Though my mom didn’t. But before we get to that part, let me share with you my latest travel hacking victory. So, as I’ve mentioned yesterday, my parents’ flights are all set, and hopefully, no more schedule changes will rear their ugly head in the next 3 months. I did have to reshuffle some of our plans (another post on it later), but nothing too drastic. I won’t be adding on a side trip to Maldives while my parents are in US. Apparently, it’s quite a distance from Florida.
The only thing missing was 1-night hotel stay in Minsk after their very long flight from Florida back to Belarus. I know that Marriott and IHG both have hotels there, but they cost 20K and 30K points respectively. I think not. My parents just need a place to sleep and get some rest so that they can get going in the morning. It’s a 3.5 hour bus or train ride to my home city. Ideally, I wanted to find a hotel near the main train station. There are some Soviet style lodging choices that cost around $60 per night, but none looked too appealing.
Yesterday I wrote about Orbitz promo that gives $50 off $100, but it can only be used for non-chain hotels. I checked into it, but none of the listings were eligible. But I did spot something interesting: Hampton Inn. Hmm, I don’t remember Hilton expanding to Minsk, Belarus. I went to look at HHonors site directly to find out more.
I like, I like! The problem is, I don’t have any Hilton points at the moment. But not to worry, even if I paid 1 cent per point, the cost would be $50. But can we do better? Sure we can. Through January 6th, you can get 2 Hilton points per 1 transferred Citi Thank You Point as long as you have an eligible card like Citi Thank You Premeir or Citi Prestige. And I do.
The problem is, I would have to transfer 3K Citi Thank You points, which would leave me with an extra 1K in Hilton account. Is there a better way? Yup. There is a targeted promo (ends today at midnight) which gives you a discount on purchased Hilton points. It varies by individual, and I got “50% off” offer when I logged in. Check yours here
So, basically, for $25 I could get the amount I needed for my one night redemption. Since I get 1.33 cents per Citi Thank You point (due to having Prestige), I decided to go with the former. I was ready to make my purchase but first, I logged in to my HHonors account to double check availability. Guess what? It vanished. I called HHonors support and got a seriously clueless agent. I’m not trying to be mean, just truthful. He couldn’t figure out what hotel I was talking about and kept pulling the one in Warsaw. No, Poland is not the same country as Belarus.
I should have done HUCA (hang up call again), but I like giving people second chances. Big mistake in this particular case. He just kept saying that hotel is not available, and it’s probably really popular, so all award availability vanished in 20 minutes. Right. A hotel in Belarus. By the train station. In the middle of March. Maldives? We don’t need no stinking Maldives. Let’s go to Minsk for spring break, y’all! Nothing like wet snow to brighten the mood.
Anyway, the guy was clearly couple of french fries short of a happy meal. I finally gave up and contacted Twitter HHonors team instead. They told me to call Hilton, basically, the usual runaround. I was seriously thinking about giving up, but I’m stubborn and it was a matter of principle at that point.
I called one last time and could tell right away that the gal rep was on the ball. She found the hotel and said that it was indeed available on points. (An update: After some research, it appears that if you don’t have enough points in your account, award availability simply won’t show up. I wish the agents were aware of it!) I asked her if she could wait a few minutes while I purchased the points and she said it was totally fine. I wasn’t about to let her get away.
I bought the points for $25 and they posted immediately. She booked the hotel in my mom’s name and I got a confirmation within minutes. I can cancel without penalty and get the points back, though I doubt we’ll be doing that. The flights are all set and even if schedule changed, I really want my parents to get some decent rest before setting off on a long bus ride home. And it only took 1.5 hours of my time, 2 phone calls, a Twitter exchange and lots of frustration. But who is counting? Oh, and my son took advantage of me being distracted and wrote with his marker all over the bedroom door. It took me 1 hour to clean, but I got most of it out. Unless you look at it real close.
Still, I was proud of myself for pulling off this extreme hacking trick, so called my mom to give her the good news. I told her I bought some points for only $25, and that they will be staying in a brand new hotel that includes hot breakfast. Her response: “Wow, $25 is a lot of money.” Say what? It’s a hotel that normally goes for $90 per night! She said that’s the price they quote for foreigners. Umm, no mom. I’m pretty sure if you called them and said you are Belarus citizen, they would not let you stay there for $25 instead of $90.
But there was nothing I could say to convince her otherwise. My parents really don’t like it when I spend money on them. The crazy thing is, if I burned 30K IHG points on Crowne Plaza (without breakfast), my mom would have been fine with it. But paying $25 is a deal breaker. That’s why they don’t mind me booking flights with miles and points because to them, it’s not real cash. Never mind the fact that 50K Citi Thank You points can be redeemed for $500 Walmart gift card which you can later resell. Of course, I’m not telling her that.
Sometimes it makes sense to buy points, but I would only do it when you have a specific redemption in mind or are getting them dirt cheap as is the case with IHG “Priceless surprises” promo. Every program has sweet spots, and Hilton is no exception. See my post on how I once redeemed 5,000 HHonors points for a $99 room. Check hotel listings on Awardmapper and Hotelhustle because chains are constantly adding new properties and categories shift, sometimes in your favor.
It doesn’t mean you should hoard your stash for those perfect moments, though. “Earn and burn” is the name of the Hobby game for normal families. Save your cash, burn your stash. It rhymes.
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