The Other Way to get cheap Choice points is almost here (Daily Getaways). Should you buy?

Last week I reported that Chase was no longer offering the Amtrak credit card (See:  Chase kills the Amtrak card. Why you might care…).  Then, I reported that working signup links had been found (See: Amtrak zombie links found; should you hop on?).  Then, the next day, the last remaining links died.  So what?  Who would want an Amtrak credit card anyway?  The answer is that the Amtrak credit card unlocks the ability to transfer points from Amtrak to Choice Privileges at a 1 to 3 ratio.  5,000 Amtrak points becomes 15,000 Choice points.  That then begs the next question: why would anyone want Choice points?

Why Choice Privileges Points?

This question was answered in depth recently by Travel is Free: Best use of Choice points.  To summarize:

  • Redeem for low category Choice hotels.  Travel is Free lists a few terrific (?) hotels around the world that cost just 6,000 to 12,000 points per night.
  • Redeem for Preferred Hotel Group hotels.  These are mostly luxury hotels that range from 30,000 to 60,000 points per night. A number of these were listed in Travel & Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels.  Drew even created a Google Map to make it easy to find participating Preferred Hotels: Click here to view map.
  • Transfer to Southwest Rapid Rewards in order to earn a Companion Pass.  6,000 Choice points can be converted to 1,800 Southwest points, and unlike transfers from Ultimate Rewards, these points do count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.  For those with the Amtrak credit card or Amtrak elite status, this makes it possible to transfer from Ultimate Rewards in a way that is valid towards the Southwest Companion Pass.  Drew gives the following example: 8,000 Chase points – > 8,000 Amtrak points -> 24,000 Choice points -> 7,200 Southwest points.  With this approach you do lose 10% of your points, but you gain progress towards the Companion Pass.
Choice points

Pictured: Peter Island Resort & Spa. This resort is bookable with 60,000 Choice points per night. Nightly rates range from $400 to $1,175 based on season. As a result, point values at this resort range from .67 to 1.96 cents per point.

Options for earning Choice points other than Amtrak

This is republished from last week’s post, with slight corrections:

  • Credit card: I suppose you could get the Barclaycard Choice Privileges credit card (found here, scroll down a bit).  It offers 5 points per dollar at Choice Hotels, but only 2 points per dollar elsewhere.  I’ll pass.
  • Stay at Choice Hotels: Point earnings are either 5 or 10 points per dollar plus a percent bonus if you have elite status.  At 10 points per dollar earnings, one would have to spend $3,000 at Choice hotels to earn one free 30,000 point night.  Yeah.  No.
  • Transfer from Diner’s Club: Found on my Transfer Partner Master List, one can transfer 1250 Diner’s Club points into 2400 Choice points.  That’s pretty good except that Diners Club cards are no longer open to new applicants, and everyone many I know who had the card has been shut down.
  • Transfer from Amex Membership Rewards: Also found on the Transfer Partner Master List, one can transfer from Membership Rewards to Choice at a one to one ratio.  No thanks.  Membership Rewards are much more valuable when transferred to airline programs.
  • Points plus cash trick: Loyalty Traveler shows how to buy Choice points at the rate of $7.50 per 1,000 points.  That means a 30,000 point stay would cost $225, and a 60,000 point stay would cost $450.  I’m sure that those prices would be a big discount off the usual rate for these top hotels, but it doesn’t exactly seem like much of a bargain to me.
  • Daily Getaways: Each year, Amex and the US Travel Association team up to sell “Daily Getaways.” (Note: this year Amex doesn’t appear to be a partner).  These are often deals for buying hotel points cheaply.  Last year, Choice points were available for as little as .42 cents per point.  If the same deal returns this year, that would mean that 30,000 point nights would cost only $126 and 60,000 point nights would cost only $252.  At those rates, it might be worth going for.  Keep in mind, though, that Daily Getaway deals are usually available in extremely limited quantities so you have to be ready to buy the moment they go on sale (even then, you might not be quick enough with some deals).

Daily Getaways 2015

The first three weeks of this year’s Daily Getaways have now been announced.  I’ll cover other deals in future posts, but for now we’ll look at the Choice Hotels deals available Friday, April 3rd.  Each deal is advertised as a two or three night stay, but they’re really selling Choice Privileges points at a discount.  Here are the details:

Offer # Available Points Cost Per Point
DailyGetaways2015_Choice 380 40,000 .4 cents
DailyGetaways2015_Choice 655 32,000 .41 cents
DailyGetaways2015_Choice 785 36,000 .43 cents
DailyGetaways2015_Choice 220 20,000 .45 cents

At prices ranging from .4 to .45 cents per point, should you buy?

