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And it’s a new cheap way to get extra points to qualify for the best deal in domestic travel, the Southwest Companion Pass!
This could also be a good deal for folks to make their points last longer at Choice hotels, but it depends on the particular hotel! It’s NOT always a good value (and is sometimes terrible!).
Let’s see how Points Plus Cash works and how it can help you get more Big Travel with Small Money!
How Does Points Plus Cash Work?
Link: Choice Hotels
Note: Folks with fewer than the required 8,000 Choice points can buy them for 1.1 cents per point. Or sign-up for the Barclays Choice Privileges card, which gets you 8,000 points after your 1st purchase (and another 24,000 points after your 1st stay).
Choice Hotels include:
- Ascend Hotel Collection
- Cambria Suites
- Comfort Inn
- Comfort Suites
- Econo Lodge
- MainStay Suites
- Quality Inn
- Rodeway Inn
- Sleep Inn
- Suburban Hotels
Only hotels that cost at least 10,000 points per night can be booked this way. Their lowest tier hotels, which cost 6,000 to 8,000 points per night, aren’t included.
With Points Plus Cash, you’ll pay 8,000 points for any award night, plus $15 per additional 2,000 points required for the room. That works out to 0.75 cents per point ($15 cost of points / 2,000 points).
Normally, you can buy Choice points at a rate of $11 per 1,000 points, or 1.1 cents per point. So points bought through Points Plus Cash are cheaper (but not always a good deal, as we’ll see later!).
For example, you’ll pay:
- 10,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus $15
- 12,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus $30
- 16,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus $60
- 20,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus $90
- 25,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus ~$128
- 30,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus $165
- 35,000 point award night = 8,000 points plus ~$203
There are some other restrictions in the terms and conditions:
- Points Plus cash bookings can only be made online
- Your credit card will be charged when you make the Points Plus Cash reservation
- If you cancel at a later date, the points you bought will be refunded to your account (as long as you cancel by the deadline)
- Points Plus Cash nights can’t be combined with any other promotion, but they do count toward elite status
- You can purchase a maximum 250,000 points per year through Points Plus Cash
Is This a Good Deal for Hotel Stays?
Choice hotel award nights can be a very good deal at hotels that normally charge a high price for their rooms, like many hotels in Europe. So in some cases this could be a good way to get more nights at a reasonable cost.
But paid nights at many Choice hotels (especially their lower-end brands in North America) can be inexpensive. You might end up paying almost as much with Points Plus Cash as you would for a paid room (and waste points!).
Let’s look at some examples:
1. Stockholm, Sweden
The Nordic Light Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, normally costs 20,000 Choice points per night.
Instead of paying 20,000 points, you could pay 8,000 points plus $90 using Points Plus Cash. Considering the best available paid rate is 2,140 Swedish krona (~$259) per night, this is a very good deal if you want to make your points last!
Folks who are planning trips to Europe could do very well by booking Points Plus Cash rooms. And Choice hotels in Europe are often much nicer than those in North America!
You could stay at the Inn of Chicago for 16,000 points per night. Or pay 8,000 points plus $60 using Points Plus Cash.
The best available rate in April at this hotel is $199. So Points Plus Cash will save you money and points in this case, too.
But let’s look at an example where using Points Plus Cash is a very bad deal.
Located near Walt Disney World, the Quality Suites Lake Buena Vista normally costs 25,000 Choice points per night. Using Points Plus Cash, you’d pay 8,000 points plus ~$128.
This is a HORRIBLE deal! You’ll pay MORE for the cash part of Points Plus Cash than you would for a paid room!
The best available rate for the same night is $109. Points Plus Cash would set you back 8,000 points plus ~$128!
That’s why it’s important to carefully check the price of a paid stay before you book a Choice hotel using points (or Points Plus Cash). Sometimes Choice hotels are so cheap, it’s not worth booking any type of award night!
There’s a Trick That Could Save You Money on Paid Stays and More!
Even though this isn’t always a good deal, it can be a great deal if you want to save money on paid stays. Or if you need extra points to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
You can use Points Plus Cash to buy Choice points at a discount.
Remember the IHG Points & Cash trick? Choice hotels Points Plus Cash works much the same way!
Here’s the Trick
Normally, you can buy points from Choice for 1.1 cents per point.
But with Points Plus Cash, you’re essentially buying points for 0.75 cents per point (~32% discount).
