This is the sixth in a series of posts on how to save money on hotel bookings by purchasing rewards points. For a more detailed explanation and walk-through of the theory, see the first post on Hyatt hotels.
Choice Hotels wasn’t in my initial list of chains to review because of how weird and restrictive their loyalty program is, but given their large footprint and a few requests for a writeup, I realized it would probably be useful to look at. So, without further ado…
Like IHG, but also very very different
If Choice Privileges had an award chart, it would look fairly reasonable. Hotel awards would range from 6,000 points per night to 35,000 points per night, roughly corresponding to location and quality. Unfortunately, they don’t publish one, but with a few searches, we can infer that it probably looks something like this (evidently hotels in Australasia can cost up to 75,000 points per night, but I’m going to omit that tier since I don’t have any data on it):
You can buy points in 1,000 point increments for 1.1 cent a piece, up to 50,000 points a year. That’s pretty reasonable for their award chart and induces the following prices:
If this were any other of the the hotel chains I reviewed, this would be fantastic. But since this is Choice Hotels that we’re talking about, with properties typically costing well under $100, it’s a pretty bad deal. That is, until we throw in their points and cash option.
Like IHG, Choice Privileges allows you to buy points by making a points and cash booking and then canceling it, pocketing the full number of points. I’ll leave it to Loyalty Traveler to explain, but you can purchase up to 250,000 points per year using this mechanism for a cost of 0.75 cents per point. You do need 8,000 points to begin with, but those can be purchased by buying at the normal 1.1 cent per point rate.
What are the induced rates, taking into account the new, lower purchase price for points totals above 8,000?
Here, the co-pay is just the cost of buying the marginal points at 0.75 cents per point.
It’s easy to see the parallels with IHG, except for the fact that a) as mentioned, most Choice Hotels are not that expensive to begin with and b) the award redemption rules are really really weird! Thankfully, they’ve gotten rid of the fixed points expiration policy (which two years from crediting, independent of other earning activity), but they still restrict award bookings to within 30 days from the stay domestically and to within 60 days of stay internationally, unless you have elite status, in which case the limits are 50/60, 75/75, or 100/100.
Where is it valuable?
Almost categorically NOT within the United States. The cash cost of hotels are just too inexpensive to ever warrant purchasing points for a redemption.
Looking internationally, however, there can be some value, particularly with the Clarion Collection, which is slightly more upscale than the other brands. Re-visiting Loyalty Traveler’s example of Bergen, Norway for a random date in February:
These two Clarions, which are the sixth best and best hotel in Bergen according to TripAdvisor, cost $198.28 and $182.51, respectively. At 12,000 points, the Clarion Collection Hotel No 13 would cost only $118 if we bought the points required for an award, for a savings of 40%! Even the higher-priced Hotel Oleana (20,000 points) would cost less by buying points, $178 instead of $182.51. Obviously the latter is a wash if you factor in the fact that you would earn points from a cash stay, but depending on the cash rate on a given day, it could be worth your while.
So there you have it. Six hotel chains. Six variations on a theme. Six ways to save money. Hope you learned something, and I hope you had as much fun reading this series as I did writing it.