Why I (almost) always buy points on sale

Sep 29, 2019

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Here in the points and miles world there are a few key rules: don’t pay cash, don’t waste your free night certificates and don’t buy points without a plan. Ok, I know that last one may not be as hard and fast a rule as the others, but its’ still something we repeat frequently.

Points are for earning, not purchasing. After all, where’s the value in buying points for a night instead of just paying cash? This is especially true when you’re chasing elite status, where award nights and flights don’t necessarily give you credit for your goals.

As for me? I almost always max out sales on points. Though I don’t go in for every promotion there is — after all, there are many — I spend a good deal of money each year on points. Here’s when and why:

Hilton points with a 100% bonus

Currently on sale, Hilton points are a currency I almost always max out on. Why? Well, because I hold the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, which means I am a top-tier Hilton elite. Because of this, Hilton is my go-to hotel chain when searching for somewhere to stay. And while Hilton has done some … interesting things with its redemption rates in the last few years, I’ve had some really good luck with my redemptions, especially with upgrades (which by the way, I always ask for).

For instance, I just bought 160,000 points with a 100% bonus, for a total of 320,000 points, for only $1,600. This, combined with another 60k points I already have, means that I can spend a full five nights at the Hilton Conrad Maldives in an overwater villa.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Image courtesy of Hilton
The Conrad Maldives Spa. Image courtesy of Hilton

Considering the cash cost of a room during January (when I am booking) is over $1000/night, I’m scoring great value by buying these points.

Of course, we talk all the time about the Conrad Maldives, but that’s not the only value you can score with your points. There are tons of options where buying points with a bonus straight up ends up being cheaper than paying cash.

This is especially true in larger cities during peak times (I’m looking at you, New York on NYE), where room rates can skyrocket but you can still find standard room rewards. Generally speaking, however, I’ve found some of the best deals on exotic beach resorts like the Hilton Seychelles Labrize, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, or the Waldorf Astoria Maldives. These hotels can go for exorbitant rates (the Waldorf itself goes for 120k/night!). Am I planning on doing all of these this year? No, certainly not, but saving up for a stay can take time, and in the meantime I’m stocking up during sales.

Is this risky? Yes. But we’re always playing a race against imminent devaluations. So far, I haven’t lost.

Alaska Airlines 50% bonus on miles

Obviously we love Alaska Airlines here. Although it’s not one of the legacy carriers, this airline has made some key partnerships with other airlines worldwide, which means you can score some awesome redemptions. And when miles are on sale with a 50% bonus, you’re buying points for an effective 1.97 cents each, which is more than TPG’s value of 1.8 cents/point.

But unless you’re redeeming for a domestic flight, you can easily redeem Alaska Miles for well over 2.0 cents apiece. My own bucket-list use? A round-the-world trip in first class for 150k miles, maximizing Alaska’s free stopover policy:

  1. Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) to Tel Aviv (TLV) on Cathay Pacific (stopping in Hong Kong), for 70k miles in first class.
  2. Tel Aviv (TLV) to London (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX) on British Airways (stopping in London), for 80k miles in first class.

That’s a pretty smooth method to make your way around the world.

Cathay First Class on a 777-300ER. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Cathay First Class on a 777-300ER. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Add into this the fact that Alaska continues forging new partnerships, and it just makes sense to stockpile while you can.

IHG 100% bonus on purchased points

Though many love to hate on IHG for its underwhelming loyalty program, I’ve had really good success with the hotel chain. Do I stay there a lot? No, but I have Platinum status thanks to my IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and I purchase Ambassador status every year. This has meant amazing upgrades, from a suite at the Intercontinental Amman to a beach bungalow in Moorea.

But the number one reason I keep buying IHG points, even when I don’t stay there that often? Pointsbreak hotels. For the uninitiated, Pointsbreak hotels are rotating lists of discounted room rewards at IHG hotels around the world. And they can offer some phenomenal value. More than once I’ve created a trip to take advantage of these rates (and in the meantime, found some really cool places to stay).

The Intercontinental Almaty, currently just 10,000 points/night. Image courtesy of IHG.

Bottom line

Is it always a good idea to buy points? No. Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense. But many are quick to vilify purchasing points as, well, against the point. After all, shouldn’t your points and miles vacations be free? Sure, if you can afford to spend ten of thousands of dollars per month on your cards, racking those points up quickly. For the rest of us, subsidized vacations with points on sale can make that dream destination a reality.

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