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The short answer is Yes…for some. Here is the long version. You know the expression “all real estate is local”? The same principle applies to hotel points redemptions. Sure, the sky may be falling for those who only want to stay in popular cities like New York and San Francisco. But if you are flexible on destinations and like to go off-the-beaten-path, why would you care?
This post was prompted by yet another blow in hotel points world, a.k.a the latest IHG “adjustment.” While on the surface, the category shift may not appear terrible, I assure you, it is. I’m very much an IHG gal and have been tracking changes over the last few years.
My conclusion? If you want to stay in popular IHG properties during peak season, it will not only be expensive on points, but you will have a tough time finding availability. That’s problematic for normal families who have to adjust vacations to school schedule. This, plus the fact that I need to save cash, made me decide to skip the latest IHG Accelerate promo.
Is IHG now a hopeless case?
No way, Jose! It can be terrific for visiting relatives or for local no-frills getaways. Let me give you some examples. Few times per year, my mother-in-law visits her sister in North Florida. The only decent hotel in town is Holiday Inn Express. The cost is 20,000 points per night. My MIL has IHG co-branded credit card, so with rebate it’s actually 18,000 points.
While not a bargain per se, the cash rate is rarely less than $120 (all-in). So, even buying points for 0.57 cents apiece during numerous IHG sales can make sense. Of course, if you accumulate them for less via Accelerate promo, you’ll do even better. In fact, I would probably go for it, except my sister-in-law bought IHG points a while back without consulting me. At the moment she has about 140K points. She told me she would cover my MIL’s stay if needed. Sounds good to me.
Here is another example. Few months ago I wrote about a short local getaway with my husband. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express and Suites Lake Placid At 10,000 points per night, this place was a steal, and we even got mediocre breakfast!
Plus, I got 1,000 points rebate and 500 Amenity points for having Platinum status, so the true cost was actually 8,500 IHG points. Sweet. The cash rate is usually above $100 per night. So, when I wanted to treat my friend and her husband to a short one-night getaway, this place immediately came to mind.
She has been taking my daughter to her house on a weekly basis, and they have been doing crafts and baking cookies together. Basically, all the stuff I loathe. So, I wanted to repay her for her kindness. They loved it! My husband was a bit confused as to why they would text him a photo of themselves chilling in a hot tub. This hotel now costs 15,000 points per nights, but it’s still a pretty good deal.
So, my point is, you should investigate various IHG options and see if they will work with your existing plans. It may be worth it to participate in Accelerate promo, depending on what offer you have in your account. Of course, the biggest bargain of IHG is their PointBreaks program where certain properties cost only 5,000 points per night.
Obviously, you can’t predict in advance what hotels will end up on the list or if the program will even be available in the future. But I do think it’s prudent to have some IHG points on-hand at all times. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, but around 30,000 points sounds reasonable. That stash will cover 6 PointBreaks nights or 2 nights at a category 2 property. And there are lots of those by the highway or near an airport somewhere. You can use tools like HotelHustle, Awardmapper or Pointimize to check the cost in points at your specific destination.
So, leverage IHG for its strengths: terrific footprint and abundance of low-category hotels in small towns. If you need to stay in a beachfront hotel or plan to visit a popular city, you may need to look elsewhere. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to redeem points under those circumstances, but you probably won’t be getting outsized value.
Let’s say you were able to accumulate IHG points for around 0.35 cents apiece and want to redeem them at Holiday Inn Sarasota Lido Beach, a place I really like. It now costs 40,000 points per night. If you redeem your stash here, your cost will be $140 all-in (if you don’t have IHG credit card).
That’s actually not terrible during high season when rates hover around $300, but it’s not exactly a bargain either. And if you have a family, sharing a cramped room isn’t ideal. But for a short getaway, it could make sense. So, once again, you will have to do the math and decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze. It’s all about the cost at which you’ll end up acquiring your IHG points.
You may also want to read my post The Age-Old Question: Hotel Points or Vacation Rentals for Family Vacation?