Compared to buying points directly from Choice (1.1 cents per point) or via the Points plus Cash trick (.75 cents per point), the Daily Getaway prices are a steal.  But, are the points worth even that much?

Use for Choice Hotels:

We know from Drew that it’s possible to get great value from Choice points by cherry-picking the best value properties.  However, Wandering Aramean shows us that Choice Privileges points are typically worth between .55 and .82 cents per point (these are the 25th and 75th percentiles, respectively).  That means that buying points via the Daily Getaways is most likely going to give you between a 20% and 50% discount off a future stay (again, unless you cherry-pick the best value properties).  And, that calculation works only if you use all of your purchased points.  Choice points expire after 2 years, so if you leave any orphaned points around, they’ll be worthless soon enough.  Unlike most other loyalty programs, Choice Privilege account activity does not extend the life of your points.

Use for Preferred Hotel Group hotels:

While I don’t have any concrete data about this option, my intuition tells me that redemption values for these luxury properties will likely range from about .5 to 1.5 cents per point.  The reason is that awards vary from 30,000 to 60,000 points per night and my guess is that most of these hotels cost in the range of $150 to $900 per night.  In other words, I’m guessing that the average value per point is 1 cent.  After writing that last sentence, I spot checked 5 or 6 properties around the world with a random booking date and found that I was sort-of right except that hotels were a bit cheaper than I expected.  Point values of the hotels/dates I checked tended to hover in the .5 to 1 cent per point range.  So, similar to Choice Hotel redemptions, buying Choice points for Preferred Hotel Group stays will most likely result in a discount ranging from 20% to 60%.

Use to get (closer to) a Southwest Companion Pass:

Points can be transferred from Choice to Southwest in increments of 6,000 Choice Privilege points in exchange for 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  Among the Daily Getaway packages, only the Comfort Inn package delivers points in a perfect multiple of 6,000.  For $155, you get 36,000 Choice Privilege points.  Those points can be converted into 1,800 x 6 = 10,800 Southwest points.  In other words, through this package, you can buy Southwest points that count towards the Companion Pass for $155 / 10,800 points = 1.435 cents per point.  That’s actually a terrific rate since Southwest points are usually worth a bit more than that when used for Wanna Getaway fares (See: The new true value of Southwest points).  Keep in mind, though, that Southwest is no longer promising a fixed redemption value for their points.

Final Answer

First, keep in mind that there are a limited number of packages available and they tend to sell out incredibly fast.  Even if you want to buy a package, you may not be able to.  That said, is it worth it anyway?

For those seeking to earn enough points for a Southwest Companion Pass, I think it’s a no-brainer to buy one of these packages and convert the points to Southwest Rapid Rewards.  For those expecting to use the points for hotel stays, I recommend thinking twice.  Yes, you can definitely save money with these deals, but only if you use the points.  Choice points expire after two years regardless of whether or not you have account activity, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that many who buy these packages end up losing some or all of their points in the long run.  That would obviously be a big waste.  Another factor to consider is that Choice does not allow award bookings far in advance.  Non-elite members can only book 30 days in advance.  As you move up in elite status, you can book further in advance: Gold 50 days, Platinum 75 days, and Diamond 100 days.  If you do buy points, I highly recommend requesting a status match from another program in order to unlock the ability to make earlier reservations.

Personally, I’m still on the fence as to whether or not to attempt to buy Choice points.  On the one hand, I do think it is likely that I’ll find opportunities to use the points effectively for hotel stays.  On the other hand, I already have plenty of points in other programs: Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and especially Club Carlson.  Do I really need yet another program with which to worry about getting maximum value?  And, I hate the idea that my Choice points will expire in two years.  That’s almost a deal breaker for me, except that I could always transfer to Southwest as a backup plan.  Even then, any remaining points less than 6,000 would be orphaned and lost.  Yeah, maybe I’ll pass…

Last updated on November 13th, 2015

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.

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Joey
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Joey

Thank you for this! I’ve never really gotten into hotel loyalty programs but I’m going to Europe in the fall and was looking at staying at a Choice hotel. If I buy Choice points on April 3rd, will those points be only redeemable at those specific properties in the USA or can I redeem them on any Choice hotel around the world?

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

I’ll definitely pass, unless I decide to go for the CP. I don’t see myself branching out into another hotel chain. I like Hyatt diamond status, but am already having a hard time with that, because I basically have to direct all possible stays to Hyatt to maintain it. There are plenty of other cheap points redemptions without clouding my head further with maximizing Choice points. Now, if they came out with a blazing hot signup bonus, then I’d start studying their properties.

Frank
Guest
Frank

FM, I am trying to help my son get a SW CP. Is there any way for me to transfer to him any Choice points? Is it possible to buy the Daily Giveaways in his name perhaps? or once I get them in my name somehow convert these to his SW account?

