On my mind (Choice Privileges edition)

Choice Privileges is a an oddball rewards program. You can’t book award stays more than 100 days in advance.  And the point prices change regularly.  The point prices for the next 6 months or so is listed on each hotel’s page.

Fortunately, it’s sometimes possible to stumble upon outstanding value…

The magic mirror on the wall at the Cambria LAX

Most Choice member hotels are low end cheap motels.  But Choice also includes the mid-tier Cambria chain which can be quite decent.  For example, I had a very nice stay at the Cambria near LAX (which I wrote about here).

Deluxe King Bedroom. Peacock Inn, Princeton NJ.

Choice also offers high end Ascend Collection hotels.  Yesterday I wrote about the Peacock Inn in Princeton, NJ.  And Nick has written about the Hotel Napa Valley.  Both are Ascend Collection hotels.

The Hotel Napa Valley.

Pick a room, any room (if you can see them)

Another weirdness about Choice Privileges is that they’ll often let you pick more expensive rooms, or even suites, for the same point price.  I picked a Deluxe King room in Princeton, and Nick picked a suite in Napa.

And, that brings us to another weirdness.  To see the rooms that are available with points, you have to have enough points to book it.  Luckily, if you have at least 6,000 points you can get around this limitation by searching one night at a time (as long as points plus cash rates are available).

Refilling my points

Each Spring during the Daily Getaways (which are annual travel sales with limited availability), Choice points are on sale for about half a cent each.  I usually buy some at that price, but I skipped it in 2019.  I’m now thinking that was a mistake.  I’m down to only about 15K points.

There are a couple of ways to get Choice Points by transferring from other programs.  Amex points transfer one to one to Choice, for example.  But I value Membership Rewards points far more than Choice points so I don’t like that option.  Another option is to transfer Amtrak points 1 to 3 to Choice.  That sounds awesome, but to unlock this capability you need either to be an Amtrak elite or to have spent $20K in a year on the Amtrak World credit card.  I’m not and I won’t.

Another option is to sign up for the Choice Privileges credit card.  At the time of this writing the signup bonus is only 32K points — that’s a far cry from the 64K offer we’ve seen in the past.  No thanks, I’ll wait for an improved offer.

If I need Choice points before the 2020 Daily Getaways, my plan is to buy them via the points plus cash trick.  The trick is to book a stay for 6,000 points plus cash, then cancel the stay.  Instead of getting back your cash, you get back the point difference between the 6,000 points and the full point price of the stay.  For example, if the full rate was 20K points per night but you paid 6K points + $105, you would get back 20K points when you cancel.  This is a way to buy Choice points for three fourths of a penny each.  That’s a better deal than buying points straight up from Choice for about a penny each (found here).

3.5X to 5X everywhere

Regular readers may remember that I have the Bank of America Premium Rewards card with Platinum Honors.  With this combination, I earn a minimum of 2.62% cash back for all spend.  So, if I earmark some of this cash back to be used to purchase Choice points, I can think of my card as an amazing Choice Privileges point earning card as follows:

When buying Choice points at a half cent each (during the Daily Getaways), my 2.62% cash back card becomes a 5.2X everywhere card.  In other words, I can think of it as earning 5.2 Choice points per dollar!  2.62 / 0.5 = 5.24.

Buying points with the points plus cash trick isn’t too shabby either.  When buying points at 0.75 cents each, my 2.62% cash back card becomes a 3.49X points card.  2.62 / 0.75 = 3.49.

For more about the Premium Rewards card (and other Bank of America gems), see: Bank of America cards: awesome if you’ve got $100K lying around.

Next steps

Choice Privileges points aren’t great if they’re all you have.  Ascend Collection gems are few and far between.  But, in my opinion, Choice points are great to have available for those times when everything gels.  Sometimes, the Choice option really is the best choice (ha).

In the near term, I’ll make sure to keep at least 6,000 points available.  That’s necessary just to be able to see which rooms are available on points.  And it makes it possible to buy more as needed via the points and cash trick.

