Why did I just purchase 100,000 IHG Points for $575? Am I crazy?
IHG Hotel Group (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, etc) is having a 100% bonus sale on points through 30 November. The price you pay is dependent on how many you buy, but with this sale, if you purchase anywhere from 52,000 points through 120,000 points (including the 100% bonus) you will only pay .575 cents per point. The regular price per point is 1.15 cents. Read more to find out why this could be a good deal…
Finding a Hotel in London
I recently booked a flight to London in May for only 20,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in economy. See this post for more details on how I did this. However, I had not yet decided where to stay. I knew that I needed a hotel for 3 nights, I wanted to stay in a central location with good access to the Tube, and I preferred a hotel chain that I had some sort of status. IHG is a chain that often offers decent values on point redemptions because of its top tier Intercontinental and Crowne Plaza redemptions. They also have a points break promotion every quarter where a selection of its hotels from all different categories all over the world are put on sale for only 5,000 points per night. This can be an outstanding deal if it matches up to your travel plans!
Last week I had about 70,000 IHG points in my portfolio, which was not enough to stay at a hotel in London that met my criteria above. Then, I saw that IHG had a sale on points through the end of the month. Did it make sense for me to purchase points for cash to stay in London?
I searched for how much a flexible rate (refundable) would cost during the dates I needed the room in May. I normally choose a flexible rate so that I can cancel or change my reservation if necessary. I have found that when planning travel several months out, purchasing non-refundable rates often can create more problems than the money I would save. I had my eye on the Intercontinental London Park Lane. This hotel gets great reviews, it is an easy 3 minute walk from the Tube and 10 minute walk from Buckingham Palace, and looks like a very nice hotel from the photos online.
The flexible rate rooms in May were going for about $500 per night. Of course, I planned on staying 3 nights, so my total cost including taxes would have been about $1500.
I did a search for award availability, and all 3 nights were available with points for 50,000 points per night. I did some quick math and realized that, in theory, if I purchased all 150,000 points at .575 cents per point I would end up paying only $862.50 for the three nights, saving me $637.50. However, since I already had 70,000 points, I chose to only purchase 100,000 points, paying $575 and using 50,000 points from my existing balance.
When buying points makes sense
I normally do not like to purchase points or miles, but sometimes it does make sense. In this case, I was able to get a significant discount off the price of the hotel by purchasing IHG points via this sale. I rarely would recommend speculatively buying points or miles, but if you have a high-value redemption in mind, crunch the numbers, and determine that buying points is a good deal–it can definitely make some sense.
In this case, I didn’t have enough points in my account to stay where I wanted to stay in London, so I would have likely had to use cash out of pocket anyway, or compromise on location or quality. I also had to compromise a bit on my status preference. I currently have IHG Gold status, but it expires at the end of the year. Since this trip is next May, I will not have any status unless I do something to earn it. I don’t plan on staying at any IHG properties between now and the end of the year, so the only realistic way is either a status match (see these posts about a Hyatt Status Match and a Hilton Status Match) or opening the IHG Rewards Select Credit Card which automatically provides its holders with Platinum Status and also a free night at any IHG property each year–which can be a huge value benefit! I am seriously considering opening the card within the next couple of months.
Finally, since I booked this room with points, I can modify or cancel my reservation with no penalty up until the day before my arrival. That means, if I find a better deal, or decide that I want to stay somewhere else, I can easily do so. Of course, I will not be able to return the points I purchased for cash–they will be credited back to my account, but I should be able to find many more high value redemptions for those points if necessary.
So, there you have it–am I crazy? Maybe a little :-). I spent $575 to top off my IHG Rewards point balance, the points were credited to my account within an hour, and I immediately redeemed them for 3 nights at the Intercontinental London Park Lane saving myself several hundreds of dollars compared to what I would have paid in cash. Does this make sense for everybody–of course not–but it is just another way to play this game! Would you have made this deal?