Pro Tip #7 – Spend Your Points Already!

by joeheg

I use examples from my own life in this blog to serve as an example to everyone else. Whether it’s a silly mistake that I’ve made when booking a flight or a great redemption, I feel there’s always something to be learned. So when I had the same thought go through my head twice in the same week, it has to be something that others have pondered over as well, right?

For example, say that you find somewhere you can redeem miles or points for a free flight, hotel room or rental car. You get ready to finalize the booking but there’s a voice in the back of your head telling you this isn’t the best redemption and you should just pay cash and save your points. You’ll even earn points if you pay cash. These points are worth X and you’re merely breaking even. Save your points for later.

You know what you need to do with that voice? Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes, and find the box that’s saying you shouldn’t redeem your points and CRUSH IT!! OK? (Brownie points to anyone who gets the reference and posts in the comments!)

Maybe it’s not even your inner voice but a post on some website or a Facebook group comment that told you you’re using your points wrong. Know what?


Here are the two instances I had where I had to just take a deep breath and spend my points or miles:

Delta Airlines

Delta Connection E175

Spending Delta SkyMiles shouldn’t be too difficult. Delta lets you spend your miles on almost anything including drinks in the Sky Club and upgrades on your paid tickets. I’ve personally had pretty good luck redeeming my SkyMiles for inexpensive Delta flights.

When I paid for a 5-day subscription to Juicy Miles award search engine, I checked out all of our upcoming flights. We need to position to New York for our flight to Germany on Singapore Airlines. Don’t you know, Delta was offering flights for 8,000 SkyMiles plus $5.60. According to Google Flights, those flights would cost $104 each.

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But that’s the Basic Economy price. We’ve flown Basic Economy on Delta and while it wasn’t bad (Note from Sharon: yes, it was), it’s not for us.

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Main cabin seats cost an extra $15 and that’s the price we’d pay if we’re paying for seats. Here’s the math:

  • Cash price – $118.30
  • Award Price – 8,000 SkyMiles + $5.60
  • ($112.70 / 8000) x 100 = 1.40 cents per Delta SkyMile

1.4 cents per point for SkyMiles isn’t bad. It isn’t bad at all. Ben from One Mile at a Time currently pegs Delta miles at 1.2 cents each so this would be an above-average redemption.

Why would I balk at booking the flight with my miles? Because saving on a $120 one way ticket to New York isn’t exactly an aspirational trip. But I have the Delta SkyMiles in my account. I could always replace them by signing up for a new Delta AMEX card or transferring points from my AMEX Membership Rewards account. Why not spend 16,000 Delta SkyMiles for two free plane tickets to New York?

That’s exactly what I did. Do I feel bad about it? Nope.

What about my other points redemption?

IHG Rewards Club

Candlewood Suites New Braunfels

I’ve long felt that the IHG Rewards Club program matches our travel style better than any other loyalty program out there. My huge stash of Marriott Bonvoy points and Sharon’s Platinum status has steered us towards their hotels recently but we still stay with IHG when it’s a good option. No better place than our favorite Candlewood Suites in New Braunfels, TX.

For our first trip this year, rates were low and it made sense for me to book with the Citi Prestige and get the fourth night free, Rates were higher for later in the summer and using our stash of IHG points made sense.

A four-night stay at the hotel would have cost $475.

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Award nights at this hotel cost 20,000 points a night so the entire stay would cost us 80,000 IHG points What made things interesting was that the last two nights of the stay were the expensive ones and the first two nights only cost about $100 each. I could have easily booked two reservations, paying for the first two nights and using points for the second two. We know the hotel staff so combining reservations would be no problem,

I give a value to IHG points of 0.5 cents each since that’s what I can replace them for when buying points through any of the IHG promotions or even with the Daily Getaways promotion earlier this year. I’d only be breaking even if I used 20,000 points to pay for a room that’s going for $100 a night. But is that really what my points are worth?

I didn’t buy the points I have now. They were either earned through hotel stays or with a credit card sign up bonus. Why am I reluctant to use them?  Am I holding them for some great stay in the future than I haven’t even planned yet? Why not use them for a stay we’re actually taking and when I can save almost $500. Even better, because I have the IHG Select credit card I’ll get 10% of the points back so I’m only spending 72,000 points. More math:

  • Cash price – $474.87
  • Award Price  – 72,000 IHG points
  • (474.87/72,000) x 100 = 0.7 cents per point

I’m getting 0.7 cents per point of value per IHG point. Points I can replace for 0.5 cents each but for which I paid little to no cash to actually earn. What’s the holdup? Probably the same thing with the Delta flight. We love New Braunfels and the Candlewood Suites fits our needs perfectly but it’s hardly a glamorous hotel.

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Final Thoughts

Know what? When it came down to it, I just took a deep breath and redeemed the points. I agonized over the decisions at the time but now that it’s done, I’m totally fine with it. I can earn the points back in both accounts with not much effort and what does having large balances get me anyway? Nothing.

I’d much rather have a free flight to New York and a free hotel in Texas than having a large number of points and miles when I refresh my accounts in Award Wallet.

(***Note from Sharon: I have no idea why he called this post “Pro Tip #7,” when there are no Pro tips # 1 through 6 anywhere on our blog. So don’t searching for them…they’re not there.)

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment July 18, 2019 - 7:07 pm

I guess I would consider myself a saver of points…maybe even! I’m not saving for any “aspirational” redemption or anything, but I do love having a stash of points available at all times to use on spur of the moment trips/weekend getaways that I may not make otherwise. If I used them on just any ordinary night I needed, it would feel like I was using Christmas cash on groceries 🙂


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