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How I save money on expensive hotel stays by buying points

July 06, 2022
5 min read
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While many travelers will tell you to avoid buying points and miles, there are times when it can make a lot of sense.

If there’s any way to earn points other than purchasing them, it’s better to do that. For example, if you can open an IHG credit card and earn 140,000 points from a welcome offer, that usually makes more sense than buying points outright. But there are plenty of scenarios where buying rewards can save you hundreds — and even thousands — of dollars.

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I’ve purchased points many times to save money on a hotel stay. The strategy generally works best for super expensive luxury hotels and cheap hotels alongside the highway. I’ll give you some examples.

Buy points for expensive five-star hotels

Luxury hotels almost always cost a ton of points. You might think it’s absurd to buy hundreds of thousands of points for a single stay at brands like Waldorf Astoria, Ritz-Carlton and Park Hyatt.

But room rates are also sky-high at properties such as these. Take the Waldorf Astoria Park City: Rooms during ski season at this hotel are nightmarish. After taxes, you can pay nearly $2,000 per night.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

The above screenshot is for a room in early February. You’ll pay $1,942.72 per night after taxes and fees. At the same time, it costs just 95,000 points per night.

As you can see, you’re currently able to buy enough points for the same night for $480 with Hilton’s current points sale, which offers a 100% bonus. Note that this sale is active at the time of writing, but may have changed by the time you read the article.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

Plus, if you’ve got Hilton elite status (which you can earn from opening any Hilton cobranded card), you’ll get the fifth night free when booking five or more consecutive award nights. In other words, you’ll pay effectively 76,000 points per night when staying at least five nights.

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Note: This sale allows a maximum of 340,000 Hilton points. To book five nights at this particular hotel, you’ll need 380,000 points. Fortunately, Hilton allows friends and family members to pool points for free, up to 500,000 points. So if you're booking with a friend, have them purchase the remaining points and then add them to the pool.

With this points sale, you’ll have to spend a whopping $1,900 on points for a five-night stay. That sounds like a ton of money, but here’s the thing: This exact same stay costs $9,713.63 in cash. By purchasing points, you can save more than $7,800 on this stay. You’re spending $380 per night instead of $1,942 — an 80% discount!

Spending $380 per night is still a high price tag for many of us. But for a stay at a five-star ski lodge during peak ski season, that price is inconceivable.

Related: Get your 4th or 5th night free on award stays

Buy points for inexpensive awards at hotels along the highway

This strategy works at more than just expensive luxury resorts. It’s a great way for road warriors or road-trippers to save lots of money on convenient roadside hotels with low points costs.

For example, the Hyatt Place Nashville/Hendersonville costs between 3,500 and 6,500 Hyatt points per night. But the hotel can cost over $300 per night.

As you can see, two nights would cost $676 on random dates in July.

(Screenshot from hyatt.com)

But you can use 13,000 Hyatt points and get the stay entirely "free" — you won’t even have to pay taxes.

(Screenshot from hyatt.com)

Hyatt currently has a modest promotion that offers 30% bonus points when you buy 5,000 or more Hyatt points. You could purchase 13,000 Hyatt points and reserve this stay for $240 instead of $676 — a savings of $436.

Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?

(Screenshot from points.com)

Bottom line

Hotel points are touted as the tools for "free" hotel stays. And they are — but they can also effectively reduce the cash rate of a hotel in a dramatic way.

If you’re considering paying for an expensive hotel — or if you’ve written off a hotel because its cash rates are too high — calculate how much you’d pay if you simply purchased enough points for an award night. You’ll often find that it places steeply priced hotels into your budget, especially if there's a points sale.

Featured image by The Park Hyatt Auckland (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees