This gushing praise for the loyalty scheme concept is essentially a follow up to my recent post expressing my enormous preference for hotel points over airline miles.

I wanted to really focus on an absolutely fantastic element to hotel points bookings. While it is replicated to some degree with airline bookings, the ease of doing so and almost total absence of any cost whatsoever is most certainly not.

So what am I talking about?

The ability to book and cancel at will, with no penalty for doing so whatsoever. In the case of many schemes (particular nod to Hilton Honors here), this includes the more or less instant refunding of your points to your account too (Hilton say give it half an hour, but for me it’s almost always instant).

When you are speculatively booking a holiday, particularly one with various stopovers, the benefit of being able to book hotel stays that you may subsequently cancel without penalty is huge.

When you see a hotel on your route which could work for you, you can just book it. If it subsequently turns out it doesn’t fit in with your schedule or there’s somewhere else better value, you cancel it.

I am in the process of booking a “points-fuelled” (more on that later) road trip in the USA. At present, the itinerary is heavily subject to change. The benefit of being able to book hotels i) for free (essentially) and ii) knowing that I can cancel for free, and get ALL my points back, makes planning this trip just so much easier.

Compare it to a series of non-refundable cash purchases, where your itinerary (and specific hotel) gets locked in each time you book.

Of course, the alternative to hotel points here is booking a more expensive non-refundable rate, but clearly here you are paying more for the privilege of this flexibility. Using points not gives you that flexibility – and a free stay too!