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Everything You Need To Know About IHG PointBreaks

PointBreaks is the best hotel promotion and it comes regularly – every few months.

However, there have been a few changes lately and so I wanted a post that explains everything you need to know about PointBreaks and how it works.

Here’s a quick outline of what this post will discuss:

  • Basics
  • Earning 5,000 points
  • How & when to book, and new rules
  • The limited number of rooms

Basics

IHG has a sale where hotels cost 5,000 points. Normally hotels cost 10,000 to 50,000, with the majority in the middle, so 5,000 points is a significant savings. We’ve stayed in many hotels that would normally be 35,000 points a night, but we got them on this PointBreaks sale.

IHG usually gets about 170 hotels to join the sale with a limited number of rooms on the list.

When the list comes out, the hotels on the list are available at the rate of 5,000 points, bookable for travel dates during the next 2 to 3 months. Once all the rooms are booked, the price goes back to normal, and the hotel is removed from the list.

PointBreaks reservations adhere to standard reward night rules. It would be the same cancelation policy, and same room, etc…

 

Earning 5,000 points

The reason the sale is so great, is because 5,000 points is a very small amount of points, relative to how easy it is to earn IHG points. Let me quick outline 4 ways to earn points.

1) Promotions

Earning points the old fashion way of actually paying for hotels has served us quite well because there is usually a good promotion on earning points. Many promotions are as good as earning 50,000 points from 3 paid stays, and that’s a bonus on top of normal earning.

2) Buy the points

Actually there are two ways of buying points.

You can often buy points for cheap from IHG. Sometimes they have 100% bonus sales on points where you get twice as many points for the price. It usually comes out to $30 for 5,000 points. It’s tough because the points often take a while to post.

3) Cash & Points, then cancel

This strategy is outlined in the Complete Guide to IHG Rewards, but in short, when you do the “cash and points” booking of xx,000 + $70″ you actually buy the points then. In other words, when you do the cash & points booking you pay $70 to discount the points price by 10,000 points and your card is charged right away. Therefore, when you cancel, you get refunded all in points. You lose the $70, but get refunded 10,000 more points.

Careful, because this is likely frowned upon by IHG. But obviously it’s cancelable for a reason. So maybe doing this in bulk, or canceling right away could be a red flag. Likely not a big deal, but worth mentioning.

The point is, you can buy 5,000 points for $35 this way!

4) The IHG credit card

Often the credit card gives a 70,000 or 80,000 point bonus, although it seems to be at 60,000 right now.

 

 

How & when to book, and new rules

Booking can be done the same way a reward booking is done, via IHG.com. Once the hotel is on the list you just go to book a reward night for the hotel, and you’ll see that it’s now 5,000 points.

There is an official page that lists all the hotels currently on PointBreaks here. If you bookmark that page, you can search and book from there, but the point of the page is to show which hotels you can book for 5,000 points right now.

When a new list is now bookable that page will be updated. When a hotel on the list has had the determined number of rooms booked, it will be removed from that page, and the price shown during the booking price will go back to normal.

The confusing thing is that IHG also does a blog post where they list a preview of all the hotels that will be bookable. This “preview” blog post usually comes out a few days early, before the prices and list are actually changed. This preview blog post is not live updated. The way you actually check is the live page, or you just search on IHG.com and if the price is 5,000 points, the hotel is still on PointBreaks.

 

When

As I said, the preview usually comes out a few days before, and the list is most likely to be officially bookable on the last Monday of the month. At least that’s the trend. So the preview might come out the Friday before.

You could have booked til the end of the month before that, but once the new list is bookable, the hotels bookable with PointBreaks prices are the ones on the new list.

The other trend is that PointBreaks hotels are bookable for dates within the next 2 or 3 months. It used to always be two months. But the last few have been 3 month periods.

If I had to guess, less hotels are wanting to participate and they are moving towards 4 lists a year, instead of 6. After all, IHG screws up everything and General Managers have told me that they’ve been put on the list involuntarily, for the wrong dates, and without the agreed cap on bookable rooms. If you’re an IHG hotel, you really should avoid doing anything with IHG.

 

If you’ve ever seen a hotel’s home page, or called IHG customer service, you’d know that IHG sucks… at everything.

[start rant]

Same with PointBreaks. Expectations should be that they are not consistent and nothing is automated. Everything is likely done by a worker from Fiverr in the Philippines who manually changes the hotel prices one by one. This sounds like a joke, but it’s not.

