Like many loyalty programs, IHG Rewards Club – the scheme for hotels chains such as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn – runs semi-regular bonuses when you buy or gift points.
The bonus offers tend to vary over the course of the year. 50% and 80% crop up, with a 100% bonus just about the best version we’ve come to expect. In fact, as recently as the back end of September, IHG ran a 3-day flash sale offering a 100% bonus.
Yet, none of those offers are generally enough to tempt me – here’s why:
Why should you ever buy loyalty points?
Before I get into the method I want to cover today, let’s consider why anyone should ever part with cold hard cash to buy loyalty points. Surely the whole point of hotel reward schemes is to enjoy (completely) free nights?!
In the past, I have discussed scenarios where it can be worth it to purchase points. Primarily this can be a way of ‘buying’ cheap stays at otherwise expensive hotels if you don’t have sufficient points to redeem for an outright free night.
The only issue is that most programs have restrictions on the maximum number of points that be purchased per account each year. In the case of IHG Rewards Club, you’re only permitted to buy 60,000 points each year.
However, there’s a trick that allows you to buy uncapped amounts of points at a cost equivalent to or lower than any bonus we’ve seen in recent times.
How it works
The concept is simple. When booking a hotel on points, IHG allows you several options. You can either redeem the full amount of points for a free night or you can mix cash and points. The required cash component does fluctuate between properties, which is something to be aware of.
The T&C’s are quite clear that if you cancel a Cash & Points reservation, your cash payment will not be refunded and you will instead receive points in lieu of that amount. In other words, by booking and subsequently cancelling a Cash & Points reservation, you are effectively buying IHG points at what transpires to be a very respectable rate.
Here’s how to do it:
Go to ihg.com – input any city in the Destination search box and under Rate Preference select Reward Nights.
For this example I’ve used New York:
On the results page, the InterContinental: New York Barclay is offering the following options:
So you could redeem 60,000 points for a free night.
Alternatively, you could reduce the number of points needed by 20,000 via a cash payment of $115. If you then decided to cancel your booking, you’d receive 20,000 points in your IHG account. Therefore, you have essentially bought 20,000 IHG points for $115 or approximately £87.
Using the method above works out at about 0.43p per point. During the flash 100% bonus sale that ran in September, you could buy a max of 60,000 points which came with a 60,000 bonus for $690 (at the time approx £513) or 0.42p per point.
You can now see why I was in no rush to jump in and buy points during the last sale – yes the value was good, but I had no plans for IHG points at that juncture so any purchase would have been speculative. This trick works year-round. What’s more is that this method allows you to buy up to 40,000 IHG points per day! The official route to buying points caps you at 60,000 (excluding bonuses) per year!
Get them even cheaper
This article is very topical as IHG emailed some members on Monday with details of what appears to be a targeted promotion. Specifically, a 25% flash sale when you make a booking using Cash & Points. Combined with the above trick, this sale would allow you to buy points for just 0.32p per point!
If you did not receive the email you need to log-in to your IHG account to see if your account is reflects the promotion. Provided you are eligible, the maths is quite compelling.
Here is an example using the Holiday Inn: Paris – Notre Dame:
As you can see there is an option to reduce the number of points needed by 20,000 via a cash payment of just $86.25. If you then decided to cancel, you would receive 20,000 points to your IHG account. Therefore you have bought 20,000 IHG points for $86.25 or approximately £65. That’s 0.32p per point!
At that price point, you can effectively buy a free night at the likes of the InterContinental: Amstel Amsterdam or the InterContinental: Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa for less than £200 a night. Alternatively, if you redeem those points for PointBreaks hotels you would be paying just £16.50 per night – that’s phenomenal!
Any small print?
In order to use this ‘Cash & Points & Cancel’ trick, you need to have at least 5,000 IHG points in your account.
Besides for staying at their hotels, other ways to earn IHG points include:
- Applying for either of the IHG Rewards Club Credit Cards issued by Creation
- Transferring points from Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio.
- Car rentals
- Completing surveys with the likes of e-Rewards
Regardless of whether you were targeted for the current 25% flash sale, this trick is a great one to have up your sleeve. It allows you to circumvent the official limits on purchasing points and provides the ability to purchase points at a very good rate, year-round.
With the pound the way it is currently, this method more or less removes the need for speculative purchases even during 100% bonus periods like the one we saw back in September.
Definitely one to file away.