘usual’ way: but does that same principle also apply to hotel points?

Hilton HHonors, IHG Rewards Club and Starwood Preferred Guest frequently run deals where the overall cost of their points is either reduced significantly or remains the same but with a bonus on top, such as Hilton’s most recent deal which offered 80% more points for the same price.

At the top end of the scale, members could buy 144,000 HHonors points for US$800 ($A1,140): the price usually charged for just 80,000 points, or a slightly more modest 129,600 points for US$720 (A$1,026), which normally buys 72,000 points.

The latter could be put towards a ‘points and money’ reward at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund hotel, where you’d part with 128,000 HHonors points and ¥4,253 (A$921) for four nights in a King Deluxe room, including the property’s 15% service charge.

All up, you’d pay $1,026 for the points – the least number you could buy above the 128,000 points needed – plus that $921 when departing the hotel to total A$1,947.

Compare that with the usual asking price of ¥10,810 (A$2,341) for the same room on the dates we quoted and you’d finish the trip with A$394 more in your pocket by taking a moment to buy and then redeem points.

What to do before you buy...

As always, this trick depends on a couple of the stars aligning: you’d first want to have a particular hotel stay in mind when buying these points, and to check that the hotel has rooms available in exchange for points on the dates you wish to stay.

(On the HHonors website, that’s easily done by checking the ‘use HHonors points’ box when searching for hotels, where you’ll see what’s available on your dates and how many points are needed per night.)

Also, keep in mind that you won’t earn HHonors points on the cash amount paid as part of a ‘points and money’ reward, so if your stay is being reimbursed by your employer or can be tax deductible, there’s merit to paying the usual asking price and pocketing the points on the total amount paid.

With SPG and IHG – or indeed Hilton HHonors when other deals become available – you can assess the ‘value’ in much the same way, comparing the actual cash price of booking the stay you’d like against the cost of buying enough points to cover the same.

If buying points is cheaper than paying for the stay, you’re sure to come out ahead: but as that won’t always be the case, do check before diving in as sometimes the numbers aren’t in your favour.

Have you bought hotel loyalty points to save money on hotel stays? Share what you booked and how much you saved in the comments below!

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Apr 2014

Total posts 25

It might be worth adding that if you pay with points the 5th night is free. In the example above the nightly price becomes 64,000 HHonors points instead of 80,000. However, the "points plus cash" rate stays the same. 

Hi Marta, it's great that you've added this down here – we didn't mention this in the article as you can't buy enough points for a five night stay at the full reward rates at the properties where this trick delivers the best value (eg. you'd need 320,000 HH points for a 4/5 night stay at the hotel above, whereas you can only buy up to 144,000 points via this deal). Great if you already have some points up your sleeve, though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Apr 2014

Total posts 25

I'm Hilton Diamond and have a stash of HHonors points so I no longer buy points but I used to! One thing I realized I should have said in my original comment is that the 5th night free on awards applies to Silver, Gold and Diamond members of Hilton Hhonors program. But with various instant Silver status offer around this should not be a problem. And Anyone who has Amex Plat has Gold status (and free breakfast).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Dec 2015

Total posts 10

how does the AMEX Plat & get HH gold status work? I have AMEX Plat but not sure how to get the HH gold status; do you have to apply for this seperately? ta

Contact AMEX and they can point you in the right direction. :)

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