Ric Garrido
Guest

As someone who burned over 200,000 Choice Privileges points last year, you left out one of the most valuable uses of Choice Privileges points for stays in Scandinavia at Nordic Choice Hotels.

Travel is Free only slightly touched on that use with the mention of Sweden.

There are more than 170 Nordic Choice Hotels in Norway and Sweden. They are by far, the most prevalent hotel chain in those countries. Most hotels are in the 16,000 points level. Some are 20,000 points and some hotels are less than 16,000 points.

Considering the rise of low cost carrier airlines like Norwegian and WOW taking thousands of travelers to Scandinavia on cheap fares from the USA, many of these travelers will get great value from Choice Privileges points for hotel stays in Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and surrounding region.

My two week trip in Norway September 2014 burned 214,000 points for 13 nights. The published rates for the hotel rooms was close to $6,000 USD.

Norway and Sweden are two of the most expensive countries in the world to stay. Choice Privileges points makes these hotels affordable.

http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2014/08/19/two-weeks-in-norway-with-6000-in-free-choice-hotels-on-points/

Larry
Guest
Larry

One point to make about Choice is that the window for advanced booking of award reservations is pretty short. For non-elite members, you can only book 30 days in advance. I came close to getting burned on this one year when I bought a bunch of Daily Getaway choice points. The hotel I wanted was sold out by the time I got to my redemption window. (I ended up ok, because there was a cancellation.) In the past, there has been a safety net, because at .4 cents per point, even if you aren’t going for a companion pass, you can get close to your money back by exchanging for SW rapid reward points and then using them for wanna get away fares. The problem I see is that SW has announced it’s changing its program, so there’s no certainty of being able to get 1.5 cents per point easily in the future after the daily getaway sale.

I have a stay coming up in Vancouver, where the rate at a preferred hotel would be about $1022 all in for my stay, but if I was able to buy enough points to cover the whole stay from Daily Getaways, it would be about $640. This is a great deal, but with the 30 day redemption window, I’m not willing to tie up $640 with the danger that one of my nights will be sold out. Also, choice points tend to sell out pretty quickly, and if I can’t get all 160,000 I’m kind of stuck in the switches. If that hotel was my main option, I might feel differently, but with $640 to spend in Vancouver I should be fine, even if I have to go the airbnb route. I think I’ll likely pass.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

Are Visa gift cards considered debit cards? Because I have called several targets in LA and they dont allow credit card or gift card loads for Redcard…They only allow cash or debit.

Kim
Guest
Kim

What is the last confirmation that you have for transferred choice to SW points counting towards the Southwest Companion Pass? I thought I remember a rumor that it no longer counted?

Wise2u
Guest
Wise2u

“thought I remember a rumor”?!? no, no you didn’t because they still xfer.

I got them the first and second years of daily getaways and the credit card to get status and extend the small booking window. We used them on all inclusive Barcello stays in Puerto Vallarta, for a few years. Then they broke off their partnership without warning and the last few months of the year were suddenly booked up. That and the fact that their US hotels are mostly low cost garbage left a bad taste in my mouth. I was glad to use up my points before they expired.

Kim
Guest
Kim

I was asking for recent confirmation that Choice transfers to SW counted towards the Southwest Companion Pass. Sorry, I wasn’t sufficiently clear.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

Will probably do this and also doing the same for best western to transfer choice and best western to SW to get the CP. Thoughts on the best western transfer?

UAPhil
Guest
UAPhil

I don’t worry about the “short expiration fuse” because I can always transfer Choice points to Southwest at the end of the year before they expire, even if I’m not using them for CP. (Buying at 0.4 cents each means I’m getting Southwest points at about 1.3 cents each – a modest discount on their actual value.)

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

I have the sense that choice is only good when it’s almost closing time and you are really lonely…….and the only credit card you have in your wallet is a Diner’s Club card……..oh how the Frequent Traveler’s MBA program is doing a special Diner’s Club how not to enter the marketplace……..poor Diner’s Club executives……..they must wonder each night if there spouse will feed them…………

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[…] The Other Way to get cheap Choice points is almost here (Daily Getaways). Should you buy? – Choice points are going on sale for a good price, but are they really worth buying considering their fixed expiration date and other factors? […]

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[…] that Choice points can also be transferred to Southwest Airlines at a reasonable rate.  See this post for a full analysis of this […]

Ben
Guest
Ben

How old is the map that Drew created? I noticed that a few hotels in London are not accurate – they are not part of the Preferred Hotel Group and do not seem to be eligible for booking with these points.

Ivan
Guest
Ivan

I’ve seen values of 1.79 cents per Choice point in major cities. When you are buying at 0.4 cents per point, it’s a bargain.