Opportunity from the other merger: skirt Wyndham’s points purchase cap

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The merger that’s been on our minds as of late has been the Marriott-Ritz-SPG merger, but in other merger news, Wyndham and La Quinta announced yesterday that thanks to their merger members can now link accounts and transfer points between the two programs. This creates one clear short-term opportunity: you can get around Wyndham’s annual point purchase limits. In my recent comparison of the Wyndam / IHG / Radisson / Choice loyalty programs, I showed that Wyndham can be a valuable program with its flat-rate award structure, making this a potentially attractive opportunity. La Quinta also offers free points exchange via Points.com…but some experiments there showed that it’s a losing proposition. Still, the opportunity to grab a bunch of Wyndham points can be a win and I have to wonder how long it will last since Wyndham normally has such a low cap on purchased points.

La Quinta

Match Wyndham and La Quinta to transfer points & match status

Yesterday, Wyndham Rewards and La Quinta Returns began allowing members to link accounts in order to match status and transfer points between their accounts at 1:1. They set up links for both Wyndham Rewards members to match status to La Quinta and receive La Quinta points transfers:

And also for La Quinta Returns members to match status to Wyndham and receive Wyndham points transfers:

Keep in mind that La Quinta offers a free Gold status level for active duty military members, veterans, or military spouses, so service members and spouses will want to check that out here.

Wyndham points are sometimes very valuable and they are tough to amass

Wyndham Rewards has been a niche currency of interest ever since the program switched to a flat 15K-per-night award structure for all properties a couple of years ago. While this makes Wyndham points a horrible choice for stays at the cheapest properties in the collection, it also creates pretty good value at the top end. For example, the Hotel Henri in New York City can sometimes be downright expensive, making it a great deal on points at 15K.

And through Wyndham’s partnership with Cottages.com, you can book European vacation homes for 15K per bedroom per night, making some 2- and 3-bedroom condos and countryside homes a potentially good deal at 30K-45K per night. Last year, they ran an epic promotion whereby members could book an entire home for just 15K per night, so I rented out this 9-bedroom / 6-bathroom joint in the English countryside for 15K Wyndham points per night.

Yeah, the whole 9-bedroom mini mansion was mine for 15K Wyndham points per night rather than the 135K it would normally cost at 15K per bedroom.

Furthermore, Wyndham points can be huge when demand is driving prices through the roof. Last year, Travis at One Mile at a TIme showed just how crazy it can get when he wrote about some Wyndham properties in the path of the big eclipse charging rates as high as $1,500 per night (that were bookable for 15K Wyndham Rewards). Points really come in handy for a situation like that when you’d like to be able to go to a big event but room rates price you out.

The challenge is that Wyndham points aren’t terribly easy to amass. They aren’t transfer partners with any of the major transferrable currencies, which leaves you with two options: the co-branded credit cards (Barclays issues two) or purchasing points. The problem with the latter is that Wyndham limits you to purchasing just 10,000 points per year.

That’s not even enough for one free night at a Wyndham property.

Buy La Quinta points to get around the cap

The key opportunity here is that while Wyndham Rewards limits you to 10K purchased points per year, La Quinta allows you to buy up to 40,000 points per year. Since those points can now transfer 1:1 to Wyndham Rewards, you can now effectively buy up to 50,000 Wyndham points total between the two programs.

You can buy La Quinta points here (you’ll have to log in or create an account first — note that is not an affiliate link).

La Quinta sells points in blocks of up to 20K at a time. Points cost 1.2 cents each, so 20K points will set you back $240. Buying 40K points will nearly get you three nights at any Wyndham property in the world (or nearly one night in a 3-bedroom Cottages.com property). Alternatively, you could buy the 15K points needed for just a single Wyndham night for $180. The rates are the same 1.2 cents per point no matter how many you purchase and they are available in 1K increments.

