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How I saved thousands of dollars on travel by buying 310,000 points

Feb. 22, 2022
6 min read
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If you have travel dreams, now is the time to book them into existence.

We all know the future can take hard right turns, but between the world opening up, prices rising and several types of hotel points on the verge of being devalued, I don't recommend sitting on a big trip idea when you could go ahead and book it with the flexibility to cancel later.

I've been busy booking several trips, to the point that I found myself in a situation where I needed to buy some more points if I wanted to save money. And yes, you read that correctly.

Obviously, the best deals with points usually come when you earn your points via no true out-of-pocket cost thanks to huge credit card bonuses or via everyday spending. But sometimes there are situations where the type of points you need isn't the kind you already have sitting in your account. And it's with this in mind that I found myself buying over 300,000 points this week -- and contrary to the common wisdom, I'll actually save thousands of dollars over the going cash rates by doing so.

Here's how and why it made sense for me to buy points, even with devaluations looming on the horizon.

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Discounted points, pending devaluations

Before I share my specific plans, the perfect storm that has caused me to spend cash for points for the first time in years includes multiple points sales going on and pending award chart changes beginning next month.

Both Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt will be implementing award chart changes next month, and certain Hyatt properties will cost up to 50% more points. With Marriott, we have even less visibility into exactly how pricing will change, but we do know that this is the end of the line for award charts for a couple hundred Marriott properties beginning at some point in March.

At the same time, virtually every type of hotel point is on serious sale at the moment. With pending changes to how many points hotels will cost on the near horizon, it could be a terrible time to buy points if you are just going to let them sit in your account. However, if you have an immediate booking to make, that equation shifts dramatically.

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The St. Regis Aspen. (Photo by Becca Manheimer/The Points Guy)

Now to zero in on my specific plans.

Marriott points are on sale for as low as .83 cents each (just above the current TPG valuation of .8 cents each) through March 23. This discount is in the form of an up-to-50% bonus on the points purchased if you purchase at least 40,000 points. So if you bought 40,000 points, for instance, you'd end up with 60,000. You can purchase a maximum of 100,000 Marriott points per year, so you could max out this bonus with 150,000 points in the end.

With Hilton, through March 11, you can purchase up to 80,000 points with an up-to-100% bonus. This means that 80,000 points purchased with a 100% bonus become 160,000 points at an effective cost of 0.5 cents each.

Why it made sense to buy these points

I purchased the maximum number of points allowed from both Hilton and Marriott, for a total of 310,000 purchased hotel points that hit my account this week.

My total cost was $800 for the 160,000 Hilton points and $1,250 for 150,000 Marriott points.

That's a lot of cash, and certainly not what I recommend in most situations. However, I had very few Hilton points in my account, and while I do have a few hundred thousand Marriott points, I have a big redemption plan for those, so I needed a few more for immediate use.

Since these are my real travel plans, I'll leave out the exact hotel and dates, but for Hilton, our two-night stay cost 180,000 Hilton points and the lowest all-in refundable paid rate was $2,872.13.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

Remember, I paid just $800 for 160,000 points, so adding that to the 20,000 I already had in my account, I was able to book a $2,872 stay for $800 in purchased points plus the 20,000 I already had from previous travel. That isn't a small savings -- it's literally thousands of dollars saved on a short stay by buying points.

Zemi Beach House. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

For Marriott, I actually have a couple of different uses for the purchased points, but one use was for a hotel that cost either 60,000 points or $1,101.38 for a one-night stay -- for a room with no view, no less!

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

I purchased 150,000 Marriott points for $1,250, and at .83 cents each, which means I paid the equivalent of $498 for that 60,000-point hotel night instead of $1,101.38. That's still not cheap, but it gets me exactly where I want to be exactly when I want to be there for less than 50% of the going cash rate.

Related: Maximizing Marriott hotel redemptions

Bottom line

Paying "nothing" for travel is the best price, but that's not always possible.

I theoretically could have transferred points from credit card programs and booked these stays without buying points, but that wouldn't have been the best strategy considering my longer-term plans for my points and miles. I've been at this points-fueled way to travel for a long time now, and feel very confident in coming out ahead in this case, even if life throws curveballs and my plans needed to shift a bit.

So for me, the best plan was buying points -- all 310,000 of them -- and locking in some exciting travel plans we can start counting down to right about ... now.

Featured image by (Photo by Benji Stawski/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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Best for the well-traveled foodie
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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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
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