Today I want to tell you about a recent time when buying $250 worth of points saved my family $1800 on a spring-break trip. After booking flights using Southwest companion pass and Southwest points to Aruba for spring break, we now had to decide where we would stay. At first, we were looking at an Airbnb, since it allows us to make our own meals and gives us more living space. However, we were staying five nights and many Airbnb hosts want seven nights. I knew we could get the fifth night free if we stayed at a Marriott or Hilton. We knew we were going to stay at a hotel.
After checking prices, it was clear we needed to use points. We narrowed it down to where we have points: the Hilton Aruba or the Renaissance Aruba. This prior was the only Hilton Honors property on the island (more coming soon), but it would have been tight for two adults and two teenagers to stay in one bedroom with two queen beds so we decided to look for other room types. Hilton was charging hundreds of thousands of points per night for any room type above the base which is 80,000 points per night for a standard hotel room, but we didn’t have enough points to book two rooms. At the Renaissance Aruba, the guest room was 35,000 points for standard nights or 40,000 points for peak nights, but we were able to upgrade to a king one-bedroom suite that would guarantee us some room to stretch out for a surcharge of $80 a day.
The plan was to book the Renaissance Aruba on points for five nights and get the fifth night free. Since this was a main spring-break week all around the United States, Marriott was at peak pricing for three of the five nights and standard for the rest. As a category five property, the entire stay would have been 150,000 points (the least expensive night is free) for the room and $400 for the upgrade, which is definitely a good deal because the same room would come out to more than $600 a night or $3000 for the stay without points. We would get above 1.6 cents per point for Marriott points, which is a great evaluation since I usually value them at 0.8 cents per point.
However, we didn’t have enough Marriott points for the stay because we only had about 85,000 points, 65,000 points off. My dad knew that he would be staying at some Marriott properties relatively soon so our plan of attack was to get as many points as we could from the stays and then buy the rest of the points at the high 1.25 cents per point. We used a points advance reservation, which meant that we had the room reserved, but the points cost per night could change at any time until we had the points required to finalize the reservation.
After staying close to eight nights at other Marriott properties my dad now had roughly 110,000 points, meaning we had to buy 30,000 points to complete the reservation. Although we could have bought the points for a worthwhile $375, we decided that we would wait for a Marriott buy-points promotion since we still had close to four weeks before arrival.
However, a couple days later Marriott announced they were doing property tier changes set to take place in only a couple of weeks. This meant that instead of Renaissance Aruba costing 35,000 points per night standard as a tier 5 property, it was now a tier 6 property with a standard price of 50,000 points per night and from 40,000 to 60,000 points a night for peak nights respectively. We had to lock in the price and the only way to lock in the 35,000 points per night was to complete the reservation by buying the rest of the points.
The week before the change, Marriott announced a buy points promotion which brought our entire price for points down from $375 to $250. We were going to have to buy the points anyway but this easily saved us $125. We bought the points and locked in a reservation at 150,000 points before the stay would’ve been turned into 210,000 points. If we had not bought the points to top off our reservation, then we would have had to use 100,000 of our 110,000 points to only get two free nights, rather than five, while still spending a whopping $1800 for the last three nights of our trip. So, $250 saved us $1800.
Most of the time I would not recommend buying points. Normally, the airline or hotel is going to charge close to two times what the points are worth. This means that I would never buy points even if they’re on sale, hoping that I would get a good use out of them. If I need points to cap off a reservation or if buying the points for a flight or a hotel stay is cheaper than paying for the room then I would also do that. However, this scenario worked out very well for us by allowing us to get the last few points we needed to top off our account and then that allowed us to get the fifth night free.
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