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Choice Hotels introduced a Points Plus Cash option last year that allows you to “buy” Choice points at a discount. Today, TPG Contributor Cindy Gossett looks at how to maximize this option for cheap hotel stays abroad.

With aspirational properties in bigger hotel chains like Starwood and Hyatt, it’s easy to overlook Choice Privileges as a program to earn and redeem points for hotel stays. And while many of Choice Hotels’ stateside properties are inexpensive enough to just pay cash for your stays, there are some very good options abroad for redeeming points. Even better: In some cases, it’s possible to “buy” points using Choice’s Points Plus Cash program to make the price of your stay cheaper than paying completely out of pocket.

Last January, Choice introduced Points Plus Cash, where Choice Privileges members can redeem 6,000 points and “buy” the rest of the points needed for the redemption at a cost of $7.50 per 1,000 points. For example, a redemption that is otherwise 20,000 points would be 6,000 points plus $105 ($7.50 x 14 to buy 14,000 points, or 0.75 cents per point). And if you cancel your booking within the cancellation period, all the points — including those you “bought” for the redemption — go back into your account.

One caveat: You need at least 6,000 points in your account to make a Points Plus Cash redemption. You can buy those Choice points directly for 1.1 cent per point, or transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Choice (instantly, in my experience) to accumulate the minimum points needed.

So is it a good deal? It depends. 0.75 cents per point is higher than TPG’s latest valuation of 0.6 cents for Choice Privileges points, so you’re still paying more than the points are worth (on average) to purchase them. It’s also more than you’d spend if you can snag them during the annual Daily Getaways (though you can only buy Choice points via Daily Getaways one day per year). Still, in the right circumstance, it can be a downright bargain.

Rome

For example, on a random night this summer, the Comfort Hotel Bolivar, located in the heart of Rome, costs 162 euros, or about $178.

The cash price for the Hotel Bolivar in Rome.
The cash price for the Hotel Bolivar in Rome.

That same room can be had for 6,000 points and $45, or $90 if you bought all the points using the Points Plus Cash method.

The Cash Plus Points option is a much better deal in this case.
The Points Plus Cash option is a much better deal in this case.

Paris

I also found a hotel in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, Quality Hotel Malesherbes, where the cash price for a random night is 280 euros or about $308.

Cash price for Quality Inn Malesherbes
Cash price for Quality Inn Malesherbes

The price is 6,000 points plus $143, or about $188 if you buy all the points using the Points Plus Cash method.

The Cash Plus Points is a better deal here as well.
Points Plus Cash is a better deal here as well.

The Bahamas

On this side of the Atlantic, you can stay at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island in the Bahamas (including complimentary hot breakfast and full access to Atlantis next door) for 6,000 points plus $143, or about $188 using the Points Plus Cash option.

Cash Plus Points at Comfort Suites Paradise Island
Cash Plus Points at Comfort Suites Paradise Island

That’s a bargain compared to the $308 per night the hotel is currently charging for a room in late August.

Bottom Line

The Points Plus Cash method won’t always be the best value — room rates can vary significantly, and there won’t always be an award redemption available when you need it — but if your travels take you where a Choice Hotels property is a good option, always compare the cash price to the points price to see if you can save money by using the Points Plus Cash method.

One More Thing…

When I made a Points Plus Cash booking with my Chase Ink Plus Business Card, the merchant was Choice Privileges, which coded as “work-related” instead of “hotel accommodations” and therefore didn’t qualify for double points. A subsequent secure message through the Chase website confirmed it. But, as in this post, I called Chase to ask about the coding and was given the bonus points as a courtesy.

Featured image courtesy of the Comfort Hotel Bolivar in Rome.

Have you taken advantage of Choice Hotels’ Cash Plus Points option? Share your experience in the comments below!

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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