Buying Points to Save on a Hotel Stay — Reader Success Story

Aug 22, 2017

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.

I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Erik, who took advantage of a Starwood promotion to save on a Marriott stay. Here’s what he had to say:

Erik
Erik saved money and boosted his SPG account by purchasing points for an award rather than paying cash.

My son will soon be heading to summer camp near Albany, and we made plans to visit him there on family visiting day. The camp was offered a group rate at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany East Greenbush, so we used that to book our one-night stay for $157.62 after taxes. However, I noticed I could book that same room for just 10,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. The only problem was that I didn’t have any Marriott points on hand.

Fortunately, I remembered that Starwood Preferred Guest was running a promotion to buy Starpoints at a 35% discount (for purchases of 5,000 or more points). Knowing that I could transfer from SPG to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, I purchased 5,000 points for $113.75. You have to transfer in increments of 1,000, so I converted 4,000 Starpoints into 12,000 Marriott Rewards points — enough for one free night. After booking the award, I cancelled our original reservation and converted the leftover 2,000 Marriott points back into 667 Starpoints.

The net result was that I saved $44 and ended up with an extra 1,667 Starpoints. I also paid for the purchase with my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from Amex to earn 2 points per dollar, though I’m not sure if it will qualify for the bonus. If it does, I’ll earn another 228 Starpoints for a total of 1,895. If not, I’ll earn at least 1 point per dollar (1,781 total). Either way, I think it’s a good deal overall!

Airlines and hotels frequently offer opportunities to buy discounted rewards. In general, I don’t recommend buying speculatively unless you’re getting a great deal, but these promotions are a good way to top up your account when you have immediate plans to book an award. In Erik’s case, the decision was easy — buying points not only saved him $44 in cash, but also earned him almost 1,800 extra Starpoints (worth almost $50 based on my latest valuations). His redemption isn’t as spectacular as some others I’ve shared, but it’s a good example of how thinking creatively about award travel can help you save.

Many loyalty programs sell rewards through third parties, which means those purchases might not qualify for a bonus on a co-branded credit card. The same goes for gift cards purchased online, though physical gift cards purchased from a hotel will usually count. Starwood sells its points through Points.com, so I don’t expect Erik will earn the extra point per dollar. If you’re not sure how a given purchase will be categorized, use a credit card that gives you a good return on everyday spending.

Photo courtesy of Hero Images via Getty Images.
Points purchases might not earn a bonus on a co-branded credit card. Photo courtesy of Hero Images via Getty Images.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Erik for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.

Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image courtesy of Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany East Greenbush.

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