Some other programs you may want to consider
I’ve put this list together with the idea of stretching hotel points in order to maximize value. As I’ve said earlier, which program will work for you will ultimately depend on your goals. See my list of best hotel bonuses. With that, you may want to investigate these options:
1) Wyndham Rewards
I will say upfront that it’s super aggravating to deal with. That being said, there are bargains to be had, for sure. I wrote a post where I compared Barclaycard Arrival Plus to Wyndham Rewards Signature Visa It breaks down pros and cons when it comes to Wyndham program.
There is a new non-affiliate offer that comes with 45,000 points and $75 annual fee (not waived). If you find a nice Wyndham hotel at your desired destination that happens to cost a fortune, it may very well be worth it to apply for the card. You should also keep an eye on various Wyndham promos.
Short version: stay at expensive properties for only 15,000 points per night and use Go Fast rate (3,000 points+cash copay) for motel-type lodging. Wyndham has some decent hotels and resorts in Florida that could be a good deal during holidays and high season.
2) Choice Privileges
Honestly, I’m not a fan of Choice. You can’t reserve hotels far in advance, and they only allow you to use points for immediate family. That said, there are some advantages to Choice and if you have a large family, you should look into it. That’s because they let you book a suite for the same amount of points as a regular room.
I wrote a post on Choice Privileges Visa credit card and reasons you may want to consider it. It’s an OK offer, not great, especially when it comes to desirable US properties. If you are planning to go overseas, specifically Scandinavia, Choice can be a great deal. But I would never hang on to the points for more than few months. These guys are super sneaky and devalue without notice.
3) Club Carlson
Definitely not as “hot” as it used to be, but there is value to be had in good ole’ Club Carlson. Read my post on why I’ve decided to renew my Club Carlson Signature Visa. I think applying for this card can also make sense for some folks.
4) Hilton HHonors
The biggest appeal of this program is its terrific footprint and the fact that there are 4 co-branded Hilton credit cards out there. So, if you partake in all of them (and double dip in your spouse’s name), you will have a boatload of points/free night certificates. But make sure to apply when the offer is at its highest, especially with Amex.
While the most popular Hilton properties are quite expensive, once again, there are good deals to be had if you know where to look. Amex Surpass and Citi Hilton Reserve versions come with automatic Gold status which will give you free breakfast and potential upgrades. See this DoC post which contains personal referrals for 100K points offer on Amex Surpass.
This program has become more valuable due to merger with Marriott. See my post for ways you can leverage it SPG program itself is mostly a good deal for Category 1 and 2 hotels (2,000 and 3,000 points on weekends, respectively), but you can do well redemption-wise on more expensive properties, especially if you plan on staying during peak season or holidays.
You may want to hold off applying for SPG co-branded credit cards because the offer is likely to be increased right before they are discontinued. You should look into Marriott cards, though personal version is subject to 5/24 rule
6) Ultimate Rewards
Not a hotel program, but a great option when it comes to low-category Hyatt stays. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Hyatt program on 1:1 basis. I wrote a post on some Category 1 redemptions ( only 5,000 Hyatt points). There are also some very nice resorts that cost 15,000 points per night. Those can be a great deal during peak season and holidays.
Some cards to consider: Chase Sapphire Reserve (apply in branch in order to get 100K points), Chase Ink Business Preferred or Chase Sapphire Preferred. These cards are subject to 5/24 rule You can use Ultimate Rewards points from the sign-up bonus for Hyatt program transfers on 1:1 basis.
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Hotel sign-up bonuses are still a good deal (for many)
In general, when it comes to chasing new offers, hotel points are dead last on my list. Hoarding isn’t my thing, though I did make an exception with IHG over the last few years. But now the points are mostly gone, and I’m OK with that (I think). I do recommend you read my post on factors you should take into account when speculatively accumulating hotel points.
Hotel programs devaluations can be brutal. You may accumulate a lot of points, only to find them nearly worthless few years later. There is also an issue of award availability, which is an “achilles heel” of IHG and few other programs. Focus primarily on cash and flexible points. While not immune to devaluations, you will at least have other choices when it comes to redemption time.
Readers, what is your strategy when it comes to hotel points?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.