La Quinta points might not even be a bad deal for some of their own properties. For example, you could save more than a hundred bucks by purchasing points rather than paying the cash rate at the La Quinta in Fremont / Silicon Valley tomorrow night:

Note that not all La Quinta properties cost 15,000 points per night — I saw properties ranging from 8K to 18K in a couple of test searches.

Purchasing La Quinta points won’t make sense for everyone, but they certainly can be more valuable than the purchase price. That seems especially true for those who would like to be able to buy a few nights at a Wyndham property at a peak time or expensive location. For example, if you wanted to spend 3 nights at an all-inclusive in the Caribbean for New Year’s Eve, you could buy 45,000 Wyndham points between La Quinta and Wyndham (40K from La Quinta and 5K from Wyndham) for a total of $545. That would be a better deal than the cash rate of around $900 for three nights at the Viva Wyndham V Heavens – An All Inclusive Resort.

Of course, if you’re looking to stay in Albuqurque tomorrow night, you’d be better off booking the cash rate than buying points, so YMMV.

Note that while Points.com shows that you can buy a maximum of 40K La Quinta Returns points per year, I don’t see a cap mentioned as to how many you can gift. I can’t find anything in the La Quinta program terms indicating a limit on received points (nor on purchased points for that matter). Is it possible for someone to gift you more than 40K points — or for more than one person to gift you 40K points each? I’m not sure. I’m not in the market for that many Wyndham Rewards points at the moment, so I didn’t test this (and if you decide to do so, keep in mind that loyalty programs usually have a term stating that they can shut down your account and zero out your points if you abuse the program).

Opportunities to exchange La Quinta points?

One other thing that jumped out at me for a second was the fact that La Quinta returns notes that you can exchange points for free via Points.com. I vaguely remembered looking at Points.com exchanges once before, but I decided to check it out to see if there were any opportunities for point arbitrage.

To see the exchange ratios, you first need to set up a Points.com loyalty wallet account. After doing that, I could check out the rates. Forgive the odd amounts in some of the screen shots — I couldn’t get the points slider to stop on exactly 20K. I wanted to look at what you could get for your $240 purchase of 20K La Quinta Returns points. I first checked out Aeroplan, the loyalty program of Air Canada (set to separate from Air Canada in 2020). My $240 in purchased La Quinta points wouldn’t be a very smart trade for less than 3,300 Aeroplan miles.

Convinced that there could be a hidden opportunnity, I soldiered on to other programs, like JetBlue TrueBlue….where I’d get even fewer miles.

Thinking that maybe airline programs just aren’t where it’s at, I looked at other loyalty programs available for exchange. I saw Speedy Rewards, the loyalty program of Speedway gas stations.

I could exchange 20K La Quinta for more than 30K Speedy Rewards. For a fleeting second, that sounded like it could be interesting….until I found that 30K Speedy Rewards would merely get me my choice from a fine selection of $25 gift cards. Not such a hot trade for $240 in La Quinta points.

It quickly became apparent that the exchange opportunities were pretty crummy. One potentially hidden opportunity: an exchange for China Rewards.

I say “hidden opportunity” because I don’t really know what “China Rewards” are. There is a press release calling it “the first coalition loyalty program in China that enables members to earn and redeem a common currency across all participating merchants”. It looks like those using Union Pay in China earn points and can exchange them at Points.com for other currencies at crummy rates. Maybe there is some other hidden valuable use of China Rewards….though I doubt it.

Overall, it looks like Points.com exchanges are a very bad deal.

Bottom line

The merger between Wyndham and La Quinta was expected to open up an opportunity for combining points and it finally has. Note that you can only combine points between accounts with matching names, so you won’t be able to transfer points from your great Aunt Suzie’s La Quinta account to yours. Since Wyndham Rewards limits members to buying 10K points per year, I expect that the opportunity to buy 40K La Quinta points will not last forever — but in the short term, you could get around the annual cap and get a good deal if you have the right use for the points.

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