‘Cash and points’ can cut the cost of hotel rooms

Tony Mecia
Personal finance writer
Rewards expert who writes the "Cashing In" reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

How 'cash and points' can dut your hotel costs

Anyone who has dabbled in using credit card reward points for hotels has probably come up a little short on points at times. That’s when “cash and points” redemptions can be a surprisingly good value and a sensible way to use hotel points.

Hotel room rates and points

Hotel chains tend to charge a lot of points for a single night’s stay. Stays of several nights can cost 100,000 points or more. That many points can be hard to come by, unless you are a frequent business traveler or use a hotel credit card exclusively and save up.

Remember that when it comes to points, hotel chains assign each of their properties a certain level, from small budget hotel to large luxurious resort. They then figure out how many points a night it is worth depending on the level of the hotel, and also sometimes by availability. Less availability means higher cost in points.

But even if you don’t have all that many points, you can use the points you do have to help reduce the cost you pay out of pocket.

‘Cash and points’ options at some hotel chains

For example, I looked at hotels in Chicago in July across a number of different hotel chains.

Starwood: With Starwood, a night at the W Chicago was going for $172 a night. You could get the room for free if you have 12,000 Starpoints. But even if you are short of that amount, you still have options. One option is to use 6,000 Starpoints and pay $110.

Clearly, using 12,000 points for the free room is a better deal than using 6,000 points to knock $62 off the price. If you only have only 6,000 points, “cash and points” is a reasonable way to use the points.

Marriott and Ritz-Carlton: Marriott and Ritz-Carlton have something similar – which isn’t surprising, since Marriott is merging reward programs with Starwood.

The Marriott/Ritz cash and points award chart, for instance, says that a room going for 25,000 points a night can also be had for 14,000 points plus $65. 

Hilton: Hilton takes the concept a step further. Hilton has a sliding bar, called “points and money,” that allows you to configure the combination of points and cash that you want to pay.

In Chicago, for example, I found a $164-a-night Hampton Inn available for 45,000 points – or for a wide range of different points and cash options, including 24,000 points plus $82.

But with Hilton, you can use as few as 5,000 points to chop off some of the cost. 

When ‘cash and points’ makes sense

This “cash and points” option to pay for your hotel stay isn’t always the most valuable use of points. The best use of hotel points tends to be using the full number of points for a free room.

But if you don’t have the points to cover the full price of your hotel stay and want to save some money, you might find the payment flexibility of combining points and money worth considering. 

See related: Do the math to compare rewards points’ values, Best hotel credit cards, Hotel cards: Get the most free nights for the fewest points

But even if you don’t have all that many points, you can use the points you do have to help reduce the cost you pay out of pocket.

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Updated: 02-19-2019