Think the Maldives, Bora Bora or Paris are unattainable with your hotel points balance? Think again. Most major hotel loyalty programs allow members to buy, gift and transfer hotel points. This is one way to accrue points for members who do not generate large numbers of points from hotel stays and credit card spend. The cost to buy hotel loyalty points for a hotel award stay occasionally is less than paying the published room rate.
Points purchase limit in calendar year for member’s own account
Club Carlson = 40,000 points
*Hilton HHonors = 40,000 points
Hyatt Gold Passport = 40,000 points
IHG Priority Club Rewards = 50,000 points
Marriott Rewards = 50,000 points
Starwood Preferred Guest = 20,000 points
Nearly all hotel loyalty programs have calendar year purchase limits for points, but policies vary. The term calendar year means a member who hasn’t bought any points in 2011 can buy points up to the maximum annual limit in December and then repeat the maximum annual purchase limit again in January 2012.
* Hilton HHonors has a competitive advantage over other hotel programs with a policy applicable only at time of booking an award stay: “Members can purchase an unlimited number of points up to the total number of points required to redeem the Member’s desired Reward Stay.”
‘Gifting’ points is an option to buy points for another hotel loyalty program member. Most hotel programs combine self-purchased and gifted points in the maximum limit. For example, Marriott Rewards allows a member to buy 50,000 points for her own account and gift up to 50,000 points to another member, but a member can only receive 50,000 total points in combined purchased and gifted points per calendar year.
Hyatt Gold Passport and IHG Priority Club allow a member to double up and buy the maximum points for your own account and also receive the maximum points as a gift from another member. Two travel partners can buy 160,000 Hyatt points in a calendar year through their own purchases and gifted points combined.
Purchase bonuses and discounts
Most hotel programs offer limited-time offers during the year when the cost to buy points is reduced 10 to 20 percent or 10 to 20 percent bonus points are given at standard purchase rates. SPG Starpoints at $28/1,000 points to Dec 31, 2011 was a 20 percent discount. Priority Club in November offered 20 percent bonus points and Hyatt members could buy up to 48,000 Hyatt points during a September bonus.
Transfer hotel points between member accounts
The ability to transfer points between two member accounts is probably the most useful strategy for better hotel awards. The transfer of points has the most variability in rules across hotel programs.
Club Carlson: free transfer of unlimited points through Member Services.
Hilton HHonors: member may receive unlimited points. Sender pays $25 fee per 10,000 points.
Hyatt Gold Passport: free transfer of minimum points needed for award redemption between any two members.
IHG Priority Club Rewards: maximum 50,000 points receivable per member account. Sender pays $5 per 1,000 points.
Marriott Rewards: free transfer of minimum points needed for award redemption between spouses/domestic partner members.
Starwood Preferred Guest: free transfer between members with same residential address for at least 30 days. SVO Vacation members may transfer points between accounts regardless of address.
Club Carlson has the most liberal policy for point transfers. A member can transfer points to any member free of charge with no maximum limit. Hyatt and Marriott allow one member to transfer the minimum points needed for an award stay to another member with no fee, but Marriott limits this to spouses/partners. Starwood allows unlimited point transfers to members at same address. Priority Club is more restrictive with both transfer fees and recipient points limit.
HHonors charges $25 for every 10,000 points transferred. The advantage of HHonors is a member can receive unlimited points.
Hotel award opportunities
The option to purchase and transfer points provides more hotel award choices like SPG and Marriott fifth night free awards, SPG Nights and Flights, Marriott Hotel + Air Packages and Hyatt Regency Club rooms or three-bedroom Hyatt Vacation Club apartments. Bigger hotel awards may be within your reach for less money than published hotel rates.