From April 9 through May 11, American Express is sponsoring the “Daily Getaways” promotion. Each weekday during the promotional period, you can purchase getaway-related packages at discounted prices. The deal will change daily and are a limited supply. Pre-sales are offered for select offers from 12 noon – 1:00 pm with the regular sale launching at 1:00 EST. If you’re interested in making a purchase, make sure you’re at the promotional website ready to make a purchase right at 1:00. If you see a message that all the offers are in someone else’s cart – try again. Those offers will be re-released if the transaction isn’t completed.
Today’s getaway offer is a package of Choice Hotel points:
- 32,000 points for $134 ($120.60 if you pay with American Express) – that’s $0.0042 per point (less than a half a cent each) or $0.0038 with AmEx discount
- 36,000 points for $156 ($140.40 with AmEx)
- 40,000 points for $166 ($149.40 with AmEx)
Maximum Purchase: 2 of each package per Choice Rewards member (but you and a spouse could each buy two of each offer), for a maximum of 216,000 points per person
Bottom Line: Not an exciting promotion for hotel stays, but possible value if converting to airline miles
How to Buy It: Head to the promotion website at 1:00 p.m. EST (or the pre-sale at 12:00 noon)
Choice Hotels don’t excite me. Their family includes Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge, and Rodeway Inns. While there’s nothing wrong with these hotels, they are usually hotels that are quite affordable, meaning I don’t need to save points for an award stay. Yes, there are some good deals (the Comfort Suites next door to Atlantis in the Bahamas goes for 25,000 points/night and includes admission to Atlantis), but for the most part, these hotels are available at $50-150/night. Therefore, these Choice Privileges points packages really didn’t get my motor running.
Until The Points Guy mentioned that you could transfer these points to Southwest Rapid Rewards points, effectively buying $180 in Southwest flight credit for $140 (if you pay with AmEx). While that’s great – 28.5% added value, in fact – there is the potential to get much, much more by buying these points, transferring them into Southwest points, and then converting those Southwest points into AirTran credits. By doing this, you’ll be able to create enough credits for a free award flight, which could certainly equate to more than a 28% savings.
Here’s my plan, in summary, with lots more detail after the picture:
Can you tell I have no artistic ability?
Anyway, Choice points transfer into Southwest points at a ratio of 6,000:1,800, which means that a 36,000 points package will yield 10,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Those points, as previously noted, are worth $180.36 in “Wanna Get Away” fares. However, taking the extra step to convert those points into AirTran credits (at 1,200 Southwest: 1 AirTran) means those same 10,800 points are equivalent to 9 AirTran credits. Just 8 credits will give you a one-way flight on AirTran, including their routes to Aruba, Jamaica, and other Caribbean destinations which are frequently $200-300 one-way. If AirTran isn’t a good airline for you, you can move those AirTran credits back into Southwest at a 1:1 ratio (this time as Southwest credits). Your out-of-pocket cost, using an American Express, is just $140.40 for that one-way flight. Combining one package of 36,000 points and another of 32,000 points is the cheapest way to get 16 credits, enough for a round-trip flight. Total cost? Just $261 once you factor in a 10% discount for paying with your American Express card.
With the option for a flight on your choice of two airlines, you’ve got a lot of route options covered and you know your price is set in stone at $261. It’s practically impossible for me to ever get a flight out to Las Vegas for less than $400, so by using this technique, I’d be getting about 53% more value in redemptions! That outdoes the simple use of Southwest points for $330 toward fares. You’d even have 600 Southwest points (or 1/2 credit on your choice of AirTran or Southwest) leftover, along with 2,000 Choice Privileges points to save up for a future redemption. Don’t want orphan points? Instead of buying a package of 32,000 + 36,000 points, buy one package of 32,000 and another of 40,000 points, which divides evenly for Southwest transfers. You’ll spend an extra $9, but you’ll get one round-trip flight + 2400 Southwest points leftover, which is worth $40 in “Wanna Get Away” fares (or 2 credits), thus paying for itself.
Is there a downside? Absolutely. Like with all reward flights, you’ll be playing the availability game. You could have all the credits in the world, but since award seats are capacity-controlled, you might not be able to redeem them when you want to. There’s no guarantee. However, the worst case scenario is that you’d end up with Southwest Rewards points which don’t face the same constraints, though “only” providing that 28.5% value-add. If you’re at all flexible on dates and/or destinations, my guess is you’d be able to get that reward using credits, though.
The other negative to this deal is that it really requires you to buy two packages. If you end up with only one package, you’ll still have the ability to redeem a one-way award on AirTran or redeem toward Southwest fares. Or another option is converting 5,000 Choice Privileges points to 1,000 miles in a number of programs, including Delta, American, United, and US Airways. A 40,000 points package, at $149.40, is equivalent to buying miles in these programs at 1.87 cents each, a reasonable price to top off an account, but not necessarily to stock up unless you have a specific award in mind.
There are definitely drawbacks, so make sure you have a “Plan B” intention for your points before you buy them. I think there’s enough potential through a couple of different redemptions for this to be worthwhile, but you’ll have to figure out whether or not it’s worth a shot for your needs.
In the meantime, you’ll need to make sure you have a Choice Privileges account before making your purchase. I’d be happy to refer you; you (and I) will receive 500 bonus points with your first stay (if you ever make one). You can also sign up for the pre-sale by “liking” Choice Privileges on Facebook and checking back on their page at 12 noon to find the access code.