Buying loyalty points to save on business and first class flights is a topic frequently covered on Australian Business Traveller, and in the same vein you can also buy hotel loyalty points to deliver similar savings while you’re on the ground.
A timely example is the Hilton HHonors program, which currently offers a double points deal on all points purchases made until June 3 2016.
At the top end of the scale, you could buy 80,000 HHonors points for US$800 (A$1,032), which this promotion will instantly transform into 160,000 HHonors points.
Your new collection of points can then be used to book hotel nights at properties like Conrad, Waldorf Astoria, Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton, in many cases at a far lower overall cost than if you were to book and pay for a room the conventional way.
But buying Hilton HHonors points in advance doesn't always work in your favour. Here's what you need to know.
Buying HHonors points: the basics
For starters, know that the number of Hilton HHonors points you’ll need per night not only varies between hotels, but also based on demand.
As a result, sometimes you're better off paying for your room in cash rather than points.
It’s also possible that there could be no rooms available for booking with HHonors points on your preferred travel dates.
This means you should always find a cost-effective way of using points before ever buying them: ideally, knowing the cities you'll be visiting as part of your forthcoming travel schedule and when you'll be there.
Buying HHonors points: assessing value
Calculating any possible savings from this deal involves a few quick calculations based on your travel plans. Start by visiting the HHonors site, plug in your destination and travel dates, select the “Use HHonors Points” checkbox and then click “find it”.
On the next page you’ll see a list of hotels in that city – those with rooms available for booking with HHonors points will indicate as much, along with the normal paid rate.
Here's an example from London:
You're given the option to part with 80,000 HHonors points or £269 for the room.
That's a cash rate around A$498, while the cost of buying those points comes in at A$516 (A$0.00645 per point).
In this instance, the cost of buying points outweighs simply booking the room rate, and is a great example of when this deal won’t help you save.
Where you’ll save a little
Over at the Conrad Hong Kong the numbers are more in your favour.
On the dates we searched, rooms were available from HK$2,860 (A$476) including a 10% service charge not quoted in the initial price…
… or could also be booked for either 80,000 points outright – again costing you A$517 to buy – or with a mix 32,000 points (costing around A$206) and a payment of HK$1,278.67 (~A$212) for an overall price of $418: some 12% cheaper than the retail rate.
Where you’ll save a lot
China’s Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund hotel offers fantastic savings when buying and then using points, with rooms available for either 28,000 HHonors points plus ¥928 (A$184) including taxes and the hotel’s 15% service charge…
… or from ¥2,742.75 (A$546) for comparable paid rates with all taxes and service charges included and with similar change and cancellation rules to reward bookings.
Those 28,000 points only set you back US$140 (A$180), making for a total cost of A$364 per night – or a daily saving of A$182 over the retail rate.
On a five-night stay, that represents an extra A$910 in your pocket at the end of the week: simply by buying HHonors points and using them to book the same hotel room you’d have otherwise paid for.
How to buy HHonors points
Found a deal that works for you? Great – if you’re not already a Hilton HHonors member, take a minute to join via the Hilton website and make a note of the membership number you receive at the end.
Existing members and those who’ve completed the sign-up process can then head to the ‘buying points’ page of the Hilton HHonors website, and if prompted for a username, enter your HHonors membership number.
From there it’s as simple as selecting the number of points to buy, remembering only to buy points when you have a specific plan in mind for their use, which in itself will tell you how many points are needed.
Enter your credit card details and wait patiently for up to 24 hours, after which your points will appear in your account and can be used to book rooms through the same process as above.
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