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Playing the air miles/loyalty points game cleverly can, of course, lead to some fantastic results – long haul Business Class at Economy prices being the obvious example.
However, not least without the often eye-watering taxes and fees that tends to accompany the airline points earning-and-burning options, some real value can be found at the hotels. One of my absolute favourite “victories” in this area is staying at a hotel and earning more in loyalty point value for the stay than the actual cost of the stay.
I did this recently at the Holiday Inn Express at Luton Airport, largely courtesy of methods that are open to all. Let me break it down for you…
The first, and I think very important point I need to make is that I actually needed to stay at a hotel at Luton Airport! The classic “mattress run” tends to involve a trip to a hotel, a check-in and then an immediate departure. You don’t actually want or need to sleep at the hotel, so you don’t bother: the purpose of the stay is to earn a points bonanza, retain your elite status or whatever.
As such, the fact that I actually needed to stay at the Holiday Inn Express Luton Airport makes this all the better value!
So what did I do, and how did I turn a “profit”?
First of all, the room was a very reasonable £36. So that’s the marker.
Next up, I had received an email from IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty scheme of the Intercontinental Hotels Group (of which the Holiday Inn Express is a member) offering me 1500 bonus IHG Rewards points if I stayed within 90 days. So I registered for this. 1500 points credit.
I then paid for the stay using my (free) IHG Rewards Visa. You earn double points on the card when you use it to pay for a stay at an IHG property. 72 points credit.
The IHG Rewards Visa also gives you Gold Elite status with IHG Rewards Club, which in turn entitled me to either a free drink at the bar or 200 bonus points. As I was going straight to bed, I opted for the 200 points (although the cannier of you will of course point out that the free drink would have been “better value”). 200 points credit.
You may be aware that IHG Rewards Club is currently running its “Accelerate” promo, offering bonus points for meeting various stay requirements. In my case, I was able to use this stay to tick off two of the points bonuses – January Bonus offer (5,000 points for a stay in January) and “Stay Once Get 3000”.
So, the combination of these two bonuses gave me a hefty points haul. 8,000 points credit.
Your precise Accelerate bonuses may well be different, but anyone signed up to IHG Rewards Club (do it here if you haven’t already) can then sign up to Accelerate, to receive these tailored points bonuses. It may even be that your bonus offering is more generous than mine.
And finally, I did of course earn a handful of points on the stay itself.
As you can see, IHG Rewards Club gives you 10 points per $1 you spend at Holiday Inn Express hotels, so the stay itself earned me 445 points, plus the 10% Gold Elite Bonus. 489 points credit.
Total points earned = 10,261.
Crunching the numbers
As noted above, the figure I need to beat is £36.
Based on their value when redeemed, I value IHG Rewards points at 0.4p each. Accordingly, the value of the points I received for my £36 stay was £41.04, so a £5.04 profit.
Bear in mind, too, that I got a useful hotel night that I would of course have paid for anyway.
Ultimately, this is a very good example of how you can often combine multiple points-generating options and promos to earn a substantial portion of your money back on a hotel stay (FYI, IHG Reward Club and Hilton HHonors are two of the very best schemes for doing this).
Obviously this can be useful for people doing the “mattress runs” to unlock a big stay-related points bonus or achieve elite status. However, as in my case, if you really do need the hotel for that night, it’s little short of fantastic!
This is why I always ensure that I sign up to points bonus offers as and when they are available. Away from the fairly extreme example above, even if you are just making, say, 10% of the cost of your stay back in points that may be a substantial saving on your holiday (or at least a credit towards a future one).
Never underestimate just what great value clever and persistent use of loyalty points can get you.
And by the way…
The Holiday Inn Express Luton Airport is actually a rather impressive little hotel. Even assuming (God Forbid!) no points rebate whatsoever, I think my room was very solid value at £36. A comfortable, friendly hotel with a decent breakfast buffet. It’s only 8 or so minutes walk to the airport, too.