A process that could be so easily automated is not. This is why the last preview blog post could have scraped hotel names, but they clearly have a crappy data base and thus multiple hotel names were miss-spelled. In fact, the state below Washington was spelled “oregan”.

My point is, that when it comes to timing, it’s not consistent because it basically gets done when the things above “release/change PointBreaks” on the todo list get crossed off.

[/end rant]

 

Things that can easily be automated aren’t.

Thus, the point is that the preview may come out Friday… but it may not.

The list may be bookable the last Monday of the current PointBreaks period… but it may not.

But worst of all, the day that the new hotel list is bookable is inconsistent. The list is generally bookable sometime between 9am and noon.

This is such a pain because let’s just say some miracle happens where the InterContinental Budapest goes on the next list (which is highly unlikely). Well, we know that this hotel would instantly sell out. Now this is an extreme example, but you really would have to be booking within the first 10 minute period that the price changes to 5,000 points for this hotel.

Again, extreme example. 99% of the hotels on the list do not sell out in the first hour. 75% probably don’t sell out in the first week. 50% don’t sell out at all. (All guesses).

But of those that are going to sell out what do you do?

For the day that they are going to be bookable… you refresh periodically your search on IHG.com for that hotel, starting at 9am.  You search more frequently the nicer the hotel, and the more desperate you are to get the hotel.

 

New Rules

IHG added a rule that each member can only book two PointBreaks reservations on a hotel.

If on the next list you find a Holiday Inn you want, you could book two rooms, or two different dates. Whatever would be two reservations. It can be however many nights you want, (given availability), but just two bookings.

This really isn’t a big deal to me. It just prevents people from booking lots of tiny stays and canceling the dates they don’t use. So it perhaps cuts down on speculative booking.

The other rule is that you can’t sell your rooms… which I assumed was against the rules anyways. But apparently it was a problem in China.

 

The limited number of rooms

If you’re not familiar with the way normal award nights work, it is a separate inventory. All the “basic rooms” could be award nights, or only a percentage of them. When the hotel is put on PointBreaks, all award nights are repriced at 5,000 points. Hotels can sell out of award nights for particular dates while still being on the list, and still having cash nights available.

What happens though is that since the hotel sets an unknown (to us) limited number of rooms to be booked at the 5,000 PointBreaks price, people can book the rooms and the hotel is taken off the list permanently… or at least for that duration.

Again, this seems to be based on the number of nights (likely) booked. Here’s what I mean…

Let’s say a hotel has agreed to give 500 nights to PointBreaks. And let’s say right away 50 people book 10 night stays, and therefore the hotel is removed from the list.

What happens if half of those people cancel, and so only 250 nights are currently booked?

It does not go back on the PointBreaks list. Once it is removed it is removed.

 

On the other hand, what I saw happen with the InterContinental Chendu recently is that it negotiated more rooms to be booked on PointBreaks than the hotel even releases to be booked on points. In other words, what happened is that the hotel was still on the list of hotels bookable for 5,000 points, but there wasn’t a single date available with reward nights bookable.

This is because the hotel is stingy and only gives a small percent of its rooms for award nights.

Or this could happen on the dates you want. Let’s say everyone wants to book this hotel over the week of Thanksgiving and the award nights are fully booked for this week. Well, it could be that this week is sold out of reward nights, but all the other weeks are available and it’s still on the list. That situation is likely, if it’s not quite good enough to sell out of PointBreaks nights completely.

What you could do, is set a Hotel-Hustle reward alert to let you know when someone cancels and the hotel releases those reward nights.

 

Expectations

You can not rely on this sale to provide the hotel you want, the region you want, or sometimes the country you want.

The majority of the hotels are in the US, and often there are very few in Asia, sometimes none in Africa or Australia/Oceania.

That being said, sometimes we get lucky and a sale happens to be in the place we’re going. When we were going to Paris with my mom, a Holiday Inn went on PointBreaks. I booked two rooms for our entire Paris stay. It cost less than one night at most hotels in Paris.

 

Also, in general, the hotels that go on the list are ones that need help with a low season. Or it’s a hotel on the side of the interstate. That’s not always the case, but in general, it’s rare that a hotel downtown in a popular city will go on PointBreaks at all, and not in peak season.