When you make a Points Plus Cash booking, your credit card is charged right away for the number of points you bought with cash. And if you cancel at a later date, your credit card will NOT be refunded. Instead, the purchased points are re-deposited into your Choice account.
For example, if you were to book a hotel (doesn’t matter which) that normally costs 20,000 points per night, the chart shows that you’ll pay 8,000 points plus $90.
Then, if you cancel this reservation, you’d get 8,000 points (plus the 12,000 points you bought for $90) re-deposited into your account. Instead of paying 1.1 cents per point for those 12,000 points (the normal rate), you’ve only paid 0.75 cents each.
How Does This Save Money on Paid Stays?
Again, this only works if:
- You already have at least 8,000 points in your account
- There’s an award night available at the hotel you want
- The paid rate at the hotel costs MORE than the value of the points you’re using for the award night
If you don’t already have 8,000 Choice points, you could buy them for $88 (8,000 points x 1.1 cents each). Or sign-up for the Barclays Choice Privileges card, which has a sign-up bonus of 32,000 points (8,000 points after your 1st purchase, and 24,000 points after you pay for a Choice hotel stay with the card).
Here’s an example. Suppose you “bought” points using the Points Plus Cash trick at 0.75 cents per point.
Then you wanted to book a night at a hotel like the Comfort Hotel Bolivar in Rome, Italy. Remember, many European Choice hotels are expensive for paid stays, but relatively cheap using points.
A paid night at this hotel (in a room that sleeps 4 people) costs 266 Euro, or ~$300.
Or you could book the exact same room for only 10,000 Choice points.
Here’s where the trick comes in! If you bought those 10,000 points at 0.75 cents each using the technique I described above, your actual room cost is only $75 (10,000 points x 0.75 cents per point).
That’s a savings of $225 per night compared to the cash rate (~$300 best available rate – $75 cost of points)! And because the room rate includes a full breakfast for 4 people (which can be very expensive in Europe), you’re getting an even better deal.
Note: You can buy a maximum of 250,000 points per year using Points Plus Cash. And I’m not sure how Choice hotels will view folks who repeatedly book Points Plus Cash rooms then cancel. So I wouldn’t over-do this technique, at least until we have more information!
Note: This is NOT as good a deal as the Choice hotels Daily Giveaways promotion (where you could buy points for as little as 0.41 cents each). But it’s a similar deal to a recent point sale Choice ran (in that case, points cost ~0.73 cents each). But these deals don’t run very often!
What About the Southwest Companion Pass?
I’ve written that you can buy Choice hotel points, then transfer them to Southwest if you
want extra points to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass.
The Companion Pass is the best deal for domestic travel, because your companion flies with you for almost free on both paid and award tickets!
Folks who sign-up for two 50,000 point Southwest cards get 104,000 Southwest points after meeting minimum spending requirements. That leaves them 6,000 points short of the required 110,000 points to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
Choice Hotel points transfer to Southwest at a ratio of 6,000 Choice Hotel points to 1,800 Southwest points. So to get 6,000 Southwest points, you’d transfer 24,000 Choice Hotel points (24,000 Choice Hotel points = 7,200 Southwest Points).
Normally, you could buy 24,000 points directly from Choice for $264 (24,000 points x 1.1 cents each). You can buy a maximum of 50,000 points per year.
But if you “bought” the points using the Points Plus Cash trick, you’d only pay $180 (24,000 points x 0.75 cents each). That’s a much better deal!
By spending $180, you’d earn the Companion Pass (worth potentially thousands of dollars) and have 7,200 Southwest points in your account. Southwest points are worth ~1.43 cents each towards airfare, so you’re getting a value of ~$103 (7,200 points x ~1.43 cents per point).
And they’re worth double that (~$206) if you use your Companion Pass!
This can sometimes be a good deal, especially if you’re booking expensive European hotels that don’t cost many points.
But sometimes it’s a VERY bad deal, because the cash portion of the Points Plus Cash rate can be MORE than the cost of a fully paid room! I know this doesn’t make sense (and maybe Choice will iron this out!).
If you’re comfortable with the IHG Points & Cash trick, you can apply the same principles to the Choice Hotel Points Plus Cash program to save money on paid stays.
Or buy points at a discount that you can transfer
to Southwest to help earn the Companion Pass!
Will you use Points Plus Cash to make your Choice points last longer? Where do you like to use your points?