Best Practices for Maximizing the PointBreaks List for $35 a Night Hotels

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There are several posts on yesterday’s new PointBreaks list. Even if you’ve read those, read this. I’ve honed my strategy for getting $35 per night rooms quite a bit, and I want to share it, so everyone can have access to the best practices.

This post will tell you how to book any hotel on the list of Priority Club’s PointBreaks hotels for only $35 per night, even the ones that ordinarily cost $400 or more per night. And I’ll explain how to give yourself maximum flexibility to pick the exact dates you want as the trip approaches.

Priority Club PointBreaks

Priority Club is the loyalty program for InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites. As we covered here, Priority Club recently devalued its award chart, so it now takes 10,000 to 50,000 points for a free night depending on the property. But every few months, Priority Club releases a list of a select few hotels where you can stay for 5,000 points per night. That’s a 90% discount on some hotels!

The new list of PointBreaks hotels is good for stays now through 3/31/13.

We can stay at any hotel on the PointBreaks list for $35 just by exploiting one loophole!

The basic premise is that Priority Club lets you buy 10,000 points for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point.

In this post, I’ll give my full strategy for taking advantage of the PointBreaks list. This strategy ensures I get all the $35 per night hotel stays I want with maximum availability of nights and maximum flexibility to change my plans. My strategy solves a number of problems.

Problem #1: Not every hotel is on the PointBreaks list.

Solution: There is no solution for this problem.

When a new list comes out, I check its end date then look at my Meet Up page to figure out where I’ll be between now and then that I might want a hotel. I also consider trips I haven’t planned, but have been mulling. And finally I look for the incredible properties that normally cost 50,000 miles to see if I want to take an impromptu trip.

I note all the hotels that I might want to stay at.

Problem #2: Not every night is available at hotels that are on the list–and what availability there is can disappear quickly.

Solution: Book award space now.

This leads to Problem #3.

Problem #3: I may want to change my plans later, but I may have to cancel the entire award to do that, costing me the chance at 5,000 point ($35) nights.

Solution: Book awards as a series of one-night stays.

If you think you want to stay at the InterContinental Fiji for five nights before March 31 during a two week period, but you’re not sure which five nights, book 14 one-night stays.

Booking 14 stays will take under 20 minutes, and you’ll have the flexibility later to cancel the nine you don’t want one at a time, leaving you the five consecutive nights you want. Then you can call the hotel to ask them to merge the five reservations or just show up and note to the front desk that all five are yours, and you don’t want to move rooms. They don’t want to move you either, since it increases their costs.

To book the 14 stays in this example, you would need 70,000 points, which leads to problem #5.

Problem #5: I don’t have any Priority Club points.

Solution: We can transfer in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to have 5,000 Priority Club points. Once we have 5,000 Priority Club points, we can buy unlimited quantities for 0.7 cents each.

The first step if you don’t have 5,000 Priority Club points is to get them. Ultimate Rewards points transfer in at 1:1 ratio in about 14 hours in my experience. You can make the transfer at ultimaterewards.com by clicking the Priority Club Rewards link under the transfer points tab.

Then give your Priority Club account info and select the points to transfer in increments on 1,000.

You want to have 5,000 points after making the transfer. I feel bad moving Ultimate Rewards to Priority Club because Ultimate Rewards are worth almost three times as much as Priority Club points, but to be able to buy more Priority Club points for 0.7 cents, we need to have at least 5,000 Priority Club points.

The way to buy Priority Club points for 0.7 cents is to make a cash and points award booking then cancel it. Once you have a Priority Club account with 5,000 points, the next step is to book a 15,000 point award. Why? When booking a 15,000 point award, you are given the option to purchase the 10,000 point shortfall for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point. Here is such an award:

As you can see, this award costs 15,000 points or 5,000 and $70. Select 5,000 points and $70 and pay for the award. The confirmation screen makes it very clear that the $70 is going towards buying 10,000 points that would be immediately used to book the award.

After booking, immediately cancel the reservation online by following a link from the booking confirmation page. That brings you to this screen:

As you can see, my reservation has been cancelled. As you can also see in the top right, the points immediately credit back to my account. My account now has 15,000 points, 5,000 that I transferred from Ultimate Rewards and 10,000 that I just bought for $70 while making a dummy booking.

If you need more points–say you want to make 14 speculative one-night bookings–then you repeat this step. For instance, I recently increased my account balance from 5,000 to 45,000 in two dummy bookings. I just showed the first. In the second, I selected the same hotel on a three-night cash and points booking. That booking cost 15,000 points (my new balance) plus $210 to buy the other 30,000 points needed. Then I cancelled that booking, and I had 45,000 points from a 5,000 Ultimate Rewards transfer and $280 in cash.

If $280 sounds like a lot of cash, don’t forget that my 45,000 points is enough for nine nights in a hotel.

Caveats

You have to have 5,000 points in your account to buy points for 0.7 cents each. Buying points is a much better deal than transferring in your Ultimate Rewards that are worth way more than 0.7 cents each, but you may have to transfer in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to start the point-buying madness.

Not all hotels are on the PointBreaks list. Not all nights are available as 5,000 point award nights at the hotels that are on the list. Check availability before buying points.

Make sure your account has 5,000 more points than you need for your speculative bookings. You always want a balance of 5,000 points at the end for your next round of buying points. It would be a shame to have to make another Ultimate Rewards transfer.

