Living with credit, Rewards

Points plus cash makes luxury hotels affordable

Jenny Hoff

When you stay at an ultra-luxury resort for a day or more, you truly feel like royalty (and you may even be surrounded by some). Unfortunately, these high-end hotels come with a high price, whether you’re paying with points or with cash.

However, if you find resorts that take points PLUS cash, you can stretch your credit card sign-up bonus to cover several nights at some of the best hotels in the country, and you’ll be paying only a fraction out of pocket of what it normally costs to mingle with the rich and famous.

I had that experience recently when I stayed in Florida at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Normally, I prefer to use my credit card points for free nights at cheaper hotels, so I can maximize the number of nights I don’t have to pay to stay somewhere new and interesting. Considering this hotel requires 50,000 points per night during the low season, which is a big chunk of the Hilton Citi Visa sign-up bonus (my bonus was 75,000 points), this initially didn’t feel like a good investment.

If I wanted to stay a whole weekend, I would have to fork over between $300-$500 for the second night after blowing so many points on the first. However, when looking at the reservation page for one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen, I noticed that I could also spend 20,000 of my points and put in $85 cash for a night.

All of a sudden my 75,000-point sign-up bonus could buy me three nights at this glorious resort if I put in $255, and I would still have 15,000 points left over! Less than $300 for three nights — that is almost cheaper than what I have paid to stay at a Motel 6!

The Boca Raton Resort and Club did charge a $27/day resort fee, but that included two free drinks at the bar ($25 savings if you like an evening cocktail), a free shuttle to the sister property that sits on the beach, a beautiful pool, access to many restaurants and a spa that has been rated by Condé Nast as one of the best in the country. (To use the spa facilities, you need to buy a treatment, but you could get a $35 manicure and then spend the whole day in paradise.) If you’re a Hilton HHonors member, you also will get free Wi-Fi.

And this wasn’t my only points-plus-cash coup.

When we were in Orlando recently, I noticed a luxury Starwood Preferred Guest resort on Disney property had an option to use points plus cash to lower the cost of a stay. It’s a great deal if you want to stay in luxury for more than one night, have easy access to the various theme parks and be enveloped in the Disney dream. All of this for spending per night what you normally would spend at a budget hotel.

So the next time you’re planning a longer getaway and want to stretch your points to help minimize the costs, look for hotels with the points-plus-cash option. It won’t always be a better deal, depending on the normal cost of the hotel room. For example, I wouldn’t be as interested in spending 20,000 points plus $60-$90 cash for a $150/night room at a hotel since I know I can spend that for an incredible resort instead.

My top tip: Use this strategy for an extra special resort that you would never normally consider paying full price for. It will make that credit card’s sign-up bonus feel more like a gift that keeps giving.

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