Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.
Many hotels chains offer some version of a Points & Cash reward option. As the name suggests, you are paying for your hotel stay with a combination of points and cash (duh!). The obvious expectation is that you pay fewer points (than a standard reward night) in exchange for an additional sum of money. This reward option allows members to spend a handful of points that they might not otherwise have a use for –> so generally it’s a a good thing!
Once one becomes more familiar with hotel loyalty programmes, one might come to expect that you pay the “points” element at the time of booking, with the “cash” element to be paid at the hotel. IHG Rewards Club doesn’t work that way. Moreover, its Points + Cash option appears to be designed to rip off customers, leading them to spend more than is truly necessary. Here’s what I mean…
If you look for a reward night at an IHG hotel in the United Kingdom, you might see something like this:
You might not notice straight away that you won’t actually be paying £26 / £51 / £72, but you hopefully will notice on the next page.
OK… £72 has now become £72.81. But that’s only indicative, because 89 USD is currently equivalent to £73.52. And of course you’ll pay even more than that, even with a no-commission credit card.
And to be fair to IHG, you are expected to click on a button confirming that you are aware that you are making a non-refundable purchase of points. You might think it couldn’t be more obvious, but fairly frequently somebody will post on Flyertalk about how they didn’t understand this…
Who Cares About a Rounding Error, Where’s the Rip Off?
I wanted to walk readers through the Points + Cash booking process because I wanted to make two points perfectly clear:
- Points + Cash is simply a transaction involving IHG Rewards Club (NOT the hotel) selling points to the member
- If you cancel the underlying reservation, you will receive your refund in the form of points
Since this is the case, why does IHG Rewards Club insist on the following:
Essentially every hotel has a different pricing policy for Points + Cash. This might be fine except we’ve already made clear that:
The hotel has nothing to do with it – you’re merely buying points from IHG Rewards Club!
So, why does IHG Rewards Club think it can get away with selling points at a higher price to somebody who wants to stay at a Holiday Inn Express in Manchester, and a lower price to somebody planning to stay at the Crowne Plaza? Or at the same hotel… charging more to buy points as part of a Friday night stay rather than a Monday night stay?
Because they can! They’ve made Points + Cash so confusing that many members simply don’t know any better.
Even if you choose to believe that IHG is adjusting its Points + Cash pricing in alignment with cash rates, you can easily find obvious FAILS such as this one…
If you are ever tempted by IHG Rewards Club’s Points + Cash option… stop and think! You are merely buying points, and you might not be getting the best rate for that points purchase by booking the hotel you actually want to stay at.
Of course, really savvy travel hackers have long known that Points + Cash is a great way to buy points from IHG relatively cheaply. You simply book a P + C rate, then a few days later “your plans changed” 😉 and you cancel that booking for a refund as points.
Perhaps this is part of IHG Reward Club’s strategy… to convince us travel hackers that we have better things to do with our time than search around for the lowest possible Points + Cash price. I know I can’t be bothered any more… I have no doubt that IHG makes more money from ripping off members than it loses from me staying elsewhere.
What do you think? Is IHG’s Points + Cash fair and reasonable or simply a rip off?