IHG — the world’s biggest hotel loyalty program — is running a special promotion through Friday when you buy additional points. You can get up to a 100% bonus depending on how many you buy. I think it’s a good deal. However, the offer isn’t quite as generous as it first seems.
IHG award nights cost as little as 10,000 points each and as much as 60,000 points each. That means buying points through this promotion could let you book a stay for $57.50 to $345. Now, buying points won’t make sense for everyone, but you can easily visit the IHG website to take a look at the current retail price of any hotels you think you might stay at in the near future and compare that to the current award availability. Some people will find it saves them money to buy points rather than book a regular room.
You will only get the bonus if you buy at least 5,000 points by February 17, and you can buy at most 60,000 points per year.
Why don’t I think this is such an amazing deal? It really is the best offer available right now. However, it’s not a 50% discount as you’d expect from a 100% bonus. That’s because there’s already a cheap way to buy IHG points at any time of year — you can even get more points than the 60,000 annual cap.
The list price for buying IHG points is normally 1.15 cents each. But you can snag a deal at any time by booking a room using cash + points. When you book a room using cash + points, what you’re really doing is using some of the points you already have and buying the remainder with the cash portion. If you cancel the award, you’ll get your points back — all of the points, including the remainder.
Take another look at the example of the InterContinental Hong Kong above. If you booked a cash + points award and agreed to pay $125 for 20,000 points, you’ve just acquired them at a cost of 0.625 cents each. Other options require less cash but fewer points. For example, 5,000 points for $40 is a higher rate of 0.8 cents each. Do pay attention.
The current promotion is a good deal, and if you want to try to use the points + cash trick in the future you’ll need to have some points to get started. What’s not as obvious is that the discount is not 50% as you’d expect from a 100% bonus, because the best comparison is to the points + cash trick. It’s really only an 8% discount. Some discount is better than none, but don’t feel you have to jump on this deal if you’re still uncertain.