Several large hotel chains are offering bonuses or discounts when you purchase extra points to top up your account. Two of these offers are ending tomorrow, so this is your last chance for at least a few months. The third offer has a couple weeks left to go. Here’s my advice on which offers are most tempting and how to use them to your advantage.
Hyatt Gold Passport — 1.7 cents each
Hyatt is offering a 40% bonus through May 31, but only on purchases of 10,000 points or more. (There is a maximum purchase of 55,000 points per account per year, excluding the bonus.) This brings the cost down from 2.4 cents to about 1.7 cents.
I generally consider Hyatt’s points to be worth about 1.4 to 1.5 cents each. So why would I pay more? Currently Hyatt is offering a 20% rebate on points redemptions through July 31. This isn’t quite the same as a 20% discount, but if you were to think of it that way it would bring the cost per point below 1.4 cents.
Looking beyond July, buying points can still be a better deal than paying cash for the cheapest and most expensive hotels. Category 1 properties cost only 5,000 points (~$85 in purchased points) but are often more than $100 per night. Category 7 properties cost 30,000 points (~$510 in purchased points) but are often more than $600 per night. In the middle, I think that finding value with purchased points will be hit-and-miss.
Starwood Preferred Guest — 2.6 cents each
SPG’s discount will end tomorrow, on May 31, and includes tiered discounts from 10% to a maximum of 25% when you purchase 20,000 points. The effective rate is 2.625 cents each and close to the usual value of Starpoints. In other words, I wouldn’t buy them when they’re not on sale, which is usually twice a year.
Starpoints are best used for cash and points stays that let you stretch their value, for booking longer stays (fifth award night free), or for transferring to any of several airline loyalty programs (get 25,000 miles for 20,000 points). If you need more than 20,0000, SPG makes it easy to pool points from multiple accounts that have shared the same address for at least 30 days.
Hilton HHonors — 0.5 cents each
Hilton’s promotion has the most time left running. Through June 17 you can buy up to 80,000 points and get a 100% bonus. Points normally cost 1 cent each, so the bonus brings the average per-point cost down to 0.5 cents.
160,000 points is enough to get four award nights at 40,000 points per night. Hilton properties vary their rate with seasonal demand, and Category 5, 6, 7, and 8 properties all go for as low as 40,000 points at some time during the year. Book them all for one stay and you get the fifth award night free! However, the best use of purchased points will probably be in Categories 4 and lower, which can cost under 20,000 points per night, making it cheaper to buy and redeem points as long as the standard rate is over $100.