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Are IHG PointBreaks worth the hassle of buying points?

by on Tue October 11, 2016 • No Comment
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intercontinentalphoto

If your idea of a good deal is getting something for really cheap, even if you weren’t planing to buy it before, then IHG PointBreaks can be one of the best, if not the best, deals out there when it comes to hotel points and earning free nights at hotels.

What are IHG PointBreaks?

PointBreaks is a list of hotels you can book for 5,000 points a night that IHG Rewards releases approximately every three months.

PointBreaks deals are capacity controlled, so even though the hotel will likely have rooms left, it is possible (and likely) that the PointBreaks rate will sell out. The better the hotel is, the faster the PointBreaks rate will sell out, and really good ones tend to sell out fast.

Technically, each IHG Rewards member is limited to two bookings at the PointBreaks rate per PointBreaks hotel, though this hasn’t been enforced since the rule has been implemented – but this could change at any time.

When are PointBreaks released?

IHG tends to change the hotels eligible for the PointBreaks 5,000 point rate about every 3 months on a February / May / August / November cycle, with hotels generally bookable the Monday before the 3 month cycle begins. So for a cycle that begins February 1st, you’re generally able to start making reservations on the Monday before February 1st (in late January).

  • February 1 – April 30 (bookable the Monday before February 1)
  • May 1 – July 31 (bookable the Monday before May 1)
  • August 1 – October 31 (bookable the Monday before August 1)
  • November 1 – January 31 (bookable the Monday before November 1)

IHG tends to release a list of hotels on its blog a few days before the Monday they’re bookable, and then updates its main PointBreaks page once they’re ready for booking.

pointbreakslist

Why are they a good deal?

The value you can get out of redeeming your IHG Points for PointBreaks hotels varies widely, but it’s almost always cheaper to buy 5,000 points and get a night at a PointsBreak hotel than it is to pay for one in cash, even at a seemingly undesirable hotel or location.

Here’s why:

  • 5,000 points is all you need for a free night at any hotel on the PointBreaks list.
  • You can buy 5,000 points for $67.50, which is a lot less than what most hotels, even bargain PointBreak hotels, charge for a night.
  • If you want to put some legwork in you can buy 5,000 points for even less ($30 – $40) using the Points + Cash trick.
  • That means you can book PointBreaks hotel nights for $30 – $40 a piece if you’re short on IHG points.

The cash and points trick to buy 5,000 points for $30 – $40

The cheapest way to get a PointsBreak hotel if you’re short on points for your full stay is to buy points via a cash and points booking that you will end up cancelling and not using.

You’ll first need to have at least 5,000 IHG points in your account already. That’s because you’re going to be booking a night at a hotel that costs at least 5,000 points plus some cash. You can get the 5,000 points through stays with IHG, a transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards, the IHG credit card, or buying 5,000 IHG points at their full price of $67.50.

Once you have at least 5,000 IHG Points in your account, simply make a cash and points booking at an IHG hotel and then cancel it.

The very cheapest IHG hotels tend to have rooms for 5,000 points plus $40.

Here’s the Holiday Inn of Burlington, North Carolina available for 5,000 points plus $40.

Don’t worry, you’re not actually staying at the hotel – you’re just booking it to buy points.

holidayinnpointscash

Once you book it, just cancel it and you’ll get 5000 + 5,000 =10,000 points back in your account later that day (it’s not an instant refund to your account).

The 10,000 points is the 5,000 points you used for the 5,000 point + $40 rate, plus the 5,000 points you bought with the $40.

You’re basically paying the full 10,000 ‘points only’ price for the room, but paying $40 to buy the remaining 5,000 points.

When you cancel the booking, the full number of points (5,000 you use plus 5,000 you bought) are refunded to your account and you are not refunded for the cash portion of the booking (rather, you are getting the points back because you just bought some of them).

While the example above is the only way to buy exactly 5,000 points, there is another way to buy more points at a more favorable rate of around $30 per 5,000 points, or less than 0.7 cents per point.

You’ll need at least 40,000 points in your account to do it, and you can get the rate when you find an expensive hotel like an Intercontinental in a major city.

Those tend to offer a points only rate of 60,000 points, with cash and points rates of 40,000 points + $125. So you’re paying $125 to buy 20,000 points, which works out to just over $30 per 5,000 points.

