One of the biggest questions in the miles and points business is when to spend money to get points and when to spend points to save money. The short answer is “it depends!”.
Let me give two examples of trips I have this summer. For both of them I have chosen to stay in IHG properties where I am a Platinum Ambassador member of the Rewards Club.
I am staying in Belfast for 2 nights to go to a wedding. We are flying into the city airport, and a bus is taking us out to the wedding venue and returning us at the end of the day, so a central location is necessary. As we will not be spending vast amounts of time in the hotel, a bed, hot shower and breakfast are the main requirements. Of the choices, I settled on the Holiday Inn Express – Queens Quarter, shown below.
At the time of booking, it was about £70 or 20,000 points, so I stumped up the 40,000 points. Now there will be many people who will say that they could have got better value out of those points which is probably true. At that valuation, I could have used 50,000 points in an InterContinental for a room costing a lot more but, and this is the crux of the decision, I didnt need a room in an InterContinental at the time, therefore that is a real saving of £140.
Saying that, I then went and booked a room at an InterContinental in Las Vegas. I needed a night there and have always thought that the extravagance of The Venetian would be something to experience for the sheer kitsch value. The photo below is of their Gondola ride. See the beautiful blue sky? That is painted on the ceiling – it is inside!
For a room here, I could have spent 50,000 points, but I instead paid $179 (about £115) which will include free poolside drinks and an upgrade because of my status. I could have got a cheaper room elsewhere, and I could have used points here or at another IHG property, but I felt that it was a good deal.
In summary, I have got 3 hotel nights for 40,000 and £115 – doing it the other way round would have been 50,000 and £140, so I have made a real saving.
So, the long answer to the question is that you need to look carefully at your options and decide what is best for you at the time. There are times when one option is better than the other, and others it will be fairly similar, so it will depend on how many points and how much cash you have at your disposal. One plus to remember is that when booking with points, the rooms are usually fully refundable which is useful if your plans are not set in stone.