I thought it was about time to revise and update the lists I first published in 2012 about the best way to use up small amounts of miles and points.
What I want to explore is ‘What is the smallest or most optimum small reward, and how can you ‘top-off’ an account?’. Please join in the discussion with your ideas in the Comments section, and I will add in any additional ideas.
Today I will look at some hotel loyalty schemes. Part 2 – coming in a day or so – will focus on some airline and shopping schemes. Click on the links to read relevant Head for Points articles on the topic mentioned.
In all cases below except Accor, there is a formal ‘buy points’ option you can use to get to the level you need for a redemption. This page (click) has links to the ‘buy points’ pages of the major airline and hotel schemes. However, I try to find more creative ideas that don’t involve spending money.
Note: I give links below to the expiry policies of various hotel programmes. These rules may have temporarily changed due to coronavirus to please double check.
Accor Live Limitless
- EXPIRY RULES – you can check the Accor expiry rules here
- SPEND – you require 2,000 points before you can redeem Accor points for credit towards a future booking. 2,000 points get you a €40 saving. Transfers to airline miles require a minimum of 2,000 points but for Avios you need 3,000 points (Iberia, at 1:1) or 4,000 points (BA, at 2:1).
- TOP-UP – you can earn points from the ClubOpinions market research scheme
- TOP-UP – you can transfer Finnair frequent flyer miles into Accor
- TOP-UP – you can transfer Qatar Airways frequent flyer miles into Accor
- TOP-UP – you can earn Accor points when flying on Air France KLM as well as transferring Flying Blue frequent flyer miles into Accor
- TOP-UP – you can transfer Club Eurostar points into Accor
- TOP-UP – you can credit a Europcar car rental to Accor
- TOP-UP – Accor often has generous promotions for subscribing to The Economist
- EXPIRY RULES – you can check the expiry rules of Hilton Honors points in this article
- SPEND – Remember that ‘cash and points’ bookings can be booked from as few as 5,000 points, so you can use up a small number of points to save money on your next stay
- SPEND – Transfers to airline miles are available from 10,000 Hilton points
- SPEND – You can transfer points to another person for free, using the new points pooling option introduced in 2017
- SPEND – You can donate points to charity via The Hilton Honors Giving Back Program although the minimum transfer is a steep 10,000 points.
- TOP-UP – Remember you can top-up from American Express Membership Rewards (1:2). The 20,000 Amex points sign-up bonus offered with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold would get you 40,000 Hilton Honors points.
- TOP-UP – You can top-up from and Virgin Flying Club (2:3) transfers
- TOP-UP – You can credit a car rental
- TOP-UP – You can top-off an account by turning Marriott Bonvoy points into Hilton by transferring via Virgin Flying Club, although there is a loss of value on the way. For example, 60,000 Bonvoy points gets you 25,000 Virgin miles which gets you 37,500 Hilton points.
- TOP-UP – You can top-off an account by turning Tesco Clubcard points into Hilton Honors points by transferring via Virgin Flying Club
IHG Rewards Club
- EXPIRY RULES – you can check the expiry rules for IHG Rewards Club points in this article
- SPEND – ‘Cash and Points’ means that you need fewer miles than you think to book an award – you can buy additional points during the booking process
- SPEND – Airline mile redemptions are available from 10,000 points
- SPEND – Plenty of UK High Street retailer gift cards are on offer from £5 per 4,000 points
- SPEND – The IHG Digital Rewards catalogue has downloadable magazines, newspapers, books, games and movies from 600 points
- SPEND – You can pay $5 per 1,000 to transfer orphan IHG Rewards Club points to a third party – this is not a bad deal compared to the cost of buying points outright
- SPEND – You can use points.com to turn IHG points into various airline schemes, although the rate is poor
- TOP-UP – You can also use points.com to transfer various niche airline miles into IHG Rewards Club points, although the rate is poor
- TOP-UP – You can top-up with Virgin Flying Club miles (10,000 miles minimum, 1:1 rate)
- TOP-UP – You can top-up with Finnair miles (20,000 minimum, 2:1 rate)
- TOP-UP – You can get the IHG Rewards Club credit card which comes with a good sign-up bonus, triggered after just £200 of spend
- TOP-UP – You can earn a small number of points by registering with Travelling Connect and using your mobile abroad
- EXPIRY RULES – you can check the expiry rules for Marriott Bonvoy in this article
- SPEND – Marriott Moments lets you redeem small amounts for tickets to cultural and sporting events
- SPEND – You can transfer up to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for FREE to another person
- SPEND – You can donate 2,500+ points to charity
- SPEND – You can transfer Marriott points to Hilton Honors or IHG Rewards Club by routing via Virgin Flying Club, albeit with a loss of value
- SPEND – PointSaver awards and ‘cash and points’ awards mean that you may need fewer than you think for a redemption – although there are very few of these on offer
- SPEND – You can get Marriott to book a cash flight ticket for you via their flight booking service
- SPEND – You can redeem points for a cash credit when staying at a Marriott hotel
- TOP-UP – You can convert Amex Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy at 2:3. The 20,000 Amex points sign-up bonus offered with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold would get you 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
- TOP-UP – You could get the Marriott Bonvoy credit card which comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and earns 2 points per £1 spent
- TOP-UP – You can credit a Hertz or Sixt car rental to Marriott
- TOP-UP – United Airlines Silver card holders can transfer their United miles to Marriott at 1:1
- EXPIRY RULES – You can check the Radisson Rewards expiry rules in this article
- SPEND – Airline transfers are available from just 2,000 points (200 miles)
- SPEND – ‘Points and Cash’ redemptions are often available at 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points although the saving offered over the cash rate is often not huge
- SPEND – Radisson Rewards has a number of charity partners on their website who accept donations of points. The minimum donation is only 1,000 points.
- SPEND – Other cash-outs (eg redeeming for a pre-paid Mastercard) are poor value but do at least exist as a last resort – and to be fair, the Mastercard gift cards (30,000 points for £25) are no worse value than converting to airline miles. Some retail giftcards are a little better, eg 10,000 points for a £10 M&S gift card but you lose at 65% of the value vs booking a hotel room.
- SPEND – many hotels offer ‘in property’ rewards such as redeeming for meal credit, although if you are doing stays then you are unlikely to be looking to empty your account
- SPEND – You can transfer your Radisson Rewards points – FOR FREE – to another person
- TOP-UP – You can top-off an account with American Express Membership Rewards points at 1:3, with no minimum transfer. The 20,000 Amex points sign-up bonus offered with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold would get you 60,000 Radisson Rewards points.
- TOP-UP – You can credit car rentals from most firms to earn a few points
World of Hyatt
My preferred small Hyatt reward is the 6,000 points per night suite upgrade. You can also upgrade to Club rooms using points for a small premium.
Hyatt has ‘cash and points’ awards at half of the usual points price so you may have enough for a reward after all. You can also buy Hyatt points. Airline transfers are from 5,000 points.
You can use 2,000 points for a $10 dining or spa credit at a Hyatt hotel – you do not need to be a guest to do this. Another option is to use 6,000 points for a one-day Avis car hire redemption
You can merge your Hyatt points with those of your partner but both accounts need to have had a cash stay in the previous 12 months.
Hyatt is not an American Express Membership Rewards partner.
In Part 2 of this article, which will appear in a day or so, I will look at how to use small amounts of points in some airline and shopping programmes.