There is only one key to spending points wisely:

The second half of the equation is spending the points economically and for what I call maximum Point Impact. Here are a few themes that guide my advice, organized below by examples:

  • Shoot for the maximum bang for buck, measured in USD per point in redemption value. When redeeming miles for a flight, for example, there are tradeoffs that I will almost always make the same way. Let's say I wanted to fly to Paris to visit a new 3-star and have the choice of three itineraries:
    • Economy-class round trip flight, 60,000 miles ($1,200 cash value)
    • Park Hyatt hotel room, 30,000 points ($800 cash value) 
  • or
    • Business-class round trip flight, 115,000 miles ($8,000 cash value)
    • IHG Holiday Inn hotel room, 15,000 points ($115 cash value) 
  • or
    • First-class round trip flight, 220,000 miles ($23,000 cash value)
    • Couch surf $0 points, arguably $0 cash value 😂

The first example would cost a total of 90,000 miles and points and "yield" a cash value of $2,000, giving me about $0.02 of Point Impact.

The second example costs marginally more points; 120,000 in total, but "yields" a cash value of $8,115, giving me $0.07 of Point Impact; almost 3x higher. 

The third example costs even more; 220,000 points, but "yields" $0.10 of Point Impact. 

I realize that these tradeoffs aren't for everyone (some people might put up with the Economy overnight flight in exchange for the luxury of staying at a Park Hyatt instead of CouchSurfing, and I get it), but describing this up front will help clarify how you can amend the strategy to fit your needs.

If you need help figuring this out, by the way, you can always ask on our Facebook Fan Page or tweet me at @threestarblog!