Loyalty Traveler – Stretch Your Points With Cash

Loyalty Traveler – Stretch Your Points With Cash

Four major hotel loyalty programs now offer award nights using a combination of points and cash: Club Carlson, Hilton HHonors, IHG Priority Club Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. I stretch my hotel points for many more hotel nights each year by redeeming points and cash awards. Staying in $300 per night rooms for less than $100 plus some points beats Priceline rates for me.

Points and Cash rates are generally a better redemption value than using only points for standard awards, but not always.

Hilton HHonors Points & Money (P&M)

HHonors started P&M awards in 2011. They cost 50 percent fewer points than HHonors standard awards for the same hotel category with an added fixed cash supplement. P&M awards are not offered at most hotels, but availability is expanding.
HHonors P&M award rates: Waldorf-Astoria = 30,000 points + $100; category 7 = 25,000 + $85; category 6 = 20,000 + $70; category 5 = 17,500 + $60; category 4 = 15,000 + $50; category 3 = 12,500 + $40; category 2 = 6,250 + $30; category 1 = n/a.
Millennium Hilton New York (HHonors category 7 hotel) is $415 per night after tax or 50,000 points standard award or P&M for 25,000 points + $85. Paying $85 to save 25,000 points is a good trade considering 25,000 points redeemed for this P&M award night saves over $315.

Club Carlson Points + Cash (P+C)

Club Carlson uses a variable cash rate generally set to 60 percent of the Best Available Rate (BAR) for the hotel stay. Club Carlson hotel points are earned for the cash component paid. P+C awards are available at most hotels, most dates. Tying the cash portion of P+C rewards to the actual room rate means there is far less leverage opportunity for cash savings compared to HHonors and SPG awards. Earning points compensates.

The points needed for P+C awards vary with hotel category. Category 1-3 hotels = 5,000 points. Category 4-5 hotels = 10,000 points. Category 6 hotels = 15,000 points. These amounts are only 18 percent to 33 percent points compared to Club Carlson standard awards. Category 1 P+C is an outlier at 56 percent points.
Radisson Blu Champs Elysees Paris
(category 6)
P+C rate: = $829 + 45,000 points for three nights in April 2012. Nonrefundable 20 percent discount rate = $1,105. BAR = $1,381. Club Carlson P+C rate is 60 percent BAR and 45,000 points saves $552. That is good redemption value. But book the hotel on the prepaid 20 percent discount rate for $1,105 and 45,000 points only saves $276 and the points redemption value is cut by half.

IHG Priority Club Points & Cash (P&C)

Priority Club Points & Cash require the same points as a standard award night with the option to buy 5,000 points for $40 or 10,000 points for $60 for each night of the award stay at time of booking. Points & Cash is usually an option anytime a standard award is available. I find good P&C award value at some hotels.

2012 tier changes for Priority Club Rewards reduced the affordability of P&C awards. Buying 10,000 points for a hotel at 35,000 to 50,000 points per night means you need 71 to 80 percent of the points already in your account to buy a P&C award. SPG members need only 40 percent points of standard awards and HHonors members need 50 percent points.

Tip: Choose P&C awards as the redemption value if a standard award rises over $6 per 1,000 points. A standard award for 25,000 points at a $250 hotel = $10/1,000 points redemption value. P&C night is 15,000 points and $60. Pay $6 per 1,000 points and redeem your 15,000 points to save over $12 per 1,000 points.

Priority Club P&C bookings may be canceled within the rules for the reservation. The points you bought remain in your account even if the award is canceled.

Starwood Preferred Guest Cash & Points (C&P)

SPG Cash & Points awards require 40 percent points of a standard award for category 1-6 hotels. C&P are not offered at category 7 hotels. Category 6 = $150 + 8,000 points. Category 5 = $90 + 4,800 points. Category 4 = $60 + 4,000 points. Category 3 = $45 + 2,800 points. Category 2 = $30 + 1,800 points and Category 1 = $25 + 1,200 points. Awards are capacity controlled by hotel. Category 1 and 2 awards are only offered in U.S./Canada and Asia Pacific.

SPG category 3 to 5 hotels are the sweet spot where availability is most common and the opportunity to save $150 to $250 per night while conserving points is a valuable strategy.

I hope other loyalty programs join the points and cash awards trend. These awards offer one of the highest cash savings value for hotel loyalty points.

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