Then, when the Daily Getaways return in May, I’ll buy more points at a half cent each if possible.  More and more I’ve found that that’s a great deal.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

17
Leave a Reply

avatar
7 Comment threads
10 Thread replies
9 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
CaveDwellerPamNick ReyesBranttassojunior Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Bluegreen vacations are a great redemption value to in the program. Some properties have huge 3-bedroom suites. Although since timeshare properties availability is limited.

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Bluegreen vacations within the program have some great options too. Some have you to 3-bedroom suites. Since a timeshare property availability is touch and go, but if you can snag one then some gem options!

Pam
Guest
Pam

BG has beautiful 3-br cabins & 5-br homes on the grounds of Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks (owned by billionaire Johnny Morris & a consistent top-rated property by Conde Nast, etc) accessible with Choice points. Smaller condos & lodge offerings, too. They have a partnership with Bass Pro that just about any person who enters their main store will be given their spiel! Lovely property, accommodations, & scenery. Shenandoah Valley yurts are nice, fun, & interesting, too.

Brant
Guest
Brant

Hey Greg,

Since you stayed in a Cambria hotel, I’d be interested to know if you followed through and got matched to Platinum with Choice Privileges.

Pam
Guest
Pam

I don’t plan on doing a Privileges match til really useful to me cos is only one match/lifetime & then have to re-earn status annually.

Edward
Guest
Edward

Staying at Choice properties in Norway and Sweden is a great way to use points. These Choice hotels are in a totally different (better) league than the American variety. Like the U.S., you get free breakfast–but, oh, what a difference! The breakfast buffets are enormous. I stayed in some Clarion Hotels a few years ago, and some of them also provide a limited dinner buffet, as well–and it was delicious.

tassojunior
Guest
tassojunior

Agree. Choice is mainly to be used in Europe. Much nicer Choice hotels there, plentiful, and often surprisingly low reward rates. Prague and Scandinavia especially.

I think Choice still sometimes has sales on Points+Cash where the points cost .5 cents, just like Daily Getaways. With bots and scripts, Daily Getaways usually sell out in under 1 minute now.

Pam
Guest
Pam

I have never had an issue buying Choice points on Daily Getaways if I stick with the minimum 14k points offered at .0057/point – using on $300-400 rooms so still worth it! Larger packages otherwise sell out immediately as you say. I have also received points on their Choice Privileges Online Mall.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Even though point stays (full or partial) must be booked within 100 days of travel, there are also no blackouts. Regarding “the points plus cash trick” above, truly is weird a p+c transaction isn’t reversed, as originally booked, when canceled within the cancellation period. Is this disclosed when booking, Greg (I have only booked with all points)?

There are 200+ Ascend hotels around the world, 3/4 in the US. About 30 were added in Spain alone early this year, so Ascend continues to expand. Considering Comfort Inns can be 10k points compared to Ascend’s 16k in an area, for example, the extra points are well worth it. I liken their higher-end product to Grands in the Wyndham Rewards program for my own usage.

Brant
Guest
Brant

If you do a dummy booking for “points and cash” and continue to the finalization page, the terms will be listed just above the orange “book 1 room now” button. It clearly states that no cash will be returned. You will receive the cash portion back in points immediately and those points can be used immediately.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Thanks for the explanation, Brant. I had previously read Nick’s article re: Napa but didn’t glean from it that no-cash-back was a mandatory policy by Choice (rather than an option for buying needed points cheaply). I previously thought it was either/or…thx again!

Nick Reyes
Editor

It’s not that weird, actually. It’s the same way it works with IHG — you’re not really booking points + cash, you’re buying points at a reduced rate, so they refund in points. I know that Hyatt doesn’t do it the same way, but IHG and Choice both do it this way.

I actually also wrote about this phenomenon in my post about the Hotel Napa Valley. See the section titled Choice Privileges Cash & Points: The cheap way to buy Choice points:

https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/a-sweet-spot-hotel-and-a-rookie-mistake/

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

So they have ur money no matter what so hope u can use the points . If not They Have the Money !!!
CHEERs

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I booked a stay with Booking.com is it anything like Hotels.com there ??? Hotels.com discount GC’s by AMEX and a free room @ 10 stays . It was 25% less and had the room so booked it first time in years.
CHEERs

trackback

[…] Choice Hotels points worth buying at a half a cent apiece? […]