Example from Summer 2012

I scoured that summer’s PointBreaks list to see if any of my travel plans coincided with any of the hotels, and they did in one case: I would be in Krakow, Poland and the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre was on the list.

I was in Krakow June 6 – 9, and I didn’t have a hotel booked. While the Krakow Holiday Inn was hardly the nicest property on the PointBreaks list, its cheapest room June 6 was 531 Polish Zloty, which was $153.

The first thing I did was search availability, and I found space June 6 and 8, but not June 7. I decided to book June 6 and 8, so I needed 10,000 Priority Club points.

I had zero Priority Club points in my account, so I transferred in 5,000 points from Ultimate Rewards. I bought 10,000 more points for $70 exactly how I outlined above leaving me with 15,000 points after I cancelled my dummy booking.

With my new points, I made two one-night bookings on June 6 and 8.

I noted the cancellation policy, which varies by hotel, in case I had to cancel. At the Holiday Inn Krakow, I just had to cancel by 4 PM the day of arrival.

I ended up very much enjoying the stay at the Holiday Inn Krakow, and I wrote about it in my Krakow, Poland Hotel Guide.

Booking two nights left me with 5,000 points in my Priority Club account, which set me up perfectly for the current list. I have just made five one-night bookings on this list after buying new points for 0.7 cents each because several of the hotels line up with my travel plans.

Recap

The new PointBreaks list is out from Priority Club. This is a list of hotels you can book for 5,000 points or $35 per night. The best way to take advantage of the list is to be active right now.

  1. Scour the list for hotels you may want to stay at. The list is organized by continent.
  2. Search for availability at those hotels for every possible night you might want to stay.
  3. Book now a series of one-night stays that cover the time periods when you may want to stay.
  4. Get the points you need for this by transferring in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards, then buying the rest for 0.7 cents.
  5. Note the cancellation deadline at each hotel. This varies.
  6. As your plans firm up, cancel the nights you don’t want before the deadline for a full refund of the points.
  7. Leave at least 5,000 points in your account to repeat this cycle on the next list.

I have booked a $153 hotel room for $35 using the techniques in this post. And there are much nicer, more expensive hotels on the list of PointBreaks hotels. There are Intercontinentals that go for over $400 per night that you can get for $35 per night using the technique outlined in this post. And with my advanced techniques for holding availability that you can later fit your needs, you can be a master at staying in great hotels around the world for $35.

Which hotel will you stay at for $35?


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. You said you could cancel PC award night at Krakow, “I just had to cancel by 4 PM the day of the booking.” I assume you meant “day of arrival”. I’ve been using the “book & cancel” trick for a long time. Nice reminder.

      • Is it worth it to buy the points now to accumulate points for a stay at a later time or to gain more points for a hotel that is not on the list?

          • Sorry- I am really a beginner-beginner. I have approx. 10,000 PC points now. Would it be worth it do buy additional points now as your example with the Candlewood Suites and then cancel the reservation.? Would this have me gain additional points that I could use at a later date for a hotel that is not on the list now? I hope this is more clear…

          • No, there is no point in buying points now unless you want to use them now. When the next list comes out, if you want to stay at a property, but the points then.

  2. I didn’t see any this time, but used Point Breaks last Memorial Day weekend to stay in Norfolk at the Crowne Plaza at the Marina. As Plats we got free breakfast and a waterfront room, all for $35 on a holiday weekend friends of ours were paying $250+ a night for. Score!

    • Nice. I think there is only one InterContinental this time in Fiji. I have only actually looked at the North America and South America lists since that’s where I’ll be. But I did find one very useful hotel where I made 5 one night bookings.

  3. What happens to the extra unused points break nights when you cancel them? Are they returned to the website to be booked by someone else ? Or are they removed from the website forever?

  4. I had a great stay at the IC Fiji (on full points). Go there. I liked Fiji better than French Polynesia, and I stayed at some of the nicer properties there like IC Thalasso. People are friendly and prices affordable. Air Pacific flight is a little scary, however…

  5. Is there an economical option of transferring Aadvantage miles to Priority Club to achieve the 5000 point threshold?

  6. We don’t have a perfect sense of how inventory management works. However, in practice it seems that hotels disappear off the list as the internally decided limit on how many rooms Priority Club and the hotel want to be booked through the PointBreaks promotion is reached. Popular hotels disappear quickly. Hotels rarely return to the list after they disappear. The flexibility of booking 1 night at a time is a valuable tactic that I use for revenue stays also, except when the hotel has minimum stays in order to get better rates. But encouraging people to book 14 nights when they expect to stay only 5, booking almost three times as many nights as they think they’ll need, doesn’t seem very reasonable to me. I would encourage people to book a night before and a night after their most likely stay dates, and cancel the unneeded nights once they’ve firmed up their travel plans. Yes, Priority Club and hotels can try to take into account people’s behavior in overbooking by making more rooms available than they really want to make available. But that gets harder when people go to extremes.

    • It was an extreme example. Since the list is only good for about two months, I think it would be unlikely to have so little specificity in your plans. But my general point is that if you don’t know exactly when you want to stay, you can block off days for yourself to decide later.

  7. FYI – the IHG points & cash system has been down the last two days. 🙁 So, you can’t use the system above to make a reservation, cancel and get 5000 points for $35. Putting a damper on the plans I’m trying to make. Hope they get it worked out soon.

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