When Buying Hotel Points Can Save You Money

Sometimes purchasing points through a hotel loyalty program is a good idea. Here’s what you need to know to save big.

New rooftop pool at the Gale South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton

You could save thousands by buying Hilton points instead of paying the cash rate for the Gale South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton during Art Basel Miami.

Courtesy of Hilton/Corey Weiner

There are plenty of ways to earn hotel points through loyalty programs without stepping foot inside a hotel or resort. You can boost your balances through welcome bonuses on cobranded credit cards and then continue to accrue beaucoup points through credit card spending. It’s also possible to earn points through shopping portals, as well as airline and car rental partners. But there’s a lesser-known way to land large sums of hotel points: Buying them directly from the loyalty program.

Four of the largest hotel loyalty programs offer the option to purchase points in their loyalty programs through their respective websites: Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt. While it doesn’t usually make sense to buy these points at retail price, it can be smart and cost-effective to buy points during promotional sales. Here’s everything you need to know about when it makes sense to purchase hotel points.

Reasons to buy hotel points

In general, points should be earned, not purchased. But buying them can make sense in several scenarios.

You may want to top off your existing points balance to have enough to land a free night at a hotel or resort. On a grander scale, you may also want to elevate your balance to a sum that allows you to take advantage of multi-night award booking benefits. For example, with Hilton Honors, the fifth night is free when booking with points for four consecutive nights. With IHG One, the fourth night is free when booking with points for three consecutive nights.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy and book with points than paying for a hotel or resort night directly (more on that in the examples later in this story). If you’ve been eyeing a property and are willing to do the math of the cost in points versus the cash price, you could discover big savings by going the points route, especially with Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt, which waive hefty resort fees and taxes on award bookings.

Because award bookings often come with great cancellation policies, it may also make sense to buy hotel points instead of paying with cash if your plans aren’t set in stone. The best cash rates typically require prepayment and are not refundable. However, standard award bookings are usually refundable with flexible cancellation policies if the cancellation is made within the timeframe designated by the loyalty program and/or hotel (which may be, say, canceling up to seven days prior or even up to 24 hours prior).

When to buy hotel points

Hotel loyalty programs typically sell their points at a premium, but promotions and bonuses make the price more attractive. These can be good times to buy.

Hilton Honors frequently runs a promotion in which members receive a 100 percent bonus when purchasing at least 5,000 points. This effectively drives down the purchase price to 0.5 cents per Hilton point. While the Hilton Honors rules state that a maximum of 80,000 points can be purchased annually (which would equate to 160,000 points with the aforementioned bonus), we’ve seen recent promotions targeted at Hilton Honors members allowing them to buy more. In all cases, buying Hilton Honors points at 0.5 each is an appealing deal, but we wouldn’t recommend buying the maximum amount unless you are ready to book a stay (or consider yourself a points pro).

IHG also frequently runs a 100 percent bonus promotion, but the program’s dynamic pricing model often means there are fewer opportunities for travel hacks than you’d find in Hilton Honors or World of Hyatt. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist—they do—but stockpiling points is not a good idea unless you have a specific hotel or resort already in mind. Similarly, Marriott Bonvoy’s dynamic pricing model usually eliminates chances for amazing points redemptions. (I’ve never been able to get the kind of deals with Marriott Bonvoy that I have with the other aforementioned loyalty programs.)

As a rule, you should consider purchasing large sums of points only during sales with any of the four major loyalty programs. Note that there are annual limitations on the number of points that you can purchase, so choose your sale wisely. With World of Hyatt, for example, bonus points can be purchased starting at 2,000 points up to 55,000 points per calendar year; with Marriott Bonvoy, each member can purchase up to 100,000 Marriott points annually, prebonus.

Crunching the numbers

While there are many cases in which buying points is better than paying cash, there are also many cases in which it is not. The best course of action is to price out a hotel or resort over your desired dates using both methods and see which is better. As mentioned, Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt waive resort fees and taxes on award bookings so this may tip the scale toward booking with points. Keep in mind that award stays do not accrue points the same way paid stays do. You can still earn points for on-property spending, and you’ll still bank nights toward elite status but you won’t earn points for the actual retail value of the hotel night.

Some real-world examples

I recently planned a family weekend trip to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in the Bahamas for early 2024, to celebrate a milestone birthday for my mom. On my desired dates, a room was $810+ per night. However, at the time of booking, a room was only 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night. At the time, World of Hyatt was having a points sale with a 25 percent bonus, in which 40,000 World of Hyatt points cost $768 (equating to $384 per night), effectively cutting the price of a room in half. But the savings didn’t end there thanks to World of Hyatt waiving resort fees and taxes on award bookings. At the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, the daily resort fee is $85 per person and hotel taxes are steep, so an award booking means a couple more hundred saved. In the end, I booked two nights for 40,000 points, which would have cost $2,023.46 directly from Hyatt (including resort fees and taxes) but priced out at only $768 through the purchase of points. Score!

As another example, I plan to attend Art Basel Miami in December 2023. The Gale South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton is well located for reaching all the action during this high-profile, party- and art-heavy week. Hotels typically cost a fortune during Art Basel—and this one is no exception: Rates average over $700 per night during the event. If I pay cash for a standard room for five nights in early December, the total with a semi-refundable rate is $4,261.06. However, the total price in points for five nights is 360,000 (four nights at 90,000 plus the fifth night free benefit from Hilton Honors). I have 200,000 Hilton Honors points in my account already from a Hilton Honors credit card welcome bonus and spending. If I buy 80,000 points with Hilton’s 100 percent bonus promo, I’ll get 160,000 points for $800, giving me enough points for my pricey five-night stay at a fraction of the cost. Another score for me!


In many cases, it’s a smart choice to use hotel points instead of cash at hotels and resorts. If you have already exhausted your options for getting huge sums of points through welcome bonuses, consider buying hotel points when they go on sale. Crunch the numbers to see if buying points will save you money versus paying cash for your room, and if savings are to be had, proceed accordingly.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in AFAR, Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More from AFAR