 

Great hotels go from the list quickly. If the InterContinental Budapest went on this list (which is highly unlikely), all the rooms would be gone in minutes. Period.

Meanwhile, the hotel on the side of the interstate in the middle of nowhere South Dakota would be bookable during the entire duration of PointBreaks.

It’s kind of a gamble. It’s hard to know how people will react on most hotels, and ultimately, we have no idea how many rooms were released for PointBreaks. Sometimes it’s a very tiny amount and the hotel goes instantly, and sometimes a nice hotel stays on the list.

 

Conclusion

IHG’s PointBreaks is the best hotel promotion around. It’s basically the only promotion I regularly include in the blog.

It’s an inconsistent beast, just like IHG, but when it happens to be a hotel you can use, it is awesome. You can seriously get an 85% discount.

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11 Comments

  1. I’d love to see them throw in a couple really desirable hotels, even with limited inventory, just to make it a little more exciting. But, I can’t complain about this promotion; we spent Thanksgiving weekend at the Holiday Inn Resort in Redmond, OR, which is a really great use of points.

    Reply
  2. Adding to what you said about properties being involuntarily put on the list, I also once spoke to a desk agent who said that hotel management had no idea they were on PB until the reservations started rolling in.

    I suppose it’s all relative to your needs, but after a few great lists the last couple have been horrible for me. Hopefully they get better, because I’m starting to build up a real stockpile of points from all of these recent promotions.

    Reply
  3. There is a way to get PB for past props in the year before. It is a little challenging and some hacker work required but it works. I stayed at some nice ICs a couple of weeks ago.

    Reply
    • Ok, I’ll bite. Any hints on how this is accomplished?

      Reply
  4. I just got back from a trip that involved a PointBreaks stay. The deal–20,000 points for 4 nights at the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis, a 5-star property on the Nile River–led me to change the itinerary on my vacation, which included nearby Istanbul. On check-in, I was upgraded to a room with a balcony and a river view. Given the property’s central location, as well as the fact that it’s high season in Egypt, I was surprised that it was on the PointBreaks list; my only guess is that its close proximity to Tahrir Square and the upcoming 5 year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution worried the property managers about occupancy this quarter.

    Reply
    • Yah, I was there too this month, great location, nice room without cookie cutter decor. I’m in Bali now at the new resort that was also on PB and it’s super nice, quiet private beach and beautiful pools, ocean view. Warungs all up and down the main street too for fresh cooked meals with drink under $2. I guess this one was on bc it’s new?

      Reply
  5. I can’t decide if I like or hate points breaks. Currently I’m keeping my account at zero and I’m not sad due to this list. I’ve been to a few, but nothing wow! Right now, I’m stuck with the dilemma of earning free stays or burning. I feel a little more joy earning for some reason.

    Reply
  6. I don’t know where you are finding those desirable hotels. I don’t see a single Intercontinental on the list right now. Most of the hotels are in places that I wouldn’t go to for free.

    Reply
  7. Hey Drew, long time reader. I am awed by your dedication and success at making worldwide travel with miles and points a reality. Thanks for the detailed analysis and tracking of the many program and their intricate rules. I’m especially amazed by your understanding of the airline programs and the routing rules you’ve put the time and effort into understand and explaining here on your blog.

    The purpose of this comment is to draw attention to a matter related to ‘buying’ IHG points. Awhile back I remember reading somewhere that IHG points could be purchased for .6 cents apiece. Since then, the cost per point has increased to .7 points, as you’ve noted. Looking at the “Crowne Plaza : Key West-La Concha” (45k points) property this evening I noticed a surprising “Points + Cash” option for “30,000 Points + $90.00 USD,” outside of the standard $40 for and $70 deals. This means that 15k points can be picked up for .6 cents apiece, essentially bringing this more advantageous rate back. What do you think of this deal?

    Reply
    • Nice catch! Thanks for the heads up.

      Reply
  8. Hello, Never used IHG before so not sure if I was searching incorrectly… I ended up calling one of the IHG 1800 numbers and was basically told every single hotel in the US was sold out of the point break rooms for the summer. Is this common if you don’t book right when the lists come out? I couldn’t even find a single one on the interstate in South Dakota. Is there a different list I should be looking at or an easier way to see for myself if any rooms are available for any dates? Love the great detailed information but the 50% don’t sell out guess might be a little off? Thanks

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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