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Helping You Understand Pay With Points and How to Maximize

If you are new to points game, you might not be aware of the multiple point currencies. Growing from a beginner to an expert in this travel game, you will want to understand how to maximize the value from your points. Let’s go.

When looking to redeem and maximize your points, you want to make sure you are always getting at least 1 cent per point, as a general rule. With more valuable currencies like Alaska Air, Hyatt or SPG points, you will want to get at least 2 cents per point. If the cash price of a flight is $100, redeeming 12,500 points would not be wise.  Likewise, for a flight that costs $190 yet only requires 12,500 points, using points would make more sense. ($190 divided by 12,500 = .0152 or 1.52 cents per point)

Making cents of it all

You may be asking, what is a “cent per point”? Calculating the cents per points is rather simple, you just take the going cash rate and divide it by the points required. Let’s say a Marriott hotel room has a cash price of $100 or a nightly rate of 10,000 Marriott points. Simply divide $100 by 10,000, yielding you .01, or 1 cent. By using 10,000 Marriott points for a hotel night that would otherwise run $100, you’d be getting 1 cent per point. That is the lowest redemption rate you’d want to see, but reasonable nonetheless.

Using the example above, if you found a cheaper nightly rate on that Marriott hotel for $75, it would make more sense to “pay with points” for the $75 stay. With American Express Membership Rewards points, travel can be booked at on cent a point through their portal. Rather than burning 10,000 Marriott points for a free night, you could use 7,500 Amex MR points since the cash rate was $75.

If the nightly rate is now $130 per night, it would make more sense to use your flat-rate 10,000 Marriott points. Almost all hotels fall under fixed categories assigned by their respective parent companies. Marriott category 2 hotels require 10,000 points per night. As long as there is award availability for the night you are requesting, you’ll always need just 10,000 points per night. (regardless of the cash price, which may or may not be in favor for using points)

What’s the point

If you are going to start earning points in one “currency”, your best bet will be with Chase or American Express. Chase’s program is known as Ultimate Rewards, Amex’s program is known as Membership Rewards. With your points in either of the two program, you can transfer them to travel partners or use them as cash in their travel portals.

As mentioned earlier, Amex MR points are redeemed at one cent per piece in their travel portal. Chase UR points can be redeemed at 1.25 cents per piece if you hold the Sapphire Preferred card. (1.5 cents a piece with the Sapphire Reserve card, which has a $450 annual fee)

Chase UR points are generally considered to be more valuable than Amex MR as they can be redeemed at a higher rate. The main determiner of your program of choice should come down to the available transfer travel partners.

Chase UR highlights: Marriott, Hyatt, Southwest, United at a 1:1 ratio
Amex MR highlights: Delta, JetBlue, SPG, at 1:1, 1.2:1, and 3:1 ratios

 

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Your Transfer Options from Ultimate Rewards

Do’s and Don’ts

The key to maximize your redemptions always comes down to comparing redemption rates. It is important to find out the cash price versus the flat fixed rate. Take this Marriott Sukhumvit in Bangkok for example, being a category 5 hotel it will require 25,000 Marriott points per night. At 25,000 points per night, it would only make sense to redeem your Marriott points if the cash price was $250 or more.

The cash price of this category 5 Marriott hotel was just 3,990 Thai Baht, roughly $112 USD per night ($160.03 after taxes and fees). For the same room on the same night, here are your options:
— Redeem 25,000 Marriott points directly at Marriott for a category 5 hotel
— Redeem 16,031 Amex Membership Rewards points by booking through their portal (at one cent per point)

 

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16,031 Amex MR rewards points needed since the cash price is $160.03 (after taxes)

 

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25,000 Marriott points on category 5 properties – fixed rate

Do the math

It all comes down to doing the math and using the points currency that makes the most sense (or cents). While it is important to use your points and not hoard them, you also don’t want to burn them when the cash equivalent price is less. If you maximize your points wisely you can stretch your free travel further!

When trying to maximize your point redemptions, the key is to have a variety of point currencies. However, if you are just starting out, I recommend choosing between Chase UR or Amex MR points. To earn Chase points you can sign up for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card. For American Express points, you can pick up a Premier Rewards Gold card or the Platinum card. I lean towards Chase thanks to the Southwest Airlines transfer availability.

Remember, I don’t use credit card affiliate links, I share unbiased advice that you can count on.