Hotel award nights using points + cash stretch the value of your hotel points. Most of us have a limited number of hotel points to spend and a finite ability to earn points from hotel stays, partner activity and credit card spending. The points and cash option offered by three major hotel chains lets frequent guests save points on the points-only free night rate and save cash on the hotel night room rate.

IHG Priority Club, Starwood Preferred Guest and Carlson goldpoints plus are three hotel programs allowing frequent guests to redeem hotel loyalty points plus some cash for reduced rate hotel nights. All three programs run Cash and Points awards differently. All three offer a points-saving alternative with generally higher redemption value per point than points-only free hotel nights.

Starwood Preferred Guest

SPG Cash & Points awards require only 40 percent of the hotel points regularly needed for a free night at Category 1 to 6 hotels plus a fixed amount of cash, $25 to $150 per night based on the SPG hotel category.

My sister recently saved $1,400 for five nights at SPG Category 6 hotel Prince de Galles, Paris. The lowest cash rate was 360 euro (US$500) per night. Using 80,000 points for a fifth night free award was an option but she only had 30,000 points. The SPG Cash & Points rate was her best value at 8,000 points + $150 per night.

She purchased 10,000 additional points for $350 and booked her stay for $750 + 40,000 points. SPG members can purchase up to 20,000 points per year for $35 per 1,000 points. Her final cost was reduced from $2,500 to $1,100 + 30,000 points using Cash & Points. Points redemption value = $46.67 per 1,000 points.

My tip for SPG members desiring points and status is to pay full rate for one night and use Cash & Points awards for additional nights at the same hotel. The paid night qualifies the hotel stay for SPG promotion bonuses and elite stay credit.

Four nights Cash & Points requires $600 and 32,000 points at Prince de Galles. My sister would have needed only 2,000 additional points. The paid night would earn 1,000 points with a current SPG Europe promotion and 1,000 base points for $500 in spending. Net cost is $1,170 and 30,000 points, and the paid night earns an elite qualifying stay. This strategy is valuable for better SPG promotions or members close to SPG elite status.

IHG Priority Club Rewards

IHG Priority Club Rewards introduced a Points & Cash option in summer 2009. Points & Cash in Priority Club is a 5,000 or 10,000 points purchase option to supplement the points needed for a free hotel night.

There are three main features to keep in mind when using Priority Club’s Points and Cash option.

1) Points cost only $6 per 1,000 points for any hotel stay offering a Points & Cash option compared to $11.50 per 1,000 points via the regular Buy Points option.

2) Points purchased with Points & Cash award stays count for elite qualification. Priority Club Platinum elite membership is most easily earned via 60,000 points in a calendar year. A few Points & Cash stays can be the difference between Gold or Platinum elite status at relatively low cost.

3) Your booking may be canceled within the rules for your reservation. The cash portion is nonrefundable, however the points purchased with cash remain in your account.

The Hamilton, a Washington D.C. Crowne Plaza hotel is $297 per night Oct. 12-14, 2009. Points & Cash is 15,000 points + $60 per night. The $60 cash portion buys 10,000 points needed for the free night at a Crowne Plaza hotel. Free nights using points also eliminates the 14.5 percent tax on a paid room.

Your payment choices for two nights are 50,000 points or 30,000 Priority Club points +$120 or $680 for a nonrefundable room rate after tax. Assume you book two free nights with 50,000 points. Your redemption value is $680/50,000 points = $13.60 per 1,000 points. Points & Cash redemption value is $560/30,000 = $18.67 per 1,000 points. You can buy points at $6 per 1,000 and redeem your 30,000 points at triple that rate.

Carlson Hotels goldpoints plus

The Points + Cash option is convoluted with goldpoints plus. The points required and cash component vary by hotel and dates. If there is a pattern to Points + Cash with goldpoints plus, I fail to see it.
Country Inn, Queens, NY, Oct. 12-14. A free night is 90,000 points or 10,000 points + $75. The lowest room rate is $125. Points + Cash saves $50 with 10,000 points. Spending 90,000 points provides less than $15 value per 10,000 points.

Bottom line: Cash & Points hotel nights are a high-value hotel stay payment option.

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