Here’s an example at the Intercontinental in San Francisco.

intercontinentalpointscash

When you book and cancel this hotel for 40,000 points + $125 you’ll get the 40,000 points back in your account plus another 20,000 points that you purchased for $125.

You can buy a maximum of 40,000 points each day, so you can book a hotel like this twice in one day to take advantage of the favorable price.

And remember: the hotel you use to buy the points isn’t the one you’re going to book with the PointsBreak rate. It’s an entirely separate transaction, and PointsBreak hotels don’t offer a cash and points rate to book – it’s a straight 5,000 point rate all the time.

Is this worth the hassle?

As we mentioned above, the value you can get from IHG PointBreaks varies significantly.

Typically, any hotel on the list would cost more than $70 per night to book, so simply by booking any of the hotels you will be saving yourself money – providing it is a stay you would be making anyway at a hotel you’re okay with.

On the low end – you can expect hotels like the Holiday Inn Express in Clanton, Alabama to be on the PointBreaks list (it was on the September – October 2016 list).

This hotel gets generally great ratings (4.4/5 average) and is available for a $99.96 Advance Purchase Rate (non-cancelable) on an October weeknight.

Instead, you could pay for this hotel with 5,000 IHG points that you purchased for $30 – $40 (or earned through stays) and have a fully cancelable rate.

Now – the Holiday Inn Express in Clanton, Alabama surely isn’t an aspirational hotel stay.

holiday-inn-express-clanton-2532198311-4x3

And truth be told – there aren’t many aspirational hotels that are going to come up on the PointBreaks list, but every so often we get lucky.

Let’s take a look at a few hotels that have shown up on the PointBreaks list that were high-value hotels:

  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fraser, Colorado (March 2015 PointBreaks List) – This hotel is very near to Winter Park Ski Resort and during the ski season, flexible rates on weekend nights can easily go over $250 per night. This hotel normally costs 20,000 IHG points per night to book.
  • InterContinental Phnom Penh (September – October 2016 PointBreaks List) – This hotel normally costs 25,000 points per night and flexible rates are generally more than $150 per night.

phnompenh

  • InterContinental Mendoza (September – October 2016 PointBreaks List) – While this hotel isn’t necessarily expensive at around $80 – $100 per night, 5,000 points is still a steal. The normal points rate is 20,000 IHG points per night which would generally not make sense to redeem over paying cash.
  • InterContinental Panama City (September 2013 PointBreaks List) – The InterContinental Panama City isn’t in the most tourist-y part of the city, but for 5,000 points per night it is hard to beat. The hotel normally goes for 30,000 IHG points per night or over $150.
  • InterContinental Mauritius (Summer 2012 PointBreaks List) – The InterContinental Resort Mauritius is one of the best IHG hotels that has ever made an appearance on the PointBreaks list. This hotel normally costs 30,000 points per night or over 200 Euro – which means this would be a good hotel to redeem your points at even at the regular redemption rate!
  • InterContinental Fiji Gold Resort & Spa (Summer 2012 PointBreaks List) –  Another one of the best IHG hotels to have ever graced the PointBreaks list – and it happened during the same PointBreaks list as the InterContinental Mauritius! This hotel is another that would often make sense to use points at even at the regular rate – costing 40,000 points per night or often over $375 per night for a flexible rate.

From that list alone, it is pretty clear that there can be some incredible value in the IHG PointBreaks list, though it’s generally been less exciting as the years go on. But even when these incredible hotels aren’t present, remember that there can still be some really solid value if you are willing to think outside of the box.

For example – the March – April 2016 PointBreaks List provided the opportunity to book the Holiday Inn Express in Heber City, Utah for only 5,000 points per night. This hotel is located about a 25 minute drive from Park City Resort ski area and can save you hundreds of dollars on a ski trip. It wasn’t as convenient as staying in Park City would have been, but for $35 per night it’s a really solid deal if you’re willing to put in the time to drive back and forth every day.

The catch of all this is you need to be on alert to catch the new PointsBreak list when it’s released every three months, and ready to make your plans quickly before the best hotels sell out.

And that’s something we wouldn’t go out of the way for unless you’re a really adventurous traveler willing to let this list of hotels define where you travel.

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